Painting at capitol building, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Tuesday, 4 October 2022
But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. Acts 10:35
Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen).
You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).
The previous verse said, “Then Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality.’” That is immediately followed up by Peter, saying, “But in every nation.”
Of these words, Bengel rightly states, “It is not an indifferentism of religions, but an indifferency (impartiality) as to the acceptance of nations, that is here asserted.” What is to be said does not include people simply because they faithfully pursue their personal religion, but it is inclusive of those of any nation who faithfully pursue God as he is revealed to people.
Hence, Job can be included in this. Rahab and Naaman likewise are noted in this category in the Bible. However, it cannot be said of someone in Islam or Buddhism today. They are excluded from the thought until a change is made in their mind (a repenting) to turn to the truth of God that has been revealed.
It doesn’t matter if it is a person in Pakistan, Tanzania, Russia, Japan, or any other nation – which is the thought that was expressed to Peter in the descent of the great object filled with the various beasts, birds, and so on. With this understood, Peter next says, “whoever fears Him.” To be more precise, it says, “the one fearing Him.”
This is an upward acknowledgment of God, and it is an action directed toward Him. God is looking at those who are fearing Him in the knowledge of Him that has been made available to the person. Of Cornelius, it said that he was “one who feared God” (Acts 10:2). Paul speaks of this in Romans 2 –
“For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law 13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; 14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) 16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.” Romans 2:12-16
Job did not possess the Law of Moses, and yet he had a law written upon his heart that led him to seek out the true God as He had been thus far revealed. He anticipated restoration with Him through the promised Messiah, and he was noted as a son of God (Job 1:6) through this. Peter continues with “and works righteousness.”
Again, it is a present participle, saying, “and is working righteousness.” This is a horizontal acknowledgment of God, and it is seen in actions directed toward others according to a standard that is pure and faithful. God is looking at those who are fearing Him and who are then expressing that fear of Him in a manner that is appropriate. Of Cornelius, it said that he “gave alms to the people and prayed to God always” (Acts 10:2). Someone may give alms to the people, but he may not be doing it because of an acknowledgment of God. Instead, he may be doing it to to simply get ahead in life. That is self-serving and unacceptable.
Likewise, of Job, it says that he was “one who feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1). Job confessed that –
“I was eyes to the blind,
And I was feet to the lame.
16 I was a father to the poor,
And I searched out the case that I did not know.
17 I broke the fangs of the wicked,
And plucked the victim from his teeth.” Job 29:15-17
Like Cornelius, these things were done because he feared God. And this is the heart of the Law of Moses, as spoken by Jesus –
“So he answered and said, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” Luke 10:27
This is the thought now being expressed. With that noted, Peter finishes with, “is accepted by Him.” In the Greek, it is an adjective connected to a present tense verb – “is acceptable.” The incorrect translation would cause a rather significant theological problem. Rather, the full clause rightly says, “is acceptable to Him.”
John Gill rightly says, “though God accepts of such who fear him, and work righteousness from a right principle, and to a right end, without any regard to their being circumcised, or not circumcised, or to their being of this or the other nation, yet their fear of him, and working righteousness, are not the ground of their acceptance; but are to be considered as descriptive of the persons, who are accepted by him in Christ; for there is no acceptance of persons or services, but in Christ Jesus.”
Such a person is “acceptable” to God, but only in Christ can he be “accepted” by Him. One cannot do an end around God in Christ. Job anticipated the coming Messiah through his limited knowledge of what God was doing. Cornelius is now on the “after” side of the coming of Jesus. God has heard his prayers and seen his deeds and has sent Peter to take him the necessary further step to Christ Jesus.
The entire account bears this out. It is not that Cornelius was accepted by God, but that he is acceptable to God because of his rightly directed heart and his actions which displayed that heart. Now, Peter has been summoned to take that heart that acknowledges God and direct it to the Messiah, who alone can remove his sin and make him accepted by God.
Life application: A wrongly translated word can make a world of difference. The NKJV, following after the KJV, has introduced an error that makes it appear that Cornelius has been accepted by (or with) God apart from Jesus. From there, an explanation of what the true meaning is must be constructed, as John Gill did above.
The error of translation can be overcome by a continued reading of the passage which reveals Cornelius was saved after hearing and accepting the gospel. But it is far too often the case that people will take a verse, such as this one now being analyzed, and make up an entire commentary or sermon about how people are saved by their right heart towards God and their good works towards others if they have never met Jesus. And it would all be based on a mistranslation that has been copied again and again from eons ago –
Tyndale Bible of 1526
is accepted with him.
Coverdale Bible of 1535
is accepted vnto him.
Bishops’ Bible of 1568
is accepted with hym.
Geneva Bible of 1587
is accepted with him.
King James Bible
is accepted with him.
New King James Version
is accepted by Him.
As a side note, the word “accepted” can also be an adjective, such as “he is handsome in the accepted sense.” However, the meaning when combined with “is” changes it to a verb. As such the meaning is changed as well. Be studious and be ready to question both people’s commentaries and their translations. In the end, no person will be saved apart from what God is doing in Christ. There are no loopholes, no end-arounds, and no acceptable “Plan B’s.” It is Jesus who saves. Thank God for Jesus!
Heavenly Father, thank You for our Lord and our Savior, Jesus Christ. May we never waffle in our convictions or in our proclamations concerning Him. May we take His words of John 14:6 as true, literal, and unchangeable – “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Thank You, O God, that You have made this way possible! Amen.