The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation in Acts 10

November 11, 2016

In America’s climate today, this is a desperate need for the church to address.

Acts 10 is famously known for the conversion of Cornelius and the ushering in of the Gentiles into the family of God.

However, what if there is another meaning altogether to deduce from the text?

John Stott states, “How would he succeed in breaking down Peter’s deep-seated racial intolerance? The principal subject of this chapter is not so much the conversion of Cornelius as the conversion of Peter.”[1]

What Stott is in essence saying – The principal subject of this chapter is not so much the conversion of Cornelius to Christianity as the conversion of Peter from his deep-seated racial intolerance.

This means that Acts 10 is also about Peter overcoming racial prejudice regarding Gentiles. The application for us today is that the gospel forces Christians to address any and all vestiges of racism in their hearts, and put it to death.

Derek Thomas astutely comments, “Prejudice still plays a disturbing role in church life today, … we will need to ask ourselves some disturbing questions whether we are in need of repentance at this point.”[2]

The hope and prayer of this blog is for all Christians to do the difficult work of searching their hearts, repent of any ongoing sin, and seek true racial diversity in our churches.

There are 3 Crucial Thoughts Regarding Racial Reconciliation. (among many others)

(1) God is preparing everyone to engage in racial reconciliation. (v. 1-8)

In this text we see Cornelius, a Gentile, being made ready to meet Peter. Peter is going to do two things. First, he is going to share the gospel with Cornelius. However, something else is going to happen. Peter is going to realize that God loves every ethnicity and race and that he shows no partiality regarding who can be saved. God loves everyone equally, and demands all races and ethnicities be treated with equal dignity, value and worth.

In the same way God prepares Cornelius, he is preparing everyone to engage in the much-needed process of racial reconciliation.

 (2) God is preparing you to engage in racial reconciliation. (v. 9-33)

We must realize, that God is not just doing a work externally in the hearts of everyone in the world, but He is also doing a work individually in our hearts as well.

In this text, not only do we see Cornelius being prepared by God for racial reconciliation, but also we see Peter. Peter is being prepared by God to engage with someone completely different than him; a Gentile. Notice, this happens when Peter is praying. We can infer that Peter’s vertical relationship with God was good (see John 21.) However, Jesus was not done sanctifying Peter. Jesus was going to focus on Peter’s horizontal relationships. (i.e. racial bigotry) God prepares him by putting him in a trance, and tells him to meet with Cornelius.

Acts 10:15 is the key text. Jesus tells Peter, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” He is not only speaking about food, but instead people. This statement by Jesus has amazing missiological implications. Jesus is telling all races to share the gospel freely with all races.

Further, Jesus is declaring over all sinners that God has made us clean. God has stated that we are not common; instead we are holy and blameless in His sight. (Col. 1:22)

The exact same type of preparation will not occur with us, but God is not done with our sanctification either. He is constantly preparing Christians to engage in racial reconciliation and gospel proclamation to everyone.

(3) The linchpin to racial reconciliation is the Gospel. (v. 34-48)

In Acts 10:17-33 we read the interaction of Cornelius and Peter. Then, in verses 34-43 we read the message Peter delivers. The message Peter delivers, the gospel, is the only message that will unite everyone.

The linchpin, the essential element, to creating racial reconciliation rests solely in the gospel of Jesus Christ. In Peter’s sermon, the gospel is centered on the life of Jesus (v. 37-39), the death of Jesus on a cross (v. 39b) and the resurrection of Jesus (v. 40-41).

This message of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is the only hope we have in to bring racial reconciliation to our land.

As J.D. Greear has stated in one of his sermons, “A Church’s goal is not just the elimination of racism; it is the achievement of diversification.” This means that God’s vision to Peter was not just “stop being a racist,” but to embrace Cornelius; to go in and eat with him, to worship with him.

Through the gospel of Jesus Christ, may God bring true diversity to this country. May we truly befriend others not like us, eat with others not like us, and worship Jesus with others not like us.

** Notes **

[1] John Stott, The Message of Acts, (Intervarsity Press: Downers Grove), 186.

[2] Derek W. H. Thomas, Acts, (P & R Publishing: Phillipsburg), 294

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