So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him on the third day and caused him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
God Shows No Partiality
All who fear God and do what is right are acceptable to God, the passage above tells us. It goes on to say that everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins. These two verses must be taken together to form a whole. There is an openness and a limitation to being acceptable to God. People are limited in the sense that no-one is accepted by God who does not take action. A person must fear God, do what is right, and believe in Jesus. Believing in Jesus is explained elsewhere in the Bible. It is not a mere mental assent. It is not the acknowledgement that Jesus existed. It isn’t even enough to believe that Jesus lived and died and rose again as just an historical fact. What believing in means, in the context of receiving the forgiveness of sin, is that we throw ourselves on Jesus. We trust him to save us. We look to him. So the ability to be right with God is limited to those people who make that step. God provides the means of forgiveness of sin, but he does not force a response for all people.
However, he does make the forgiveness of sin available to all people regardless of race, gender, nationality, or age. This was a hurdle that the Jewish people had to overcome, and it is one that I know in theory but fail to practice. I am somewhat selective of which social groups I spend my time with. I do not actively seek out Spanish-speaking and black friends. I do not reject them, but I do not seek them. When I visualize my friendships they are often with people who are culturally a lot like me. I resonate more with people who share my perspectives rather than with those who challenge them.
In his offer of salvation, God shows no partiality. The story of Jesus can be taken to any people and it can be communicated in the way Peter communicated to Cornelius.
Father, let me be freed from prejudice. Let me share the god news of your gospel with someone in this coming week. Let me see if the opportunity is with someone vastly different from me or quite similar. Remove my prejudice.
- To whom was Peter called to speak?
- Are all people who fear God and do good works saved?
- How does Peter practically lay out the gospel?
- To whom are you called to speak?
- How might God have you share the gospel with someone who is ethnically different to you?
This is the very thing the Spirit has been touching me with.