We are so accustomed to the global reach of Christianity that we may overlook how spectacular it is that we should know the God of Israel.
It was the Apostle Peter who first took the gospel to those beyond the boundary of Jewish culture and heritage. To the Italian named Cornelius, Peter said, “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:34-35). For Peter, this understanding had been a labor, a realization pressed on him by the relentless revelation of God. That God intended his love to break into every nation was a shock of the highest order.
Peter began that day a task which we continue – the telling of the story of Jesus of Nazareth to a world far beyond Nazareth. The message “sent to the people of Israel … spread throughout Judea” now extended beyond, for “he is Lord of all” (10:36-38). The miracles of Galilee had begun the healing of the world, and the baptism in Jordan had begun the redemption of all those immersed in Jesus’ name. Peter was a witness “to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem” (10:39). But his work was not just for his countrymen. On that day he gave his testimony to a soldier in the service of far off Rome.
Because the message pertained to all.
They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name (10:39b-43).
These singular events of one man in one place at one time changed the lives of all people in all places at all times. The gospel is particular, but its implications are universal. Israel’s God was the world’s God. “He is Lord of all.” We may be tempted to overlook this brute fact of the gospel, but we do so at our own peril. However foreign its setting and however distant its events, the gospel is no less potent today in its implications for our world and demands for our lives.