Friday Sep 30, 2022

Acts 10:34

Friday, 30 September 2022

 

Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. Acts 10:34

 

Cornelius just completed his explanation for calling Peter. With his words stated, it now says, “Then Peter opened his mouth.”

 

As has been seen already in Acts, this is a way of saying that Peter prepared to speak and then engaged in speech. The thoughts in his head are now to be expressed verbally through his mouth. With that, Luke next notes, “and said: ‘In truth I perceive.’”

 

Peter has made a logical deduction based on the events that have occurred over the past few days. The object like a great sheet has descended from heaven in a trance; he had seen the creatures of the earth on display: he had been told to rise up, kill, and eat. And so on.

 

Along with that he now knows that God had sent a messenger to Cornelius telling him to fetch Peter and have him explain all that he was to do. When the messengers from Cornelius arrived, the Spirit had told Peter to go with them without hesitation. Everything was synchronized and purposefully presented to inform Peter of a truth that he now fully perceives, which is, “that God shows no partiality.”

 

Here is a word found only once in Scripture, prosópolémptés. It comes from prosopon, the face, and lambanó, to receive. Thus, it means “an accepter of a face (individual), i.e. (specially), one exhibiting partiality -- respecter of persons” (HELPS Word Studies). This is something that Jesus was known to the leaders of Israel for –

 

“Then they asked Him, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that You say and teach rightly, and You do not show personal favoritism, but teach the way of God in truth: 22 Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’” Luke 20:21, 22

 

In that account, the leaders used the same two words, lambanó and prosopon, separately. Peter now simply unites them into one word to make the same point. However, Peter cannot necessarily be considered dull for not having grasped something that he should have. These leaders were a part of the Jewish society, and they were referring to Jesus’ actions as they saw them within the Jewish society. Jesus had even spoken to a Gentile woman, saying, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). 

 

Because of this, Peter and the others may have (and the indication we can receive from the words of his vision is that this is certainly the case) thought that what Jesus meant was limited to those of Israel. But Peter now sees something fuller has sprung out of the New Covenant. This was not an easy lesson to learn because time and again Israel had been warned about intermingling with Gentiles to some degree or another. Eventually, their leaders took that even further than the law and their writings intimated.

 

In Deuteronomy 23:1-8, certain prohibitions on accepting people into the assembly are noted. Other incidents like this are noted in the law. During the time of the historical writings, intermingling with Gentiles caused troubles to arise among the people. A perfect exempt of this is Solomon’s intermarriages with Gentiles as noted in 1 Kings 11 –

 

“But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites— from the nations of whom the Lord had said to the children of Israel, ‘You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.’ Solomon clung to these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not fully follow the Lord, as did his father David.” 1 Kings 11:1-6

 

After Israel’s first exile, a heavy stress is laid upon this notion as is recorded in Ezra and Nehemiah, where these men implored the people to maintain the purity of the race and culture, even forbidding such marriages and forcing the ending of what they perceived as illegitimate marriages. Ezra 10 is dedicated to this idea of defilement and purity. Take time to read that today.

 

Because of this, and because of later more strenuous prohibitions laid upon the people to not even enter the houses of Gentiles, this was something that Peter had to be fully trained out of by the messenger from God to Cornelius and the trance from God on Simon the tanner’s housetop.

 

With the coming of Paul’s ministry, and as is recorded in Acts and his epistles, this idea of Gentile inclusion is most perfectly fleshed out. But it is being first expressed in this account of Peter and Cornelius. There is a reason for this that will be dealt with as Acts 10 continues.

 

Life application: James addresses the idea of showing favoritism in James 2:1-7. It could be argued that he is only referring to this within the Jewish community because he is addressing “the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad” (James 1:1). Further, he uses a term, synagogue, used only among Jews concerning their gathering together (James 2:2). Paul never uses this term when referring to the gathering of the churches in his letters.

 

As such, this account of Peter and Cornelius, Paul’s interactions in Acts, and also Paul’s letters, are invaluable in understanding the equality of Jew and Gentile in the New Covenant. Paul, writing to those in Rome, and using a noun cognate to the one used by Peter above, says that God does not show favoritism when referring to both Jew and Gentile.

 

He also breaks down the barrier between classes within society, such as that of masters and slaves in Ephesians 6, Colossians 3 & 4, 1 Timothy 6, and Titus 2. It is also the subject of the letter to Philemon. Paul speaks of the unity of acceptance in the gospel concerning males and females as well –

 

“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:26-29

 

These and other such references tell us that all people are on equal standing before God, and that those who are in Christ are on equal standing in Him. This does not mean we all possess the same rights in this earthly life, however. By Paul noting that slaves are to heed their masters, it implies that there are slaves.

 

By noting the physical differences between men and women and the cultural differences between Jew and Gentile (Galatians 3:28), it means they are different, even if no distinction in Christ exists. Because of that, when Paul says elsewhere that women are not to teach or have authority over men, it is because of these differences. Thus, there is no contradiction in Paul’s words.

 

Think about these things and remember that God’s word has defined the Christian parameters for our earthly lives. For our eternal position in Christ, He has accepted all as being on the same level. Any and all are open to receiving the gospel and being saved by the precious blood of Christ. Thank God for Jesus Christ.

 

Lord God, how good it is to be a part of what You have done in Christ. Each of us is acceptable to You regardless of our gender, societal class, culture, or any other earthly distinction. We are acceptable to You because of Jesus! Thank You for Your care of Your people even when we don’t always care for one another. Help us to drop all such things and be willing to share the message with all we encounter. Amen.

 

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