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“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

Peter’s point is not that Cornelius had earned his way into God’s good graces by his own highmindedness or performance.  His point is that Cornelius, the Gentile, did not have to become a Jew to be kosher with God.  As a Gentile in Christ, Cornelius was clean and complete, for God shows no racial or national partiality.

But Peter’s words say more.  “Anyone [of any race or nation] who fears God and does what is right” is acceptable to God.  Again, this is not legalism.  This does not displace the life and death of Jesus.  But it is moral sincerity.  It is the mentality that lies at the foundation of gospel faith and repentance.  It is not a moral demand made of God, but it is a softness of heart open to God.  If we are not morally conscientious people, what are we trusting God for?  The free offer of the gospel is righteousness, not casualness.  It is alarmed sinners, and they alone, who turn from themselves to a Savior for his radical grace.

With all the wonderful emphasis these days on justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, apart from all our works, let’s not lose sight of how that faith shows up in a person.  It cracks our hearts open to something new.  We start fearing God and doing what is right.  Not as deserving, not as meritorious, but as earnest.  It is all of God.  It might appear suddenly and without preparation.  But true faith lays hold of Christ with seriousness of purpose.

God cares nothing about race or nationality.  God does care about this.

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2 thoughts on “The mentality of faith and repentance”

  1. Dane says:

    Excellent Pop. I agree. This is also how I’d understand 1 Cor 7:19. Thanks.

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Ray Ortlund

Ray Ortlund is senior pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and serves as a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can follow him on Twitter.

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