Sermon in a nutshell: Acts 10: 36-48 “They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have!”
During the last two Sundays, we read the story of Cornelius and Peter. Here was Peter’s dilemma: The Holy Book prohibited him both eating unclean foods and having fellowship with a pagan man. However, the voice of the living God told him specifically to eat the unclean foods and to meet a Roman centurion, a pagan man. What should he do? He decided to follow the commandments of the living God!
Peter found out that God did not show any favoritism and loved all people. God required only two things: inner piety and social justice. Fear of God means “worship and praise among believers” and “mission and ministry for the people outside of the church.” Then do we need Jesus to be saved? Where is Jesus in this picture? If we only need individual piety and communal justice for salvation, people who do not know Jesus would be also saved! Is this what the Bible says?
No. The Bible says today that even though Cornelius feared God and did a wonderful job helping others and sharing with the poor, what he needed was to hear the Good News of Jesus and to be baptized. Here are guidelines from the scripture for today.
1) This is the content of the Good News: God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with Him. However, people killed Him by hanging Him on a cross, but God raised Him from the dead on the third day and caused Him to be seen. Jesus is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. Everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.
In this passage, we have key elements of the Good News. (1) Jesus was sent by God. (2) Jesus became the model for our earthly life (Teaching, Preaching, and Healing). (3) Jesus died on the Cross to pay the price of our sins. (4) Jesus was risen to give us eternal life. (5) Jesus is coming again to judge the living and the dead. (6) Everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.
2) The Holy Spirit comes to those who faithfully live out God’s will to show that God acknowledges their faith when they hear the Good News. (“While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message.”)
Here we know the mission and ministry of the Holy Spirit. (1) The Holy Spirit helps us to accept the Good News of Jesus. (2) The Holy Spirit confirms that we have faith in Jesus by giving us some signs. (3) The Holy Spirit helps us to share the Good News with others.
3) Baptism is the public confession and recognition of the faith of the receiver.
Here, we know that Baptism is a celebration of a new life in God’s family. So, anybody who is accepted into God’s family can be baptized when the Holy Spirit confirms God’s love for him/her. That is why even a baby can be baptized.
So, the Bible is clear on this issue. Even though Cornelius was a good man, he needed to hear the Good News and be baptized. When I was naturalized and became a U.S. citizen, I understood this principle clearly. Even though someone could claim that she was a good person and better than the U. S. Citizens who were in prison, if she did not have legal status, she could not stay in this country. We need legal status first. Of course, if we contribute a lot to the USA, we would be given citizenship, just as Cornelius was confirmed by God. However, we still need to get citizenship in order to stay continuously. Doing good deeds alone would not be good enough. Good deeds need to be acknowledged and combined with the acceptance of the Lordship of Jesus.
That is why we need to evangelize to others and to spread the Good News. We want to make sure that everybody hears the Good News. We want all those good people and the people we care about to be saved. The Holy Spirit will help us when we share our faith with others. During this season of Lent, we can share the Good News in many different ways. We can share sandwiches and the Gospel. We can serve at the homeless shelter and share the Good News. We can bring canned foods to SHARE and share the Good News. Whatever works for us, we will share the Good News. Then, on Easter Sunday, we will bring them to our church so that we all can worship God together. That will be a great time for the Lord and for God’s people. May God bless all our works bringing the Good News to the world!
- When do you feel the Holy Spirit helping you to share the Good News?
- How can you invite the Holy Spirit in your spiritual life?