Portrait of a God-Honoring Church, Part 1

In Acts 10, the Apostle Peter preached a gospel message to a Gentile named Cornelius, and to his household. Peter’s message was simple, to the point, and devastating in its bluntness and force. It’s a model of what evangelism looks like. If you want to know how to share the gospel, you need to read Peter’s message to Cornelius.

Peter did not care who He offended. He preached the truth and did not avoid hard sayings. Peter told Cornelius the plain, simple and powerful gospel. This Good News is becoming increasingly hard to find in America and the rest of the western world.

This raises the question—what should a local church spend it’s time and energy doing?

An entire industry exists to help local churches answer this question, complete with high-paid consultants who have all sorts of ideas about how to be “relevant” to the community—few of which are biblical or God-honoring. Churches spend untold thousands of dollars re-vamping their buildings, programs and philosophies of ministry in order to attract the greatest number of people possible. New “ministries” sprout up like mutant weeds on a regular basis; they’re all specifically designed to lure people into the church building, and they’re all calculated be as in-offensive as possible. “Church” becomes a social club, a feel-good group therapy session with blasphemous music and a sugary message that won’t help anybody in real life. All of this is ridiculous and foolish—and blasphemous.

When Peter preached to Cornelius, he went a different route—the God-honoring route. Peter showed local churches (and individual Christians) what their focus must be—he mentions 10 things, and each of them are directly tied to the Person and work of Jesus Christ. He must be our message. He is the most relevant Person in this present, evil world. He is the most offensive Person who has ever lived. He will drive people away. But, His message will also bind up the broken-hearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, and open the prison for those who are bound in sin (cf. Isa 61:1).

1 - The Gospel is for Everybody

Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. (Acts 10:34-35)

This is what Peter realizes in the aftermath of that vision on the rooftop of Simon’s house, back in Joppa. This is in the present-tense, so it’s as if Peter says, “I’m realizing now that God isn’t partial!” The gospel is for everybody; white, black, yellow, brown, purple, orange, or even puce! God doesn’t restrict the gospel to certain nations, certain people, certain regions, certain races, or certain colors of people. The gospel of Jesus Christ is for every tribe, tongue, people and nation in this world (cf. Rev 5:9)—and there are people out of every tribe, tongue, people and nation whom God has chosen and will save. In this context, what Peter realizes is that his racist, anti-Gentile upbringing is sinful, it’s wrong, and God doesn’t approve of it.

The gospel is for everybody and if a local church isn’t focused on giving out and living the gospel, then it’s not a church—it’s a social club with really nice seats.

2 - Jesus Christ Brings Peace with God

This is where Peter begins preaching:

The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:), (Acts 10:36)

God sent a special message to the children of Israel. The message is that His eternal Son, Jesus Christ, brings peace to people. Jesus is the vehicle, the agent, who gives people the peace they need. This simple concept—peace with God, is extremely profound.

It’s a message that tells a lost sinner:

  1. You guilty, worthless criminal to God…but Jesus brings the message of peace. He endured torture and death for your sins, in your place, as your substitute. Your guilt was paid for by Jesus Christ. Because of that, anyone who believes can have perfect peace. Instead of being guilty, you can be declared innocent.
  2. You’re a slave to Satan (Rom 6:20), a child of the Devil (Jn 8:44) and a traitor to the Holy God who created you…but Jesus brings God’s message of peace! Your will, wishes, mind, heart and entire soul are chained to Satan’s filthy coattails. You’re a prisoner, and Jesus came with a message which can lift you out of the pit where there is no water (cf. Zech 9:11). He can set you free, and make you a slave for righteousness (Rom 6:18)—and His yoke is not grievous (cf. Mt 11:30).
  3. God is angry with you. His anger burns hotter than 10,000 suns…but Jesus brings the message of peace! Jesus chose to come here to live a perfect life and die a sacrificial death in order to achieve peace between you and God. His anger against you can be appeased, if you repent and believe the gospel. Everything necessary has been done, and Jesus demands you believe the Good News He died to bring you.
  4. God is hostile towards you. He’s your enemy (Rom 5:10, Col 1:21, Eph 2:12, Jas 4:4) unless and until you repent and believe the gospel…but Jesus brings the message of peace! That hostility can be removed, never to return again. You can be adopted into God’s family, made righteous and perfect in His eyes, declared innocent of all your crimes, perfectly and completely forgiven and made an heir of salvation.

God sent Peter to preach the gospel to Cornelius and his household, and what did Peter do when he arrived? He preached that Jesus Christ brings peace. A local church must preach that people need peace, but don’t have it, aren’t born with it, don’t naturally want it, and will burn in hell without it. A local church must preach that peace can only come through repentance and faith in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. If a local church isn’t preaching peace through the gospel of Jesus Christ, then it’s a blasphemous organization that’s betraying her mission and the Savior she’s pretending to serve.

3 - Jesus Christ Is Lord of Everything

The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:), (Acts 10:36)

Jesus is Lord of all, of everything. This is a present-tense reality. Jesus is your Lord, whether you like it or not. The only question is whether you will obey your Lord’s command to repent and believe the gospel, or whether you’ll disobey that command. Only Satan could blind somebody’s heart, soul and mind so thoroughly that they’ll want to reject the gospel. The gospel brings perfect peace, perfect reconciliation, perfect forgiveness, perfect atonement, permanent adoption into God’s family, the privilege of eternal life, eternal inheritance, heavenly citizenship, a new heart, a new spirit, a new will, a new life, and permanent freedom from Satan’s prison.

Jesus is Lord, and the gospel is about you confessing your sins, making a determination to forsake your crimes and your criminal way of life and making Jesus Christ Lord of your life. He already is your Lord—and the gospel saves you so you can worship Him as your Lord. If you’re saved, then Christ is the Ruler, Master and King of your life. You’re not a slave to Satan, you’re a slave to righteousness. You’re a vessel in the potter’s hands (cf. Jer 18; Rom 9:20-22). You’re an instrument that your Lord is free to use whenever, wherever, however and for whatever purpose He sees fit.

If a local church does not preach Jesus Christ as Lord, call sinners to repent, believe the gospel and acknowledge Him as Lord, call Christians to live their lives in service to Him as Lord and to filter every life decision, action and attitude through that grid, then that local church is not a church—it’s a synagogue of Satan, and the Christians within that place of evil need to run away as fast as they can.

4 - Jesus is the Only Savior

That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power…(Acts 10:37-38a)

God only chose one single way for people to be saved, to apologize to Him, to set things right—and that way is through His eternal Son, Jesus Christ. God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit at His baptism, and spoke audibly from heaven to officially start His ministry (Lk 3:21-22). God put His seal of approval on Jesus and the Good News He preached, and not on anything or anyone else.

Jesus is the door to salvation, reconciliation, forgiveness and peace with God. He is the Chosen One who has defeated Satan in your place, because you can’t. He is the one whose death and resurrection can free sinners from slavery to Satan (cf. Heb 2:14-15). He is the One who God sent—there is and will never be another.

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TOvermiller's picture

While no one verse or passage of Scripture provides an exhaustive list of church protocol or pattern for a regular church program, I find Acts 2:41-47 especially instructive. This passage shows us what the earliest church assembly did on a regular basis ('continually'), and it seems to provide a good paradigm for a general church program today. But all of this followed a biblical, strong sermon preached by Peter.

Looking forward to your next posts.

Thomas Overmiller
Pastor | www.studygodsword.com
Blog & Podcast | www.shepherdthoughts.com

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