—Divine Selection—

No Respecter Of Persons

Acts 10:34-43

 

34Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 35But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.

 

The training of Peter for his work may be said to have consisted of several revelations.  When Peter first met the Lord, he was seized by His personality. The account is given in John 1:35-41.  Andrew his brother first brought him to the Christ.  Our Lord’s first words were:  Thou art Simon the son of John: thou shalt be called Cephas (which is by interpretation, Peter).”  But after a period of following Jesus as a disciple; listening to His teachings, watching Him work, Peter became more and more familiar with that great Personality. At Caesarea Philippi he made his great confession. Matthew 16:13-16  "Thou art  the  Christ, the Son of the Living God"

 

Finally, by the way of the resurrection, Peter with still yet a fuller understanding  of the truth concerning the Master, writes  the following words:  1 Peter 1:3-5

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time

 

Through the resurrection and all the glory that followed,  Peter discovered that Jesus was not only that Hebrew Prophet, but that he was the Savior of His people.

 

In Acts chapter 10, the events leading up to our text, Peter comes to a fuller conception of the Father: Our text reveals that great truth: “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:

   

I want us  to study Peter’s  statement for while it gives us  a spirit of hope, it also utters a most solemn warning.  Hear the Peters words again Acts 10:34-35

 34Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:  This then is the first matter. The second is: “But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him“.  The first word removes any grounds of  prejudice,  but the second sets up a most severe test.  Cornelius of the Gentile nation is to be received, but a Hebrew by blood, and descendant of Abraham who does not fear God and does not work righteousness is not to be accepted. The text then has both negative and positive values. 

 

If these two verses stood alone, we could find no comfort in them.  We read that,  God is no respecter of persons  a barrier removed, but suddenly there is yet another barrier, “ But in every nation¾ he that feareth him¾ and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him”. While the standards by which men receive one another are set aside, respect to persons,  a new standard appears, the standard by which God receives men, namely “he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness”.

 

Let me begin by  drawing  attention to the fact that these two verses are apart of a speech that concludes with the words found in verses 42- 43, “42And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. 43To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins”.

 

 First let us observe what is here revealed concerning the principle in which God accepts.  While He is no respecter of persons, He is the acceptor of a certain type of character. Next let us consider that where we find ourselves lacking, God has made provisions, Peter calls it the gospel of peace. Acts 10:36 “The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all

 

We begin then, with the declaration of this text:  "God is no respecter of persons." This we have heard over and over. In some sense we believe it yet it is indeed remarkable as we ponder the statement.   God unlike man, is not a capricious selector  of men upon the basis as do men. Things which appeal to men, make no appeal to God. God is interested in no man because of his wealth. It is equally true that no poor man is more welcome in the presence of God than the rich man.  God does not select, or accept men on the basis of any of the things that are accidental.

 

God has no favorites among men¾ the poets, the artist, a manager of some big company, or the janitor. As always, we are benefited by looking at the Lord’s examples, who came to reveal the Father. He never saw the garments that men wore.  He was not attracted to a man because he wore phylacteries upon his  garment.  Jesus was not repelled by the rags of a beggar.  He saw neither phylacteries nor the rags. Some of us were born into circumstances that it has been possible for us to become educated men and women. Some never had that opportunity. God is not attracted by the culture of the educated man.

 

God has no nation He loves more than another, that was the lesson Peter needed to learn.  Peter had believed that God loved Israel and no other nation. Today we often subconsciously imagine that God loves the Americans better than any other. Of course we know that it is not true.  When I refer to it, we smile at the thought. Let us remember it then. God loves man because he is man, created in His image and likeness.  Incidentals go unnoticed,  God is not a respecter of persons. He sees ever man despite the purple or the rags. 

 

But why this emphasis?   Because we err, continuously, both in thinking of other men and in thinking of ourselves by interpreting the attitude of God toward humanity by our own attitude  toward our fellow men.  This was a problem of the first century,  notice James 2:1-4

 

1My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. 2For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;  3And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:  4Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?     ¾ All to often we still respect persons!¾

 

But let us move to the second part of this declaration. Acts 10:35 “But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him  Had we stopped with the statement “God is no respecter of persons,  we might have been inclined to imagine that God receives men into fellowship, regardless of what they character they are. But this is not the declaration of our text. God chooses, He accepts and He rejects. There is a condition of life for which He has no respect of persons. But there is a condition He accepts,  What is the condition He selects and accepts? The apostle Peter says:  35But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. A simple statement,  and  easy to read, but as I say it immediately  I began to shrink,   ¾He that feareth Him¾

 

Let me take you back to definitions found in the Old Testament of what  that means: "The fear of the Lord is to hate evil".        Proverbs  8:13    "By the fear of the Lord men depart from evil." Proverbs 16:6 -   The fear of the Lord is a condition of inward life,  producing certain conduct in the outward life. The condition of the inward life is  that of hating evil. The condition of the outward life is that of departing from evil.  To fear the Lord is to be pure in heart. Matt 5:8 and to be pure in conduct. 

 

1 John 2:3-4 declares “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.   If a man declares that he fears the Lord and yet continues to walk in sin persistently: that man is deceiving himself, but never God.  And as a result of his inward purity he departs from evil, and then what's next?  worketh righteousness.” The man who hates wrong departs from wrong and does that which is right.  

 

Now how many of us are acceptable with God on the basis of this conception? All barriers of nationality, rank of  position, color,  sex, wealth all are swept away:  And now erected ¾ Character.  God is no respecter of persons, no incidentals of birth, nor environment can exclude us from being received.  Regardless of nationality, or tongue¾ Regardless of our social status among men, we stand before God with all the barriers of men are swept away,

 

But before us now the barrier of character “Fearing the Lord and working righteousness. These are hard lines of Divine requirement. We cannot plead our failing  or shortcomings as an excuse for the things which cause us to be unfit for the company of God. No pity can overlook them,  God cannot admit one into heaven while evil reigns supreme and sin is permitted, condoned, excused, and persisted in. The thing in our life permitted to remain, which we know to be sinful, the evil that we do not hate, the impure thing that we will not depart from ¾ these are the things that shut us out from God.

 

I affirm therefore that there is no comfort in this text if there be no more that prompts me to go forward. But this is not all that Peter said in the house of Cornelius. What is the next thing that he says? Acts 10:36-43

36“The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all— 37“that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: 38“how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who 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 things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree. 40“Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, 41“not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. 42“And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. 43“To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.”

 

The grand argument of the Roman letter is the righteousness of God. God is righteous in justifying those who believe on Jesus.  In Romans 3:21-24 we read:

“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 22Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

 

The term “the righteousness of God” does not speak of God’s character, but speaks of how God makes men righteous. Verse 22 declares “the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe” We are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” verse 24.

 

We read again in Romans 4:3-4

3For what saith the scripture?  Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. 4Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. 5But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

 

God looks at us through Christ  and sees righteousness unto those who by faith believe on Him.  The man Cornelius was a good, devout, God fearing man, moral above most  of his time.  But he needed Christ. He needed to be told what to do.  Cornelius was going about to establish his own righteousness through the law.

 

Hear the words of    Roman 10:1-4 a lengthy reading but valuable to our discussion:

 

1Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. 2For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.

 

Paul states he had a  great desire and prayed for the Jewish brethren. They were zealous for God, but they had no knowledge of God’s righteousness.  The Jews certainly were not ignorant of the fact that “God was righteous”,  the law and the prophets declared it over and over.  What they were ignorant of was, “how God makes man righteous, how God justifies man”. They were seeking to please God by establishing their own system of righteousness, under the law.  Paul had previously stated in Romans 3:19-21 “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. 21But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe”

Romans 10:4-5 states further :4For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. 5For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.”   Paul further writes In Galatians 2:16  

16“knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.”  And so the Jews nor anyone can be justified by keeping the law of Moses.  God has a system of righteousness that requires faith in His Son.   We continue reading now from Romans 10:6

 

6But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down from above) 7or, “ ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” 12For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” 14How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!” 16But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” 17So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God

 

Romans 10:13 states a truth attested to in several places in the Bible. The prophet Joel states in Joel 2:32 -  “And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance,  as the Lord has said, Among the remnant whom the Lord calls.”

 

But how shall we  call or better still, how do we call upon the Lord?  Many affirm that this is simply stating Lord I accept you as Savior, and say this is all that is necessary to call upon the Lord for salvation. Contextually Romans 10:14 ask this same question “14How then shall they call” and in answer shows that calling entails hearing the gospel believing in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead, confessing with the mouth (Romans 10:9-17).

 

On the day of Pentecost, Peter in his first gospel sermon, following the ascension of Christ , quotes the prophecy from Joel 2, hear it::  “And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord, Shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21) these men upon hearing Peter’s sermon were cut to the heart and cried out: “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” 38Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:37-38  We are further told that, on that same day, 3,000 souls were baptized, for the  remission of their sins, and the same day, the Lord added them to the church  (Acts 2:47)

 

Again Acts 22:16 , states the same thing is :  And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

 

Isn’t it comforting to know that God truly is no respecter of persons.   No man is unacceptable to God on the basis of incidentals.  Regardless of our race, color or social standing¾ God loves us. There is a condition by which God

Elects, Selects, And Accepts

 

35But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.

 

Who is ready this morning to be weighed in the balances of this passage and its terms? Do we fear God and work righteousness?  We can become the righteousness of God, through our obedience as did Saul of Tarsus, and those on Pentecost day.  If we can be of any further assistance to you in decision to serve God

contact:

Ron Cope Minister churches of Christ

email:  RonCope@chestnutmtchurchofchrist.com

phone:  (678)617-9658