THREE PEOPLE WHO CHANGED THE WORLD
#2: SIMON PETER
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
October 23, 2016
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.”
— Acts 10:34-43, ESV
The book of Acts tells how the first Christians carried out the Great Commission of our Lord. Thousands came to Christ in Jerusalem during the first Pentecost after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Persecution led by the pharisee Saul of Tarsus moved the messengers of the gospel into Samaria to spread the word. Then, after the Lord saved Saul of Tarsus and turned him into the Apostle Paul, the gospel was taken from “Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, to the end of the earth” (ref. Acts 1:8).
In the middle part of Acts (ref. Acts 10:1-11:18) there is a key turning point that ultimately opens the door for Paul and others to broadcast the gospel world-wide. Three persons were instrumental in this monumental moment: one was a pagan, one was a preacher, and the other one is a person above all other persons on planet earth. Three sermons will tell their story, the story of three people who changed the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The first one mentioned in this turnkey text is Cornelius, who we looked at in the last sermon. The second and more familiar one is Simon Peter. Peter was an original in more ways that one. He was a first follower of Jesus Christ, the first one to put his foot in his mouth, the first one in the water, the first one to confess Jesus as Lord and Christ, and the first among equals as the Apostles began to spread the gospel. And it was Simon Peter, not Paul, who witnessed the first major harvest of Gentiles into the church of God.
As the gospel changed Cornelius and his family and fellow soldiers, the commitment to preach the gospel changed Simon Peter. In turn, these two men, along with one significant other to be discussed in the next message, changed the world. My prayer is that this message about Simon Peter will change your world, too, and make you a more fully devoted follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The gospel changed Simon Peter into a praying man.
There is not much evidence in the Gospels of Peter being a praying man. As a matter of fact, he impetuously spoke before he prayed. Even when Jesus took him to the most sacred prayer meeting ever held, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter slept instead of praying. But, in the book of Acts, Simon Peter can be frequently found on his knees, in prayer.
What changed Peter into a praying man? The gospel changed him. Experiencing the full gospel of Jesus Christ, His life and death and burial and resurrection, changes us into praying people. Experiencing the filling of the Holy Spirit, like Peter did at Pentecost, changes us into praying people. The more Peter matured in his walk with the Lord, the more he prayed; and, the more he prayed, the more he matured as a Christian.
In this critical chapter, we find Peter praying (ref. Acts 10:9). During prayer, God spoke to Peter in a three-fold vision concerning a mission God wanted Peter to accomplish (this episode is where we get the superstition that something dreamed three times is bound to come true). It instructed Simon Peter to take the gospel to some new people.
Is God using you to share the gospel or to minister to people in the name of Christ? If not, then pray! Pray and listen to the Spirit of God, and He will speak and show you where to go, to whom to go, and Christians always go with the gospel. The more you hear and the deeper you believe the gospel, the more you will pray for other people to come to Christ. The more you pray for people to receive the gospel, the more you will find yourself sharing the gospel. This is evidenced in Simon Peter’s life and throughout the book of Acts.
The gospel changed Simon Peter from being a prejudiced man.
Simon Peter prayed, and his prayer was answered. God wanted him to share the gospel with the men who showed up at his door to take him to the house of Cornelius. Remember, Cornelius and his house were a bunch of Gentiles, and in those days Jews did not like to associate with Gentiles.
Simon Peter was a powerful, praying, preacher. But, he was not perfect. He was prejudiced against non-Jews, or Gentiles. Though there is nothing in the Old Testament or the New Covenant to validate prejudice, Peter had apparently been raised to draw a line between Jews and Gentiles that he would not cross. But the gospel, and prayer, changes everything.
I do not understand how a saved person can be prejudiced against people of different races or nationalities. But Christian people better than me certainly have shown prejudice through the years. Most of my Reformation and post-Reformation heroes were prejudiced, some extremely anti-Semitic. The founding fathers of the Southern Baptist Convention were great Calvinists but also racists. The man who discipled me as a young believer would often make derogatory statements about black people that contradicted his otherwise good character. Not being perfect is no excuse for racism or any other sin.
Are you a racist? Do you excuse your racism because you are faithful to the gospel in other ways? That’s what Simon Peter did. It is wrong, dead wrong. The only remedy is repeating the gospel of Jesus Christ, over and over and over. The gospel breaks down barriers between God and people, and the gospel breaks down barriers between people and people.
Those of us who already believe the gospel need to think more deeply on the gospel every day. Lost people are the most desperate race, and that’s what we were before we came to Christ. God is better than us, infinitely, yet He crossed the line with the cross to bring us the gospel and salvation. When you embrace the gospel, fully, you cannot look down on anyone, saved or lost, male or female, black or white, rich or poor. The ground is level at the foot of the cross.
Simon Peter came to understand the truth of equality. It changed him. It changed Cornelius and the Gentiles. It changed the world. The gospel changes the world, for the better, in every way.
The gospel changed Simon Peter every time he heard it, especially when it came out of his own mouth.
Who’s job is it to proclaim the gospel? Simon Peter was an Apostle and Elder in the early church. Surely it was his job to proclaim the gospel. Today the church has evangelists, missionaries, elders, and pastors. Surely it is our job to proclaim the gospel. Even the deacons in the book of Acts were soul winners. But are the officers of the church the only ones who are directed by God to share the gospel? Of course not.
Every Christian is in full time ministry. Your family, neighborhood, community and vocation are your mission field. It is all of our job, our duty, our life, our joy to live out this gospel of Jesus Christ in which we believe. The gospel makes us holy, motivates us to worship, causes us to give, and softens our hearts toward other people. Most of all, the gospel makes us want to give it away in the ever widening circles of our lives.
Every time Peter shared the gospel the church grew. And even if the church did not grow in a particular gospel moment, Simon Peter grew. Trace his life in Scripture and see how remarkable is his gospel growth. Do the same with the Apostle Paul. Now, let us take a look at our own lives? Are we growing in Christ, becoming better disciples, accomplishing more in the kingdom, affecting more lives? Only if we meditate, pray, worship, and witness the gospel.
To summarize Peter’s sermon, Jesus is Lord. He is God who came to us in human perfection and laid down His life on the cross, only to take it up again in divine resurrection. He will judge every person who has ever lived on this planet and consign them to either Heaven or Hell. All who hear this good news and turn to Him in faith, and only those who accept the gospel, receive peace with God, forgiveness from sin, and eternal life.
The church must major in the gospel in her worship and witness. Public services on Sunday should be saturated with the gospel, in word and sacrament. Christians must major in the gospel daily, in Scripture reading and prayer, both of which point us to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We should think about the gospel all the time, rejoicing in our forgiveness and eternal life, thanking God or asking God about our loved ones’ salvation, and asking God for the boldness to share the gospel when an opportunity is given.
Meditating on and sharing the gospel over and over changed Simon Peter into a godly, prayerful, non-prejudiced, gospel man. Receiving the gospel changed Cornelius and his entourage into Christian people. And the gospel changes Christian people into people who live, celebrate, and share the gospel. Every time you do it, you will grow. If all of us are digging in and shoveling out the gospel, the church will grow, too.
Do you want to change the world? Pray. Don’t be prejudiced. Breathe in the gospel, deeply, then exhale, constantly. The gospel will change the world.
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Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org