What does it mean when God says He is not a “respecter of persons?”

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What does it mean when God says He is not a “respecter of persons?”

Post by Admin on Tue Jan 26, 2016 2:35 am

The basis for this is found in Acts 10, where Peter has had the encounter with the Roman centurion, Cornelius. This occurred after God had sent Peter a vision; according to the book of Acts, [a]bout noon the following day . . ., Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven—Acts 10:9-16. Following that, Peter was informed that he had company. According to Luke’s account in Acts, [w]hile Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.” Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?” The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to have you come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.” Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests. The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa went along—Acts 10:19-23. It is as Peter realizes that God has orchestrated this entire event so that Cornelius, his family and his friends can come to faith in Jesus Christ that he says, I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right—Acts 10:34-35. In the Greek, the word for “favoritism” (translated as “respecter” in the King James) is PROSOPOLEPTES (pros-o-pol-ape^-tace), which essentially refers to someone who exhibits partiality. This was an incredibly important, profound moment in the outreach of Christianity to the world because a Jew—Peter—was shown by God that His intentions of love, mercy, forgiveness, grace, and everything else that Christ reflected was not intended merely for the Jews but was rather intended for everybody. In Cornelius not only do we get someone who was a Gentile (non-Jew) but also someone who was a member of a nation that at that moment completely ruled the known world. Jews hated the Romans and, yet, God in this moment was telling Peter—and the world—that nobody was outside His plan of salvation or His desire for their presence in His kingdom. Peter should have already been familiar with this perspective, having seen Jesus deal with another Roman centurion (Matthew 8:5-13) as well as the Syro-Phoenician woman (Matthew 15:21-28). Certainly the final words that were recorded in Matthew (Matthew 28:18-20—the “Great Commission”), Mark (Mark 16:15) and Acts 1:8 reflected this same attitude.
There are a couple of other ways that the idea of favoritism or partiality is used in the New Testament. First, regarding sin, the apostle Paul wrote, There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism. All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous—Paul, Romans 2:9-13. Since we know that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God—Paul, Romans 3:23, sin is the great equalizer that leaves us all identical in God’s eyes—and identically in need of the salvation offered by Jesus Christ. And in the Greek, the same root word is used as in Acts 10, the idea being that God show no partiality or favoritism regarding our sinfulness. So when Paul wrote “all have sinned” under the inspiration and direction of God the Holy Spirit, that is exactly what God meant to communicate. As Paul made so clear in his letter to the Colossian church, Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism—Paul, Colossians 3:25. And secondly, the apostle James wrote of another kind of favoritism, a kind which apparently affected some measure of the early church. In his letter to Christians, James wrote this: My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong? If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers—James 2:1-9 (quoting Leviticus 19:18). In this instance, the favoritism shows itself in preferential treatment, thereby betraying a distinction—at only a surface level—where none should exist. Bottom line is this: Our sin makes us equals, our need for salvation makes us equals, and God’s perspective makes us equals. Because God shows no favoritism, neither should we.

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