The Gospel is Good News
April 20, 2014 Speaker: Pastor Cameron Arensen
Topic: Easter Scripture: Acts 10:34–10:43
Synopsis: For this Easter Sunrise service message, Pastor Cam raided another man’s sermon file. Borrowing from a very old sermon (actually preached by the Apostle Peter in Acts 10:34-43) we find that because of Easter, The Gospel Is Good News! for all who believe in Jesus Christ.
I find preaching on the special days of the Christian calendar both stimulating and intimidating. And Easter Sunday is the most intimidating day of all! What can I say that has not been said a thousand times before? And what can I possibly say that will do justice to the glorious realities and truths we celebrate on this most holy day? So today I have decided to do something that I very rarely do. I am going to steal someone else’s sermon. On this Resurrection Day, I am not going to try to be original. I am going to be a copycat and do some blatant plagiarizing.
The message I am about to preach has been preached before. In fact it is a very old sermon. Because I didn’t find it on the internet or borrow it from a website. It is actually found in the Bible, in the Book of Acts. I am borrowing this sermon from the Apostle Peter.
It isn’t the earliest Easter sermon ever preached, but it’s one of the earliest ever recorded. And it wasn’t preached on Easter Sunday. But it was an Easter sermon nonetheless. In fact, almost every sermon the Apostles ever preached was an Easter sermon and focused on the Resurrection.
The particular sermon I am focusing on this morning is the one preached in home of Cornelius, a Roman centurion, and it is found in Acts, chapter 10.
It is the first gospel message that was deliberately preached to a Gentile audience I like this message because there are no wasted words. It is a sermon by one man of action (a fisherman) to another man of action (a Roman soldier and officer). During my student years, I briefly had a history teacher who was a retired Captain in the U.S. Army. He didn’t last long at our school. I don’t think he could handle being around teen-agers all day. I don’t remember much that he taught us. But I do remember the 3 C’s he drilled into us at exam time. He wanted our answers to be Clear, Concise and Complete. Maybe those are values common in the military world. If so, I think he would have appreciated Peter’s sermon to this Roman centurion. Peter’s sermon in Acts 10:36-43 is a model of a Clear, Concise and Complete Gospel sermon.
Let me read it:
34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
That, then, is our Easter message this morning. The first thing that strikes me from this message is…
The gospel is a historical message.
By that, I mean that it is based on a history of actual events; events that took place in space and time. It isn’t myth. It isn’t legend. It isn’t parable or fable. It is history.
Peter refers here to actual places like Judea, Galilee, Nazareth and Jerusalem.
He doesn’t give dates, but he speaks of events and historical sequences: “after the baptism of John, on the third day, and so on.
He speaks of things that “happened” and about Jesus “doing good.” Specifically he speaks of the events of Good Friday and Easter: “They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day…”
And Peter argues strongly for the historicity of these events by referring to the testimony of eye witnesses: “We are witnesses of all that he did…” he says. He especially emphasizes the eye witness testimony to the resurrection. God didn’t just raise Jesus from the dead. He caused him to appear…to people who had been chosen by God as witnesses. These witnesses not only saw him, but they “ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.”
So the first thing that stands out to me from Peter’s gospel message is that the gospel is history. “Let me tell you what happened,” he says. So as we commemorate Good Friday and Easter this weekend, let us remember that we are commemorating actual historical events.
But is the gospel message just a historical message? Of course it is more than that. And we see that in Peter’s message. He doesn’t just relate the history. He also goes on to point out that…
The gospel is a theological message.
In the historical facts of the gospel, there are huge theological implications and truths. We could spend a long time combing the Scriptures for those truths. But for the sake of this message, I am going to confine myself to the theological truths that Peter himself mentions in this sermon.
The first theological reality that grows out of the gospel is that Jesus Christ is Lord of all. This clearly proclaimed in verse 36:
As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all)
This is an inescapable conclusion of the gospel and the events of Good Friday and Easter. If these events are true and they actually happened – Jesus is Lord of all!
Paul makes this same point in Romans 1:4 when he says: Christ Jesus…was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.
One of the great theological truths that we proclaim when we proclaim the Gospel, is that Jesus Christ is Lord of all.
There is a song we sometimes sing: He is Lord. He is Lord. He is risen from the dead and He is Lord. Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
The second theological truth that grows out of the events of Good Friday and Easter is that Jesus Christ is the judge of all.
Look again at what Peter says in verse 42: And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. (v. 42)
This is a theological implication of the gospel message and the resurrection that is not as well known or as popular. But it was clearly a part of the gospel that the apostles preached. And Peter says: “God commanded us to preach this and bear testimony to this.”
Interesting how Paul also introduces this implication in his sermon to the Athenians. Because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:31
One of the theological implications of the resurrection is that God has appointed Jesus to be the judge of all. Everyone will stand before him to give an account of his life. Every one of us in this room this morning has an appointment to stand before the living Christ.
“He is the one whom God has appointed as judge.”
So far, the theological implications of the gospel message may be sounding rather ominous. So why do we call it good news? It is good news because of a third implication which Peter announces to Cornelius.
Jesus Christ forgives all who believe in him.
All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. (v. 43)
Here is the heart and soul of the good news of the gospel. Forgiveness is available from the judge. Jesus Christ died for our sins. He paid the penalty to satisfy the holiness of God, so that if we will believe in him and accept his sacrifice, we might receive forgiveness of sins.
This is the good news. Yes, Jesus is Lord of all. As Lord of all, he is judge of all. We must all stand before him. But because of his death on the cross for us, he offers us forgiveness of sins if we will put our faith in him.
So, the gospel is a historical message. The gospel is also theological message. Finally, I would point out…
The gospel is a personal message.
There are many people who will acknowledge that the gospel is a historical message. They even come to church on special occasions to prove it. There are even some who will go the next step and acknowledge that the gospel is a theological message.
But that’s where it stops. It is still something out there. It is abstract. It is theoretical.
But Peter’s conclusion makes it clear that the forgiveness of the gospel is not for everyone. Notice his very clear words in Acts 10:43. Who is it that receives forgiveness of sins? It is “everyone who believes in him.” And believing in him must be a very personal decision.
I have always loved the stories of the first Easter; Mary Magdalene, Peter, John, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Each one had his or her own experience with the risen Lord. One of my favorites is the story of the disciple Thomas as it is recorded in the Gospel of John. Thomas was one of the twelve disciples. Only he wasn’t with the others on the evening of that first Easter when Jesus appeared to his followers. When he returned and they told him what had happened, he refused to believe. “Unless I can see him with my own eyes, I will never believe!” he said.
Eight days later Jesus appeared to his disciples again. This time Thomas was present. Jesus stood in front of Thomas and invited him to examine the evidence; “Put your finger in the nail prints in my hands and place your hand on the spear wound in my side. And stop doubting and believe.
Thomas answered, “My Lord and my God!” It was a personal declaration of faith in Jesus and the gospel as a personal message.
Jesus went on to say: “You believed because you have seen me. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
To us, Peter’s message in Acts 10:43 declares this blessing: “Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins.”
What about you? Have you heard the message of the Gospel? Do you believe the historical accounts of Christ’s life, his death and his resurrection? Do you understand the theological implications of this message? That Jesus Christ is Lord, he is the coming Judge, and that he offers forgiveness of sins to all who believe and trust in him? Has that belief gone from being theoretical to being personal? If not, wouldn’t this day we call “Resurrection Day” be a great day to take that step?