God Has Entrusted Us with the Message of His Gospel!
O Lord, as I enter into Your presence for worship this day, fill my heart with a love for Your gospel word. Help me to grow in my understanding of it, my commitment to it, and in my desire to proclaim it. Yes, may that message of Your love for me uplift me and encourage me to fulfill my calling in Your kingdom. In Jesus’ saving name I pray. Amen.
The gospel is a message of God’s love for sinners—a love that sent Jesus to be “the propitiation for our sins.” That message has brought us to faith and is intended to move us to love. It is a message, however, that false prophets will attempt to pervert.
Jesus commands us to love one another, thereby following His example. Fulfilling that command, Jesus says, allows His joy to remain within us, leading to fullness of joy in our lives!
Text: Acts 10:24-43
And the following day they entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends. As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I myself am also a man.” And as he talked with him, he went in and found many who had come together. Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. Therefore I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. I ask, then, for what reason have you sent for me?” So Cornelius said, “Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God. Send therefore to Joppa and call Simon here, whose surname is Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea. When he comes, he will speak to you.’ So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God.” Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all—that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree. Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.”
In Christ Jesus, who calls upon us to be His witnesses, dear fellow redeemed:
Which is the most important word in our congregational name—Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church? Some might argue that the word “church” is most important, because it distinguishes our organization from other organizations within our society. We are, after all, a religious organization—a gathering of believers, rather than a secular organization of let’s say business salespeople or sports fans. Others might maintain that the most important word is “Lutheran,” for within the external Christian church there are many denominations, and Lutheran distinguishes us from other broader groups such as Roman Catholics, Baptists, or Presbyterians. Still others might counter that really “Immanuel” is the most important word in our name, because there are at least eighteen different Lutheran churches and ministries in the Mankato-North Mankato area embracing a variety of confessions. Therefore the name Immanuel distinguishes us from other Lutherans in our area. I would suggest that the most important word in our name is “evangelical.” It is certainly the least understood of the four words in our congregation’s name, and it is often abbreviated “Ev.” which leads people at times to overlook it. But “evangelical” speaks to our purpose as a Christian congregation. Evangelical means “gospel-preaching,” and by placing it in our name, our forefathers sought to remind themselves and each succeeding generation of members here at Immanuel that GOD HAS ENTRUSTED US WITH THE MESSAGE OF HIS GOSPEL! The historical account within our text serves likewise to remind us that the gospel is a message intended for everyone, a message we are commanded to preach, and finally it is a message proclaiming Jesus Christ as Savior, Lord, and Judge!
Peter’s visit to the house of Cornelius was pivotal to the history of the early Christian church. Jesus had commanded His disciples before His ascension into heaven: “Make disciples of all the nations” and “preach the gospel to every creature” [cf. Mt. 28:19; Mk. 16:15]. Jesus’ command, however, seemed to contradict fourteen hundred years of Mosaic law and Jewish tradition. Consequently, the work of the early church in Jerusalem was pretty much restricted to sharing the gospel with fellow Jews. This had to change because the gospel is a message intended for everyone!
As Cornelius explained to Peter in our text, God had sent an angelic messenger to him as he prayed. That messenger instructed him to send for a certain Peter who was staying at the home of Simon the Tanner in Joppa. Peter, the messenger said, had something important to tell him. As Peter listened to Cornelius everything became very clear to him. While he had been on the roof of Simon’s home he had been given a vision of a great sheet filled with all sorts of animals descending from heaven. Three times it had appeared and each time Peter was instructed to kill and eat one of the animals. Peter had refused, because the animals were all unclean according to Old Testament law, but a voice from heaven cried out each time: “What God has cleansed you must not call common” [Acts 10:15]. After seeing the three-fold vision, three servants of Cornelius knocked on Simon’s door asking for Peter. Peter recognized immediately the underlying meaning of the visions, as he confessed to Cornelius: “God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” As Peter now stood in Cornelius’ house and listened to him explain why he had sent for him, his eyes were further opened. Peter confessed to Cornelius and the others who were present: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.”
My dear friends, GOD HAS ENTRUSTED US WITH THE MESSAGE OF HIS GOSPEL! It is a message intended for everyone! That is something about which we need to remind ourselves regularly. Immanuel began as the church of German immigrants. The gospel was shared with many people, but the vast majority of those contacted were fellow German immigrants. That was only natural, because they shared a common heritage and language. As time passed and English became the predominant language of Immanuel’s membership, outreach extended to other English speaking members of our community. The gospel message, however, is intended for everyone—not just those who speak English. Consequently, it is wonderful that God has opened doors for our congregation to share the gospel in Peru, where Spanish is the dominant language and to reach out to members of new immigrant communities, in particular those from South Sudan. The gospel message is intended for everyone! When we recognize that fact and take the opportunities God has given us, Immanuel will fulfill its God-given ministry and we will be blessed as a congregation!
Yes, GOD HAS ENTRUSTED US WITH THE MESSAGE OF HIS GOSPEL! It is, secondly, a message we are commanded to preach! Cornelius completed his explanatory remarks by telling Peter: “Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God.” It may sound a bit strange to hear Cornelius suggesting that God had “commanded” Peter to preach. That sounds almost legalistic, but Peter acknowledges that this was indeed the case, when he later explains that Jesus had indeed “commanded us to preach to the people.” The gospel message is a message of good news—a message of God’s love for sinners in Christ Jesus. It is a message that releases souls from the bondage of sin, that gives hope to people facing death, and which assures everyone who believes of the gift of eternal life. Yes, Jesus has commanded us to preach the gospel, and it is a distinct privilege to do so! As the apostle Paul writes: “We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” [2 Cor. 5:20].
This command of Jesus has been at the heart of Immanuel’s ministry for the 140 years of our existence. It lies at the heart of our efforts to promote Christian education. If mathematics, reading, and science were the only subjects necessary for our children’s developments, our Christian school would be unnecessary, as would be our Sunday School. But the good news of the gospel contains the most important truths that any of us will ever learn. Consequently, that message is integrated across the curriculum of our Christian Day School and lies at the heart of our Sunday School program. Two of our college age young people are preparing themselves right now at Immanuel Lutheran College to enter the teaching ministry. Daniel Pfeiffer is learning Spanish in Peru with the hope of conducting future mission work in Spanish. Tut Gatkouth, Daniel Puot-Wells, and Sarah Kuany have all been able to serve as translators as I seek to reach out to more members of the Nuer community with Bible study opportunities. This is a command, however, that has been given to us all. Peter assures each of us: “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” [1 Pet. 2:9]. GOD HAS ENTRUSTED US WITH THE MESSAGE OF HIS GOSPEL! It is a message we are commanded to preach! As we are given opportunities, let us not hesitate to do so!
Finally, let us recognize that the gospel is a message proclaiming Jesus Christ as Savior, Lord, and Judge! Peter’s initial message to Cornelius and those who had gathered at his house was simple but powerful. He proclaimed Jesus as Savior—the One whom God had sent into this world to deal with our problem of sin. He spoke of Jesus’ death, as well as of His resurrection, and he boldly proclaimed: “All the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” My dear friends, there is no more critical message for any man, woman, or child to hear than that Jesus is our one and only Savior from sin. It had been proclaimed by a mistaken Christian preacher from California that last Saturday was to be the end of the world. Perhaps, someone talked to you about this during the past week. A perfect stranger, who apparently knew that I was a pastor, asked me about my thoughts on the matter this past Tuesday. While the end of the world did not come last Saturday, for one of our members the end of life came by accident the day before. When you or I die, it will not matter the size of our check-book balance, or the type of car we drive, or the number of business contacts we have made. The only thing that will matter is whether we have come to know and believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior!
Paul also proclaimed Jesus as Lord! Jesus is the One to whom all power and authority has been given [cf. Mt. 28:18]. He is the One under whom God has placed all things [cf. Eph. 1:22]. We are to follow Him, even as He has promised to lead us, and He will do so with our greatest good in mind. Peter alluded in his presentation in Cornelius’ home to all of the miracles Jesus had performed during His earthly ministry, all of which were performed in order to bring blessing into people’s lives. Even so, our Jesus as Lord brings blessings into our lives. Yesterday, Lee Klammer and Susan Gerbensky were united in marriage. They chose as their wedding text the words of Paul in Philippians 4. Using those words, I encouraged Lee and Susan to rejoice always in their Lord, no matter what their outward circumstances, because He is Lord and will be there to guide, protect, and preserve them. I encouraged Lee and Susan to be gentle for once again their Lord Jesus would be with them. Finally, I encouraged them to be thankful, as they lay before the Lord all of their concerns, for He would certainly be with them and give them His peace.
Paul finally proclaimed Jesus as judge. Paul says: “He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead.” Will the end of the world come? Yes, it will! It will not come at the time specified by any Christian or non-Christian preacher, for that time is known only by the Father [cf. Mt. 24:36]. But when Jesus comes, He will judge both the living and the dead. That ought give us pause for reflection. We will stand before Jesus one day. Satan, the world, and our sinful flesh would have us forget that thought and live as if we were destined to survive forever in this world, but to indulge ourselves in the sinful ways of the world is short-sighted and will eventually result in sorrow for everyone who makes such a foolish decision. No, let us remember always: GOD HAS ENTRUSTED US WITH THE MESSAGE OF HIS GOSPEL! Let us be busy fulfilling our calling for His glory and for our mutual blessing. Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting
Soli Gloria Deo!