After Baptism

Epiphany is the season in which the church remembers and celebrates the various ways that Jesus was revealed for who He really is, events like the visit of the Magi, where wise men from far-off nations showed that Jesus was king of kings, like Jesus’ baptism, in which Jesus was revealed to be the Son of God, and the Transfiguration, where Peter, James, and John caught a glimpse of Jesus’ true glory.

In Acts 10, Peter is having another epiphany: God had repeatedly shown him a vision of unclean animals, and told him to go ahead and eat them, and he was completely confused until the men who were sent by the Gentile Cornelius came and asked to hear the gospel. Peter suddenly understood that the gospel was not just for the Jews, but for the Gentiles, too. Jesus Christ is “Lord of all”, and so “everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Really, Peter is having a series of epiphanies, falling like dominos – first, in v.34, that God shows no partiality; second, in v.35, that anyone (not just sons of Abraham) who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to God; third, in vs. 36, that Jesus is Lord of all, and fourth, in light of these things, Peter’s own calling as an apostle is much bigger than he ever thought: he is commanded to testify about Jesus to everyone, and to call everyone, including Gentiles, to believe in Jesus, beginning with Cornelius.

In Acts 10:34-43, Peter rehearses the gospel in light of his new understanding to Cornelius and his household, telling the story of how everything changed after Jesus was baptized. After baptism, Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit and power, and filled Judea and Jerusalem with good works and good news. Jesus went through a sequence of baptism-Spirit-mission, which was then passed on to his disciples at Pentecost, where the Spirit filled the disciples and Peter began to preach the gospel openly.

And what is happening in Acts 10 is something of a “Gentile Pentecost”. In verses 44-48, the Spirit falls on Peter’s hearers, and in response, they are baptized, and the result is an explosion of missionary activity far beyond Jerusalem, Judea, or Samaria. This pattern of baptism, Spirit, mission is not just for Jesus; it’s for his disciples. Not just for his disciples, but for all Israel. Not just for Israel, but for the whole world. The baptism of Jesus inaugurated the mission of God to all the nations.

Peter’s key application of his epiphany is this: “Since Jesus is Lord of all, since the gospel is for everyone, since God shows no partiality, since the church’s mission is to bear witness to Jesus, since I’ve been baptized into Jesus and filled with His Spirit, I need to tell everyone! He understood both the scope of God’s mission, and his personal role within that mission.

And that’s the epiphany for us as we begin this new year: not just a new understanding of the fact that the good news about Jesus is for everyone; but a right response to that fact. Peter’s new understanding of Jesus led directly to evangelism, and if we believe along with Peter that Jesus is Lord of all and that the gospel is for everyone, then that’s exactly what we need to pray for, work towards, put our money towards, and participate in. When you see how glorious the risen Christ is, when you understand that He is Lord of all, not just Lord of my heart, or Lord of the Church, but Lord of Lords, Lord of everything, then you start to see the scope of the Church’s mission, and you are impelled by the Holy Spirit to find your part in that mission.

What motivates the Church’s mission to the world is a new understanding of who Jesus is. Jesus is God’s beloved, Spirit-anointed Son. Jesus is the one who went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil. Jesus is the one who died and rose again. Jesus is the coming judge of the living and the dead, and Jesus is the one who offers forgiveness of sins through His name. Epiphany reveals to us that Jesus Christ is Lord of all, and that’s why His followers bear witness to everyone about the good news of peace through Jesus Christ.

You’ve been baptized with Christ’s baptism. You are filled with His Spirit. You’ve been chosen as a witness that Jesus Christ is Lord of all. You’ve seen that the gospel is for everyone. Now God commands you to preach to the people and bear witness to everyone that God offers forgiveness of sins to everyone who believes in Jesus’ name.

Posted on Wednesday, January 11, 2017 by CJ Bowen