Main passage: Acts 10:36-43

In this summary the numbers [1], [2] etc. point to the numbered rows at the bottom of this page.

What is the gospel? In eight verses Luke summarises Peter’s explanation of it to the Centurion Cornelius and his houseful of friends and family (Ac 10:43). Let’s try to put it in our own words.

[1] The word ‘gospel’ (v36) refers to ‘good news’. Here, the news is from God himself and brings peace. It’s also personally delivered: Jesus Christ came both to tell the good news and make it happen through how he lived and died [2]. Yet others have claimed to come from God, so why believe him? One reason is the history of ancient Israel. Jesus’ life takes up all the threads of her multi-century history and completes them in a striking and beautiful way (v43). That fact speaks of God writing this history according to his own plan, and, thus, supports Jesus’ claim that he makes known the truth about God. Hence Peter calls Jesus the ‘Lord of all’ – a stunning title, especially to preach to a Roman Centurion used to giving the highest honour to Caesar.

The title, however, goes far beyond human honour. [3] Jesus exhibited divine power in his life, seen in the ways he healed a wide variety of broken people (v38). He also showed that behind all the damage of the world stood spiritual forces of malevolence that he alone could deal with. The human race is not only capable of wickedness but is also prey to being manipulated by the devil. Jesus exposed this evil activity both in obvious ways, such as his command of demons (Lk 8:26-33), and in its more subtle expressions, such as in disease (Lk 13:10-17) or foolish thinking (Mt 16:21-23). However, why should anyone believe the accounts of his power? Peter stresses the trustworthiness of what he’s saying. The apostles are witnesses of Jesus (v39) and in saying that he isn’t only thinking of the fact that they were with Jesus and saw his work. He means they were appointed to observe and learn from Jesus in a rigorous way so that they could pass his message onto others in a reliable manner. [4] Jesus designed his ministry to ensure the apostles would understand and remember. So Cornelius can be assured that what Peter is telling him is true.

What, then, needs to be known about Jesus? [5] Broadly, it’s all he said and did from John’s baptism (v37) until his ascension to the throne of glory (v42). As Luke showed at the start of Acts, experiencing that time with Jesus was key to being appointed as an apostle (Ac 1:22). The same structure also comes through in the basic layout of the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. [6] However, within the story a few days are of highest importance: those concerned with Jesus’ death and resurrection (v39-41). But why does Peter describe that death as ‘hanging on a tree’? The phrase is vital because it links back to a section of the Old Testament law in which a man hung up in this way is seen as cursed by God (De 21:22-23). Jesus was humiliated, put to shame, in his death. Yet that seems so out of sync with the life he lived: it makes you cry out, ‘unfair!’ The death of Jesus nags our sense of justice and makes us question the behaviour of God: why would he allow his servant to suffer so? However, his death isn’t the end of the matter. God then raised Jesus back to life – a fact confirmed to the witnesses by Jesus’ interactions with them.

The gospel, then, is the challenging story of Jesus’ life and death. But what does it all mean? And how does it bring us peace? [7] Peter preaches that it’s about judgement (v42). Our world is full of misbehaviour ranging from terrible evil to everyday sins. Everyone feels it shouldn’t be like that: that unfairness, injustice, wickedness should all be dealt with. Yet our attempts to do so are weak; it’s like we need a global day of judgement to right all wrongs. God, through Jesus, says ‘you do and here’s what it needs to look like.’ [8] Jesus is God’s appointed judge who came into the world to demonstrate, on the cross, how sin will finally be destroyed. In itself that sounds disastrous for us who have committed all the sins and so face final ruin. [9] But Jesus also said that if we entrust our lives to him, the judgement which struck him on the cross can also be ours. Our sins can die on his cross, allowing us to be forgiven (v43), so that the final day of judgement will not be the end of us. That’s why the gospel is good news; that’s why it brings us peace.


What is the gospel?

[1] The gospel is a good message which brings us peace from our creator.

[2] It is heard from, and seen in, Jesus Christ, but it’s bigger than just his brief human life because he completes the story of Israel and rules history.

[3] It’s about God supernaturally saving the world from its slavery to wickedness.

[4] The Lord has ensured it is a trustworthy communication, carefully constructed to be passed down reliably through many hands.

[5] The timespan of the message is from John the Baptist’s preaching to Jesus’ heavenly enthronement.

[6] Its special emphasis is on Jesus’ cursed death and God’s overturning of it through resurrection.

[7] These expose God’s righteous anger with our evil but also his willingness to forgive.

[8] Jesus has been appointed by God to implement both at the end of time.

[9] We need to go to him to have our sins forgiven.

The gospel
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