The Baptism of Our Lord - 12 Jan 20
Acts 10:34-43 - A summary of the gospel
Those baptised in Christ are called to tell others about him.
Have you ever been in one of those situations where you are suddenly given an opportunity to say something that you would really like to say, but don’t have the words and miss a great opportunity?
Imagine, for example, if some famous person whom you have always wanted to meet were to appear around the corner of the IGA supermarket shelves and says ‘Hello’. Here is your big opportunity to introduce yourself and ask him or her back to your house for lunch. Will you grab the opportunity, or will you not know what to say?
A young man called Jeff Van Gundy once had an opportunity to do that – and blew it! Jodie Foster the film star that many young men would just love to ask out for a date went to the same university as Jeff. He and 11 of his mates got together and each put up $100 for whichever one got a legitimate date with her.
Jeff had seen her around the campus but was always too shy to begin a conversation with her and ask her out. Then one day he was walking back to the university past a shop that sold popcorn, when a voice behind him said, “Gee, that popcorn smells really good.” Jeff turned around, and it was Jodie Foster.
Did he say, something like, “Yes it does would you like me to buy you some?” Nope! All that he could stammer out was, “Yeah, it does.” And that was the end of the conversation!
Jeff missed an opportunity that most young men would have died for. He also might have won the $1,200 bet. He just wasn’t prepared.
One day, you will have an opportunity to tell someone about Jesus. Will you be like Jeff and not know what to say – or will you be ready to speak up about him, and what he has done for you?
Acts 10:34-43 is an example to us of speaking up for Jesus - and also what to say. This passage is essentially a summary of the gospel. It indicates that those baptised in Christ are called by God to the mission of proclaiming the gospel. From our passage we can derive three aspects of this calling:
I. We are called by God to tell others about Jesus.
Telling others about Jesus requires two things from us: obedience to God and trust in God.
To understand why this passage tells us that this is so, let me give you a little background to this story. Cornelius was an officer in the Italian Regiment who was part of the occupying force in the Jewish city of Caesarea. Significantly, Cornelius was not a Jew. But he did believe in God and tried to live in obedience to God. One afternoon, he had a vision in which he saw an angel of God. The angel told him to send men to invite back a man called Peter – a Jew who lived in another town
Meanwhile, Peter had a dream in which God showed him that the Jewish belief that everything to do with non-Jews was unclean, was not necessarily so. God told Peter that even Gentiles could be made clean by God. Then God’s Holy Spirit told him that he was to go with the men back to Cornelius.
Now, Jewish beliefs forbade them from mixing with non-Jews and so Peter would have felt very uncomfortable Going into Cornelius’ home. Nevertheless, he had been called by God to go into this culturally forbidden situation. And so, Peter was obedient to God and went with Cornelius’ men.
When Peter arrived, Cornelius said to him we have all gathered to hear what God has told you to say – so speak to us! ‘Then Peter began to speak ....’ (v.34) I do not think that Peter had a prepared speech! But he trusted God.
He trusted God by going with these complete strangers into a situation that Peter’s fellow countrymen would have frowned upon, and he trusted in the Holy Spirit to empower him and to give him the right words to say.
That is what God wants you and me to do - to be obedient to God’s command, that we have in verse 42, to tell others about Jesus; and then to trust in him. A similar command is in 1 Peter 3:15 where we are commanded to, ‘always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.’
Now the second aspect of the calling on those baptised in Christ to proclaim the gospel is that ....
II. We are called to tell all people v.34-35
God calls all people to be baptised into his family, the church. He does not distinguish and neither should we.
Peter evidently did not understand this initially. Along with the other disciples he thought that salvation was only for the Israelite people. But he finally realised that God does not distinguish between one nation and another, or one person and another. In verses 34 & 35 he says, ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.’
Despite this, some folk today would like to be selective about who we might encourage to come into our church. Perhaps we consider that some are not as respectable as others; or that some do not hold to our middle-class values as much as we think they should. But, in God’s eyes we are all equally sinners - until ‘washed clean in the blood of the lamb.’
In fact, when Jesus said blessed are the poor, he meant you and me just as much as the family in the poorer part of town who are living below the poverty line - because he was talking about the poor in spirit. All people regardless of social standing or accumulated wealth are in need of spiritual food. D.T. Niles once said, “Evangelism is one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread.”
There was a lift operator in a hospital who was very effective in bringing new people into his church. When asked how he managed to do this he modestly replied, “I’m just a nobody telling everybody about somebody who can save anybody.” What this man recognised, you see, is that bringing people into the Kingdom of God is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit. It is available to all because of what Jesus achieved for us through his death and resurrection. Through God’s grace, a free gift of forgiveness, new life and eternal life is available to all who would wish to receive this gift of grace.
So God does not distinguish, and neither should we.
Nevertheless, God does have some criteria for accepting people into his Kingdom. In verse 35, Peter expressed the criteria very succinctly, ‘...anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.’ ...
a. To ‘fear him’ means to recognise that God created us and has rightful ownership over our life, and deserves to be treated with reverent respect.
b. Peter’s term ‘does what is right’, I suggest, comprises a number of actions:
i. Believing in Jesus as being the Son of God with all the authority of God and that he died on the cross for our sins, was resurrected to indicate his victory over sin and death and is alive today.
ii. Making a decision to repent and be baptised; and finally, ...
iii. Seeking to make Jesus Lord of every aspect of our life and living in obedience to his and the Bible’s teachings.
Now, this last criteria requires us to make ourselves available to God, just as Peter did, so that through us he can touch people’s lives. This is the third aspect of the calling upon all those who have been baptised ...
III. We are called to be a channel of God’s peace
This applies to each one of us. Some may think that God only uses the gifted speaker, or the charismatic leader, the ‘evangelist’ or the ordained clergy. But God shows no partiality. He will use any heart as a conduit for his peace if we are obedient to his calling to make ourselves available, and trust in him as Peter did.
And as we make ourselves available to be a channel of his peace, we too benefit. As God uses us he also sanctifies us, which you may recall from the message two weeks ago is that purification from the guilt and power of sin and being made holy through being set apart for God’s use.
The farm at Bowraville where I grew up had a beautiful river of crystal clear water that ran around two sides of the farm. But after a long period of no rain, the weed in the river used to get very thick. I could no longer see the clean gravel bottom, and when I went canoeing, sometimes I had a job to push through some of the thick weed - particularly in some of the little backwater channels that I loved to explore.
But then the rain would come and the river would flood. The risen water would soon be no longer confined to the main channel of the river. The flow of the current would wash out the weeds and sludge and make both the main channel and the backwater channels navigable once again.
The water in the river moves impartially; it just needs a channel – and one channel is as acceptable as another. In the same way, God shows no partiality in whom he uses as a channel for his peace.
God's Spirit and peace, like the rainwater, pours into us, moves through us, and dredges the channel as it goes. The more we open our hearts and allow that peace to flow through us, and out of us to others, the broader the channel of peace becomes.
But friends, here is the important point: unlike the natural landscape, we have a choice! We can refuse to let God's peace move through us into the world. We can, as many do, allow apathy, fear, prejudice, or a life too choked with worldly things, to block the flow.
Or, we can be obedient to Gods calling, upon all those baptised in Christ, to the mission of proclaiming the gospel. The Apostle Peter has given us an example in his willingness to go and proclaim the gospel to Cornelius. And the result? ‘All who heard him ... received the Holy Spirit ... and were (also) baptised in the name of Jesus Christ.’
Conclusion. As people who are baptised in Christ, you and I are called by God to tell others about Jesus, called to tell all people, and called to be a channel of God’s peace. And, unlike the young man who missed the date with Jodie Foster we should be ready for any opportunity. In this we can be encouraged by Bill Bright who once said, ‘Success in witnessing is simply taking the initiative to share Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, then leaving the results to God.’