The turning point: the Good News is for Gentile equally with Jew
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 28
Peter, invited to the Roman officer’s household, proclaims controversially that God does not show favouritism to His own nation of history, but receives those of any race or culture who turn to Him.
34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realise how true it is that God does not show favouritism…
“Peter began to speak” — literally ‘Opening his mouth, Peter said…’ which is a solemn opening phrase, preparing the reader for a statement of the greatest importance: that everyone who believes in Jesus receives the same forgiveness.
“Does not show favouritism” — God shows no partiality and is no respecter of persons (Amplified).
35 …but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.
Unremarkable to us, to such a separated culture “accepts from every nation” represented a huge milestone in the way the Gospel was understood and shared. Centuries of deep-seated racial prejudice were swept aside by Peter’s revelation from God.
36 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” is perhaps more the sense of “you know of…”, implying that there is more.
Cornelius and his household would not have been familiar with Jesus’ earlier life and ministry as the Jewish audiences that Peter had spoken to up until now. This is only a brief summary of his teaching and message; it follows a similar format to Mark’s gospel.
Verse 36 cites two Old Testament texts, Psalm 107:20, ‘He sent forth his word and healed them’, and Isaiah 52:7, ‘the feet of him who brings good tidings, who publishes peace’. The starting point is that God’s promise in the OT to bring peace to His people is fulfilled in Jesus.
37 You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached…
38 …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.
Unlike Paul’s summary we read in 1 Cor. 15:3–8, Peter offers a more complete story, much like the format of Mark’s Gospel:
- The announcement of Jesus by John the Baptist
- Jesus’ anointing with the Spirit at His baptism
- His ministry of healing and deliverance in Galilee
- The journey through Judea to Jerusalem
- His arrest and crucifixion
- Resurrection on the third day
- Appearances subsequently
- An allusion to the Great Commission, and
- Jesus appointed by God as judge of all.
39 “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,
40 but God raised Him from the dead on the third day and caused Him to be seen.
The death of Jesus at the hands of the Jews is mentioned in passing — not so relevant for a Gentile audience — but the resurrection and resurrection appearances are given prominence. The subject of Peter’s message is very much alive!
41 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.
42 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.
“Preach to the people” — at this point, the Jewish people. Jesus’ reinstatement of Peter and instruction “Feed My sheep”, John 21:17 did not seem to extend the scope. The Great Commission as expressed in Mark 16:15 “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation” and Matthew 28:19 “Go and make disciples of all nations” would have been difficult for the disciples to grasp at that time. With greater revelation and understanding after the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost, and with Peter’s vision, Acts 10:9–16 and this experience of a further outpouring of the Spirit among Gentiles at Cornelius’ house, Acts 10:44–46, Peter and the other disciples could see the bigger, broader purpose of God.
43 All the prophets testify about Him that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name .”
“Everyone who believes in Him” could be ‘everyone in Israel who believes’ but Peter has already declared, v.34, his new understanding that God is no respecter of persons e.g. Jewish privilege
This ‘bigger picture’ had been prophesied — principally by Isaiah, Jeremiah and Daniel.
For further study read Isaiah 33:24; Isaiah 53:4–6, 11; Jeremiah 31:34; Daniel 9:24.
The account of Peter’s proclamation to the assembled Roman officer’s household begins in the King James Version with words of gravity that are hard to improve on: “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.”
Eugene’s Peterson’s free-flowing contemporary rendering (The Message) captures the excitement as well as the impact of this discovery: “Peter fairly exploded with his good news: ‘It’s God’s own truth, nothing could be plainer: God plays no favourites! It makes no difference who you are or where you’re from — if you want God and are ready to do as He says, the door is open’.”
It was a huge challenge to the mainly-Jewish disciples of the new community called Followers of the Way. They felt secure in who they were as God’s chosen people. If God was now choosing others, where did that leave them?
God moves — He is always doing a new thing, it seems, and if we are not ready for this and adaptable, we are left playing catch up.
For reflection or as a discussion starter
While there is merit in us guarding and maintaining a good tradition in the way we gather and worship, how could we be more open to others who have no tradition but a desire to experience Jesus?
Originally published at The Living Word.