This morning, Janet, Andrew and I headed north to Tipton where I once again had a guest preaching assignment – week two, having already been there to preach a message last Sunday. Last week, I worked on teaching the book of 3 John, a short epistle written by John near the end of his life. It was dedicated to teaching people that truth was foundational to love and that believers should make sure that they are listening to people who are speaking the truth.
Today, I decided to speak about another writer of the Gospels. Luke was a doctor and wrote to the general population to affirm that the things he was telling the audience were rooted in the truth – the stories in his book were handed down and conveyed by people who had actually walked and talked with Jesus Himself during His time on earth. Luke set forth to write an orderly account of everything that had happened to ensure that people knew that Jesus was the Messiah. He claimed that the stories were told by eyewitnesses, people who had been there with the Messiah.
As an educated man, Dr. Luke did, in fact, write things down in an orderly fashion. He authored two books in the New Testament – the Gospel named for him and Acts – really written as “The Acts of the Apostles”. His gospel proclaimed the deity of Jesus through the various stories that were told there and his second book, Acts, was written to provide a further account of what happened after the ascension of Jesus to the Father.
It is in this book that we find the account of the beginning of the church – the famous chapter 2 that recounts the indwelling of the Holy Spirit on those who attended what we believe to be the first church service. There were many miracles and people were baptized by the thousands. But there was one major issue that had to be learned by the apostles. And that is that Jesus died for everyone – including the Gentiles. You see, up to this time, it was thought that the death of Jesus was for the benefit of the chosen people – the Jews. But through Luke’s account, we uncover a story of inclusion and the desire of Jesus that all people be saved.
We have the account in chapter 8 about the baptism of the eunuch by Philip – proving that pagans can be accepted by Jesus and baptized in His name. In chapter 9, we have the story of the conversion of Paul – a dramatic event resulting in the temporary blindness of Paul and his conversion as one of the staunchest supporters of Jesus. In fact, we are told in Acts that Jesus identified Paul as the apostle who would be charged with ministering to the Gentiles – a highly unlikely ministry given the history of Paul and his persecution of God’s people.
Then, in Acts 10, we have the story of Peter’s vision about eating “unclean” meat. God then admonishes Peter that nothing is unclean that God has made clean. The story continues when Peter goes to the house of Cornelius, a Roman centurion, and witnesses the Holy Spirit descend on all who were assembled and had heard Peter’s message. It was this day that Peter finally realizes that salvation is open to all and that Jesus died for all people. Paul even acknowledges that he is not able to deny baptism to those who have been accepted by Christ.
However, Peter had one more mission to complete. He had to convince the other apostles that it was in the will of God to minister to the Gentiles. He was successful in speaking with the others and the rest, as they say, is history. Paul, under the direction of the mandate of Jesus, became the key apostle who spent the rest of his life leading Gentiles to an eternal life in Christ.
The verse for tonight is the verse that confirms for us that Peter finally understands the message of God and that Jesus died for everyone. We are told, in Act 11:18, “When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.” We are told that this was the response of the other apostles when Peter recounted his story of the visions to them.
My encouragement this evening is to affirm that Jesus wants us to reach out to everyone and spread the good news of Jesus Christ. My prayer is that you will experience a divine peace and a willingness to be used by the God of the universe to bring others into an eternal relationship with Jesus. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…