Christian Living

If God Does Not Show Partiality Neither Should We

The early church was initially made up of predominantly Jewish Christians. But the heart of the gospel message required a seismic shift in their way of thinking. What their culture and tradition had embedded within them was blown away by God’s grace. This new life in Christ and the royal law of His kingdom was transformational. They began to realize that God does not show partiality, and so neither should we!

What Is Partiality?

We know that in the Bible, partiality is regarded as a sin. Scripture also reveals to us that God does not show partiality. But what exactly is partiality? The dictionary definition of partiality is unfair bias in favor of one person or thing; favoritism. But does it go deeper than that?

Many modern translations of the Bible use the word favoritism instead of partiality. Is this because partiality is a slightly dated word, and not so commonly used now? But partiality in Scripture hints at not only showing unfair bias but also that the motivation for doing so is self-seeking.

Instead of the word partiality, an older translation of the Bible, the KJV will often use a phrase that ‘God is no respecter of persons.’ I find this helpful in understanding partiality by highlighting that God is not influenced by outward appearances. There is nothing that we can bring to gain advancement with God – He sees the heart of every person.

“For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” 2 Chronicles 16:9 NIV

A picture of a mixed group of people all smiling with a quote from Psalm 33v18 to symbolize that God does not show partiality but looks at the heart of every person.
God Does Not Show Partiality

God Does Not Show Partiality

Scripture clearly teaches that God does not show partiality, and He is no respecter of persons. God is not influenced by a person’s status, position, wealth, or race. He does not view one person as more, or better, than another because of who they are, what they’ve got, or where they have come from.

Knowledge, wealth, or impressive titles do not draw a person closer to God. Lack of education, poverty, and low status do not drive a person away from God. These are all external factors of advantage, or disadvantage, that are temporary. God looks past all of these outer trappings and into the heart of every person.

In the early church, a new era of faith began founded on the Lord Jesus Christ. The invitation that whoever believes in Him will be gifted eternal life suddenly opened the door of God’s kingdom. The exclusiveness of faith in God that Israel had developed, was replaced by an inclusive worldwide gospel.

Related Post: El Roi The God Who Sees Me

Partiality Within The Church

The instruction to the early church not to show partiality first appears in a circular letter from James the leader of the church in Jerusalem to scattered believers. James writes to them with encouragement to grow and mature in faith.

The letter is packed full of practical advice for these mainly Jewish Christians. One of the issues that is addressed is not to show partiality within the church. Although these Jewish Christians would have a shared cultural background there were still differences in wealth and status.

Showing preferential treatment to the rich was discriminatory and self-serving. And had no place in the new kingdom life of humility and service that had already being demonstrated by Jesus.

Partiality In The Community

As the gospel spread out from Jerusalem a new era began. This realization came first to Cornelius, a Roman centurion. After a vision from God, he sent an appeal to the Apostle Peter to come and speak to his household.

Peter was willing to come because God had also been preparing him for this dramatic change. Recently he had been lodging in Joppa with Simon the Tanner – a man who had an unclean occupation for a Jew. Peter however was willing to stay in his house.

When Cornelius’ men who were Gentiles arrived at Simon’s house, Peter invited them to stay overnight. For Jews to share the same accommodation as Gentiles was contrary to their prescribed practice of separation.  

Peter, in response to the vision he had received from God was willing to go to Cornelius’ house. There he shared the good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ. The clear message, ‘that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name’ was being demonstrated. As Peter spoke the Holy Spirit came upon his listeners who were all Gentiles. His Jewish companions were amazed to hear these Gentiles praising God!

Favoritism Forbidden James 2:1

The Book of James, one of the earliest circular letters to scattered believers, teaches that faith and partiality are incompatible. It could not be clearer that those who are followers of Jesus, who believe in Him, must not show partiality.

“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.” NIV
“My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality.” NKJV
“My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.” KJV

The foundation of James’ teaching here is based on the royal law of love of Jesus’ kingdom. These are the commandments that Jesus declared summed up the law and the Prophets.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:37-40

In the light of God’s mercy and grace towards us we are commanded to love one another. And that is not self-seeking but a selfless love. Showing favoritism based on someone’s status or wealth violates the foundation of the gospel.

God Is No Respecter Of Persons Acts 10:34-35

The Book of Acts records the spread of the gospel and the beginning of the church. The Apostle Peter, to whom Jesus had given the keys of the Kingdom, opened the door for new Gentile converts to be accepted into the family of believers.

Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.” NIV
“Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” NKJV
“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.” KJV

At Cornelius’ house, the revelation that God does not show partiality was a defining moment for the early church. God is no respecter of persons, and He does not exclude anyone based on their race or nationality.

Now God’s plan was being revealed. His plan had began as a promise to Abraham, that all nations would be blessed through him (Genesis 12:2-3, Bible Gateway). But God’s plan was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

“And now the LORD says… “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

Isaiah 49:5-6
A picture of a mixed group of people all smiling to symbolize that God does not show partiality, and the gospel is open to all, with the text 'Is partiality present in the Church?
If God Does Not Show Partiality Then Neither Should We

If God Does Not Show Partiality Then Neither Should We

The church today is not immune to the sin of partiality. It may be more subtle but it is still present. It is something that we all need to be aware of our conscious, and sub-conscious, bias. If we honor someone purely because of their influence or connections, and regardless of their character, we are guilty of partiality.

We all have a natural tendency to befriend people that are just like us! Those that we understand and with whom we have things in common. But the church is open to all – the gospel of Jesus Christ is good news for the world.

That does not mean that we will all be called to share the gospel in far-flung places. But that we are ready to welcome whosoever in our community into the family of God. Even those who are not at all like us, with whom we have nothing in common but our desire to follow Jesus!

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

Ephesians 4:3-6

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