Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Testimony of Holy Scripture on Justification by Implicit Faith: Part II

“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. God sent the word to the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all).” (Acts 10:34-36)

St. Peter here again repeats what we have already seen: that God does not respect persons, and that every man who fears God and does what is just is acceptable to Him. I want to draw emphasis to this phrase, “But in every nation” because there are several important points that we can draw out of it.

First, it is clear that St. Peter is not limiting this claim of his to any particular time; God is eternal and does not change. This truth holds always and everywhere. St. Peter here is expressing a truth concerning the universality of the manner in which God relates to men.

Second, because this truth is so universal, St. Peter must be referring it to Gentiles and Jews, both before Christ and after Christ. If he did not intend it to apply to the gentiles who have not heard the preaching of the Gospel, this would destroy the universality of the truth expressed, since it clearly applies to Gentiles before the Gospel.

Some might object to this and say, “Of course everyone that fears God and works justice is always and everywhere acceptable to Him, but those Gentiles who have not heard the preaching of the Apostles just are not able to be just, because they need Christ to be justified.” This claim is absurd, since St. Peter's statement applies to before Christ came, when faith in Christ had to be implicit, and thus those before Christ were able to fear God and work justice without an explicit faith in Christ. But St. Peter is clearly giving the same terms of salvation for before, and after: Everyone who does what is just is acceptable to him.

Furthermore, as we saw in the first Scripture text from Romans, the Gentiles are able to do what is just by fulfilling by nature the law that is written upon their hearts. Hence it is clear that everyone has the power within him to do what is just. (Of course this cannot be without the grace of God moving one to fulfill the law written on one's heart)

Also, it is abundantly clear from the context that the source of St. Peter's comes from the testimony of Cornelius, because God found Cornelius acceptable, who was a gentile, yet feared God, and was a just man who spent time in prayer to God. Thus, the apostle is clearly applying his principle to a man after the preaching of the Gospel, yet he does not distinguish the principle between those men before Christ and those after; therefore it is reasonable to place Cornelius into the category of those men who were justified by their implicit faith in Christ before the coming of Christ.

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