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Acts 10:34-35 (DRB) And Peter opening his mouth, said: In very deed I perceive, that God is not a respecter of persons. But in every nation, he that feareth him, and worketh justice, is acceptable to him.

How do Protestants interpret this passage?

Specifically the parts "not a respecter of persons" and "worketh righteousness" (DRB uses the Latin "just" instead of the Germanic "righteous", used for instances in KJV)?

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Acts 10:34-35 contains nothing obviously Protestant-specific, so the intent of this question is definitely not obvious.

"... God is not a respecter of persons. But in every nation, he that feareth him, and worketh justice, is acceptable to him."

The scripture itself is obvious though. It follows Peter's vision in which he was taught that salvation is available to all mankind, not only to the physical nation of Israel as it had been under the Old Covenant.

Good people from all the world's nations can become Christians. As a result of this epiphany, Peter was able to welcome Cornelius, a gentile, and to help him convert.

  • "contains nothing obviously Protestant-specific, so the intent of this question is definitely not obvious" If it's not obvious, I meant to ask how Protestants specifically interpret this passage...not how it is 'specifically' or 'markedly' Protestant. – Sola Gratia Mar 20 at 22:14
  • @SolaGratia, my confusion is that I have no idea why you think a Protestant would interpret this any differently than a Catholic would. To me, the interpretation seems obvious and denomination-independent. – Ray Butterworth Mar 21 at 1:05
  • Unfortunately that "to me" isn't the same for everyone: that's why there are denominational tags and questions asking for the interpretation of a passage from a certain denomination or group. I think "and does righteousness" as a requirement for being "acceptable to him," just like Heb. 12:14, is at odds with sola fide/justification-sanctification-separation, though, if you wanted a specific reason I want the Protestant interpretation. – Sola Gratia Mar 21 at 22:30
  • @SolaGratia, okay, now I see what you're really asking. The main point of that verse is to indicate that salvation is now available to everyone, not only to Jews. That it includes the "worketh" phrase seems very minor and beside the point. I'd consider "he that feareth him and worketh justice" simply a poetic way of referring to potential Christians in other nations. It's the "other nations" part that is significant. – Ray Butterworth Mar 22 at 1:36
  • Perhaps the question should explicitly point out the "work" phrase, and rather than "Protestant" explicitly mention the specific grace-only doctrine that is held by some denominations. – Ray Butterworth Mar 22 at 1:37
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To understand Peter's conclusion in Acts 10:34, you'll need to understand his false premise going into his meeting with Cornelius.

PETER'S PREMISE

And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean. Acts 10:28

Now if you look in scripture for that "unlawful action" for a Jew to keep company with a Gentile (or nation as in 10:34), you won't find it in the 39 (Protestant) book of the bible. You will, however, find it in a Tradition book called Jubilees. That book was more influential at the time than the Old Testament. Indeed its view of things made it into the Christian church subsequently.

Remember Christ instructed the apostles to spread the Good News from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. After His ascension, God had to show Peter three times a vision of clean and unclean to get him to follow instructions (Acts 10:9-16).

Paul had to explain the Gospel that it was promised to Abraham that all nations were included (Galatians 2).

BOOK of JUBILEES TRADITION

Separate thyself from the nations, And eat not with them: And do not according to their works, And become not their associate; For their works are unclean, And all their ways are a Pollution and an abomination and uncleanness. Chapter 22 p16

That influential Tradition was directing Peter's words and actions. It was subverting the Good News. Again, it took a 3-time vision from God Almighty to change his thinking and changing, then going to the gentile Cornelius (representative of the nations).

OP SPECIFIC

The OP asks specifically about "respector of persons" and about "worketh righteousness".

As shown the first answer is that God is not a respector of one's nationality or religion.

But that is not to say that anything goes, but rather whosoever "works righteousness".

What is that work?

Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. John 6:29

CONCLUSION

Christ had to instruct Peter and come against a very determined Tradition about who could be saved and what that requires.

Once God got through to Peter via a vision, breaking the hold that the Book of Jubilees had on him, Peter obeyed and visited the nations (Cornelius).

When God poured out His Spirit, as Peter exercised the Keys to the Kingdom given from Christ to him, Peter exclaimed as he did. God is no respector of persons but accepts anyone who works righteousness.

Moreover, Paul too understood this two-pronged structure.

Where [in Christ] there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. Col 3:11

This attitude permeates Paul's work, apostle to the nations.

That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: Eph 3:6

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Rom 10:13

And again Peter confirms the same one body, one faith later in Acts after Cornelius at the first Jerusalem Council against those who would try to muddy the truth of the Good News.

And put no difference between us [Jew} and them [Gentile/nations], purifying their hearts by faith. Acts 15:9

Flows like a river ...

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In this specific section up until verse 43 Peter is speaking about Jesus' life and ministry.

The answer to the claim God is "no respecter of persons" but accepts the ones that fear Him and "worketh righteousness" is in verses 42 and 43

And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. To him give all prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believed in him shall receive remission of sins.

Peter concludes with an image of Jesus as the One appointed to judge humanity, yet makes it clear forgiveness and salvation are available to everyone who believes Him. God doesn't respect persons because they don't do His will, they are sinners and God is a just God. Nonetheless, those following Jesus receive "remission of sins" and a righteous status before God becoming "acceptable" to Him.

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I think it can be summed up as 'anyone how does what God says he will except regardless of race or nation.'

NWT Romans 2:11 "For there is no partiality with God."

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