Chapter CONTEXT from MHCC: Cornelius directed to send for Peter. (1-8) Peter’s vision. (9-18) He goes to Cornelius. (19-33) His discourse to Cornelius. (34-43) The gifts of the Holy Spirit poured out. (44-48)
I have harped on this so often that those who follow this devotional are probably sick of reading it, but context is everything when reading and studying the Bible. Our text for today is a great example.
Read quickly and without context one can interpret Peter as telling this group of gentiles that God does not care [no partiality] who seeks him, as long as they “fear” God and do right [by who’s standard] they are acceptable; but is this biblical? Does this mean universal acceptance of all by God as long as they fear Him and do what they believe is right? Again context is everything.
We must remember Peter a Jew, is telling a gentile audience that they too can be part of the covenant of God. That God is not partial when it comes to including those seek him righteously. The caveat or condition of God’s impartiality is that those who would seek him, (Gentile or Jew) must do so with fear and doing what is right:
he that feareth him;John Gill
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,…John Gill
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 (hqdu) , “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. F14”
As our contexts shows being [truely] acceptable to God requires more than acknowledging God or fearing him. It requires, as Peter continues in his discussion (v.36-43), intimate knowledge of Christ and His Lordship in ones life. This can only come via the Holy Spirit.
“The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And we know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit which He has given us” (1 John 3:24).
Because the Holy Spirit affects every area of the Christian life, it is vital that we have a balanced and correct view of His role.