What Does The Gospel Bring?
They remembered. In World War II, on the shores of France, a great war was won. During those months the people of France who had been conquered and oppressed by the Nazis were freed. And after the war was over, they remembered. They took the bodies of the men who gave their lives and buried them there on their own shores and on their own land. They did this for a very simple, but important reason: They remembered. They remembered the sacrifice the soldiers gave. They remembered the result their sacrifice brought: Freedom. They remembered. Their children remembered. And still today, their grandchildren remember. And still to this day, when there are children and grandchildren of those who died who travel over to France, the people there set aside time to welcome them and tell them and show them that they remember. This morning, that’s what God’s word invites us to do: to remember. The gospel has brought us freedom. And we hear about that freedom in these words from Acts 11: “1 The apostles and the brothers and sisters who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. 2 When Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, 3 saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” 4 Peter began to explain to them step by step: 5 “I was in the town of Joppa praying, and I saw, in a trance, an object that resembled a large sheet coming down, being lowered by its four corners from heaven, and it came to me. 6 When I looked closely and considered it, I saw the four-footed animals of the earth, the wild beasts, the reptiles, and the birds of the sky. 7 I also heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8 “‘No, Lord!’ I said. ‘For nothing impure or ritually unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9 But a voice answered from heaven a second time, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call impure.’ 10 “Now this happened three times, and everything was drawn up again into heaven. 11 At that very moment, three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea arrived at the house where we were. 12 The Spirit told me to accompany them with no doubts at all. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we went into the man’s house. 13 He reported to us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa, and call for Simon, who is also named Peter. 14 He will speak a message to you by which you and all your household will be saved.’ 15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came down on them, just as on us at the beginning. 16 I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 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?”” (Acts 11:1–17 CSB17)
Here in these words, Peter eats with Gentiles. That might not seem like a huge, massive matter to spend time on for us today. But it was in the book of Acts. In fact, the Holy Spirit guided Luke to write many words on this topic. In the previous chapter, we hear about Peter having a vision. In this vision, there is a sheet that is lowered from heaven. God’s voice tells Peter to slaughter these animals and eat. Peter says, “No way!” All the animals on that sheet were ceremonially unclean animals. Three times the sheet is lowered. Three times Peter says, “no.” And the Lord tells Peter to not call unclean what he has made clean. But my friends in Christ, realize that he was not just speaking about animals. He was also speaking about us non-Jewish people, us Gentiles. Jesus rose from the dead. He guaranteed that these Old Testament ceremonial laws do no apply to us anymore. In so many ways, we are set free.
But this is where our temptation to sin comes into the picture. The people of France on the coast of Normandy remember. And not only do they remember the freedom they have, they also thank the families of those who gave their lives to secure their freedom. But when it comes to the freedom we have in Christ today—the freedom from the Old Testament Ceremonial law, do we remember? Do we still rejoice? If I asked you what your top ten list of favorite or most important parts of the New Testament were, would this part of God’s word even make the list? There is the old proverb, that familiarity breeds contempt. Has the same happened with us? We can worship when we want and where we want. We can eat what we want and wear what we want. This is the freedom that the gospel gives to us. And sadly, we see our sin, by our lack of understanding and our lack of rejoicing.
But my dear friends in Christ, just as these words show us our sin, they also show us our salvation. For just as the gospel brings us freedom from those OT ceremonial laws, it also brings us freedom from sin. There are times we should strive to understand what Christ’s resurrection brought us. But we don’t. But that sin along with all the rest is payed for on the cross. That forgiveness is proven to be forgiven when Jesus rose from the dead.
The gospel brings freedom. But in our last verse, note what the gospel also brings us: “When they heard this they became silent. And they glorified God, saying, “So then, God has given repentance resulting in life even to the Gentiles.”” (Acts 11:18 CSB17)
What is repentance? We use all these theological words. But do we understand them? Could we explain them if we were asked? Repentance is a change of heart, mind, and attitude.1 We used to be enemies of Christ. But now we are his friends. How did that happen? Notice what God’s word tells us: Repentance is a gift from God.
Notice then our role and God’s role in this. Our role is to read God’s word, to study it here and at home. And then to speak the truth in love. But that’s where our role stops. God’s role is to give repentance. Here too we see our own temptation to sin. We have this temptation to conclude that if we just say the most precise and perfect word with the most precise and perfect tone we’ll give this person repentance. Think of how paralyzing of an understanding that is. Either you live in fear of saying the wrong thing, so you don’t say anything about your Savior to your friend, co-worker, or family member. Or, when someone does become a Christian, you face the temptation, that when he or she is a Christian, you can conclude, “I” made that person a Christian. I gave that person repentance.
And my dear friends in Christ, that’s why these words are so comforting to us. God is the one who give repentance. God is the one who performs miracles when and where we cannot. And if you live long enough on this earth, you might begin to see this. You might see a relative or friend who years ago you would have never have suspected would end up being a Christian. But someone, maybe you, shared God’s word with that person. And a miracle happened. God have that person repentance. They had this change of heart, mind, and attitude. And on that day when we see that, you will lift up a prayer of thanksgiving to your Triune God above. For he alone was the one who could get that work done.
What does the gospel bring? The gospel brings freedom. And the gospel brings repentance. Amen.
1 “ⲙⲉⲧⲁⲛⲟⲓⲁⲛ” (Acts 11:18 GNT-ALEX)