Calvary Road Baptist Church

“LESSONS ON WITNESSING”

Acts 10.34-48

 Let me ask you folks a question. This is the question: Do you witness to people? Do you tell folks that they are lost if they do not know Christ and that they must be saved in order to be delivered from their sins, escape Hell, and gain heaven? You know, of course, that if you do not witness then there is something very, very wrong with your Christianity. This is because God saved us to serve Him, and that inherent in any service toward God is witnessing. There are preachers all over the country who beat up people from the pulpit in an effort to motivate them to witness for Jesus’ sake. However, no one can force another person to serve the One he calls Lord. That is something only the Spirit of God and one’s conscience can accomplish. The most I can do to encourage people to witness is to declare the truth of God’s Word and to witness myself. And I do. To have people with me when I minister the gospel, to pray that God will work in your lives to witness, and to preach portions of the Word of God which will inform you of the importance of witnessing is what I am charged to do. I am about to do just that this evening.

One of the most overlooked facts related to Simon Peter’s encounter with the Gentile named Cornelius that is recorded in Acts chapter 10 was that Peter had chosen six witnesses to take with him who observed everything that transpired in the cities of Joppa and Caesaria.[1] As we deal with Acts 10.34-48, retain in the back of your mind this truth: God brought about the events of Acts chapter 10 to influence the Christian community in the area of witnessing. God wanted to show every Christian the importance of witnessing to every single person they had the opportunity to witness to. Oh, I know that folks will say that they are not gifted to do that sort of thing, or they will say that they feel uncomfortable talking to people about Christ. Well, I know what you are talking about because I am not gifted in that area either. As for uneasiness . . . the more you witness the better you will feel about it. Further, Proverbs says that if we will commit our works unto the LORD, our thoughts shall be established.[2] If you will simply obey God in this matter of witnessing, He will respond by altering your feelings about witnessing. Before long, you will love talking to people about the Lord. You may even discover that you are gifted in that area of ministry.

If you have found Acts 10.34-48, stand and read God’s Word with me:

 34     Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:

35     But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.

36     The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)

37     That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached;

38     How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.

39     And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree:

40     Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly;

41     Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.

42     And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.

43     To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.

44     While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.

45     And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.

46     For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter,

47     Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?

48     And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.

This is the account of Peter witnessing to Cornelius and his friends. Notice four things about God that are related to Christian witnessing.

 THE FIRST THING ABOUT GOD THAT PETER REFERS TO IS GOD’S IMPARTIALITY

In verse 34, Peter points out God’s lack of respect for people: “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.” This does not mean God despises people, but it does mean that no man impresses God at all. It also means that He is never impressed by our attempts to make ourselves into something that we are not. We recognize that people all have false fronts, to some extent. However, God never looks on outward actions or appearances in His dealings with us. Instead, He looks to the heart.[3] When God looks into the hearts of unsaved men, He always sees the same thing. Damning sin. No matter if they be Jews or Gentiles, unless Christ dwells in your heart in the person of the Holy Spirit of God there will only be vile sin there for God to see. The notable thing for the Apostle Peter and his friends to realize, then, was that when God looks into Gentile hearts and Jewish hearts He sees exactly the same thing.

That God is no respecter of persons means that Jews without Christ are just as lost and undone as Gentiles without Christ. However, in verse 35, Peter focuses on the bright spot in the midst of the universal darkness of sin: “But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” Though all men stand condemned before God, God will accept all men . . . if certain terms are met. We see that no matter what the national background, the man who fears God, and works righteousness as a result, is accepted by God. God’s terms, then, are fear and fruit. Only those who know Him truly fear or reverence Him. It is the lost person who will stand up and say, “Well, I don’t fear God.” You had better fear God, my friend. You see, it is the fear or reverence of God that is the beginning of real wisdom. And, of course, we recognize that in the Christian’s life works of righteousness are just the fruit of the tree of faith and new life in Christ. Faith first, then fruits. So, Peter verbalizes something God has taught him. He does so in order that his friends will hear and understand what God has revealed to His apostle . . . that God is impartial. The application of this truth is this: You can witness to anyone about the saving grace of God and He will not mind one bit. Is that not a liberating truth?

THE SECOND THING ABOUT GOD THAT PETER REFERS TO IS GOD’S INFINITE LOVE

Though this love is not actually called out by name here, we see it proved.

The infinite love of God for all mankind is proven by the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, beginning in verse 36:

36     The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)

37     That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached;

38     How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.

39     And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem.

Several comments I would like to make here: Notice that in verse 36 Peter points out that God sent Christ and the gospel to Israel, but that in the same verse he goes on to point out that Jesus Christ is Lord of all, both Jew and Gentile, saved and unsaved. He is Lord. In verse 37, Peter shows the beginning in Galilee. Note, too, that Peter says, “ye know.” That is, he is reviewing facts and details that Cornelius already knew. Could it be that Cornelius was the centurion in Capernaum whose servant was healed, Matthew chapter 8? I am not sure, but certainly, Cornelius knew these details of our Lord’s earthly ministry. In verse 38, we see the love of God manifested in the good works that Jesus did. He did these things because, as Peter said, “God was with Him.” How can Peter authoritatively state all of these things? Because, according to the first part of verse 39, he was a witness of all those events, along with the other disciples. Certainly, my friends, the life of the Lord Jesus Christ on earth proved God’s infinite love. Peter knew it because he saw it, and we know it because the Bible records it.

However, God’s love is also shown and proven in Christ’s death. “Whom they slew and hanged on a tree,” verse 39. What better verse to go to at this point than John 3.16? “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Why did Jesus die His sacrificial death? So that spiritually dead sinners might live. So that slaves of a sinful life might be set free. So that men, born children of Satan, might be made into children of God. And why, pray tell, would God want to do that? Romans 5.8 answers that question: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” God’s love is established by Christ’s sacrificial death.

Thirdly, God’s infinite love is proven by Christ’s resurrection. God did not leave His Son in the tomb. It was not possible that death should hold Him.[4] For that reason, He raised Him from the dead, verse 40: “Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly.” Openly to those who were not His enemies. Openly to those who had received Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, verse 41: “Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.” It is as though the Father was so delighted that His Son had completed His difficult task that He wanted all those who had followed Christ to share in the victory of Christ’s resurrection. Does God love mankind? John 3.16 says, “For God so loved the world. . . .” Love motivated God to sacrifice His Son. Love should therefore motivate Christians to simply tell people what happened so long ago. Application? God’s attitude toward all men is the same, point #1. He loves them, point #2. Therefore, go ahead and feel free to witness all you want.

THE THIRD THING ABOUT GOD THAT PETER REFERS TO IS GOD’S IMPERATIVE

I use the word “imperative” because in grammar an imperative is a command. In verse 33, Cornelius told Peter that he wanted to hear what God had commanded him. So, in verses 42 and 43, Peter tells Cornelius what the commands of God to the disciples were:

42     And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.

43     To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.

First, note the method of obeying God’s command: “He commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify.” This word “preach” comes from the Greek word that simply means to declare as a herald.[5] In other words, there are times when witnessing will entail the simple proclamation of truth. Do not always feel that you have to prove what you say to people. Let the Holy Spirit do the proving. You just tell people that they need to be saved by the blood of the Lamb and let God take care of the rest. I think I do too much proving and too little proclaiming at times. The other way to witness is to “testify.” This word comes from a word that means to give a full and detailed testimony such as one would expect to give on a witness stand in a court trial.[6] This is the place for getting into a detailed presentation of the truth to someone. Notice, friends, that there are two main ways to witness seen here. First, you can declare the truth and let it go at that. Or, you can give a detailed presentation of the truth that saves. You can witness whichever way you feel most comfortable, and depending on how receptive your audience is . . . but witness. As well, no one has to be a theologian to declare the truth. Give out a bit here and a bit more there. If someone is receptive to your witness, perhaps you can relate how you were saved and ask if he is interested in pursuing the matter. If he says yes, then invite him to church.

So much for the method of presenting the truth. The last portion of verse 42 has to do with the message to be delivered: “that it is He which was ordained of God to be the Judge of the quick and the dead.” The “quick” refers to those who are alive. They are the Christians. The “dead” are those who do not know Jesus Christ, who though they may be physically alive are spiritually dead. Do you ever bring up the subject of the judgment of God when you witness? You should, you know. You must let people know that the gospel is a two-edged proposition. One edge cuts and deliverance is the result. However, when Christ is rejected the other edge is used by God to bring destruction. Turn to Revelation 20.11-15. Here we read about Christ’s judgment of the dead . . . those who will not turn to Christ:

11     And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.

12     And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

13     And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

14     And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

15     And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

God’s imperative has a method and a message, but the focus is on the Messiah, Acts 10.43: “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” We see from this verse that Peter recognizes Jesus the Messiah, Jesus the Christ, to be the central theme of the preaching and the writing of all the Old Testament prophets. This Jewish Messiah, this Christ, is the sole source of forgiveness and remission of sins. That is, He is the exclusive Savior. You have no access to the Father via any other route because Jesus said that He is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no man cometh to the Father but by Him, John 14.6. It is impossible to gain access to the Father through other men or even saints, because Paul wrote in First Timothy 2.5-6, that there is only one God, and one mediator, or go-between, between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, Who gave Himself a ransom (or a payment) for our sins. God gave a commandment concerning how witnessing was to be done, what truths were to be spoken to the lost, and on Whose person attention was to be directed. Christian’s witnessing should take place because it has been commanded.

THE FOURTH THING WE SEE ABOUT GOD IS HIS INTERRUPTION OF PETER’S SERMON

This occurs in verses 44-48. The scene is this: Peter is talking to Cornelius and the gathered Gentiles. The six Jewish witnesses who had come with Peter are looking on. While Peter is speaking, as soon as Peter said what God wanted everyone to hear, notice what happens:

44     While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.

45     And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.

46     For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter,

47     Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?

48     And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.

In verses 44-46, we see their infusion by the Holy Spirit. I have previously established that Cornelius was already saved prior to the coming of Peter and his six witnesses to these events. Therefore, God did not bring Peter and his friends to Caesaria to win these folks to Christ, but for other reasons. Just as soon as Peter finished telling about the method of witnessing, the message of witnessing, and the Messiah to give witness to . . . the Holy Ghost fell upon all them which heard the Word. This means that the Holy Spirit of God fell upon both Jew and Gentile in attendance. Let us get some perspective on this. The outpouring of God’s Spirit upon Jewish Christians was not a frequent occurrence, but neither was it an unheard of occurrence. However, the outpouring of God’s Spirit upon Gentiles was very unusual for those Jewish Christians present. How did they know the Spirit had been given to the Gentiles present? They heard the Gentiles speak in tongues. If this was a Gentile Pentecost, and we have every reason to believe that it was just that, then it was the Gentiles speaking in languages that they should not and could not ordinarily know, which amazed the Jewish Christians. That this was a work of God could not be denied. My own opinion was that everyone was surprised except maybe Peter, who apparently collected his thoughts and then responded. However, make no mistake about what happened. God interrupted Peter when he had finished saying what God wanted him to say, and before he had a chance to encourage his audience to turn from their sins and trust Christ. Why did God interrupt at that point? Because Cornelius was already saved and did not need to be directed to Christ. Otherwise, God would not have interrupted Peter’s presentation of the gospel.

Peter’s response to this Gentile version of Pentecost was a question and a command regarding their immersion in believer baptism, verses 47-48:

47     Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?

48     And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.

Peter recognized that this infusion of the Holy Spirit had been God’s way of showing Jewish Christians that Gentiles had been incorporated into the family of God. Peter’s question about baptism evoked a response from his friends showing that they acknowledge what God had done and to testify what God had done. “Then Peter commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” Notice the importance here of believer baptism. It was immediate upon their being convinced of Cornelius’ and the other Gentile’s conversion. It was a recognition of what God had done in the lives of those Christians. It was not optional. It was performed by a proper authority. So many people think baptism is not important, but Peter commanded them to be baptized, and it was in the Lord’s name that he commanded them to be obedient.

Beloved, God looked out over the Jewish Christian community and saw them stagnated as witnesses for Christ’s sake. They were stagnant because they were bigoted toward non-Jewish people. They were stagnant because of a lack of love for lost souls. They were stagnant because of disobedience to Christ’s commands to preach the gospel. They were stagnant because they had failed to see the spiritual results of witnessing. So, what did God do? He took seven men, the Apostle Peter and six others, to a Gentile’s house up north in Caesaria. There He taught them a lesson through the life of Cornelius and the through the life of Simon Peter.

To shed them of their bigotry, He showed them that He is an impartial God. He respects the person of no man, but desires that all men should come to know Jesus Christ as personal Savior.

To shed them of their hardhearted lack of love, He exposed them to Peter’s review of the infinite love of God which sent Jesus Christ to this sinful world to live, to die, and to be resurrected, so that we might be saved.

To shed them of their disobedience, He moved Cornelius to ask Simon Peter what God had commanded Christians to do. Peter’s answer was an indictment. God has commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that it is Jesus that was ordained of God to be the Judge of the quick and the dead.

What are we to do when our next-door neighbor receives Christ and comes over to ask us why we did not witness to him as the man across town did? What will we tell him? What will we do when our husband or wife, our son or daughter, or our own grandchildren die without Christ and we have not testified to them of God’s saving grace in Christ even one time? Do we really realize how important this witnessing activity is? It is our function as a church. We have no other function than winning people to Christ, baptizing them, and teaching them through fellowship, Sunday School, ice cream socials, preaching, Bible studies, Saturday night evangelism, and Bible Institutes, to be witnesses for Christ’s sake.

Are you a Christian? Then why are you not a witness? Are you lost? Then why stay that way? You know what the judgment of God will bring. However, if you will trust Christ as your personal Savior you will be saved from that judgment and you will be given the gift of eternal life. Christians, make a commitment to God right now that you will engage in Christian witness and bringing folks to church. Unsaved friend, decide now that you want to become a Christian and I will do my best to guide you to Christ. “Pastor, I do not know what to say.” That is perfectly all right. I have done this before. I know where to take you.



[1] Acts 10.23; 11.12

[2] Proverbs 16.23

[3] 1 Samuel 16.7

[4] Acts 2.24

[5] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 543-544.

[6] Ibid., page 233.



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org