August 13, 2012

Love for All Men:

No Partiality with God

Acts 10:34-35

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    In response to a another question, the love of God for all men will encourage our hearts and minds today.  In Acts 10:34, we see more of the initial stages of fulfillment of the prophecy of Jesus Christ in Acts 1:8:  “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”  Jesus described there a geographical expansion of the church, and also an expansion beyond the Jewish people.  Gentiles would be coming to hear and receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ, brought to them by apostles and evangelists sent by God.  So, in Acts 10:34-35, we see this expansion of the church coming to Gentiles outside of Jerusalem. 

Acts 10:34-35, Welcome
Opening his mouth, Peter said: ‘I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.

      The Vision of Peter.   In order to understand Acts 10:34, we should understand the background of Peter’s remarks.  They build upon his vision from God earlier in Acts 10.  In Acts 10:9-16, God delivered a vision of revelation to Peter.   Peter saw the sky opened and an object like a great sheet coming down.  All kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air were in the sheet.  Three times God told Peter to get up, kill and eat those creatures.  Peter replied to God, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy or unclean.”  God responded, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.”  The vision caused Peter to be greatly perplexed in mind as to what the vision might mean (Acts 10:17).  After considering the vision, Peter understood that God had shown him that he “should not call any man unholy or unclean” (Acts 10:28).  In other words, all the Jewish practices concerning unclean Gentiles God had just swept away forever.  Peter had just received a direct revelation from God about God’s love for all people, of all kinds, all over the world.  All people should hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not just the Jews.  God had just shown Peter that it would no longer be unlawful for a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit a foreigner.

       The New Practice of Peter.  Peter did not object to foreigners inviting him to the house of Cornelius, a Gentile.  Previously, Peter would have declined such an invitation (Acts 10:29).  God had opened a new door and changed the previous practice under the Old Testament law.  Now, Peter knew he could visit Cornelius, without any problem with God or becoming unclean.  God told Peter that even the Gentiles would become Christians, and God loved Gentiles too.  Jesus Christ died for both Jews and Gentiles.  You may recall that Jesus previously had forbidden His disciples to go in the way of the Gentiles, and not to enter any city of the Samaritans, but only to go preaching to the Jews (Matthew 10:5-6).  Now, Jesus opened the door to Gentile ministry because the time had come for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be preached to the whole world.

      The Audience for Peter.  God not only gave special revelation to Peter, but about the same time, God also spoke to Cornelius and told Cornelius to summon Peter to his home, so that Peter could address everyone gathered in the household of Cornelius (Acts 10:30-33).  They were expecting Peter to come, and God had told Cornelius that the prayers and alms of Cornelius had been answered.  Peter would come and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them.  Notice that even though Cornelius feared God, Cornelius still needed to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ and be saved.  This same principle applies today.  People all over the world, both Jews and Gentiles, need to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be saved.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ alone saves people, and only by His salvation can they do what is right before God.

       The Message of Peter.  In Acts 10:34, Peter begins with his new understanding from God.  The original text forcefully proclaims that Peter has taken hold of the truth from God (“Ἐπ’ ἀληθείας καταλαμβάνομαι”).  The truth that God revealed to Peter, and which he has forcefully seized, was: God does not show partiality.  This term “partiality” (“προσωπολήμπτης”) means to prefer one over another, or  in this particular case, to exclude Gentiles from salvation offered by preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Peter then explains the meaning of this doctrinal truth that God does not show partiality in the following verses.  In Acts 10:35, Peter states that every nation should hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, because men there, like Cornelius, already fear God and do what is right before God.  Notice, however, that Cornelius still needed the Gospel of Jesus Christ for salvation.  Peter still needed to come and proclaim salvation to Cornelius.  Likewise, the revelation of Peter was not a universal salvation apart from the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but rather that God would send messengers preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people who would welcome those messengers and receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  God welcomes people from all over the world to Himself, through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and sends people like Peter, even today, to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  You see, as a Gentile, I look back at Peter and thank God that God gave Peter the vision that I would be welcome to God because of my faith that Jesus Christ died for me personally on the cross, and now lives as Lord of my life.  In Acts 10:36-43, Peter shares the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the audience, and they receive salvation by faith alone.  We also see in Acts 10:44, that the Holy Spirit fell upon the new Gentile believers just as the Holy Spirit had fallen before upon the Jewish believers.  Now, everyone there knew that God loved Gentiles also, just like Jews.  God shows no partiality with His love.  Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, not the just the sins of the Jews.  By His death, Jesus opens the door of salvation for everyone who will believe in His power to save you because He died in your place on the cross.  He lives now to be Master and Lord of your life. 

So we learn more about the love of God without partiality today. 

   ●  Peter learned from God by direct revelation that Peter should not call anyone cleansed by God unholy or unclean.   

    ●  God revealed to Peter that Peter should preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to Gentiles, just like Jews, because God can cleanse Gentiles by faith in Christ, just like He cleanses Jews by faith alone.  One Lord Jesus, one faith, one baptism, one church. 

   ● Peter witnessed God save Gentiles by the same Gospel of Jesus Christ preached to the Jews.  The Gentiles also received the Holy Spirit, just like the Jews, visibly demonstrating the love and power of salvation in the new lives of the Gentiles. 

Application for Today

        As I walk through life today, I will be forcefully aware that God shows no partiality to anyone, no matter what skin color, culture, or religious background.  They all need to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but Christ alone provides the way of salvation for all people.  God loves all people, and by faith alone in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, God draws people from all over the world to Himself, because He loves them and wants not one of them to perish, but for all to come to eternal life.  Will you remember that God does not show partiality to anyone, but sends the Gospel of Jesus Christ to everyone today?  Will you allow Him to send you today?

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