Even Gentiles

Monday: An Important Chapter

Acts 10:34-48 In this study Peter preaches the Gospel to Gentiles.
An Important Chapter

The tenth chapter of Acts is one of the most important chapters in Acts—perhaps also one of the most important chapters in the Bible—because it tells how a Gospel which was originally thought of in exclusively Jewish terms came by the intervention and revelation of God to be practically, as well as theoretically, a Gospel for the whole world. Gentiles should be especially thankful for this chapter, because it is due to this revelation that they are able to come to God as Gentiles. In the Old Testament there are examples of Gentiles who were saved. The Gospel was always for all people. But the Gentiles had to become Jews first. To be saved they had to enter into the covenant established by God with Israel and thus participate in the sacrifices, obey the laws, and embrace the hope of that people. 

Today, of course, the Gospel is preached to Gentiles as Gentiles, and it is not demanded of us that we become Jews in order to become followers of Jesus Christ. Jesus, as Peter says in this sermon, “is Lord of all” (v. 36); that is, he is the Savior and Lord of Jews as Jews and of Gentiles as Gentiles. So Gentiles do not have to come to church wearing coverings for their heads. They do not have to eat kosher food. They do not have to make yearly pilgrimages to Jerusalem for the required feasts. This was not always so, and the reason it is not so now is because of what is recorded in this chapter. Acts 10 is of crucial importance for what Christianity has become: not a Jewish religion, but a world religion. 

To review the outline of Acts 10, it has six parts: 1) the introduction of Cornelius (vv. 1-8); 2) the preparation of Peter (vv. 9-16); 3) Peter’s meeting with the messengers (vv. 17-23); 4) Peter’s journey to Caesarea (vv. 24-33); 5) Peter’s sermon (vv. 34-43); and 6) the results of this encounter (vv. 44-48). We have already looked at the first four. In this study we consider parts 5 and 6. 

Peter’s sermon has three obvious and important parts. It has an opening section in which Peter describes how he got where he is and how he perceived what God was doing. Second, there is the message proper. It begins with verse 36. Finally, at the end of the sermon, there is what we would call an invitation. It is not phrased as an invitation explicitly, but it is a call for faith in Christ as a result of which, Peter says, God will forgive the sins of those listening. 

The important thing about this is that it is simply the basic Gospel. Christians are always tempted to reinterpret, rework, or re-create the Gospel. Because they think if they do that, somehow they will make it more appealing to the people to whom they speak. But we must not change the Gospel itself. Moreover, if we put the two together, the most important thing by far is the faithful declaration of the message that was given to the apostles at the very beginning and which has formed the substance or heart of Christian preaching throughout all the long centuries of the history of the Christian Church. 

God had been teaching Peter that the Gospel was for Gentiles as well as Jews. So when Peter got into Cornelius’ house and actually had a Gentile congregation in front of him, he began by acknowledging that truth: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right” (vv. 34-35). 

Peter had been prejudiced against this conclusion earlier. But, as I pointed out in the last study, it had been a somewhat proper prejudice. It was not a case of his merely having it in for Gentiles. He probably did not absolutely despise other races. Something of the true grace of Jesus Christ was undoubtedly already at work in his heart. Nevertheless, he approached the matter from the standpoint of the centuries of his religious traditions. These were based not on prejudice alone, though prejudice certainly entered in and colored them, but on the revelation of God. God had given certain laws to His people, and these prescribed certain ways in which Jews were to live. Many of these things were cultural; they were going to pass away. But Peter was living in a transition period, and if you could have asked him his views before the events of Acts 10, he would have said, as any Jew of his time, “It is just not proper for Jews to fellowship with Gentiles. If you go into a Gentile home, you become ceremonially unclean. If you eat with Gentiles, you become defiled. They can be saved, of course. I welcome that wherever it occurs. But they have to become Jews first of all.” This had been challenged by Peter’s vision, which we studied in last week’s lesson.

Study Questions
  1. Why should Gentiles in particular be thankful for Acts 10?
  2. Identify the three parts to Peter’s sermon.
  3. What must be preserved when presenting the Gospel in a culture’s idiom?
  4. Explain what Peter realized when he entered Cornelius’ home. How is this a departure from his previous way of thinking?

Reflection: Have you been brought up with ideas that affect how you see or treat other believers? Are these ideas biblical or merely cultural?

For Further Study: Download for free and listen to James Boice’s message, “Riches for the Gentiles.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

For Further Study: The book of Acts provides an important record of the evangelistic activities of the early Christians. This gives us helpful teaching for our own task of making the Gospel known to others. The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is offering James Boice’s expository studies in Acts at 25% off the regular price.

Tagged under
More Resources from James Montgomery Boice

Subscribe to the Think & Act Biblically Devotional

Alliance of Confessional Evangelicals

About the Alliance

The Alliance is a coalition of believers who hold to the historic creeds and confessions of the Reformed faith and proclaim biblical doctrine in order to foster a Reformed awakening in today’s Church.

Canadian Donors

Canadian Committee of The Bible Study Hour
PO Box 24087, RPO Josephine
North Bay, ON, P1B 0C7