So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” – Acts 10:34-43
There was a heated and contentious exchange recently between Senator Bernie Sanders and Russell Vought, President Trump’s nominee for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget. It was framed in such a manner that Mr. Vought could not easily express the truth of Peter’s statement: “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” (v. 34-35). That is not all that Peter said, but it would have been a good starting point, especially had Vought been able to quote Peter further on: “As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all)…” (v. 36).
I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the issue of salvation that has been won for us by Jesus’ sacrificial death and his resurrection from the dead, and how that relates to a key teaching of the New Testament and of Jesus in particular: the rule and reign of God (usually translated as “kingdom of God”).
Too often the matter of salvation is set up as a choice between two options. The first is if you don’t believe in Jesus you’re going to hell. The second amounts to God loves all people and will surely save good people. The problem with the first statement – true as it may be on one level – is that it reduces faith to a check-the-box exercise. Check the right box and you get a prize. The problem with the second statement (which seems to align with Peter’s comment in v. 34) is that while we may indeed identify some people as outwardly good, Jesus called even his disciples “evil”! (cf. Matthew 7:11). We all need redemption. Apart from the grace of God in Jesus Christ we are all lost.
Here is where the rule and reign of God comes into play: God rules over all things through his Son, Jesus Christ. He rules the world in his great power. He rules the Christian in his realm of grace. He rules the coming kingdom in glory. So it is this: We are all under the rule and reign of Christ – like it or not. That’s what Peter says, “he is Lord of all.” The question is whether we wish to be under his rule of grace, and ultimately glory. We are all under Jesus reign of power for he upholds “the universe with the might of his power” (cf. Hebrews 1:3). That is true for all people.
To be in the realm of Jesus’ grace and glory, however, is a matter of faith. Those who look to him will not be disappointed. Those who do not will be eternally sad. His will, however, is that all people look to him and are saved. God wants all people to rejoice in his glorious grace (cf. Ephesians 1:5-6), centered in Christ Jesus, and to delight in his true and eternal glory.