Facebook Icon Instagram Icon Twitter Icon

Repentance Resulting in Life

April 7, 2024

Repentance Resulting in Life

Passage: Acts 10:34-11:18
Service Type:


Repentance Resulting in Life!

Rodney Gehman – April 7, 2024


[ 001 ] Welcome to River City! My name is Rodney, and I’m one of the pastors around here. I hope you have a copy of scripture with you today, either on your phone or an actual Bible, I’d love for you to go ahead and open that up right now, and navigate your way to Acts 10. 

[ 002 ] Back in the 1860s, two families lived across the Tug Fork River from each other –one family, the Hatfields, lived on the West Virginia side and the other family, the McCoys, lived on the Kentucky side. And there wasn’t much of a problem between the two families, other than the friendly competition that would have come with both families trying to sell moonshine illegally. The majority of both families fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War, except for one of the McCoys who joined a Union army company. That one McCoy managed to survive a gunshot to the chest, and ended up coming home after being released from his company – only to be murdered by a group of Confederate soldiers. 

The McCoy’s pinned the blame on a member of the Hatfield family, and thus began one of the most notorious family feuds in US history, one that went on for almost 30 years, each side consistently taking revenge into their own hands – murders, secret romances, arguments, lawsuits, political involvements – and of course, more murders. Back and forth this went on, until the law stepped in near the end of the century and sent several of the men to prison, which more or less put an end to the conflict. In the 1970s, the two families appeared on the popular television show, Family Feud, during which the Hatfields ended up winning more money _ $11,000 to the McCoy’s $8,000. But, probably in an effort to make sure no one killed each other on stage, the show decided to give the McCoys $11,000 and call it a tie.

You may wonder what the Hatfields and McCoys have to do with Acts chapter 10. The tension between the Hatfields and McCoys is not all that different from the kind of animosity and hatred most of the Jews had for Gentiles, especially the Romans in Jesus’ day. For almost centuries before Jesus was born, there were skirmishes and wars and revolts between the Jewish zealots and Roman soldiers. Even in the first couple verses of the book of Acts, after Jesus was crucified, dead, buried, and resurrected, you find his disciples asking him, “So, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel at this time?” Underneath that question is, “Are you going to be the political Savior we have been wanting this whole time? Are you going to finally get rid of the Romans? Are you going to finally get rid of the Hatfields once and for all?”

And Jesus’ reply is essentially, “that’s not your concern.” And if you’re a Jew, you might think, what do you mean, that’s not my concern!? They take advantage of us. They steal from us. They abuse us. They mock us. They kill us. The entire government is full of godless Gentiles! But Jesus assures them the Father will take care of Rome in his own timing, and then he promises his disciples that he is going to give them a different kind of power – a heavenly power – that would enable and help and empower them to be his witnesses locally in Jerusalem, regionally in all Judea and Samaria, and eventually to the end of the earth. 

And as we read back in Acts 2, they were all in a room having a prayer meeting when sure enough, the power of the Holy Spirit came. Peter, one of Jesus' closest followers, and the other 120 disciples in that room were filled with the Spirit, and began to spontaneously speak in languages they had never learned, proclaiming the greatness of God, but languages that were understood by the huge crowd that had gathered outside the house. Peter preached his first sermon that day and over 3000 devout Jews from every nation under heaven, says Acts 2:5, from all over the known world, became disciples of Jesus on the spot, and were baptized. 

Over the course of the next year or two, the gospel began to spread, but to this point, it’s all Jews who are being converted. As the disciples spread out across the region, thanks to intense persecution, if they passed a Gentile or a Roman on the street, they kept walking. But if they found a Jew, they would present the good news of Jesus. It had all been strictly Jewish conversions. 

The Jews knew that God had chosen them, through Abraham back in Genesis 12, and set them apart from all the other nations of the world. They knew that God had treated them uniquely, but the tragedy was that Israel twisted the [God’s choosing of Abraham’s family] into one of favoritism, became filled with racial pride and hatred, despised Gentiles as ‘dogs’, and developed traditions which kept them apart. No orthodox Jew would ever enter the home of a Gentile… or invite such into his home. On the contrary, ‘all familiar [interactions] with Gentiles was forbidden’ and ‘no pious Jew would of course have sat down at the table of a Gentile’.” The Gentile was viewed with less respect, than the slave of colonial days.

So that’s the backdrop to chapter 10, which opens [ 003 ]  with the words, “There was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment. He was a devout man and feared God along with his whole household. He did many charitable deeds for the Jewish people and always prayed to God.” The original audience reading this may have been very uncomfortable right now. That can’t be right. Romans don’t worship Yahweh…especially “always prayed to God.” Romans worship and pray to a whole host of different gods, and they make fun of the Jews for only having one. So, what exactly is happening here?  

This Roman centurion is visited by an angel, sends for Peter, and then the Lord says to go. 

And the first 33 verses of chapter 10 explain how Peter, a good Jewish man, ends up at the house of Cornelius, not only a Gentile, but a Roman. Peter in the house of the dogs. The oppressors. The source of our pain as Jews. He got to Cornelius’ house, and said in [ 004 ] verse 28, you know, according to my traditions I’m not supposed to be here, but God showed me that if he calls a person clean, I can’t call them unclean. So what’s up? What can I do for you? And Cornelius, who had gathered up all his relatives and close friends, says in verse 33, well, the Lord told me that you had something to say to us that will save us from our sins. [ 005 ] So here we all are in the presence of God to hear everything you have been commanded by the Lord.” So, take it away, the floor is yours. And it’s almost as if Peter begins to speak, but he’s talking to himself first. 

[ 006 ] Acts 10:34… "Now I truly understand that God doesn't show favoritism, [35] but in every nation the person who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 

Peter’s vision + the Spirit telling him to go with no doubts + a 32 mile walk, and Peter goes, “ah, now I get it. I tend to show favoritism, but God doesn’t. In every nation there are people who he is calling to himself.” God doesn’t show favoritism! You don’t have to be born into a Jewish family, or into the right denomination of Christianity or the right country in order to be acceptable to God! Now, we know from the rest of scripture that when he says whoever fears him and does what is right is acceptable, that he doesn’t mean they are saved or children of God or righteous in God’s eyes just because they only pray to one God and give money to the poor. If that were the case, there’s no need for Peter to come and preach to Cornelius. He’s in. 

So what Peter means by “acceptable to God” here is that they are eligible for salvation. God doesn’t play favorites when it comes to who he will save. 

Here is a Gentile. A Roman who fears God, and does what is right. And God is moving toward this man. Stirring his heart. Producing a hunger in him for more, a hunger for what he’s missing, and as Peter stands there in a place he shouldn’t be, God is opening his eyes to the inclusivity of the gospel that comes by faith not by human credentials or categories. 

The reality is, God didn’t need Peter. He could have poured out the Holy Spirit without Peter being there. But God gets Peter involved, so that Peter himself a) can understand that Jesus is the Savior for people from all nations, just like the promise to Abraham said all along, and b) so Peter can report to the rest of the Jews – Hey guys, I saw it with my own eyes: God started with the people of Israel, and he brought the message to the Israelites through Jesus. But in Jesus, God took the doors off the hinges and it looks like everyone is welcome to the table now. Verse 36: Jesus is Lord of all nations! 

And then it’s like Peter snaps out of his thoughts, and starts talking directly to Cornelius and his family about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

[ 007-1 ] LIFE : [37] You know (you have heard about) the events that took place throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John preached: [38] how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how he went about doing good and healing all who were under the tyranny of the devil, because God was with him. 

[ 007-2 ] DEATH: [39] We ourselves are witnesses of everything he did in both the Judean country and in Jerusalem (all the good things he did, the healings, the miracles, the teaching), and yet they killed him by hanging him on a tree. Jesus was good, and yet they killed him. 

[ 007-3 ]RESURRECTION: [40] God raised up this man on the third day and caused him to be seen, [41] not by all the people, but by us whom God appointed as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. Peter sharing meals with Jesus is more proof that the resurrection is true. Cornelius had just seen an angel, but they didn’t eat food together. According to verse 4, Cornelius just stared at him in awe the whole time. So Peter is confirming, look this wasn’t like the experience you just had – this is a full on, back from the dead, resurrection – and I was there. I saw him, and we ate lunch together.

Then Peter lays out the commands the Lord gave to him and the other witnesses of the resurrection, here in verse 42. 

[ 007-4 ]INSTRUCTION: [42] He commanded us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God to be the judge of the living and the dead. [43] All the prophets testify about him that through his name everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins." 

And at that moment, it’s like the Holy Spirit said, okay, that’s good, it’s my turn now… and [ 008-1 ][44] While Peter was still speaking these words, ( about the forgiveness of sin to everyone who believes ) the Holy Spirit came down on all those who heard the message. [45] The circumcised believers [ 008-2 ]who had come with Peter were amazed because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. [ 008-3][46] For they heard them speaking in other tongues and declaring the greatness of God

First of all, the circumcised believers in verse 45 are referring to Jews who have converted to following Jesus. They have received the Holy Spirit. They have quite possibly spoken in tongues. And now they are watching and listening to the Holy Spirit being poured out on Romans! Gentiles! This is earthshaking for them.  

[ 009 (BLANK) ]So I wondered this week about this: What if God involving us in proclaiming the gospel isn’t so much about whether or not the person receives it, but more about us being obedient and knowing God’s presence and power as we step out in faith with no doubting? If God doesn’t need to use me to bring someone to faith in Christ, why does he assign us the role of being his ambassadors? Why does he make Peter travel 32 miles north when God could have dropped the Holy Spirit on Cornelius on his own? 

It tells me maybe it’s not so much about Cornelius as it is about Peter. How is that different from what you may have thought sharing the gospel is all about? We often think we have to have all the words right. We think we have to have answers to whatever questions they might have. We think we’re taking someone from stage 0 all the way to the end. So of course we’re nervous. Of course we’re worried and anxious. Of course we aren’t sure how to proceed or what to say. 

Peter was supposed to go to Cornelius’ house “with no doubts.” What would his doubts have been? I doubt they will listen. I doubt they will respond. I doubt they will get it. I doubt I will convince them. That’s often where my head goes when I have doubts. But what would change if we left all of that up to the Holy Spirit, and we simply stepped out in faith? What would happen if we, like Peter, said, okay God, I’m not going to doubt that you are working in me through this just as much as you are doing something in them? 

The author of Acts, as we talked about back in September when we started this series, is a doctor. So he notices things. He’s particular about details. Detail number 1: Peter didn’t experience this alone. He’ll tell us in Acts 11:12 that there were six brothers with him. That’s important. OT law says everything must be established by 2-3 witnesses… God makes sure Peter has double that for good measure. And detail number 2: And in verse 46, there, he says they were speaking in other tongues and declaring the greatness of God. 

[ 010 ] Back in Acts 2, at Pentecost, when Peter had this same experience happen to him, look what is said. 2:4 – they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues or languages as the Spirit enabled them. Down to 2:11, “we hear them declaring the magnificent acts of God in our own tongues.” People were converted, and baptized right away. 

Now, here in Cornelius’ house, Peter is observing the exact same thing. [ 011 ]Holy Spirit. Languages. Declaring the greatness of God. Conversions & baptisms. This isn’t about Cornelius. It’s about Peter and his crew seeing with their own eyes that the Gentiles are receiving the Holy Spirit just like the Jews did… This is the Gentile Pentecost! And just like Peter did back at Pentecost, in verses 47-48, they baptized those who believed. Baptized them into Jesus Christ. Into the family of God. into salvation. Into the promises made to Abraham. 

Well, the word of all of this gets back to the apostles, and the brothers and sisters all over the region that, “Hey, the Gentiles have received the word of God!” They have heard the gospel and received it! 

How many of you have ever been on a mission trip, or a vacation, where you come back with the pictures and the stories and you just can’t wait to share them with someone, and you get home and no one is half as excited as you are? You know the feeling, right? Peter gets back to Jerusalem, there’s a bunch of people waiting with arms folded and scowls on their faces. [ 012 ]Verse 2 – the circumcision party (that is, the followers of Jesus who were Jewish but have not matured fully in Christ yet) are ready to confront him. “You,” verse 3, “went to uncircumcised men and ate with them. How dare you?! You care to explain yourself here?” You know that’s against our tradition. You know they are the McCoys, right? And Peter said, whoa, whoa, whoa. Let me explain step by step what happened. And he recalls the story, starting in verse 5 telling all about the vision and the sheet and the visitors and his own reservations at first, but then how the Spirit told him to go with no doubts. 

[ 013-1 ] 15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came down on them, just as on us at the beginning. I didn’t even get to finish speaking, I never laid hands on them or anything. [ 013-2 ]16 I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said,‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ [ 013-3 ]17 If, then, God gave them the same gift that he also gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, how could I possibly hinder God?”

It’s almost like Peter is saying, look, I know this is out of pocket for us, but if you don’t like this, blame God, not me! He dropped the Holy Spirit on them just like he did for us. He promised this was coming anyway – He said there’s the baptism of water and the baptism of the Spirit. So, if God gave them the same gift – the Spirit baptism that he gave us, how could I keep them from being water baptized into the name of Jesus? How could I not include them as part of the promises to all of us? How could I possibly stand in the way of what God had decided to do?

[ 014 ]18 When they heard this they became silent. Meaning, their argument was over. God himself had changed the game by his own initiative, And they glorified God, saying, “So then, God has given repentance resulting in life even to the Gentiles.”

That’s how these new believers talked about salvation. It’s how they spoke about what it meant to follow Jesus. “Repentance resulting in life.” It’s something God initiates and offers; it involves acknowledging and turning from sin, and results in life! 

Maybe you’re here today and you pray to God, you do good things, you try to do what’s right, but just like Cornelius you feel like there is still something missing… you want that life that he offers, may I recommend this to you – right now, we’re all in the same room, and I am preaching the good news of Jesus to you. And here’s what it is, Acts 10:43: Everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins! So, you can repent of your sins, right here, right now, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, the life-giving power of God, so that you can be born again, brought from dead religion to life in Christ, and can start the work of following Jesus today! 

According to Ephesians 2 Jesus tore down that wall of hostility between the Hatfields and McCoys – the Jews and Gentiles. Both are reconciled to God, not because one follows this set of laws and this other group follows this set of laws – but because at the cross, Jesus created one new body of believers called the church, and there is no room left for hostility between any groups anymore. Anyone who believes in Christ’s life, death and resurrection has access to the Father now. Anyone who is in Christ is filled with his Spirit now, because the blood of Christ has brought us near. We have been granted repentance that leads to life, and the Holy Spirit is the downpayment of our inheritance until Christ returns and we take possession of what he has saved us into. That means Jesus brings reconciliation not only with God but also between people. 

  • [ 015-1 ]Racism dies at the cross. God doesn’t have a favorite race, and neither should we. In fact the people around the throne of heaven one day will be from every tribe, every language, and every people, and every nation. Which means…
  • [ 015-2 ]Nationalism dies at the cross. God doesn’t have a favorite country or favorite party. God’s promise to bless the world through Abraham’s offspring is fulfilled in Christ, and Americans and Israelis and Iranians and North Koreans will all find eternal life the same way: Repentance, and faith in Christ as the promised Messiah. There is no other way to the Father but through Christ, and everyone who seeks finds. Everyone who knocks on the door will find it opened to them. 
  • [ 015-3 ]Denominationalism dies at the cross. God doesn’t have a favorite denomination of Christians, or a favorite church. There is one gospel; one repentance resulting in life. One way to the Father. There are different convictions, and expressions and styles of worship and that’s fine, but we are saved by faith in Christ – not by denominational or church affiliation. 
  • [ 015-4  ]And when it comes to the other divisions we’ve thrown around in our ordinary lives, he doesn’t play favorites there either. He doesn’t favor homeschoolers over public schoolers; people in full time ministry over people who work outside the church. He doesn’t favor carnivores over vegans, Republicans over Democrats, college degree over high school diploma; moms who stay at home over moms who work; or people who had kids over people who didn’t. 

The lesson Peter and the church leaders learned in this story is that God is on God’s side. He is who he is, and he’ll save who he’ll save. Everyone in any nation who receives Jesus Christ as the only way, the only truth, the only way to life, will be filled with the Holy Spirit and given repentance that leads to life. And so let’s take this straight into prayer right now, and I’ll put this on the screen for you [ 016 ]:

  1. Who are your Gentiles? Who is that person or group of people that really gets your blood boiling when you start talking about them – the person or group you wish would all just go away? Who are they? You know who they are. The ones you wish would just think about certain things a little more like you do? 
  2. Repent: Repent of not praying that God grants them repentance resulting in life, like he did to Cornelius and his family. Repent of just wishing they would be more like us, think like us, believe like us, act like us. Repent of making ourselves the judge, the one who has the facts, who has the way to life. 
  3. Remember the Gospel: Once again, turn to Jesus and remember that he lived, died and rose again because YOU needed to be saved. Seek him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. He is inviting you to participate in his story of redemption, to know the days are evil, the days are short, and the Lord is coming soon. So give us a hunger for your word, passion for the truth, and the strength to endure to the end, and then trust that he will do that.