"So Peter Opened His Mouth"
Cornelius said “‘...Now therefore we are all here present in the sight of God, to hear all that thou have been commanded by the Lord. And Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness is acceptable to Him...’” (Acts 10:33-35).
The context of this passage is one of the most significant turning points in the book of Acts. This text explains not only how Cornelius came to be saved, but how Gentiles can be saved. Gentiles then and now, which includes us.
What Peter pointed to in this text is what God wants to do for all men: consider man acceptable, not unclean (vv. 15,35); have all men understand salvation is of Christ and no other (vv. 36,43); provide man an opportunity to hear the gospel (v. 22); and provide teachers of the gospel an opportunity to tell the story of Jesus (vv. 20,29-33).
One of the most inspiring places a teacher of the gospel can be is where people are ready “to hear all things that have been commanded thee of the Lord” (v. 33). Not everyone has this opportunity. Not everyone has an audience seated and ready to hear what the Bible says. This is not a normal occurrence, but it should be a welcomed blessing.
What is witnessed in v. 33 is the proper disposition needed to truly hear the Word of the Lord. You cannot pour the Word of God into ears which hurry in and are on a time schedule. These people were ready and anxiously awaiting the Word of God. What would it be like if every congregation started their assembly with these words: “Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord”? It would reflect an eagerness of an audience not only ready to hear but ready to respond. They want to believe. They want to obey. They want to be acceptable to God.
An eager audience places great responsibility on the teacher. Anyone can open his mouth and speak, but when Peter opened his mouth, his voice needed to direct the hearers toward God. They anticipated being led to the commandment of the Lord, not the commandment of men. The commandment of men may have been what the Gentiles heard so much about from Jewish teachers already. The responsibility Peter had was to provide for them that Word, “and Peter opened his mouth” (v. 34).
Opening the mouth is essential for preaching the command of the Lord. The seriousness of that task is noted in a commentary on Ephesians 6:19-20 by Peter O’Brien. “The expression ‘to open the mouth’ appears in contexts of solemnity where a grave or important utterance from God is about to be made.” There would be no more important an utterance than to say to the Gentiles, “Salvation has come to you this day.”
Opening the mouth is a phrase used in the Old Testament as well, with reference to prophetic utterances. In Ezekiel 3:2, the prophet says, “So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat.” He was to eat the Word, then preach the Word. In Ezekiel 33:22, Ezekiel explains that he was ready to preach when God opened his mouth, “and my mouth was opened.”
Peter opened his mouth. He obeyed the call. He fulfilled an opportunity. He did not remain silent or hide. He opened his mouth and declared all the God had commanded him to say. With boldness and truth behind his words, Peter unashamedly testified of Jesus Christ. He declared the story of Jesus, who went about doing good and healing, but was put to death by hanging Him on a tree. God raised Him up on the third day, and after appearing to many witnesses, He commanded the apostles to preach the gospel to all people, to all nations. He spoke of provisions of salvation in Him (vv. 34-43). The reception of His words was almost anticipated, because of the preparation they made before these words were spoken. They were baptized as a result of the Word spoken. Not only did they hear it once, they wanted him to tarry longer (v. 48). What would have been the reason other than to learn more about the Christ and His commands they obeyed?
Paul once asked the Ephesian Christians to pray “that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly” (Ephesians 6:19) What did God command him to speak? It was the “mystery of the gospel.” He, like Peter, spoke to people about everyone who believes in Him and obeys receives the forgiveness of sins through the name of Christ. Everyone does. Jews who believe and obey Him and Gentiles who believe and obey Him receive the forgiveness of sins through His name.
Speaking these words requires great courage. Opening our mouths may bring persecution, injustice, and criticism. That is expected with anyone who speaks, whether it is the weatherman or the Congressman. The words we have from God should be valued as words of eternal life. Those words are what God has called us to open our mouths and speak. Unbelievers need to hear it. Christians need to hear it. It is the highest of callings. Do not depend solely upon your life to lead someone to Jesus. Do not be intimidated by rejection. Forsake the fear. Acquire the courage. God gave Christians mouths to deliver a message. “Go ye into all the world” and open your mouth.