Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Acts 10:34-43 God Shows no Favouritism

KEY TEXT: Acts 10:34, 43-44 So Peter opened his mouth and said: "Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him… To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name." While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.

KEY THOT: Peter is amazed that God accepts the Gentiles (non-Jewish peoples). Up to that point, he has believed that the Gospel that offers forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Spirit is reserved for Israel only. But now he realizes that Israel is the beginning and not the end of God’s mercy. So Paul also agrees: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Rom 1:16). He now recognizes that “God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right” (Acts 10:34-35). While Peter is not saying that we are saved by our works but it does reveal that God’s grace is not limited but limitless and extended to wherever people express their faith in Him: "without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him" (Heb 11:6). 

In the case of Cornelius, he and his family were “devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly” (v.2). God is not exclusive in his offer of grace, for He “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). Just as in Cornelius and his family, because they sought God, God was found by them as Peter was sent to them to proclaim the Gospel to them. Faith in God makes them acceptable to God and through the Gospel they experienced God’s forgiveness and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Like the OT saints who did not know the Gospel (even Moses and Elijah were ignorant of Christ’s atoning sacrifice at the Cross), nevertheless, they were accepted on the basis of their faith in God. They received forgiveness of sin and even the Holy Spirit in lieu of the Cross. 

So, the same principle applies to all people everywhere who seek God wholeheartedly like the centurion. God’s grace was extended to OT saints who have never heard of Jesus Christ (e.g. Enoch, Seth, Abraham, etc) for Christ's death at a particular point in history is not only timely but timeless: “This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” So, OT saints were accepted on the basis of  God’s grace given in Christ, for from His eternal perspective, Christ's death has already occurred “before the beginning of time.” 

That does not relieve us of the need to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ, for people (even those who are seekers of God) will need to know what Christ has done for them in order to experience God's mercy personally through the victory over Satan, self and sins and also receive God's presence and power through the Holy Spirit. Forgiveness of sin is not the end-goal of salvation but the means of entry into God's kingdom. And kingdom life is activated through the indwelling power and presence of the Spirit: “The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles” (Acts 10:45).

May God enlarge our hearts to share the Gospel to all who seek after Him, so that they may find Him and receive cleansing from sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. 

Father, thank You that Your grace is extended to anyone who seeks You with a heart of faith and desire to live a life pleasing to You. Amen.

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