When Gentiles arrived at Peter’s door, he understood rightly that God was about to do something new. Then, when he arrived at the house of Cornelius and found the centurion and his household waiting eagerly to hear God’s message for them, Peter said, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism.”
We ought to realize it too. But, of course, we often do not, since we have prejudices of our own. We have denominational prejudices, believing that God is more willing to work with our denomination than with others. We have racial prejudices, thinking that God prefers one race or prefers working with one race to working with others. We have national prejudices, supposing that our nation is somehow intrinsically superior to all others. We must learn that God does not show favoritism. The Gospel is for all who will come to Him through faith in Jesus Christ.
In verse 36 Peter gets to the sermon proper, introducing it by the words: “This is the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ.”
In 1935, a professor at the University of Cambridge, England, by the name of C. H. Dodd gave some lectures on the apostolic preaching. These later appeared in a book called The Apostolic Preaching and Its Developments.1 In this book Dodd proved by a careful study of this and other sermons of the apostles that there seems to have been a form to preaching that the apostles and other early preachers followed.
Dodd had a word for it: kerygma. Kerygma is a Greek word meaning “proclamation.” He pointed out, rightly, I believe, that the simplest form of the kerygma is found in 1 Corinthians 15 where, at the beginning of the chapter, Paul stresses that the Gospel he preached was no creation of his own or no special revelation of God to him, but only that which had been received from the beginning, namely, “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time” (vv. 3-6). This basic outline, with some important elaborations, appears elsewhere and seems to be the structural framework even for the gospels. It is what the apostles believed they were commissioned to declare.
This basic Gospel is what we find Peter’s sermon in Acts 10 to be. So when we go through it we are studying, not just any sermon, but rather what Peter and the other apostles thought was essential for all people everywhere to learn.
Here is what Peter thought the Gospel to be:
1. The Gospel is “the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.” This is a summary statement or introduction to the Gospel. The reason the Gospel is good news of peace is that, apart from the work of Jesus Christ, we are not at peace with God. We are at war with God. Paul puts it in other terms in Romans, saying that we are actually under God’s wrath. The world says, “I’m okay, you’re okay.” But God says that everything is not okay. God says, “You are in rebellion against me. Humanity wants to fight me to the death.” That is not an empty phrase either, because when Almighty God actually did take a form in which mere human beings could fight Him to the death, that is precisely what they did. They killed Him in the person of Jesus Christ. So, as I say, we are at war with God. And the first announcement of the Gospel is that peace with God has been made for those who will have it. Peace has been made by Jesus Christ.
When Peter says, quite appropriately in this context, that Jesus is “Lord of all,” he is saying not only that Jesus is the Savior of the Gentiles as well as of the Jews (which we saw earlier), but also that He is God. The “Lord” is God. This is important, because only God is able to establish peace by removing the offenses we have erected.
1C. H. Dodd, The Apostolic Preaching and Its Developments (New York: Harper & Brothers, n.d.).