No Partiality

Last week, we saw two visions, and two faith-filled responses. This week, we see the results of that world-changing obedience as the mission of the Church is expanded to include all nations, and the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile of commandments expressed in ordinances is broken down and done away with.
Picking up in the second half of verse 23, Peter leaves Joppa, along with an entourage of interested people who will perform an important function as witnesses later on. Cornelius has by this time assembled the people he loves, his relatives and close friends, to hear Peter’s important message from God. Sometimes this is all that evangelism involves: getting people together to hear the gospel. Cornelius is evangelizing before he even hears the gospel!

When Peter arrives, Cornelius begins to worship Peter, which Peter immediately and rightly refuses. The message is what’s important, not the messenger. Then in verse 28, we see Peter explain his dilemma: he reminds the gathered crowd that what he is doing is unlawful, and he would never even consider visiting them were it not for the vision. Peter has rightly interpreted the vision as referring to persons, not simply food choices. Christ has accomplished an irrevocable sanctification that reverses the spread of uncleanness. Cornelius then explains his own vision, largely repeating what we know from the first part of the chapter, but culminating now in a large, expectant crowd eager to hear from God.

Peter then opens his mouth with the key application that he has drawn from his vision: God shows no partiality. This is the bomb that will explode the dividing wall, and open wide the door to the church’s mission. God’s gospel is not just for the Jews, but for those in every nation who fear God and do what is right, not in this case meaning law-keeping, as if Cornelius was saved by works, but doing what is right in obeying God and waiting expectantly to hear from Him. Instead of God’s people being defiled by contact with outsiders, their Spirit-filled cleanness now spreads through the preaching of the gospel and the washing of baptism. This means that it is perfectly acceptable and even imperative for the church to associate with tax collectors and prostitutes, with foreigners and strangers, with tattooed punks and squeaky clean Mormons, with drag queens and politicians, having them over for dinner, and sharing the gospel with them. The cleanness God’s people have in Christ is more powerful than any uncleanness that might spread to them.

Peter then preaches the gospel, calling it good news of peace through Jesus Christ. The good news has five points: 1, authority: God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit and with power. 2, life: God was with Jesus, enabling Him to do good and heal the demon-possessed. 3, death and resurrection: Jesus was put to death, but God raised Him from the dead, showing Him to chosen witnesses. 4, commission: Jesus commanded these witnesses to preach and to testify that Jesus is the judge of the living and the dead. 5, response: Believe in Him, and you will receive forgiveness of sins, and a favorable judgment when Jesus judges the world.

This is the message that Cornelius has been longing to hear. He had been worshiping Yahweh, but he knew that something more was going on, and he had been fasting and praying to find out what it was. God had heard his prayers, and sent him a gospel messenger, sovereignly prepared to break through the wall of separation between Jew and Gentile, so that the gospel can spread to every nation under heaven. What Peter has just done will send shockwaves throughout the whole church, and turn the entire world upside down. The Jewish gospel has gone to the Gentiles.

Posted on Wednesday, May 28, 2014 by CJ Bowen