With Easter quickly approaching, we are coming to the pinnacle of the Christian calendar. As much as we celebrate the Incarnation at Christmas, it is Easter, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, where the miracle of the events of the Incarnation took effect. These events and their purpose are the gospel.
Today, the gospel is under attack. Attacks come from educational institutions, other religions, government and especially news and entertainment media. But one of the most damaging sources of these attacks is coming from within the church. Missiology, how the church reaches out and gospel is spread, evolves with the culture. That is a necessity as our world changes. But the essentials of the message remain the same… at least they should. Sadly, we have seen in many parts of Christendom, the message of the gospel is changing. Things are added to the message of the gospel while others remove some important pieces which are necessary for spiritual growth.
If I were to ask you, “Could you summarize Jesus’ ministry in one sentence?” would you be able to do it? I want you to be careful because your answer will often say more about you than it will about Him. In Acts 10:38, Peter gave a one-sentence summary that both gave the complete purpose of God through Christ and it was not simply He came and died, but he elaborated on the how and why He did what He did. Peter says, “You know… how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.”
It is an interesting and fascinating account. Peter had recently had a remarkable encounter with God – where he was filled with revelation and mystery and before he has time to sort it out and unpack it, he is called upon to share the gospel of the Kingdom to a roomful of people who are completely foreign to him. Remember, Peter was a Jew and saw his message as being for the Jews. For the gospel to be for Gentiles went against his understanding.
So this passage is pivotal to the growth of the church. Peter is probably overwhelmed with theological knowledge and his understanding of the gospel is probably a little clouded with this new information, but it is at this moment when the Holy Spirit sovereignly decided to demolish ethnic walls and renovate the church.
Peter’s response is instructive not only because it gives the essentials of Jesus’ ministry; it provides the essence of our calling as followers of Jesus. Peter message was more than a presentation of gospel message; he was out to make disciples and to do so meant he had to share his experience with it.
They say first impressions, are everything. In many ways, they are the perception that lasts the longest. I think Peter wanted his hearers’ first idea of Christianity to include the notion that they were called to be just like Jesus. The tree will grow from the seed, and Peter sowed the seeds of the divine nature becoming flesh. This was not just about Jesus, but it was also about us, how God would transform us when we put our faith in Him.
If we ask ourselves, “What kind of tree will grow from the seed we plant?” how would we answer? Perhaps we should measure our answer against Peter’s. In this passage, Peter gives five essentials:
Peter’s gospel message includes Father, Son and Holy Spirit working together. Although the word, “Trinity” does not appear in the Biblical text, the picture of God as being triune does. This is a picture of how from God, through God and for God, all things happen. The seed is from Him and the tree will grow from the seed God provides. Do we present the full picture of God at work in the earth, or limit the image of God to only One Person? Peter’s example is instructive. A “full gospel” requires the presence of the full Godhead.
Secondly, and I believe something we often neglect to address and practice in our lives is Peter’s gospel message doesn’t point to heaven as a future event. He paints a picture of heaven and earth linked together through the work of the Holy Spirit, who spans the divide and pours the stuff of heaven into the words and works of Jesus. As Jesus tells us in John 3:36, “He who has the son, has eternal life…” In one simple sentence, we get to see how “Let-your-Kingdom-come-let-your-will-be-done-on-earth-as-it-is-in-heaven” works. Salvation is about the here and now and forever more.
Thirdly, Peter’s gospel message does not limit Jesus’ mission to redemption only. Did Jesus come to suffer and die on the cross? Yes. But He also lived a perfect life of blessing. We see Jesus going from place to place, “doing good and healing.” We see God in action, giving practical expression to his goodness and power. How many gospel presentations affirm His essential goodness as well as His power to express that goodness. True, redemption is part of the story, but Jesus embodied a much bigger “good news” than we dare to imagine.
Fourthly, Peter’s gospel message reminds us that we are called to conflict. Those who are in need of healing are “under the power of the devil.” Bondage is every unbeliever’s state of being. Even the most missional churches of the western world fail to highlight the spiritual nature of the conflict we face. We focus on humanitarian issues such as abortion, human trafficking and other plights, but forget there was more to His message and ministry. His intent was not to win an argument rather His intent was to win freedom for the captives.
Lastly, Peter’s gospel message reinforces the presence of God as a necessity for ministry. This final point is worthy of a separate article or even a book. Jesus lived and ministered through and in the presence of God. That presence was essential, not optional. Too often in our ministries, we rely on strategies and planning to fulfil God’s mission on earth, forgetting or at best, not relying on God’s power to work in and through us. If Jesus needed it, how much more do we?
Peter had more to say as verses 39-43 state, but right in the middle of his discourse, the Holy Spirit intervened. The harvest was ready. Those who heard were brought to faith and baptized. The Jewish followers were amazed. God could even work in Gentiles! This was one of the first steps in a revolution that spanned the globe and history. Strangely, God’s not into church history, He is into the church now. The purpose of the book of Acts is not merely a historical account or to be taken as information, rather it was written to show us Jesus, show us God’s love and through His Spirit, to inspire us to fulfil both the Great Commandment and Great Commission.
This is why it is important how we share the gospel. Neglecting some facets of it minimizes God’s love and power in both salvation and life. The fruits are the many powerless Christians we see in the world today. They have forgotten the nature of God and the power of God to transform and empower us to take His message of love to the world.
In 1 Peter 1:23, Peter called the seed that was planted in us, “imperishable,” because he wanted us to experience the fullness of God in our lives, to as 2 Peter 1:4 says, be “partakers of the divine nature.” This is the type of tree that grows from the seed Peter was sowing. Maybe it is time to examine the gospel we preach and share the fullness of gospel as it was originally intended.