1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, 2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. (Acts 10:1–2, NKJV)
People devoted to their families, jobs, and country are assets to any society. Those who respect God, pray, and are generous bring honor to themselves by blessing others. Cornelius, the centurion, was such a man. Just in his dealings with his fellow man, he had a good reputation among those who easily could be his adversaries (Acts 10:22). Many would say such people will surely go to heaven. Yet, for all his good traits, Cornelius was lost. His morality could not save him. His prayers did not save him. An angel appearing to him did not save him (Acts 10:3-4). The angel told him to send for Peter, who would tell him what he “must do” (Acts 10:6). Peter preached the gospel to him so he could be saved (Acts 11:14; 15:7-9). Peter told this moral, devout, prayerful, charitable person to “fear God and work righteousness” to be accepted (saved) by God (Acts 10:34-35). Peter commanded Cornelius “to be baptized in the name of the Lord” after hearing and believing the gospel (Acts 10:48). Good, moral people continue to need salvation from sin (Rom. 3:23). Their salvation is in Christ through His gospel, nothing else (Acts 4:12; Rom. 1:16; 6:17-18).
36 And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him. 37 When they found Him, they said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” 38 But He said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.” 39 And He was preaching in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and casting out demons. (Mark 1:36–39, NKJV)
Many people still look for Jesus. He said, “seek, and you will find” (Matt. 7:7). If you are not looking for Jesus, you should be (cf. Jno. 1:45). Scripture says God rewards those who diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6). If you are searching for Him, then the relevant question is, “Where are you looking for Jesus?” Some think they find Jesus through religious tradition (cf. Matt. 15:7-14). Others, through an unexpected, even extraordinary personal experience (cf. 2 Thess. 2:9-12). Some preachers tell people belief, and the sinner’s prayer is the way to find Jesus (cf. Acts 9:9, 11; 22:16). I wonder, how many people say they found Jesus through gospel preaching (1 Cor. 1:21-24)? Yet, Jesus said that is why He came to earth (Mk. 1:38, 14-15). People “found” Jesus (they believed and followed Him) when He preached the gospel of the kingdom. If you want to find Jesus, you can (Matt. 10:28-30). Open the gospel He preached and read it, believe it, and obey it (Rom. 10:17; Lk. 6:46; Acts 10:34-35; 2:36-41). Seek, and you will find.
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; (Romans 1:28, NKJV)
By definition, a debased mind is “unapproved” and, by implication, “worthless.” It does not stand the test and, therefore, is not approved. The Greeks used the word translated “debased” to metals and coins that failed the assayer’s test. So, it was cast aside, rejected, “reprobate” (KJV, ASV). The debased mind does not appear suddenly. The Holy Spirit explained that it develops when people no longer approve of holding on to their knowledge of God. Romans 1 catalogs the process and effects of divesting oneself of the knowledge of God (1:19-25). Foolishly refusing to hold God in one’s knowledge results in all manner of immoral conduct (1:26-27, 28-32). What we retain in our minds shapes our lives. We invariably spiral downward when we are comfortable with not retaining God in our thoughts. The gospel of Christ has the power to save us from the sin that is formed in and results from debased minds (Rom. 1:16-17). The gospel renews our minds when we believe, repent, and obey the Lord Jesus (Eph. 4:17-24; Rom. 12:1-2). Otherwise, our sin put us under God’s wrath and righteous judgment of death (Rom. 1:18, 32). Retain God in your knowledge and follow His will.
17 Then they began to plead with Him to depart from their region. 18 And when He got into the boat, he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him. 19 However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.” 20 And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled.” (Mark 5:17–20, NKJV)
Jesus had just healed a man possessed by Legion (many demons, Mk. 5:1-13). Instead of rejoicing, in fear, the people pleaded with Jesus to leave (Mk. 5:14-16, 17). So, Jesus went away (v. 18, 20). Jesus will not stay where He is not welcomed and wanted. Like that day on the seashore, Jesus does not abide with us when we choose unbelief and sinful disregard of Him and His will (Jno. 14:21, 23-24). Conversely, the healed man begged Jesus to allow him to travel with Him (v. 18). But Jesus urged him to stay and tell his friends about the compassion he had received from the Lord. Without resistance, he announced to the region’s ten cities all Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled. Like him, we have received God’s compassionate mercy and forgiveness in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:4-10). May we, in turn, proclaim the good news of salvation to others, that they too may be saved (Acts 8:4).
10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10–11, NKJV)
The Bible records prophecies, preparations, proclamations, and praises of the birth of “a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” But the Bible nowhere pronounces and propagates a religious holiday that celebrates that great event. Interesting, isn’t it? The Bible does not tell us the day of His birth. Unlike many historical events in Israel’s history (cf. the Passover, etc.), Scripture does not assign an annual day of celebration for Christ’s birth. The Bible is silent on observing a yearly religious holiday called Christmas (“Cristes Maesse” or “Mass of Christ,” from A.D. 1038, Catholic Encyclopedia). “There is no historical evidence that our Lord’s birthday was celebrated during the apostolic or early post-apostolic times” (Shaff-Herzog Encyclopedia, III:47). The earliest record recognizing December 25 as a church festival is from the mid-fourth century, a full 300 years after Christ’s birth (Ibid). Indeed, “There can be little doubt that the Church was anxious to distract the attention of Christians from the old heathen feast days by celebrating Christian festivals on the same days (Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, III:607). Undeniably, men invented the religious festival of Christmas; it cannot be found in the word of God. Galatians 1:6-9 pronounces God’s curse on every human change of the gospel. Yes, we rejoice in the birth of the Savior with angels, shepherds, and Magi (Lk. 2:8-20; Matt. 2:9-11). But we dare not devise and demand worship from our own hearts that God has not revealed (remember Jeroboam, 1 Kgs. 12:28-33).
16 And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. 17 From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. (Galatians 6:16–17, NKJV)
The nation of Israel was chosen by God, fulfilling a promise He made to Abraham to make his seed a great nation (Gen. 12:2; Deut. 10:22). God told Israel through Moses, “‘Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel” (Exo. 19:5-6). Sadly, Israel often rebelled against God. Their crowning rebellion was rejecting the promised Messiah. As a result, the kingdom was taken from Israel and given to Christ’s kingdom, His church (Matt. 21:42-45; Heb. 12:28; 1 Pet. 2:4-10). Because His kingdom is “not of this world,” physical descend and possessing land do not define “the Israel of God” in this gospel age. Faith, not flesh, identifies the children of God (Israel) now (Rom. 2:25-29; 9:6-8). No longer does physical lineage and circumcision of the flesh by the Law of Moses. Now, the gospel of the cross of Christ produces and identifies God’s chosen people (Gal. 3:26-29). Paul experienced great physical suffering for Christ and the gospel. Yet, God’s peace and mercy rested on him and on all who walk according to the standard of truth, the gospel, that God’s Spirit revealed through the apostles and prophets of Christ (Gal. 3:1-3; 5:7, 16-26).
Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. (Acts 8:4, NKJV)
Acts 8 is a chapter about preaching the gospel. Those who preached in this chapter were the persecuted, scattered saints (8:4), Philip the evangelist (8:5, 35, 40), and the apostles Peter and John (8:25). The message they preached was “the word” (8:4), “Christ” (8:5), things concerning the kingdom, the name of Jesus Christ, and baptism (8:12), “the word of the Lord” (8:25), “the gospel” (8:25), and “Jesus” (8:35). The result of their preaching was the conversion and salvation of souls. People believed and were baptized, and by doing so, they “received the word of God” (8:12-14). A sinning Christian learned from hearing the apostle’s teaching that he needed to repent and pray for God’s forgiveness (8:18-24). A lost Ethiopian came to believe in Jesus Christ and was baptized, resulting in great joy (8:35-39). One cannot read Acts 8 without being impressed with gospel preaching’s central role in saving sinners. The Samaritans, Simon, and the Ethiopian eunuch were brought to faith, obedience, and salvation from sins through preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Sinners cannot hear the word of God, believe it, call on the name of the Lord, and be saved without gospel preaching (Rom. 10:13-17). Why and what are you preaching, preacher? What kind of preaching do you want, Christian? Gospel preaching is not entertainment. It is not a psychology session. It is not the pleasing pabulum of positive platitudes. It is not a sharing session of opinions. It is the proclamation of the gospel, God’s power to save the lost (Rom. 1:16; Gal. 1:6-12; 2 Tim. 4:1-5). We need more gospel preaching, not less.
47 And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. (John 12:47–48, NKJV)
Sin condemns souls to eternal death (Rom. 6:23). Jesus came to save a world already condemned by sin. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17, 18). Jesus affirms in today’s text that He came to save guilty souls lost in sin (v. 47). Jesus did not say He will never judge our sins. He said if we reject Him (refuse to believe He is the Son of God) and do not receive (accept, follow) His words, His words will judge us in the last day (v. 48). God has appointed a day of judgment, with Jesus as the Judge (Acts 17:31; Heb. 9:27; 2 Cor. 5:10). God’s love compelled Him to send His Son to save the world (Jno. 3:16). Under commandment from the Father, Jesus spoke God’s words that lead to eternal life (Jno. 12:49-50). God’s justice demands a righteous judgment if we continue to sin instead of believing and following His Son and Savior, Jesus Christ (Rom. 2:2-5, 16). God’s gospel saves sinners who believe and follow Jesus (Lk. 6:46; Rom. 1:16-17).
1 Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. 2 Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy, 3 And gathered out of the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. (Psalm 107:1–3, NKJV)
Redemption by the Lord from the grip of the enemy arouses thanksgiving in the recipients of His mercy. Psalm 107 rehearses God’s merciful deliverance of Israel from their Babylonian exile back to Canaan. God took them from “the hand of the enemy,” gathering a remnant from every place they were scattered, redeeming them from captivity. Israel had “rebelled against the words of God” and suffered greatly because of it (Psa. 107:10-12). But, when “they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, He saved them out of their distresses” (Psa. 107:13). God is merciful and forgives when we turn from sin to Him. If God has redeemed you from sin’s bondage, give thanks for His goodness! If you are still in the clutches of sin, then call on the name of the Lord for mercy and forgiveness (Acts 2:21, 37-41; 22:16). As He did for Israel, even so now God is gathering redeemed souls from the four corners of the earth by the gospel of Christ (Isa. 11:11-16; Mk. 16:15-16; Rom. 1:16; 11:5). “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!”
3 So He spoke this parable to them, saying: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ 7 I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. (Luke 15:3–7, NKJV)
Jesus taught the parable of the lost sheep in response to those who complained He “receives sinners and eats with them” (Lk. 15:1-2). This slur was against Jesus and those who came to hear Him. The record shows Jesus was teaching these lost souls, not endorsing their sins. The parable illustrates the compassion of the Lord toward the lost. His work of teaching them the gospel was heaven’s work of seeking and saving the lost (Lk. 19:10). The parable also reflects heaven’s joy when one sinner who repents. We cannot escape the linkage of the sinner’s repentance to salvation. God is seeking the lost, and when the lost repent, they are “found” (saved). Instead of chastising Jesus for trying to save sinners, these complainers revealed themselves as ones who needed to repent; they needed saving, too. Like Jesus, compassion for the lost drives us to teach them the gospel, persuading souls to repent toward God and have faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:20-21).