Christ Covenant Church
Rev. Marq Toombs
4 August 2019
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost / Ordinary Time
Series — Acts: To the Ends of the Earth
A GOOD SINNER
You can see this in your own life. Think of all the things you do or don’t do just because you want to make yourself acceptable to God and his people or because you want to be accepted by God and his people.
In Acts 10 we meet a man named was Cornelius who might have struggled with the same thing. He did everything he could to be acceptable to God and accepted by him and his people.
He was a Roman, not Jew. A God-fearing Greek (because he was uncircumcised.) He was a leader in the Roman Army, in charge of a hundred soldiers. He feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God. He was a righteous and God-fearing man, who was well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation.
And that’s not all.
Once, he even saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and speak to him. The angel called him by name and told him that God remembered his prayers and gifts to the poor. Then he told him to send for Simon Peter at Joppa in a house by the sea. Why?
Because, in spite of all his seeking, giving, praying, and visiting, he was not yet saved.
Now, you would think that if anyone was acceptable to God, Cornelius was. But something was missing.
That’s why the angel told Cornelius to send for Peter.
He was acceptable, but not yet accepted.
Let this serve as a reminder that no one is saved by religious devotion or good intentions or angelic visions but only by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
Since gospel preaching is an ordinary means of grace, God wanted Cornelius and his household to hear the story of Jesus and be saved by the power of the truth of the gospel of peace.
Now, I don’t believe the apostle Peter was ever a Pope, but I do believe his sermon to the Gentiles was the first truly catholic sermon of the early church.
By catholic I mean universal in scope.
With the help of the Holy Spirit, Peter preached the gospel of peace to the Gentiles, not just the Jews.
This sermon kicked open the gates of heaven for the whole wide world.
Peter was an insider who was sent on mission to tell the story of Jesus to outsiders like Cornelius and his household.
THE GOSPEL OF PEACE
This afternoon, a preacher friend (Jack Wilkie) from Forney posted this on facebook:
“Tell me the story of Jesus,
write on my heart every word…”
Because without regularly hearing the simple beauty of the Gospel, our hearts drift and our love for God grows cold.
He’s right, you know.
Now, I want to echo the gospel story for you and any God-seekers who might be among us today.
This is the message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.
First things first: we must understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. (We’ll see what that means a little later.)
As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.
Jesus was baptized by a prophet in the Jordan River in obedience to God’s word and thus he fulfilled righteousness.
God the Father spoke from heaven and declared Jesus to be his beloved Son.
The Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove and rested on Jesus.
Jesus went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.
Jesus fed thousands with bread and fishes and he forgave sins.
Jesus healed a man with a withered hand, he cleansed a leper, he healed a woman with a flow of blood, and he even raised a little girl from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus cast out evil spirits and unclean demons by the power of the Holy Spirit.
And the apostles are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem.
In Judea he invited little children to come to him and enter the kingdom; he called a rich man to follow him; and he even opened the eyes of a blind man.
In Jerusalem he rode a donkey through a crowd as they cheered “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” At the temple he drove out money-changers and their animals. He debated liberals and conservatives in the House of Prayer for all Nations. And he overcame them all!
He celebrated Passover and prayed in Gethsemane. He was delivered over to the religious leaders by a betrayer — one of the twelve. They delivered him over to political rulers.
Jesus was condemned to death by crucifixion. But before they crucified him, they mocked him and spit on him and flogged him and cursed him.
They put him to death by hanging him on a tree,
A wealthy religious leader was kind enough to take Jesus’ body, and wash it and wrap it it and bury him in a tomb cut out of rock.
but God raised him on the third day.
Some of the women who followed Jesus and ministered to him went to his tomb early in the morning on the third day after his crucifixion. When they arrived the stone was rolled away from the tomb, the guards were nowhere to be found, and angels sat in the tomb and announced to the women that, “Jesus is not here: he is risen!”
and God made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
After the resurrection Jesus revealed himself to his apostles.
Jesus ate fish and bread with his apostles and walked along the lake shore with them after his resurrection.
Then he sent them on mission to the world the story of the good news of salvation by grace through faith.
The Lord Jesus commanded the apostles to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one and only God-ordained judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets bear witness to him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
Now, while Peter was still preaching these things, the Holy Spirit interrupted and fell on the all who heard the word [just as the Spirit had fallen on the apostles at the beginning (11:16).
When Peter realized what happened, he remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ And he reasoned that if God gave the same gift to Gentiles as he gave to the apostles and Jews when they believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was he that he could stand in God’s way?” (11:16-17)
So Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
And Cornelius and his household were baptized (by sprinkling or pouring as on Pentecost. Note: water was not withheld from them, but brought to them and applied by Peter’s hand.)
By the way, that word commanded is a military term. Remember – Cornelius was a military man of the Italian cohort. It’s the same word Cornelius used when he said, “We are all here in the presence of God, to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.”
So, water-baptism is commanded by the Lord according to the gospel of peace.
Peter simply opened his mouth and told the Story about Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit took care of everything else.
STORY SHAPES LIFE
Jesus is the Story, and the story is the sermon.
This is the story of how God sent a pastor on mission to tell the story of Jesus to a crowd of God-seekers in the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s the story of how God saved Cornelius and his family, relatives, and friends with the gospel of peace.
If someone had been live-tweeting Peter’s sermon at Cornelius’ house, they might have used #gospelofpeace and tweeted: “God shows no partiality” and “in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” and “everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” All good highlights from the sermon.
So you see, the Gospel is a story about a person, not a system of principles. This story centers on the person and work of Jesus, especially the crucifixion and the resurrection.
And this is the story by which you will be saved, you and all your household, if you receive the gospel of peace by faith.
According to Peter, the gospel is a person not a principle or precept. The good news is a true story not a technical system.
The Gospel is not a system of principles and practices; it is a story about the person of Jesus and his peace.
It is a message to believe not a method to achieve.
Peter does not tell Cornelius what he must do to make himself acceptable to God; rather, he tells him what Jesus did to make him acceptable to God.
In response to the story of Jesus, even good sinners like Cornelius and his family are called to trust in Christ alone.
The good news of peace is “that everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
Anyone and Everyone.
This is what it means to fear God and do what is right = it means to trust in Christ and obey his word.
We believe in order to receive, we do not achieve in order to receive.
Pastoral Prayer — O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on all the world; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen (BCP Prayers For Peace and Justice)