As we gather together to read through the wonderful book of Acts about the very first community of believers, let us be encouraged by the spiritual progression of the Apostles. One of the most obvious progressions in faith is that of Peter.
In Chapter 2 of Acts we read about Pentecost the sermon Peter preached to thousands of people that day. Acts 2:38 is the response to the question from the crowd, “What do we do in response to the Gospel?” (my paraphrase) And Peter responds, “Repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
Peter’s response is repentance and baptism. I could get carried away with the importance of the first part of his response, but it is the second part that I would like to pay particular attention to. “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off.”
I love that the Gospel is Good News for everyone, not just a particular people, age group, racial group or gender. It is for all people. Peter says this now, but I don’t know that he fully realizes the type of rift raft that is involved in “all who are far off.”
In Acts 10 and 11 we see the interesting story of Peter’s vision and visit with Cornelius the Centurion. Cornelius is one you might consider as far off racially as it might get. He was a Gentile that Peter and other Jewish men would have avoided previously according to Jewish law and customs. After prodding from Jesus to take the Gospel to all people, Peter obliged and spoke with Cornelius, who was a godly man in the first place, and baptized and converted his whole family.
When Peter is asked by his friends to give an account for the type of rift raft he was associating with, he retells the story of Jesus coming to him in a vision and what happened. The people are compelled and they respond in this way in Acts 11:18 “When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, ‘ So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
Peter preached that the promise was for those who were both near and far away from God. It took some strong convincing on Jesus’ part to convince Peter that was true. Three times in fact. And their was Peter’s fellow Apostles, they were uncomfortable with the notion that the Gospel might spread to the likes of the Gentiles, or why else question Peter, their beloved friend? It turns out, “God has granted repentance that leads to life.” When they understand this clearly, I think the whole Christianity and following Jesus thing makes sense. The parables start coming to life when you realize the Gospel is for all people.
The Gospel is for everyone. I am a believer today because of it. I can be a believer because of it. As can you and your neighbor. Your brother or sister may believe as can your mother or father. All can believe and have life in Jesus Christ because God’s love stretches beyond our divisions, yes, “even to Gentiles” like you and me.
It was a process for Peter and his fellow Apostles to realize the Gospel is for everyone. Do you believe the Gospel is for all people? Do your actions match up with what you believe?
These are important questions to ask if we are going to progress in our faith like the Apostles.
The best question might be more of a prayer, asking God simply this, “Where do you want me to take the message of salvation Lord God?” And take some time to listen.
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Jordan Ickes, Minister of Etna Green Church of Christ.