The Gospel is for Everyone
In Acts 10:1-11:18 we see that Jesus offers life for all people, everywhere, through the gospel. Jesus is out in front of us – initiating, moving, working, acting, redeeming, saving. Jesus wants life for all people, without partiality. Jesus is particularly concerned for “good” people, commanding everyone in love to put our ultimate hope in his goodness, not our own. Jesus chooses to use us to spread this gospel news to all who will hear, in our city and the cities of the world. The Gospel is for everyone.
We are taking a better part of a year to study the book of Acts together asking, “What is Christianity?” As a newly forming, Bible-believing, Jesus-loving, Gospel-centered church it is vital for us to have a clear understanding of what Christianity is and is not. It might be asked, “Why spend so much time looking on this particular topic?” The reality is there tends to be a lot of confusion regarding what Christianity is, who Jesus was (and is!) and what we are to do with it all today. This confusion manifests itself outside and inside the church, in different ways. Too often, to become a Christian is likened to becoming moral, religious and conservative. But, the Bible is clear that Christianity is not a set of rules, nor a club, nor something for certain types, nor merely one option among many. In fact, Christianity is not something you pick-up. Rather, Christianity is a power that picks you up. That power is the gospel of Jesus Christ. In his letter to the church in Rome, the Apostle Paul said as much, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Rom 1:16). We see this truth vividly displayed in Acts 10. Here we get incredible insight into the heart of God and his plan for the entire universe.
Acts 10:1-11:18 is a large section. Why take such a large passage at once? Simple. That’s how long the story is. In fact, it is unusually long given how other conversions are accounted for throughout the book of Acts. There are general conversion accounts, such as Acts 2:41, “there were added that day about 3,000 souls”. There are individual conversion accounts that take one verse, such as that of Lydia, Dionysius, Damaris and Crispis. There are other conversion accounts that take up more scriptural real estate, such as the Philippian jailer (8 verses) or the Apostle Paul (40 verses over three recordings). Therefore, it is particularly interesting that Cornelius gets 66 verses. Why would Luke, the author of Acts, give such prominence to a Roman soldier? Answer: He was a Gentile (non-Jew). The significance of that may not be immediately obvious to us, so we’ll need to unpack that a bit.
It is difficult to describe the massive, impassable gulf that separated the Jew from Gentile. It is important to note that throughout the Old Testament, God spoke of a day when his blessings would be extend to all nations. (Ps 2:7-8; 22:27-28; Is2:1ff; 42:6; 49:6; Joel 2:28ff) In fact, we get a glimpse of this through God’s promise to Abram, “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen 12:3) Yet, Israel took their privileged position as God’s people and twisted it into a position of favoritism, causing them to look down on Gentiles (i.e. everyone else). This resulted in significant racial pride, hostility, tension, even hatred. Gentiles were considered “unclean” which is one reason it was common for them to be referred to as “dogs”.
“All familiar [communication] w/ Gentiles was forbidden…Milk drawn from a cow by [Gentile] hands, bread and oil prepared by them, might indeed be sold to strangers, but not used by Israelites…No pious Jew would of course have sat down at the table of a Gentile. If a [Gentile] were invited to a Jewish house, he might not be left alone in the room, else every article of food or drink on the table was to be regarded as unclean. (didn’t know what they touched)” Alfred Edersheim, Sketches of Jewish Social Life in the Days of Christ
Understanding this, it becomes clear why some have viewed Acts 10 as the most stunning and important chapter in the entire book. Luke seemed to think so – he tells the story twice in a row! God is tellings us a new stage in his redemptive drama has arrived. The good news of Jesus Christ is for everyone, everywhere.
We see a beautiful truth blossoming in this section: the gospel is for everyone. Everyone. No one is excluded from the great grace and mercy of God in Christ. With this passage, the church is becoming a multi-racial, multi-cultural people, centered around the person and work of Jesus. The big idea today should be obvious by this point: Jesus offers life for all people, everywhere, through the gospel.
We could spend a significant amount of time with this passage, but as time is limited, I want to highlight four observations about Jesus and how he relates to us.
#1 Jesus is already out in front of us.
God is clearly the divine first mover and primary initiator in this passage. He sends theangel to Cornelius, orchestrates the vision to Peter, the timing is perfect, the Spirit makes multiple appearances and more.This entire section takes place only because God got involved and starts making things happen. Nearly everyone who comes to faith in Christ looks back and has the same experience, “I thought I was searching for God, but now I see it was God who was searching for me.” CS Lewis, articulating his experience of moving from atheist to Christian, stated, “Amiable agnostics will talk cheerfully about “man’s search for God.” To me, as I then was, they might as well have talked about the mouse’s search for the cat.’
This good and helpful to know on multiple levels.
- Non-Christian: This means that you can search with confidence and ask your questions about Jesus without anxiety. You’re not even capable of desiring God on your own, that is, unless he’s already at work. The whole idea that “I gave Jesus permission to be Lord of my life” is silly, short-sighted and unbiblical. He is the One who gives permission. He is the divine mover. Cornelius and his household don’t even have a chance to say “We believe”.
- Christian: Sometimes we think sub-consciously believe that God was out in front of us prior to our conversion, but not afterwards. The truth of God is that he is continually out in front of us. If you’re worried about tomorrow, know that Jesus is already there, making way. Trust him. What is the thing in your life causing anxiety, stress, worry? Jesus is with you BUT he is also out ahead of you. He wants you to know that and trust him for that.
- DCC: This needs to be said. Jesus is already out in front us as a church and has been from the beginning. He’s out in front bringing about our new space, additional opportunities, more people, new leaders, and more. Encouraging!
#2 Jesus wants life for all people.
“Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” Acts 11:18
“Preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ…” Acts 10:36
Pss. 29:11; 72:7; 85:8-10; Prov. 3:17; Isa. 48:18; 54:10; Ezek. 34:25-29
This is so small that it is easy to miss. But it is very important. When the Bible says that Jesus offers us “life” it is talking about a certain quality of life (meaning, purpose, joy, fullness), not merely existence. Eternal life is not eternal existence, that would be hell. Eternal life is eternal living with meaning, joy, purpose and passion – that begins now. Furthermore, Jesus also offers us peace (10:36). That peace is rooted in the OT idea ofshalom which means total flourishing in every direction (Pss. 29:11; 72:7; 85:8-10; Prov. 3:17; Isa. 48:18; 54:10; Ezek. 34:25-29) Do you have this life and peace? Are you existing or living?
Often we act like Jesus wants death for us, wanting to steal our joy and squash our fun. We turn Jesus into a God who dispenses duty, moralism, empty religion and ritual. But, know this. When he says “DON’T” do something, he is saying “DON’T” hurt yourself – not “DON’T” have fun. Jesus wants LIFE for you. Repentance is about LIFE. Holiness is aboutLIFE. Purity, humility and honesty are about LIFE. When he calls us to live for him, he’s calling us to better, fuller life; NOT less life.
Ps 16:11 You make known to me the paths of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
My main regrets in life stem from not trusting Jesus more, not wishing I had trusted him less.
- Non-Christian: You need to know this. You are settling for less than life without Jesus.
- Christian: Jesus wants more of this full life for you. There is a range of Christian experience, which is predominantly rooted in our trust of Him. Don’t you want more? He initially calls us to trust him for LIFE, then continues to call us to trust him for LIFE – every day.
Q: Who does he offer this to?
ALL people. 11:18, 10:34 “God shows no partiality”
2Ch19:7 “no injustice w/ the Lord…or partiality”
Rom2:11, Gal 2:6 “For God shows no partiality”
Eph6:9 “there is no partiality with him”
God shows no partiality. There is no unclean group. There is no measuring before him. We are all created in His image, all fallen, all in need of a radical redemption and rescue. May we be a church that shows no partiality!
#3 Jesus is concerned for “good” people.
Cornelius is “good person”. He’s educated, wealthy, leader, Roman citizen, gave alms (i.e. charity), vibrant prayer life, family man, and was very sincere. But, despite all of this, what does angel say when he shows up? Keep doing what you’re doing (?) You’re well on your way. (?) You’re living right (?)
No. The angel effectively says “You’re a really good person in the eyes of the world….and you need to be converted.”
Many will say, “Well, I understand that addicts, prostitutes, drug dealers need conversion, but my life is put together.” Others will say, “As long as you’re a good person, help others, do good things, you’ll be fine, go to heaven.” Look. Cornelius couldn’t be more pulled together! What does angel say? You need to hear the gospel.
Don’t miss! No matter how good you are, you need to trust Jesus. There’s no other way. Until you understand the difference between GOOD AND GOSPEL, you don’t understand Christianity. The average person hears the call to trust Jesus as a call to become moral, religious, traditional, with a strong chance of voting Republican.
The Bible says problem with the human race is that we have substituted ourselves in the place of God. There are two ways to put yourself in place of God. (1) Break all the rules: Do, be, go, feel, say what I want, when I want, or (2) Keep all the rules: Be good enough that don’t feel any need God. They both look different, but both are ways of being own savior. Both are manifestations of pride and self-centeredness. The bigger problem, of course, is being a rule-keeper. Why? Because rule-keepers don’t recognize their need for God – they are are their own god – self-sufficient. This means that those who think “I’m spiritually OK” are NOT; but those who think “I”m not OK” are moving towards Jesus. In other words, Jesus is concerned for good people. He doesn’t want you to trust in your goodness, but his goodness.
#4 Jesus chooses us to spread the gospel.
If you think about it. Jesus is incredibly inefficient here. Instead of spreading the gospel through an angel or vision, he chooses people. We are God’s plan A.
What is that Gospel? We have it summed up here succinctly for us. God became man, lived our life, died our death and rose again for the forgiveness of sin.
Peter says “we are witnesses” (vs41) of these things. What does he mean by using that word? What he intends for us to understand is that what he is saying is historically true. He saw the risen Jesus Christ. He ate, touched, and talked to the risen savior. In effect, he says, “I’m not offering this because it might work for you…it will work for you because it is true.”
Q: What do witnesses do w/ the gospel? PREACH! vs42 (herald or proclaim) Why herald this message? Because it is the ONLY message that can give you LIFE, save, transform good/bad people, rescue from judgment. We see here that there will be a judgment day. None will escape. Outside of Christ, you will be judged. You may think you can get away with it now; but you won’t then.
Yet, the good news of the gospel is that the judge is also the savior. The judge became judged for us, that we might be set free. Therefore, in Christ, there is now no longer fear of judgement.
The gospel is for everyone, everywhere. The gospel is God’s one message for the entire universe. Every single person on the face of this planet is lost, destined to hell, apart from saving faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. This includes every single human being in Seattle. That is, everyone at your workplace, on your campus, in your home, in every car on every street, in every cubicle, on every street corner, in every coffee shop, in every office building, in every alley and every avenue. Jesus is the only key, the only door, the only way, the only path, the only cure, the only map. Acts 4:12 “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Jesus offers life for all people, everywhere, through the gospel. Jesus is out in front of us – initiating, moving, working, acting, redeeming, saving. Jesus wants life for all people, without partiality. Jesus is particularly concerned for “good” people, commanding everyone in love to put our ultimate hope in his goodness, not our own. Amazingly, Jesus chooses to use us to spread this gospel news to all who will hear, in our city and the cities of the world.
“An emaciated gospel leads to emaciated worship. It lowers our eyes from God to self and cheapens what God has accomplished for us in Christ. The biblical gospel, by contrast, is like fuel in the furnace of worship The more you understand about it, believe it, and rely on it, the more you adore God both for who he is and for what he had done for us in Christ.”
Greg Gilbert, What is the Gospel?