In Acts chapter 10, God sends Peter to the home of Gentile named Cornelius, and he transforms Peter’s view on how God views humanity in general.
Cornelius was a centurion who was stationed in Caesarea, and he is depicted as a God-fearing man who always prayed and was full of good works and deeds of charity.
But before his conversion, Cornelius receives a vision in which an angel of God tells him that his prayers have been heard, and the angel then instructs Cornelius to send the men of his household to Joppa, where they will find Peter, who is residing with a tanner by the name of Simon.
The conversion of Cornelius comes after a separate vision is given to Peter himself. In the vision, Peter sees all different kinds of animals and birds being lowered from Heaven in a sheet, and a voice commands him to kill and eat.
When he objects to eating those animals that are unclean according to Mosaic Law, the voice tells him not to call unclean that which God has made clean.
When Cornelius' men arrive, Peter understands that through this vision God is commanding him to preach the good news of the Gospel to the Gentiles as well, and not just the Jews.
And so Peter accompanies Cornelius' men back to Caesarea, and when Cornelius meets Peter, he falls at Peter's feet, but Peter raises the centurion back up and the two men share their visions.
And Peter tells of Jesus' ministry and the Resurrection, and the Holy Spirit descends on everyone at the gathering. The Jews among the group are amazed that Cornelius and other uncircumcised Gentiles have begun speaking in tongues and praising God.
At this point Peter commands that Cornelius and his followers be baptized. They have already been baptized through the fire of the Holy Spirit, and now Peter baptizes them in water as well, symbolizing their death to self and their new life in Jesus through the Holy Spirit in their identification with Jesus in his death and resurrection.
The following is basically how Peter summarizes the Gospel Message to these God-fearing Gentiles who have now come to know both the love of Jesus in identifying with him in his death and resurrection, but also have now experienced the filling of the Holy Spirit. See if any of Peter’s summary of the Gospel sounds familiar to you.
Peter’s Gospel message summary:
“I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout the province of 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.
“We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, 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. 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. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
And so, after having read Peter’s summary of the Gospel, what did you notice about his presentation? What did he include, and what did he not include? What did he think was appropriate to share with these brand new believers? Here is what I noticed about what he chose to say and not to say in his presentation…
Gospel Message Tally:
Hell: 0 times mentioned
Heaven: 0 times mentioned
Sin: 1 time mentioned
Jesus’ life: 1 time mentioned
Jesus’ death: 1 time mentioned
Jesus’ resurrection: 2 times mentioned
Jesus’ lordship: 2 times mentioned
In other words, the Resurrection and the Lordship of Jesus appear to be the most important aspects of the Gospel message – the essentials. These are the things that Peter chose to emphasize when talking to these brand new believers. We should probably follow Peter in his example here… and throughout the Book of Acts.