God shows no partiality
God shows no partiality.
Commentaries by Merida and Peterson (Pillar series)
Last week was the HGTV big reveal in the book of Acts. I used to love in Extreme Makeover Home Edition when Ty Pennington would say, “bus driver, move that bus!” and behind it you see the stunning home that the entire episode had been building toward. Well, last week Luke, the author of Acts, said “bus driver, move that bus!” and behind the bus was the gospel advancing to Gentiles, non-Jewish peoples for the very first time. In Acts 10 God sends Peter, an early church Apostle who is Jewish, to bring the message of Jesus to Cornelius, a Roman military leader who is a Gentile; not Jewish. The big reveal that Acts has slowly been moving toward is Jesus is for all peoples and nations, not just Jewish peoples, and so, Jesus sends his followers to bring the good news about Jesus to all peoples. This morning is part two of the big reveal. Part one of the big reveal is that Jesus sends us to all peoples and part two is that Jesus sends us to all peoples because God shows no partiality. Big idea: God shows no partiality. The question that our passage helps us answer is: how do we know? How do we know that God shows no partiality? Our passage provides us with three answers: 1. Jesus for all, 2. The Spirit is for all, 3. The church is for all.
JESUS IS F0R ALL (10:34-43)
Earlier in Acts 10 we met Cornelius, a Gentile who feared God, did was what right and earnestly sought God but had yet to repent, believe in Jesus, and be saved. Cornelius had a vision and in it an angel told him to send for the Apostle Peter and listen intently to whatever Peter had to say. Our passage picks up with what Peter has to say. What Peter has to say is that God shows no partiality because Jesus for all. Acts 10:34-35: 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. This word “acceptable” doesn’t mean that every Cornelius, every Spirit-softened seeker of God is in a right relationship with God, forgiven of their sins, and has received eternal life. After all, God still sends Peter to Cornelius because he still needs to hear the good news about Jesus and believe in Him to become part of the people of God. Seeking doesn’t save, being religious doesn’t make you right with God, and being a good person doesn’t mean you have a good standing before God. When it says that God shows no partiality, it means that God doesn’t favor one nation or particular peoples over others. God shows no partiality among nations. Rather, anyone from any background can come to God the same way: through Jesus because Jesus is for all.
Let’s take a moment to marvel at how Jesus is for all. Acts 10:36-38: As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 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. Jesus is for all because Jesus alone can bring sinners like us into a peaceful relationship with God. Jesus lived the life that we all have failed to live. Jesus perfectly fulfilled the Father’s will for his life by the power of the Holy Spirit, always doing good and resisting the Devil in all the ways that the first Adam and all of us born in Adam have fallen to him. Jesus is for all because he lived righteously for all of us, the unrighteous. Let’s continue reading in Acts 10:39-40 & 42-43: 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. But God raised him on the third day…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. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. Jesus is for all because he died on the tree to take upon himself the curse that all of us sinners are under. Our sin brings the curse of death and eternal death. This curse has infected all, but Jesus died to bear our curse and swallow up death in his victory. Jesus is for all because he died for the curse that infects us all. Jesus is for all because he rose as the Lord of all. And as the Lord of all, the Father has appointed him as judge of all. The bad news is that Jesus is for all in the sense that he will execute the Father’s perfect judgment on all; the living and the dead. But the wonderful news is that Jesus is for all because all who believe in Him will receive forgiveness through his name, will not perish but have eternal life. God shows no partiality because Jesus is for all.
Question: Have you believed in Jesus and received forgiveness through his name? I can’t help but be struck by the urgency of our passage. Jesus will either be your judge or your savior and there is no third option. Friend, this is urgent. How you respond to Jesus in this life determines how Jesus will respond to you in the next. If you believe, you’ll receive forgiveness and rescue from condemnation, but if you will not then you’re condemned already because you haven’t believed in the name of the only Son of God. Your only options are judgment or forgiveness. Will you believe in Jesus and receive forgiveness through his name? What you do with Jesus in this life determines what Jesus will do to you in the next. Please don’t leave this room without settling what you will do with him. Take the prayer on the front of your connect card and use the language to express in your own words to Jesus that you’re embracing him as Lord; your only hope in life and in death.
Now, if you’re a Christian like me, you may struggle a little with this question. I have what you might call a weak conscience. As a result, since at times I still have doubts and since I still sin so much and so often, I can begin to wonder if I’m genuinely forgiven and saved in Jesus. If you’re like me, I want to point you the precious words in verse 43: everyone who believes. The promises of the gospel are made generally to whoever believers and therefore exclude no one and the will to believe is itself faith. So, keep putting your hope for forgiveness and deliverance from judgment in Jesus today. Keep coming to Jesus because no one who comes to him will ever be cast out. Friends, the first was that we can know that God shows no partiality is that Jesus is for all; all who turn and believe in him will receive forgiveness through his name. The second way that we know that God shows no partiality is…
THE SPIRIT IS FOR ALL
Acts 10:44-45: While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. As Peter is preaching to the Gentiles, the same Holy Spirit that was given to Jews who believed in Jesus at Pentecost, is now given to Gentiles, enabling them to believe in Jesus for forgiveness of sins. The same Holy Spirit being given to Jews and Gentiles signifies that Gentile believers in Jesus belong to the one renewed people of God, on the same basis as Jewish believers in Jesus. We know that God shows no partiality because he gives the same Holy Spirit to all who believe in Jesus and receive forgiveness through his name. Then in Acts 10:46-48, we read of the two results that follow from the Holy Spirit being given: For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days. The two sings of the Spirit are praise and baptism. Praise. The new believers are enabled to speak in a kind of heavenly, personal prayer language, which Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 12 and requires an interpretation when exercised in public worship. We don’t know if every one of the new believers spoke in tongues or not, but what we know for sure is the content of their speaking: they were extoling God, that is, they were praising God for his mighty works of salvation. Baptism. Throughout Acts, baptism is the central means of calling upon the name of Jesus with repentance and faith. In addition, just as circumcision was the physical sign that someone was part of Israel in the Old Testament, now baptism is the physical sign of all who are part of the church, the new people of God in Christ. Since Gentiles received the same Spirit as Jews who believed in Jesus, Gentiles should take part in the same sign of the new family of God: baptism.
Let’s begin to take this personally. If you’re a believer in Jesus, it’s only because the Holy Spirit fell upon you and awakened your dead heart to believe. If you’re a believer in Jesus, it’s not because you’re more inquisitive, spiritually hungry, nor is it ultimately because you chose to believe when others did not. As Acts 11:18 says, you’re a believer in Jesus only because God, in his sovereign and steadfast love, granted you repentance that leads to life through the Holy Spirit. God did it! The Father predestined it, the Son accomplished it, and the Spirit applied it. It only makes sense to joyously extol God; declaring his mighty works in worship, fellowship, and evangelism. We sing because He saves. This week I was reflecting on why I don’t more joyously and consistently extol God and I think that it’s because I’m more fixated on my mighty worries than God’s mighty work of salvation. But the truth is that in 20,000 years every one of my mighty worries will seem silly, but I’ll still be extoling God for his mighty work of salvation. I want to start shifting the proportions now. We gather to worship each Lord’s Day as a gracious reminder that God’s mighty work of deliverance will outlive our mighty worries. Extol God instead of worry! Extol God and be baptized as a sign that you’ve received the Spirit through faith. Be baptized as a sign that you belong to the one new people of God through Jesus alone. Be baptized as the Bible-prescribed way of crying out to Jesus in repentance and faith. If you’ve received the Spirit to believe, have you been baptized? Let us know on your connect card. God shows no partiality and we can be sure of it because He gives the Spirit to all. Third and finally, we know that God shows no partiality because…
THE CHURCH IS FOR ALL
Acts 11:1-3: Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, “you went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” The kind of table fellowship that Peter enjoyed with the Gentiles was unlawful and the Jewish Christians knew it. But Peter responds by recounting to everyone how God had so obviously led him to preach the gospel to Cornelius and welcome Gentiles into the church, the people of God, along with Jewish believers in Jesus. Acts 11:15-18: As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in Gods way?” When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” We know that God shows no partiality because all peoples who believe in Jesus, Jews and Gentiles, are united together into the new family of God called the church. God shows no partiality because all peoples who believe in Jesus, Jews & Gentiles, rich and poor, black and white, democrat and republican, old and young, introvert and extrovert belong to the one church of Jesus Christ. God shows no partiality; the church is for all who believe in Jesus and who is Peter to stand in God’s way?!
Questions: How should we respond when God brings new people into His church? Since God shows his lack of partiality by bringing all peoples who believe in Jesus together as the church, how should we respond when God brings new people into Citylight? Peter’s message is clear: Get out of God’s way. Get out of God’s way. Now, I imagine most of us wouldn’t think of ourselves as tempted to do such a thing, but I’m not so sure. Actually, I think there is a strong and common desire among us to keep our circle small. Sure, we love the idea of new converts and a growing church, but when it comes to opening our inner circle of trusted friends to new people or multiplying our wonderful Citygroup or trusted discipleship group, we begin to get nervous and even a bit territorial because new people might threaten the old dynamic that we love. And though these instincts are understandable, if we follow these instincts, we’ll inadvertently find ourselves getting in God’s way. So, Citylight, instead of getting in God’s way, let’s glorify the God who shows no partiality by constantly expanding the circle at Citylight to make room for all the peoples that God is bringing into our church. I love watching you all do this. I love watching how some of you expand the circle at Citylight by meeting regularly with new people to help them connect to Jesus and to us by discipling them. I love watching you parents expand the circle to singles in your CG and vice versa even though you’re not in the same life stage. I love watching you start new Citygroups and say hard gospel-goodbye’s to friends to start new congregations. I love watching tight social circles expand so that more people can experience gospel-community. Citylight, thank you for getting out of God’s way and instead glorifying Him as the impartial One. Your growing impartiality is a sign of the work of the gospel among you. The gospel is the wonderful news that God is not partial. His love is not restricted to one people or extinguished by our sin. In fact, God shows his love for all the nations and peoples of the earth by sending His Son so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. And since his impartial, saving, and redeeming love has expanded to you, you’re expanding the circle at Citylight. Only the gospel has done that and only the gospel will help us do it into the future. Glory to God, he shows no partiality.