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OceanSide church of Christ
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RESPECTER OF PERSONS
Victor M. Eskew
God does not do it. The preacher of the gospel is commanded not to do it. Members of the church are warned against it. Yet, in almost every congregation it happens. The evil of which we speak is being a respecter of persons.
The Greek word that is translated “respect of persons” is a compound word in the Greek language. One part of the word means “face.” The other part of the word means “to receive.” Literally, therefore, the word means “receiving of face.” In other words, how we treat a person depends upon whose face it is. The word involves partiality and favoritism.
It is against the nature of God to be a respecter of persons. He is the Creator of all men. Therefore, He treats all men in the same manner. There is no bias with Him. He does not favor one above another. He does not treat human beings with partiality.
This is true in the matter of salvation. Every human being has the ability to be forgiven of his sins. All have access to the blood of Jesus whereby they can be cleansed of iniquity. The Jews of the first century had a difficult time with this concept. When God selected them to be His chosen people, they thought that God’s favor rested solely upon them. They were His “favorites.” All others were heathens and dogs. When the gospel began to be preached, it was clear that this concept was false, but the Jews still held to it. Even the apostles struggled with it. It took a vision from the Lord and the baptism of the Holy Spirit to convince Peter the Gentiles could become God’s children. “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” (Acts 10:34-35).
God is also no respecter of persons when it comes to His judgment. He will judge all fairly. He does not have one standard of judgment for one person and another standard for someone else. He will not overlook one man’s sins and hold another accountable for committing the same sins. Paul wrote that God “will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life: but unto them that are contentious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath…for there is no respect of persons with God” (Rom. 2:6-10).
CHRISTIANS ARE TO BE LIKE GOD
In the area of respect of persons, Christians are to be like God. It is sinful for us to play favoritism. It is a transgression of God’s will to treat individuals with partiality. Preachers of the gospel are not to act in such a manner. Listen to Paul’s words about this in I Timothy 5:20-21. “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.” This is not always a simple command to follow. Family members of the preacher could be in sin. Close friends could fall victim to Satan’s enticements. The one who needs to be rebuked could be one who contributes a large sum of money to the church treasury. The sin could involve the elders, the deacons, or members of their families. When sin raises its head, it must be rebuked. The man of God cannot play the game of favoritism in his preaching.
Members of the church are not to play the game of partiality either. James 2:9 states: But if ye have respect of persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.” In verse 4 of the same chapter, the writer describes those who show respect of persons as being “partial” and as being “judges of evil thoughts.” Verse 8 indicates that this behavior runs in direct opposition to the law of love.
EXCUSES, EXCUSES, EXCUSES
There are hundreds of excuses one could use to try to justify his being a respecter of persons. Some might say: “Isn’t it just human nature?” By this they mean that all of us have those that we are closer to than others. We have those that we associate with more than others. However, we must not mistake “closeness” for partiality. Jesus was closer to Peter, James, and John than to the other apostles. His closeness did not keep Him from being impartial. When Peter sinned, he was confronted just as Judas was.
Another excuse that people us to justify their being a respecter of persons is that it is hard to practice. The times that we are called to follow the command of impartiality makes adhering difficult. It usually involves sin in the life of one that we are “partial” towards. It could involve the discipline of a loved one. Just because something is hard does not mean that it should not be done. It was probably hard for Abraham to offer Isaac, but his faith pushed him through the difficulty. “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (II Tim. 2:3).
Another reason some will fail in this area is because they know that others will get angry if they are impartial. If one treats a family member like he treats the Jones, the family member will get upset. If one treats the rich like the poor, the rich will become disgruntled. There is no doubt that the practice of the command to have no respect of persons will rub some the wrong way. The question, however, is not whether we please men, but whether we please God. Paul put it in these words: “For do I now persuade man, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For it I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10).
In every church it would be simple to point out specific illustrations of favoritism. Each of us, especially those in leadership positions, should be careful in this area. Others can see our partiality. When they see it, it can cause them to lose respect for us as their spiritual guides. “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons” (James 2:1).