Respecter of Persons

In several verses of scripture in the bible we read where God is "no respecter of persons." But we also read in Gen.4:4, 5, "And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: but unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect." Also we read in Rom. 9:11 13 "(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." Thus it is apparent God showed partiality to Jacob over Esau, even as he had showed partiality to Abel over Cain.

How can these, seemingly, two competing ideas, that God is no respecter of persons and that God shows respect to persons, be harmonized?

The principle Greek word translated "respect of persons" is "prosopolempsia" meaning "partiality." So the phrase that "God is no respecter of persons" means that God does not show partiality to persons. To reconcile the ideas there must be a way (ways) in which God does not show partiality to persons and a way or ways in which God does show partiality to persons. To understand and harmonize these ideas we must go to the context in which they appear.

First, we will look at those verses of scripture in which it is taught that God is no respecter of persons and see on what basis God does not show partiality:

A. Acts 10:34, 35 "Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him." Peter said this at the house of Cornelius, a Gentile. Before this, Peter along with the other Jews had thought that God was partial to the Jews, because they were Jews. But God showed Peter that he had a people in every nation. Thus God is not a "respecter of persons" based on nationality.

B. Rom. 2:9 11 "Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; but glory, honor, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: for there is no respect of persons with God." This shows that God does not shew partiality in reward or punishment based on a person's nationality (Jew or Gentile).

C. Eph. 6:8, 9 "Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. And, ye masters, do the same thing unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him." This shows us that God does not show partiality in judgment based on whether a person is bond or free or whether he is a master or servant. Thus God doesn't favor the master over the servant or the
servant over the master.

D. Col. 3:25 "But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons." In the verses just prior we read about relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children, and masters and servants. Thus we must conclude that God is not partial in judgment based on whether we be husband/wife, parent/child, or master/servant.

E. James 2:1, 2 "My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment..." This teaches us that God doesn't value anyone based on their economic status.

F. 1 Peter 1:17 "And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear." This teaches us that God is not partial in judging our work. Thus if our work is good, it will be so judged and if it is evil, it will be so judged without partiality to any one over

Thus we see that God is not partial in judgment based on ones nationality, economic status, sex, societal position, position in the family, or whether he is bond or free.

In what manner does God have "respect of persons?" Let us now examine four passages that show us on what basis God has respect of some over others:

A. Ex. 2:24, 25 "And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them." Here we see God favoring or being partial to Israel over Egypt based on a covenant he had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

B. Lev. 26:9 "For I will have respect unto you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, and establish my covenant with you." Once again God is favoring Israel based on a covenant. This time it was the covenant he made with them on Mount Sinai.

C. II Kings 13:23 "And the Lord was gracious unto them, and had compassion on them, and had respect unto them, because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, neither cast he them from his presence as yet." Again we see God favoring Israel because of his covenant.

D. Ps. 74:19, 20 "O deliver not the soul of thy turtledove unto the multitude of the wicked: forget not the congregation of thy poor for ever. Have respect unto the covenant: for the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty." The psalmist is calling upon God to favor Zion based on His covenant. Thus we conclude that God shows favor to some over others based on His covenant. It is on the basis of God's covenant of redemption that he was partial to Jacob over Esau and to Abel over Cain.

Elder Vernon Johnson