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PETER’S MESSAGE TO CORNELIUS

Acts 10:23b-10:48
Key Verse: 10:43

In the previous passage, through God’s command in Peter’s vision, “kill and eat” we could think of God’s heart for all the people of the world, both the Jews and the Gentiles. Today’s passage is a unique passage in that in God’s leading a Jew Peter meets a Gentile Cornelius face to face for the first time after Jesus’ resurrection and there is Peter’s first message to the Gentiles, and consequently is the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Gentiles. This passage teaches about God and Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

First, God does not show favoritism (23b-35). Look at verses 23b-24. “The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa went along. The following day he arrived in Caesarea.” As you know in describing a certain incident, especially a significant event in history, time is important. So is in Luke’s account for this event. “The next day” Peter and his entourage set out north along the coastal road to Caesarea. They were a party of ten (11:12). “The following day” they arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. Cornelius had an extensive heart. Look at verses 25-26. “As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. ‘Stand up,’ he said, ‘I am only a man myself.’” Cornelius falling at Peter’s feet in reverence could be his humble attitude. Yet, it is not recommendable before God. So Peter right away refused it, making him get up and saying, “I am only a man myself.” Peter knew who he was before God (cf 3:12). These extremes, worshipping men and being worshipped by men, should not be done in God, even between a Jew and a Gentile. All human beings are fundamentally equal in God. To deify any person or despise anyone is not right before God.

Look at verse 27. “Talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people.” It showed again Cornelius big heart and the thirstiness of the Gentiles for God. At this Peter said to them, “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection.” In saying this Peter meant that his coming was his obedience to God, although it was against the Jewish humanly unbreakable custom. In other words, Peter came to Cornelius house as a servant of God, not as a Jew. Then Peter said, “May I ask why you sent for me?”

There would be no human reason and human answer. The answerable reason was obedience to God. Cornelius answered, “Four days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.’” Cornelius’ answer was factual. Yet, interestingly Cornelius said that one who stood before him was ‘a man in shining clothes’ instead of saying, “an angel of God” which Luke wrote (10:3,4). This also showed Cornelius’ humble attitude. At this point apparently he did not show any implication that he knew God. In his deep heart he wanted to know God truly through Peter. Yet, his answer to the reason of calling Peter was his obedience to the words from above. Cornelius said, “So I sent for you immediately.” Peter’s ‘So’, and Cornelius ‘So’ well matched here. Both were obedient to God. Cornelius said continually, “It was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.” Now he explicitly mentioned ‘God’ and ‘Lord” in their preparation to hear from Peter.

At this point Peter must have been moved by Cornelius’ humble and eager attitude to hear God’s words. He began to speak, saying, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.” Cornelius was a very one who feared God and did what was right. Through God’s accepting a Gentile, Cornelius, Peter realized who God is: God is the God of no favoritism. God does not show favoritism. This idea flows throughout the Bible beginning from Genesis. When Cain and Abel brought offerings to God, God accepted Abel and his offering but rejected Cain and his offering. Cain thought that was not fair and became angry to God. But God said to him in counseling him, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it” (Ge 4:7). Cain and his offering were not accepted because he did not do what was right. And God was giving him a second chance to do what was right. And when his chosen people Israelites did wrong with no fear of God and went astray, God punished them severely. On the contrary, when the people of Nineveh repented of their wickedness, God did not bring his judgment upon them but saved them from the destruction. Later Peter said in 2 Peter 3:9, “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” Especially, God does not show his favoritism in his saving work. He saves any and everyone who repents.

Second, Jesus is the judge of the living and the dead (36-43). After saying that God does not show favoritism, Peter speaks continually. But now he speaks about Jesus. Look at verse 36. “You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ who is the Lord of all.” The message God sent to the people of Israel was the good news of peace through Jesus Christ. The good news is that men can have peace with God and peace with other men through Jesus Christ. Then surly there is peace between the Jews and the Gentiles in Jesus Christ. So Jesus is the Lord all. It is not by force but through the good news of peace though him.

Then Peter delivers the full message concerning Jesus. Look at verses 37 and 38. “You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached—how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil because God was with him.” This is Jesus’ beautiful earthly messianic ministry as the good shepherd. In this God the Father, and the Son Jesus and the Holy Spirit were all involved. Peter said that Cornelius knew this, staying in the land of Judea.

Then what does Peter say more? Look at verses 39-41. “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” There are five messages of Peter in Acts. All clearly say of Jesus’ death and resurrection (2:36; 3:15; 4:10; 5:31; 10:40). This time Peter says more of Jesus’ resurrection that God caused Jesus to be seen and the disciples ate and drank with Jesus after he rose from the dead. It was to help the faith of the listeners, Cornelius and the people he had invited. Jesus’ resurrection was seen by the eyes of humans, and Jesus’ disciples ate and drink with the risen glorified Jesus.

Then Peter continued his message: “He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.” Jesus is judge of both the living and the dead. What a shocking and history-shaking message! While on earth, Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil. He seemed to be killed on the cross helplessly. But God raised him from the dead and appointed him as judge of the living and the dead. This is a very significant message in the Bible. The expression, “judge of the living and the dead” is written three times in the New Testament. Peter said this one more time in 1 Peter 4:5, “But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” And Paul said 2 Timothy 4:1 says, “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead…” And it is written in the Apostles’ Creed, “…from thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead…” Death is not the end of life and everything. There is the judgment of God. Daniel 12:2 says, “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.” Hebrews 9:27 says, “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” However, God judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son (Jn 5:22). Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” Jesus himself said in John 5:28 and 29, “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.”

Last week was the week of events. On Monday there was a tragic event of Boston Marathon bombing. Still we don’t know who did it, a terrorist or some other people for a certain purpose. Anyway there was evil power behind it. There are visible evil and invisible evil. Many people grieved over it. This was a tragedy and such terrible events should not take place again. Government authorities should make every effort to prevent such events. Yet, unless people believe the judgment of God, they can do anything, thinking that death is the end. But for the judgment of God, there will be no fundamental solution. Sadly, our society collectively removes even God from people’s lives, not to mention the judgment of God. This is the fundamental evil and the fundamental problem. On Wednesday there was a funeral ceremony of Margaret Thatcher known as Iron Lady. She was a Prime Minster of England from 1979 to 1990, three times of winning the election, and the first woman Prime Minister. They say that she shaped the country in a great way. Some others say she made the nation worse. But God knows correctly. People must know that death is not the end, but after that there is the judgment of God. And God appointed Jesus as the judge of the living and the dead.

Then what does it mean Jesus is the judge of the living and the dead? Why did Peter deliver this message to Cornelius and the large gathering of people? It was so that they might believe in him. To those who believe in him an amazing thing happens. Look at verse 43. “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” Nonetheless to say, criminals and sinners are judged standing before the judge. Before the holy God all are sinners, whether they live great lives in the eyes of people. Romans 3:23 says, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But when their sins are pardoned and forgiven there will be no judgment and so no condemnation. This is a self-evident truth. Those who believe in Jesus are truly blessed and they are truly great because of God’s grace. Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. All the prophets testify about Jesus for this amazing grace of God through him. In short Jesus is the Saviour, who saves his people from their sins through his forgiveness, which is bestowed upon the believers through his death and resurrection. This is the reason Jesus said in John 5:24, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”

In this part we thought of Peter’s message, which was a marvelously comprehensive message. Peter excellently revealed who Jesus is. He is the good shepherd, doing good and healing all who are under the power of the devil. He is the judge of the living and the dead. He is our Saviour through his death and resurrection. He is the Lord of all. It was Those who believe this Jesus are truly blessed people and they are great.

Third, the Holy Spirit comes on the Gentiles (44-48). Look at verse 44. “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message.” It is certain that when they heard Peter’s message, they were moved by Peter’s message and believed in Jesus, whom Peter preached. Then the Holy Spirit came on all who believed. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues (or other languages) and praising God. Here the author mentioned the circumcised believers, who were the Jewish believers. Probably they thought that believing in Jesus and being circumcised, both are important. Yet, to their astonishment the Holy Spirit was poured out on Gentiles, who were uncircumcised. This was a new era in Christian history. The Holy Spirit comes to those who hear the gospel message of Jesus and put their faith in Jesus, regardless of their human conditions.

Look at verse 47. “Then Peter said, ‘Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.’ So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.” The water baptism was the confirmation of their faith in Jesus and declaration to the world that they were believers in Jesus. After that they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days. It showed their strong spiritual desire to grow in faith in Jesus.

Thank God who does not show favoritism to save all, both the Jews and the Gentiles. Thank God for Jesus who is the Judge of the living and the death and is our Saviour through his death and resurrection. Thank God for the Holy Spirit who comes on those who believe in Christ Jesus. May we be the people who know the tremendous value of believing in Jesus and live accordingly.

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