I’ve often heard it said that God is not a respecter of persons. This is of course Biblical, and at times, I’ve really had to pray this through, struggling to get a hold of the idea that what God will do for another person, He’s also willing and able to do for me.
Recently though, I’ve seen this concept in a bit of a different light. Before I get into that though, let’s take a look at some of the various verses that mention that God is not a respecter of persons. This is variously translated as “not a respecter of persons” or God “shows no partiality”. The idea is the same, in my un-scholarly opinion. The verses below are all KJV. You will find the word partiality used in the NKJV (hover over the references).
Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
For there is no respect of persons with God.
And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.
But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.
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:
God is not a respecter of persons
So what does it mean that God is not a respecter of persons… that God shows no partiality?
First off, have I done anything that is worthy of respect before the righteous Judge of the universe? No.
Second, can I do anything – in my own strength – that is commendable before God? No.
It is only by faith that we can please Him (Hebrews 11:6), and on top of that, it is not my faith, but the faith of Christ that I live by (Galatians 2:2). From Him, through Him, and to Him are all things (Romans 11:36), and that doesn’t leave much room for me, myself, and I.
It is the sacrificed blood of Christ that has made atonement for my sins; not my good works. Likewise, after salvation, my sanctification functions on the same principle. The only reason I can ever approach the throne of God is because of the shed blood of Christ, and His righteousness.
God is not a respecter of persons; but… He respects Christ in us!
That is the key, and it is the secret that makes the gospel equally attainable for all men. There is nothing that I can do in and of myself that will make me acceptable before God. The only thing that God respects in me is the righteousness of Christ. As that righteousness grows (sanctification), then in one sense we ‘gain respect’ before God but only because He now sees more of His Son in us, and less of ourselves.
The problem with this whole idea of God not being a respecter of persons is that we keep on trying to be worthy of respect! Another way of saying this might be that one man is just as good as the next, but in fact, the opposite is true. ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
So often we try to keep on earning God’s respect, reasoning that “He did it for so and so, therefore He will do it for me too!” This is completely the wrong way around, because God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). If we want to experience the grace of God, we must humble ourselves before Him… an act that has nothing to do with proclaiming that we also are worthy of His grace.
God is not a respecter of persons; so stop trying to be something before God. Read differently, God doesn’t respect men! Humble yourself, and realize that we can only approach God through the sacrifice of Christ. His grace is a gift freely given to us; we cannot earn it. As we decrease, Christ will increase in us, and God will honour that.