The Open Door of the Gospel

Acts 10:34-48      |     Sermon Resources    |      26 April 2020

Peter has had a wild week.  It began in the seaside city of Joppa.  Here he retreated to a private rooftop to spend some time in prayer when he had an extraordinary vision from God, which quite literally undid thousands of years of Jewish dietary restrictions.  He was told it was acceptable to eat unclean animals.  No sooner had this vision faded when a group of men arrived summoning him to come and preach to a Gentile man named Cornelius up in Caesarea.  Peter left with the group on the following day for the overnight trek up the coast.  Upon arriving in Caesarea, the wealthy and well-respected Cornelius fell down at Peter’s feet and began to worship him.  Peter quickly got him back on his feet.  We pick up the story now with Peter inside of the Gentile’s house and preparing to preach a truly astonishing sermon.


#1 The Declaration

“Acceptance Without Favoritism”

Cornelius and his group of friends and family had waited several days for Peter to arrive and so it must have been with great joy that they received him and heard him finally open his mouth (v.34) to preach.  Peter was likely just as excited to preach as his audience was to listen.  He begins by boldly declaring that God shows no partiality (v.34).  That is to say God plays no favorites.  Peter goes on but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him (v.34).  I love how Eugene Peterson interprets this verse in The Message:

It makes no difference who you are or where you’re from—if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open.

Because God does not play favorites, the door is open to all.  In other words, the gospel of Jesus is not preached behind a door that is labeled “Jews Only.”  Jesus is the Savior for all people—Jews and Gentiles alike—everyone who sees their need for a Savior!

Peter’s words might not seem that radical of a declaration to us.  After all, wasn’t this part of what God had already revealed about himself way back in the beginning of the Old Testament?  Take for example Deuteronomy 10:17: “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.”

What’s ironic is that Peter and other faithful Jews like him, would have certainly intellectually affirmed the truthfulness of verses like this.  However, in practice they lived as if they were God’s favorite (and only) children.


#2 The Explanation

After this declaration that God does not play favorites, Peter offers an explanation as to how and why his declaration is true.  This explanation is more or less the same message we’ve seen him preach throughout the book of Acts.  It is the good news of peace through Jesus Christ (v.36).  And please be sure to notice that it is news that he shares with his audience.  He does not share the tenets of some new philosophy or ideology—he shares news.  This is significant because at the core of the Christian faith is the gospel (i.e. the good news) which is the relating of historic events that have already taken place.  Yes, the good news has implications in the present and in the future, but it is primarily concerned with what has already taken place.

Now let’s look Peter’s explanation a little more closely and I call your attention to three big ideas.


“Kingdom Without Borders

The first big idea is Jesus’ kingdom—the kingdom of God he came to inaugurate—is a kingdom without borders.  Someone might immediately object to the absurdity of a kingdom with no borders, but trust me it’s true; it can be no other way.

First, let’s look at what Peter says.  In what has to be the most powerful parenthetical statement ever uttered, he refers to the preaching of good news of peace through Jesus Christ (who is Lord of all) (v.36).  Now, of course, we receive none of this punctuation from the original Greek.  No commas, periods, exclamation points, question marks, parentheses are included in the manuscripts we have.  But, nevertheless, this is a powerful statement.  Jesus is not just Lord of the Jews.  He is not just Lord of the religious or Lord the spiritual or Lord the God-fearers.  He is Lord of all!

Later in his sermon, Peter says that Jesus is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead (v.42)Who will Jesus judge?  The living and the dead!  Who does that include?  Everyone!  So, Jesus is Lord of all and he will be the judge of all.  Jesus is Lord and he is Judge which makes him King.  And his kingdom rules over all.  In other words, his kingdom has no borders.  Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper puts it so well:

There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!


“Life Without End”

The second big idea in Peter’s sermon is equally as radical – that Jesus of Nazareth is living a life without end.  Can this be believed?  Is it rational to believe there is someone whose life will never end?  Particularly in our current pandemic, aren’t we surrounded with sufficient evidence that death does not discriminate?  Aren’t we reminded of how short life really is?

Peter explains that Jesus’ life was cut short—they put him to death by hanging him on a tree (v.39).  By the way intentionally uses the word tree – c.f. Deuteronomy 21:23 where we learn it is a curse to be hung a tree.  Though Jesus died a bloody death, God raised him on the third day (v.40).  Jesus has conquered death and is alive today.  If the heart of the Christian faith is the gospel, then at the heart of the gospel is the resurrection.  The apostle Paul puts in unambiguous terms: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins (c.f. 1 Corinthians 15:17).”


“Forgiveness Without Exclusion”

Finally, Peter makes an incredible invitation.  His explanation, as we’ve said, was a retelling of the good news of Jesus.  He related to his audience the facts of what had happened, but now he gives them something to do—everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name (v.43).

This invitation is open to all.  The doors of the Jesus’ kingdom are wide open.  There is no sign hanging out front that says, “Jews Only” or “Religious People Only.”  Peter clearly says the offer for forgiveness is for everyone!  Forgiveness is offered to all without exclusion.  Peter will expound on this idea in a later letter where he writes:

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

Jesus desires for all people everywhere to put their faith in him.


#3 The Confirmation

I’ve been preaching at Cornerstone for three years now and I’ve had my share of interruptions during a sermon.  A few Sundays ago, we had a spotlight loudly explode complete with sparks, smoke, and shards of glass. Twice we’ve had the power go out during the sermon.  But Peter had the interruption to top all interruptions.


“Spirit Without Distinction”

We are told that while Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word (v.44).  Peter had not finished his sermon – he was still speaking – when the Holy Spirit began to work in an amazing way.  Those who heard the word had obviously put their faith in Christ and subsequently they were filled with the Holy Spirit.

Those believers from among the circumcised were truly amazed that the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles (v.45).  How could this be?  Even the Gentiles can receive the Spirit? Shouldn’t they be circumcised first?  Shouldn’t they first become Jews before they become Christians? Obviously not.

The Holy Spirit comes to all who have trusted Jesus – without distinction.  The evidence is obvious—for they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God (v.46).  This is why this is often referred to as the “Gentile Pentecost.” Just as Jesus’ first followers received the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem and began to speak in tongues, so this group of Gentiles received the Holy Spirit in Caesarea and began to speak in tongues.

What happens next is equally remarkable.  This group of Gentiles had come to faith and had received the internal confirmation – the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but Peter saw the need for an external confirmation of what had taken place.  For thousands of years in the Jewish world, this would have been applying the sign of circumcision.  This was the external sign of an internal circumcision of the heart (c.f. Romans 2:29).

But Peter does not suggest circumcision.  What does he suggest?  “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have? (v.47).”  Peter skips over circumcision entirely!  They have already received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but now they will receive a baptism of water.  This was no mere formality.  This was an important way for these new Gentile Christians to be received into the church.  Just as Peter and others were baptized with water and now these Gentiles would be as well.  This was public declaration of the unity of Jesus’ church.

Notice one last detail that after all had been done, they asked Peter to remain for some days (v.48).  Just because they had received the Holy Spirit did not mean there was no longer a need for human teachers.  We all need divine and human help.


Discussion Questions

  1. Why is it significant that God shows no partiality?  What does this mean and how does this give us hope?
  2. Explain the phrase a “kingdom without borders.”  How could a deeper understanding that Jesus is Lord of all change your daily life?
  3. Why do you think the group of believers who were with Peter were amazed that the Holy Spirit was poured out “even on the Gentiles”?
  4. This passage is often referred to as the “Gentile Pentecost.”  Compare the events here with the events of Pentecost in Acts 2.  What is similar?  What is different?
  5. Looking at all that has happened in Acts 10, how do you think Peter’s view of Jesus changed?  How did his understanding of his mission change?
  6. How can you develop a bigger view of Jesus? What might happen as a result?

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