I was reading the account of Peter and Cornelius this morning, in particular Peter’s sermon to Cornelius’ household, which ends with the following:
“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.” (Acts 10:42,43)
A couple of thoughts coming out of this:
- Yet another insight for which I’m indebted to Dick Lucas, who pointed out how common it is for people to say that “the Old Testament God is a wrathful God, and the New Testament God is a merciful and loving God”.
And yet when we look at what Peter says here, it is Jesus who commanded the apostles to teach that Jesus is “the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead”, and it is the Old Testament prophets who taught that Jesus is the one in whom we receive forgiveness of sins. So the teaching of the apostles is that the Old Testament God is a God of mercy and forgiveness, and the New Testament God is a God of judgment and wrath.
OK, a slightly tongue-in-cheek point, but also a serious reminder to us of how the themes of judgment and mercy, law and gospel, are found throughout the Bible from beginning to end, and we cannot simply say that the New Testament sets judgment, law and wrath aside.
- I also found it heartening to be reminded of how central it was to the apostolic proclamation that “everyone who believes in [Jesus] receives forgiveness of sins through his name”.
Much as I hate to contradict either NT Wright or Alastair Roberts, the gospel in the New Testament is not simply that “Jesus is Lord and God raised Him from the dead”, but it is also that everyone who believes in that risen Lord Jesus receives forgiveness of sins.
There will be many, sadly, for whom the lordship of Jesus ends up as bad news, because “he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead”. This morning’s reading was a fresh and cheering reminder for me that the reason why the announcement that “Jesus is Lord” is, nevertheless, good news is that “everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name”.