Respect of persons, prejudice, favoritism, politics—all have been an unfortunate part of man’s existence throughout the centuries. Racism, segregation and divisions between people didn’t originate in the last few years or even in the United States of America. It has been part of mankind for thousands of years. Prejudice, bias, respect of persons divides and hurts individuals, communities and churches.
It took a heavenly vision to help the Apostle Peter to see that God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34-35). With the rise, kill, and eat statement and Peter’s refusal, God revealed that “clean” and “unclean” are determined by Him, and said, “What God has cleansed you must not call common” (Acts 10:15). Peter’s understanding from this event was “that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:34-35).
Doesn’t it stand to reason that God would show no partiality, seeing He made us all? Specifically, this revelation was necessary to help Peter, a Jew, to know that salvation in Christ is open to all. Jesus had told them to preach the gospel to “every creature,” but hearing that and understanding the implications of it could have been challenging in light of the old Law and traditions. So the principle is stated and the practice endorsed by and through this timely vision to prepare the messenger, Peter.
Note the candidate for salvation, Cornelius. He was “devout” [deeply religious], one who feared God [not a pagan] and taught his family of God. J. W. McGarvey said he “was not a timid or unfaithful worshipper” of the living God. Even more clearly declaring his dedication, was the noted practice of giving much alms (Acts 10:2). The way one gives declares a lot about their heart. He prayed to God “always.” Can you think of a better recommendation of an individual than this?
One thing was now lacking, Cornelius needs “words” to be saved (Acts 10:6; 11:14). His faith was honorable, but with the coming of the Christian age, Cornelius needed forgiveness of sin and admission to the Lord’s church (Acts 2:47). Some seek a miracle, a sign, or a mysterious voice requisite for their commitment and obedience. All of those were possible, but it was the preacher who received the miracle, and the candidate who received words. The declaration of the gospel of Christ is by word. No man or woman has ever had sin forgiven or been saved by a miracle. No prejudice has been shown to anyone in salvation, all must follow the same plan implemented by Jesus Christ. Everyone must hear the word of God, believe and follow it to the repenting of sin, confessing Jesus Christ as Lord and being baptized for the remission of sin. That is what Cornelius had to do (Acts 10:47-48), just as the Jews had done on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) with no exceptions.
Some acknowledge the New Testament plan of salvation, but suggest God will accept something else: sinner’s prayer, faith only, praying through, others even tell of salvation through a miraculous measure of the Holy Spirit, etc. That would be prejudicial, and go completely against God’s word. It denies the oneness doctrine of Christ (Eph. 4:3-6) and makes God a respecter of persons.
With Peter’s heavenly vision and Cornelius’ obediences, God revealed clearly that obedience is for Jew and Gentile alike—one plan for all mankind. There is no respect of persons with God (Rom. 2:11). The Gospel is for all!