The Gospel is for Everyone

We continue our ACTS series with again a major turning point in the way God’s Kingdom advanced in the first decades after the resurrection of Jesus. 

We’ve seen a breakthrough moment in Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit fell on the apostles and they first preached the resurrected Jesus publicly. 

We’ve seen a breakthrough in the first healing in Jesus’ name and the crowd that became believers because of this. 

We’ve seen a breakthrough geographically, as the Jerusalem church began to spread through persecution to the Jewish communities in other countries close to Judea. 

Today we are going to come up on another breakthrough – as the Gospel breaks through cultural and ethnical barriers from the Jews to the Gentiles. 

To us, on this side of history, that doesn’t seem like such a big deal. My goal in this teaching is to help you understand how big of a shift this was for the Apostles, and flowing from that, challenge ourselves about some shifts that God may want to make in us about how we make the Gospel available to people outside of our comfort zone

Jesus’ instructions neglected

We need to start this journey with the words Jesus had spoken to his disciples. Jesus had instructed them to be His witnesses after His ascension, and after the Spirit had fallen on them. The clearest instructions are found in:

Matthew 28:19 (NLT)

Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 

Acts 1:8 (NLT)
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Up until Acts 10, and please understand that at point, we are already a couple years down the road after Jesus’ resurrection, something absolutely crucial in these statements of Jesus had still been neglected.
Jesus said; ‘make disciples of all nations’ and; ‘tell people about me everywhere - to the ends of the earth’ 

The Apostles had been faithful in witnessing about Jesus – even through major opposition, imprisonment and life-threatening persecution. But so far, only fellow Jews had received the Good News of Jesus Christ. And there is no indication that they are making an effort to also reach the nations. 

It hadn’t dawned on the Apostles yet that through Jesus, salvation had not only come to the Jews, but also to the nations – which is a synonym for the Gentiles / non-Jews. 

The Jews & the nations

To understand how big this shift is for the Apostles, let me explain a bit about the Jewish identity, their relation to Yahweh and their relationship to the nations.

The Jews knew Yahweh – the God of the Bible, as the Creator of Heaven and Earth. He is the Lord of lords, the God above all other gods. In the Jewish worldview, there was not only a human rebellion against God causing them to fall into sin, but also a divine rebellion against God – which you can read about in Genesis 6 where the sons of angels come down to have intercourse with the daughters of men, and a combined human and divine rebellion at the Tower of Babel causing Yahweh to divorce himself from the nations, assigning each nation under one of these ‘sons of god’ – you can understand them as angels if that is less confusing. 

Deuteronomy 32:8-9 (ESV)
When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,

    when he divided mankind,

he fixed the borders of the peoples

    according to the number of the sons of God.

But the Lord's portion is his people,

    Jacob his allotted heritage.

This explains why each nation has their own ‘god’ that they worship – sometimes multiple. Jews believed these weren’t just thought up gods, but actual divine beings who lived in rebellion against Yahweh, and wanted the worship due to Yahweh alone for themselves.  

Yahweh chose for Himself a new nation which would be dedicated to Him. Abraham and Sara were perfect for this, because they couldn’t have children. So, Yahweh miraculously gave them a baby in their old age, and from that line the nation of Israel was born.  


So, in the Jewish mind, the Jews were chosen by God to be dedicated to Himself, and to be able to worship and serve the God of Heaven and Earth, the God who is above all these rebellious angels that the other nations worshiped, you had to become a Jew yourself. This was not impossible. 

Gentiles who became Jews were known as proselytes – you had to be circumcised, baptized, keep the food-laws and live as a Jew from now on to become a proselyte. 

This is all about to change in Acts 10. 

Acts 10:1-8 (NLT)

In Caesarea there lived a Roman army officer named Cornelius, who was a captain of the Italian Regiment. He was a devout, God-fearing man, as was everyone in his household. He gave generously to the poor and prayed regularly to God. 

Now, when it says ‘God-fearing man’, this does NOT mean proselyte. There’s no mention of him being part of the Jewish community, synagogue visits, keeping the food-laws or anything like that. It is more likely that he was just a morally good man who acknowledged that there was something different to the Jewish religion that he missed in the way the Greeks and Romans connected to the supernatural – and so he prayed to God. 

One afternoon about three o’clock, he had a vision in which he saw an angel of God coming toward him. “Cornelius!” the angel said. Cornelius stared at him in terror. “What is it, sir?” he asked the angel.

And the angel replied, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have been received by God as an offering! Now send some men to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. He is staying with Simon, a tanner who lives near the seashore.”

As soon as the angel was gone, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier, one of his personal attendants. He told them what had happened and sent them off to Joppa.

God saw in Cornelius a perfect recipient of the Good News of Jesus Christ. He was ready for it. And this chapter is filled with God’s initiative, preparing the ground and making a way for Cornelius and his household to become Christians – and for the eyes of the Christian community to be opened to the plan of God to bring all nations to Himself. 

We pick up the story on Peter’s end, at a moment he is praying. At this moment, the men sent by Cornelius are already on their way to him. 

Acts 10:11-16 (NLT)

He saw the sky open, and something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners. In the sheet were all sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds. Then a voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.”

“No, Lord,” Peter declared. “I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure and unclean.”

But the voice spoke again: “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” The same vision was repeated three times. Then the sheet was suddenly pulled up to heaven.

The Lord is clearly preparing Peter through this vision for the radical shift that he is about to make. 

The animals on the sheet, most of which were unclean for Jews to eat according to Leviticus 11, represented the Gentiles. Jews didn’t hang out with non-Jews. They were considered to be outside of the realm of God’s blessing, and even God’s invitation. 

But this has changed through Jesus Christ – Peter just didn’t understand this yet. And so, the Lord says: don’t call something unclean if God has made it clean. 

As Peter is still trying to make sense of this, he hears the Spirit say that there are men at the door of the house where he’s staying and that he needs to go with them.
They are Gentiles inviting him to go with them. Normally, Peter would decline such an invitation. But after that vision and special instruction of the Spirit, of course, he doesn’t. 

We pick up the story when Peter arrives at Cornelius’ house

Acts 10:28-29 (NLT)

Peter told them, “You know it is against our laws for a Jewish man to enter a Gentile home like this or to associate with you. But God has shown me that I should no longer think of anyone as impure or unclean. So I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. Now tell me why you sent for me.”

And when Peter hears about the vision Cornelius has had that led to his invitation to come, Peter says:

Acts 10:34 (NLT)

“I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right.

Peter proceeds to explain the Gospel to them. 

And then something amazing happens:

Acts 10:44-48 (NLT)

Even as Peter was saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the message. The Jewish believers who came with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles, too. For they heard them speaking in other tongues and praising God.

Then Peter asked, “Can anyone object to their being baptized, now that they have received the Holy Spirit just as we did?” So he gave orders for them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. 

The angel visiting Cornelius, the vision Peter had, the voice of the Spirit telling Peter to come along and now the Holy Spirit falling on them – it was clear to Peter that there was a shift in the way the Jews related to the Gentiles. 

The Fulfilment of God’s Masterplan

This was a major shift for the Jewish believers. In their mind, the Gentiles were unable to receive God’s blessing – but now apparently, something had changed.

For God though, this was not a shift, but a fulfilment of His divine Masterplan to bring the nations back to Himself. 

He had chosen the nation of Israel to carry His revelation and bring forth His Messiah – so that from there, He could reconcile the nations back to Himself. The Jewish claim on Yahweh was never meant to be exclusive. They were called to be a nation set apart to God, to be a blessing to all nations. And now, this plan was being fulfilled. 

In the remainder of this message, I’ll attempt to examine the effect of this shift further, and to apply it to the way we carry to Gospel to our world today.

Through the Gospel, all are equal

Since the beginning of time, people have battled each other for dominance. Men vs women, rich vs poor, black vs white – etc. 

In both Ancient and recent history, complete societies have been built on segregating people groups, exploiting minorities and inequality of rights.
Nearly every societies riches, in some way, comes or came at the expense of another. 

We talk about slavery as if it is something of the past,
while there are more people in forced labor today than at any moment in history. 

Inequality has always been part of the human experience. Whether it was based on culture, race, gender, education or just the luck of the draw.
Yet, the Bible consistently calls this inequality; injustice. 

Through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, where every man and woman is understood as a sinner, coming empty handed before God, but saved through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are all equal.
Ever human life is worth the same to God. 

Paul expressed it this way:

Galatians 3:26-29 (NLT)

For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.

As a 21st Century reader, I think we will always fail to see how powerful these words hit the 1st Century world. 

While studying the ancient world, historian Tom Holland, who himself is an atheist, realised something. He came to the conclusion that, simply, the ancients were cruel, and their values utterly foreign to him. For example, the Spartans routinely murdered "imperfect" children. The bodies of slaves were treated like outlets for the physical pleasure of those with power. Infanticide was common. The poor and the weak had no rights. 

How did we get from there to here? It was Christianity, Holland writes. Christianity revolutionized sex and marriage, demanding that men control themselves and prohibiting all forms of rape. Christianity elevated women. 

In short, Christianity utterly transformed the world.

The Church is as a community of justice, healing and reconciliation

With this history in mind, I believe that we are still called to be a community that transforms the world. 

The Church is called to be a community that stands for justice.
We serve the poor, help the weak, stand up against abuse of power and modern-day slavery. I’m thankful that we get to partner with some great Christian organisations to do this such as International Justice Mission. 

The Church is called to be a community that brings healing. Sin has corrupted the world as God intended it, and people get hurt – all the time. We get to be a community that heals – both through power encounters with the Spirit of God, and through long and patient love and care. 

The Church is called to be a community of reconciliation. 

I believe that the Gospel is THE answer to any racial, cultural or political tension or conflict. And as Christians, we don’t only get to carry the message of the Gospel, but also the heart of the Gospel into our daily lives. 

So, let’s be voices of reconciliation in family conflicts, work tensions and neighborhood issues. We are called to be peace-makers, seeking to put together what sin has torn apart. 

Learn to see others through God’s eyes

In Peter’s vision, the breakthrough in his understanding came when Jesus said: “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” Our perspective on other people and this world may be very different from God’s. Part of growing in our relationship with God is learning to see others through His eyes, instead of our own. 

We can so quickly write other people off, distancing ourselves from them, giving up hope, avoiding them, or seeing them as irredeemable. 

But at the heart of the Gospel is this statement: “don’t call unclean what God has made clean”.

In other words:
Don’t write off someone Jesus gave His life for.
Don’t avoid people God has called you to love.
Don’t gossip about people that need encouragement and patience. 

Picture someone from your own life for a second that strikes a bad nerve with you – someone that has done you wrong, someone annoying to you, someone that seems very far away from God. 

The truth of the Gospel is that Jesus loves that person as much as He loves you. He paid the price of his or her sin, the same way He did for you. And Jesus has a purpose for his/her life, just as He has for you. The Gospel changes everything about the way we look at others.