It’s interesting that the angel didn’t just preach the gospel to Cornelius the Centurion in Acts 10. Instead Cornelius is told to fetch Peter, and of course at the same time an angel told Peter to allow himself to be fetched.
It’s interesting that it was important for Peter to go to Cornelius’ house, to be present with this Gentile in order to preach the gospel. Peter’s presence mattered in this encounter. Why?
Because the gospel isn’t just “information.” Because God is creating one new humanity in Christ out of all the ways we come up with to divide ourselves. And the oneness of this new humanity must not remain an abstract concept but must become an incarnate, embodied reality.
Peter must cross the threshold of a Gentile home. He must preach to them, lay hands on them, baptize them with water, and then stay with them. The church’s unity is not a nice ideal, it is a sacramental reality, enfleshed in the bodies of Peter, his companions, Cornelius, and his household.
So of course Peter must be present for the gospel to truly be preached in its fullness. If the angel had just given Cornelius the gospel “information” there would have been two parallel churches. This would be a bastardization of the gospel.
The church is the one new humanity that God is creating. This is not a nice ideal for us to think about, it is an incarnate, embodied, sacramental reality. It requires that human bodies learn to be together, stay with each other, and love one another.