A Commentary by John Stott
Acts 10:23b-48. Peter preaches to Cornelius’ household. (continued)
After this introduction, affirming that ‘there is no racial barrier to Christian salvation’, Luke summarizes Peter’s sermon (36-43). Although it was addressed to a Gentile audience, its content was substantially the same as what he had been preaching to Jews. Indeed Peter said so, calling it both *the message of God sent to the people of Israel and the good news of peace* (reconciliation with God and neighbour) *through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all,* not just of Israel (36). It related to certain recent events, which Peter’s audience knew about, because they had been public, and whose place and time Peter was able to pin-point: ‘*You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached*’ (37; cf.1:12). These events centred on the historical Jesus, on the successive stages of his saving career, and on the salvation he offers in consequence.
First, Peter alluded to Jesus’ life and ministry, *how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth* for his work as the Messiah, not with oil like the kings of Israel and Judah but *with the Holy Spirit and power, * that is, with the power of the Spirit (Lk.4:18). Thus anointed *he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil*, or ‘tyrannized’ by him, so that his power was seen to be greater than the devil’s, *because God was with him* (38; cf. 2:22). Moreover, Peter continued, ‘*we were witnesses [eyewitnesses in fact] of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem’* (39a), and are therefore able to give firsthand evidence or testimony. It is clear from this that ‘some kind of an account of the life and character of Jesus formed an integral part of the early church’s preaching, especially its initial evangelism’.
Next came Jesus’ death. The authorities *killed him* by crucifixion. But Peter hints, as he had done in his earlier sermons (2:23; 5:30), that behind the historical event lay a theological significance, behind the human execution a divine plan. For they had killed him by *hanging him on a tree* (39b). Peter was under no necessity to call the cross ‘a tree’; he did it by design, in order to indicate that Jesus was bearing in our place the ‘curse’ or judgement of God on our sins (Dt.21:22-23; cf. Gal.3:10-13; 1 Pet.2:24).
The third event was the resurrection (40-41). Peter emphasized that it was both a divine act (*they killed him…But God raised him from the dead*, the same dramatic contrast as in 2:23-24 and 5:30-31), and datable (*on the third day*). It was also physically verified, because God deliberately *caused him to be seen, not* indeed *by all the people, but by special witnesses whom God had already chosen*, especially by *us* apostles. Moreover, the resurrection body the apostles saw, although wonderfully transfigured and glorified, could nevertheless materialize, so that they *ate and drank with him*, and he with them, *after he rose from the dead* (cf. Lk.24:30, 41ff; Jn. 21:13; Acts 1:4).
Tomorrow: Acts 10:23b-48. Peter preaches to Cornelius’ household. (continued)
The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of Acts. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.