GETTING THE MESSAGE/Peace with God through Christ
The book of Acts is the inspired account of the Lord Jesus Christ building his church through the proclamation of the gospel. He commanded his apostles to begin in Jerusalem with the Jewish people, proceed to the surrounding areas in Judea and Samaria, and from there go to the end of the earth.
In this passage we see the gospel go to Cornelius, a Roman Centurion, and his family and friends, who were Gentiles. This is a great shift in redemptive history. This was promised in the prophets, but it was obscure and it is stunning to the Jewish Christians who witness it. Their astonishment should make us pause and reflect on the wonder that the Lord directed the gospel to come to us.
Peter and six of his Jewish Christian companions accompany messengers back to Caesarea and the home of Cornelius. Cornelius had assembled his family and friends for the arrival of the apostle with great anticipation. His desires are so great that when Peter arrives, Cornelius falls down before him and worships. Peter corrects his misplaced reverence, lifts him up, and asks why Cornelius sent for him.
Cornelius recounts to Peter the story of the angel appearing to him and the instructions to send messengers for Peter. After thanking Peter for coming, he says, “Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord” (verse 33).
There are many people present, and they regard themselves as in the presence of God to hear the word Peter has been given by the Lord. You could not find a more attentive audience. Their fearful yet fervent attentiveness should also make us consider our own regard for hearing God’s word.
Peter proceeds to tell them about Christ. I have watched PBS fundraising shows with noted speakers on health and other subjects. The audience is hanging on every word. This is information they have come to hear. You’ve no doubt been in an audience where the speaker and his subject held the rapt attention of all there. Cornelius and his friends want to hear about Christ.
What does Peter say about Him? He says He is Lord of all (verse 36). That means He is Lord of both Jew and Gentile, but it also means Christ Jesus is the eternal begotten Son of God. He always has been and always will be Lord of all. He is the Alpha and the Omega (Rev. 1:8). When we look upon Christ we first look upon the majestic Son of God through whom all things were made.
When we look upon Jesus as a man, He was a holy man, a man who sought and did all the holy will of God. His nature as man has a subsistence, or union, with the Son of God, so that he is one person with these two distinct natures.
When Peter speaks of Christ, he speaks of peace with God through Him. God looks first upon Christ. He looks upon whatever is good and lovely as in the Son of God. When we embrace Christ by faith we embrace the love of the Father.
Peter says Christ was anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power (verse 38). He went about doing good and delivering people from the power of the devil. We see the eternal majesty of Christ combined with meekness and the heart of a servant. He came not to be served but to serve others, even though he was the Son of God. Cornelius, a Roman commander, would have been awed at these truths.
Jesus spoke of sinners he saved as sheep and he said that He was the Good Shepherd who lay down his life for his sheep. He said, “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10).
He spoke words of life to the poor Samaritan woman, the anxious tax collector, the distressed Canaanite mother, and many others. Now there is a room full of Gentiles, who have heard of his greatness, hearing of His goodness and grace. Peter says, “God was with him” (verse 38).
The Lord Jesus must have pre-eminence above all things in the hearts of His people. We must first make him our Savior and then we will find Him as our peace. Peter spoke to these Gentiles about the majesty of Christ and the good news from God that was in His name. And as we will see next week, they listened and believed.
The Rev. Chris Shelton is pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Union.