Acts 10:35
But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
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(35) In every nation he that feareth him.—The great truth which Peter thus proclaimed is obviously far-reaching in its range. It applies, not to those only who know the name of Christ and believe on Him when He is preached to them, but to all who in all ages and countries “fear God” according to the measure of their knowledge, and “work righteousness” according to their belief and opportunities. The good works in such a case, are, in their measure and degree, as “fruits of faith, and follow after justification” (Article XII.), justification having been, in such cases, objectively bestowed for the merits of Christ, and subjectively appropriated by the faith which, in the Providence of God, was possible under the conditions of the case. They do not come under the head of “works done before the grace of Christ and the inspiration of His Spirit” (Article XIII.), for Christ is “the true Light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9), and the Spirit is to every man “the Lord, and giver of life,” and the works are done “as God hath willed and commanded them to be done.” What such men gain by conversion is a fuller knowledge of the Truth, and therefore a clearer faith, a fuller justification, and a higher blessedness, but as this history distinctly teaches, they are already accepted with God. They are saved, “not by the law or sect which they profess” (Article XVIII.), but, even though they know not the Name whereby they must be saved (Acts 4:12), by Christ, who is the Saviour of all. The truth which St. Peter thus set forth proclaims at once the equity and the love of the Father, and sweeps away the narrowing dreams which confine the hope of salvation to the circumcised, as did the theology of the Rabbis; or to those who have received the outward ordinance of baptism, as did the theology of Augustine and the Mediaeval Church; or, as do some forms of Protestant dogmatism, to those who have heard and believed the story of the Cross of Christ. The language of St. Paul in Romans 10:9-14 should, however, be compared with this, as showing that the higher knowledge brings with it an incomparably higher blessedness, and that the man first tastes the full meaning of “salvation” when he consciously calls on the Lord by whom he has been saved.

10:34-43 Acceptance cannot be obtained on any other ground than that of the covenant of mercy, through the atonement of Christ; but wherever true religion is found, God will accept it without regarding names or sects. The fear of God and works of righteousness are the substance of true religion, the effects of special grace. Though these are not the cause of a man's acceptance, yet they show it; and whatever may be wanting in knowledge or faith, will in due time be given by Him who has begun it. They knew in general the word, that is, the gospel, which God sent to the children of Israel. The purport of this word was, that God by it published the good tidings of peace by Jesus Christ. They knew the several matters of fact relating to the gospel. They knew the baptism of repentance which John preached. Let them know that this Jesus Christ, by whom peace is made between God and man, is Lord of all; not only as over all, God blessed for evermore, but as Mediator. All power, both in heaven and in earth, is put into his hand, and all judgment committed to him. God will go with those whom he anoints; he will be with those to whom he has given his Spirit. Peter then declares Christ's resurrection from the dead, and the proofs of it. Faith has reference to a testimony, and the Christian faith is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, on the testimony given by them. See what must be believed concerning him. That we are all accountable to Christ as our Judge; so every one must seek his favour, and to have him as our Friend. And if we believe in him, we shall all be justified by him as our Righteousness. The remission of sins lays a foundation for all other favours and blessings, by taking that out of the way which hinders the bestowing of them. If sin be pardoned, all is well, and shall end well for ever.But in every nation ... - This is given as a reason for what Peter had just said, that God was no respecter of persons. The sense is, that he now perceived that the favors of God were not confined to the Jew, but might be extended to all others on the same principle. The remarkable circumstances here - the vision to him, and to Cornelius, and the declaration that the alms of Cornelius were accepted - now convinced him that the favors of God were no longer to be confined to the Jewish people, but might be extended to all. This was what the vision was designed to teach, and to communicate this knowledge to the apostles was an important step in their work of spreading the gospel.

In every nation - Among all people. Jews or Gentiles. Acceptance with God does not depend on the fact of being descended from Abraham, or of possessing external privileges, but on the state of the heart.

He that feareth him - This is put for piety toward God in general. See notes on Acts 9:31. It means that he who honors God and keeps His Law; he who is a true worshipper of God, according to the light and privileges which he has, is approved by him, as giving evidence that he is his friend.

And worketh righteousness - Does what is right and just. This refers to his conduct toward man. He that discharges conscientiously his duty to his fellow-men, and evinces by his conduct that he is a righteous man. These two things comprehend the whole of religion, the sum of all the requirements of God - piety toward God, and justice toward people; and as Cornelius had showed these, he showed that, though a Gentile, he was actuated by true religion. We may observe here:

(1) That it is not said that Cornelius was accepted on accouter of his good works. Those works were simply an evidence of true piety in the heart; a proof that he feared and loved God, and not a meritorious ground of acceptance.

(2) he improved the light which he had.

(3) "he embraced the Saviour when he was offered to him." This circumstance makes an essential difference between Cornelius and those who depend on their morality in Christian lands. They do not embrace the Lord Jesus, and they are, therefore, totally unlike the Roman centurion. His example should not be pled, therefore, by those who neglect the Saviour, for it furnishes no evidences that they will be accepted when they are totally unlike him.

35. But in every nation—not (observe), in every religion; according to a common distortion of these words.

he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness—This being the well-known phraseology of the Old Testament in describing the truly godly man, within the pale of revealed religion, it cannot be alleged that Peter meant it to denote a merely virtuous character, in the heathen sense; and as Peter had learned enough, from the messengers of Cornelius and from his own lips, to convince him that the whole religious character of this Roman officer had been moulded in the Jewish faith, there can be no doubt that the apostle intended to describe exactly such saintship—in its internal spirituality and external fruitfulness—as God had already pronounced to be genuine and approved. And since to such "He giveth more grace," according to the law of His Kingdom (Jas 4:6; Mt 25:29), He sends Peter, not to be the instrument of his conversion, as this is very frequently called, but simply to "show him the way of God more perfectly," as before to the devout Ethiopian eunuch.

In every nation; even though Romans or Italians, of which nation Cornelius was, and might probably be worse thought of by the Jews, because they supposed themselves to have been hardly used by them.

Feareth him, and worketh righteousness; these two particulars include the observation of both tables of the law: the fearing of God comprehends piety, that is, the true worship of the true God; and working righteousness, includes all the duties to our neighbour; and both describe a truly good and holy man, such as Cornelius was; unto whose case this is to be applied.

But in every nation,.... In any Gentile nation in the Roman empire, and in any part, even in Scythia, or in the most uncultivated parts of the universe, as well as in Judea:

he that feareth him; God, not with a slavish fear, or with the fear of punishment to be inflicted by him, with a fear of hell and damnation, with which Cain, Pharaoh, Judas, and even the devils themselves have feared him; nor with an hypocritical fear; but with a godly filial fear; which is a new covenant blessing, springs from the love of God, is a grace implanted in the soul and regeneration, and includes all true religion, both external and internal; and faith among the rest, without which it is impossible to please God, or do works of righteousness acceptable in his sight, as it follows:

and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him; that is, he who from such principles, as the fear of the Lord; love to him, and faith in Christ, does works of righteousness, particularly alms, as Cornelius did, and which the Jews often call "righteousness"; See Gill on Matthew 6:1, such an one is acceptable, or well pleasing to God, let him be of what nation he will: it should be observed, that 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: the Jews themselves say, that

"the godly of the nations of the world shall have their part and portion in the world to come. (n)''

(n) Maimon. apud Shebet Juda. Ed. Gent. p. 282.

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

(o) By the fear of God the Hebrews understood the whole service of God, by which we perceive that Cornelius was not void of faith, no more than they were who lived before Christ's time: and therefore they deal incorrectly who deduce meritorious works and free will from this passage.

Acts 10:35. ἀλλʼ ἐν παντὶ ἔθνει κ.τ.λ. The words are taken by Ramsay to mean that Cornelius was regarded as a proselyte by Peter, and that only on that condition could he be admitted to the Christian Church, i.e., through Judaism; so apparently St. Paul, pp. 42, 43. On the other hand the general expression ἐργαζ. δικαι. inclines Weiss to refer all the words to the piety attainable by a heathen, who need not be a proselyte. Bengel’s words should always be borne in mind: “non indifferentissimus religionum sed indifferentia nationum hic asseritur,” see also below, and Knabenbauer, p. 193.—δεκτὸς: “acceptable to him,” R.V., and this is best, because it better expresses the thought that fearing God and working righteousness place a man in a state preparatory for the salvation received through Christ, a reception no longer conditioned by nationality, but by the disposition of the heart. St. Peter does not speak of each and every religion, but of each and every nation, and Acts 10:43 plainly shows that he by no means loses sight of the higher blessedness of the man whose sin is forgiven through conscious belief in Christ; cf. the language of St Paul, Romans 10:9-14. δεκτὸς only in Luke and Paul in N.T., in LXX frequently, and once in the recently discovered Sayings of Jesus, No. 6, which agrees remarkably with St.Luke 4:24.

35. is accepted with him] i.e. is acceptable unto Him. God has no longer a chosen people, but calleth all men to repent, and will accept them.

Acts 10:35. Ἐν παντὶ ἔθνει, in every nation) It is not an indifferentism of religions, but an indifferency (impartiality) as to the acceptance of nations, that is here asserted. This is even evident from the contrary opinion, viz. that as to the circumcised only being pleasing to GOD; the opinion which Peter confesses himself delivered from. Cornelius had not been utterly ignorant of the doctrine as to the Christ, and the report concerning Jesus Christ (following verses), although he had not received circumcision; GOD so ordering it in His providence. Wherefore Peter speaks with him very differently from the way in which Paul afterwards dealt with idolaters, as the Gospel advanced onwards to more remote nations. See ch. 14 and 17. Hence also in Acts 10:43 he appeals generally to the prophets: which Paul, in the passages referred to, did not: nor does he, however, as he is wont everywhere to do in addressing the Jews, specially quote the testimony of the prophets.—ὁ φοβούμενος αὐτὸν καὶ ἐργαζόμενος δικαιοσύνην, he that feareth Him and worketh righteousness) According to the measure (standard) of primitive knowledge derived from the light of nature, and (or) rather from the revealed word. An indefinite description, suited to the matter in hand and its commencement (the exordium of his speech). Such men in various grades are elegantly described: for instance, ch. Acts 17:4; Acts 17:11-12.—αὐτὸν, Him) the true God.—δεκτὸς, acceptable) one to whom grace may be vouchsafed, even without circumcision. The verb λαβεῖν, to take (“out of the Gentiles a people for His name”), corresponds to this, ch. Acts 15:14, where this very passage is had in view.

Verse 35. - Acceptable to for accepted with, A.V. As regards the truth that God is no respecter of persons, which the present incident had brought home so vividly to Peter's apprehension, there can be no difficulty in understanding it. Cornelius was devout, he feared God, he was fruitful in prayer and almsgiving. God did not say to him, "All this would have been accepted in a Jew, but cannot be noticed in a Gentile." But, Gentile as he was, his prayers and alms went up for a memorial before God. If the things done were good in themselves, they were equally good whoever did them. God is no respecter of persons to accept or reject one or another, because of who he is, and not because of what he does (Ephesians 6:8). The rule is glory, honor, and peace to every one that worketh good, to the Jew first and also to the Gentile, for there is no respect of persons with God (Romans 2:10, 11). The word προσωπολήπτης (respecter of persons) occurs only here at all; προσωποληπτέω (to accept or respect persons), once only, in James 2:9; προσωποληψία (respect of persons), Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:25; James 2:1. The same idea is expressed by πρόσωπον λαμβάνειν, by which the LXX. render the Hebrew נָשָׂא פָּנִים, and by πρόσωπον θαυμάζειν, by which they also render it and the kindred phrase, חַדַר פָנִים (see Leviticus 19:15; Deuteronomy 10:17, etc.). The first phrase occurs in Luke 20:21 and Galatians 2:6; the latter only in Jude 1:16, where it is rightly rendered in the R.V., "showing respect of persons." Another phrase is ἀπροσωπολήπτως (without respect of persons), 1 Peter 1:17, and βλέπειν εἰς πρόσωπον (to regard the person), Matthew 22:16; Mark 12:14. Acts 10:35
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