Sunday, May 13, 2012

“No Partiality” (Acts 10:34-35)

S-1317 6SAE/3B 5/13/12 Hymns: (O) #202; (S) #387 vv 1-5; LS. #387 vv 6-10; #349; 313; (C) # 53

Text: Acts 10:34-48; 1 John 5:1-8; John 15:9-17

Theme: “No Partiality” (Acts 10:34-35)

Question: “Do you show favoritism?” Armour, SD.

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is from Acts: “So Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘Truly I understand that God shows no partiality,’ but in every nation anyone who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him” (Acts 10:34-35).

Most beloved in the Lord Jesus Christ, the One who rose from the grave, know this truth and hold it dear to your hearts. God’s Word is solid, strong and sincere. God’s Word is clear, concise and constructive. God’s Word is positive, precise and powerful. God’s Word is tried, tested and true. God’s Word teaches us that He shows no partiality when it comes to saving sinners the world over.

In today’s text, the Holy Spirit uses the Apostle Peter to teach us again this blessed truth that God indeed shows no partiality. This is in response to the loving and gracious working of the Savior, Jesus, who revealed to Peter, with the story of the Gentile Cornelius that His Gospel is intended for both Jews and Gentiles (“every nation” v.35). Peter needed to know this truth and so do we!

Peter confesses that “of a truth,” literally, “on the basis of reality,” he is comprehending, grasping more and more that God is not a re­specter of persons, partial to the Jew merely because he is a Jew, unfair to the Gentile just because he is a Gentile. The Greek word used here refers to a judge who looks at a man’s face and renders a verdict, not with the facts of the case, but according as he likes or dislikes the person.

In reality though, God does the contrary (ἀλλἀ): BUT “in every nation” He accepts only those who fear Him and work righteousness. Jew and Gentile who fail to do so He rejects. God is a just Judge. This is the fear of which both Testaments speak constantly, the mark of godly men, the fear of reverence, faith, and obedience. This is the true God who reveals Himself in the Scrip­tures and not a God as some imagine Him according to their imagination.

It is imperative that we, too, glean this fact, that the Gospel is not only for us who think highly of ourselves. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is for all people everywhere from every tribe, language, people and nation. In another place, the Savior told the disciples just before He ascended into heaven saying: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Mt. 28:19-20a), Here again, the Savior declares that He shows no partiality to saving everyone from the punishment of hell and the power of death and Satan.

Truly, our God is a God who shows no partiality. Unlike us, we do, and often. Some of us are jealous of our neighbors. Others do not trust black people and still others don’t respect the Native Americans. Some of us discriminate against obese people, unemployed people, homeless, drunks, drug addicts; or people who are different than us. We become the judge and jury and show partiality and favoritism. PAUSE.

I share with you an incident that happened to one of my colleagues in Rapid City. The pastor writes: “I was walking down by Rapid Creek with my boys (Rapid City is full of bike/walking trails). I heard a moan under a tree and under that tree was a drunken, stinky, wretched looking homeless man. I grabbed my kids, hurried them along, and I can distinctively remember looking behind me as I was walking away, thinking to myself, ‘Why doesn’t somebody do something about folks like this?’

I did not see in that person my own weakness, my own sin, my own wretchedness. I was not witnessing to the God who shows no partiality because I didn’t see in that man’s brokenness my own brokenness. Thanks be to God that in Christ God shows no partiality, because if He did, there’s a good chance that He could have excluded me just like I had excluded that homeless man in my own heart.”

Isn’t that typical of us also? Many times we act and behave just like my colleague did in Rapid City. Whenever we disagree with somebody we do it with an air of superiority and not in sincerity, love, and truth. We show partiality to our own pride, experience, identity, and background. We actually think that these things make us better than the other person. Such a response is a terrible witness to the God of love who shows no partiality.

The proper witness is one that sees in the other and their position and weakness, your own weakness and then glorifies God all the more that you’re both forgiven and redeemed. This is a most humble and joyful privilege that we the redeemed and forgiven children of the heavenly Father, give a clear and concise witness to the God of love who shows no partiality.

Remember what my colleague asked? ‘Why doesn’t somebody do something about folks like this?’ Well someone did—Christ our Savior. Because Christ showed no partiality to me by going to the cross in my place, suffering my hell and dying in my place, and redeemed me the drunken, stinky, wretched looking homeless man/woman that I am. Thus we ask the Holy Spirit to help us show the world the God of love who shows no partiality—the God who doesn’t hold His forgiveness from us or His love towards us but extends His grace and mercy to us in spite of us. When we do, we share with all people about the true, honest and sincere JUDGE who doesn’t look at us as worthless, but valuable, treasured, precious and most beloved in His sight. PAUSE.

Beloved in the Lord, many times we show favoritism, we discriminate and we look down on people. We often act better and superior to others because we think, we are better Christians. Consider this please. Manasseh was the son of good king Hezekiah. But what a contrast he was to his father! He was involved in idolatry, blasphemy, murder, witchcraft, even burning his own children alive as offerings to false gods. Surely if ever a man were a hopeless case, it was Manasseh. And yet, we are told that in the end, he repented and God forgave and restored him. We might say, “That man’s sin is too horrible. Do not forgive him, Lord!” Who wants Manasseh as a neighbor in heaven? How foolish we are, when we sit in the judgment seat. How confused we are, just like Peter thought that salvation was only for the Jews.

Yet, when we see our own evil as God must see it, it is easy to think God should not forgive us either. But God chooses differently. God offers forgiveness freely even to the worst of sinners—yes, even to us. No matter how horrible the sin, God isn’t impartial to remove the sin from us. Jesus takes it away, nailing it to His cross, where He paid the whole price for our redemption.

What we need to know and which Pastor Pete revealed to us today is this: Though, we’re partial to others, yet our loving Savior, Jesus Christ took all those things to the grave so that we could be raised in impartiality and the freedom of that impartiality. It’s only in God’s forgiveness, spoken and received, in Word and Sacraments that we can truly witness to the God who shows impartiality.

Outside of the cross of Jesus Christ and its killing and making alive, we turn God’s impartiality into our partiality. We do this so that we can avoid admitting the uncomfortable truth that there’s no difference between us and our worst enemy in the eyes of God—we all need forgiveness. We all need His mercy. We all need His grace. And we all need His constant and ever flowing love to be faithful in living our lives for Him and the benefit of our neighbor.

Oh, the joy of knowing that we are forgiven in Christ. Oh, the blessing in knowing that God loves us enough to die in our place. Indeed, God be praised that He’s given us forgiveness in Christ and given us the charge to share it with those around us.

Today, by the Spirit’s power, we have been instructed on the God who shows no partiality. Therefore, we leave here comforted and assured that He will use us to share this good news with all people—people from every tribe, language, people and nation to the glory of His holy name. Amen.

Now the peace…


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