Respect of Persons

by Jeannette Haley

If you were to ask most Christians to list certain attributes of God’s character, they would most likely recite such characteristics as loving, long-suffering, holy, just, righteous, merciful, immutable, omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent, to name a few. However, how often is the fact that God is no respecter of persons taken into serious consideration?

For us, being a respecter of persons is as natural to our fallen disposition as it is for water to run downhill. From the beginning of our entrance into this world, we tend to believe that the entire Universe revolves around us, or that it should. Within this tendency is the feeling of superiority, especially towards people of different backgrounds, education, social or economic standing, or nationality. The definition of such superiority is prejudice, and the source is pride—that insidious enemy of our souls which is epitomized in Satan himself.

It’s not unusual for even Christians to insist on maintaining their rights to harbor hidden prejudicial resentments and judgments against some, while showing preference to others who better serve their purpose. Christians are plainly warned of this sin in James 2:1-9. We, who are called by His Name, know that Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords, was meek and lowly in attitude and disposition. His practice of eating with publicans and sinners, for example, demonstrated His godly attribute of impartiality to all people. Christ shed His blood on the cross for all men, knowing full well that the majority would reject the salvation so freely offered there, and He prayed for His persecutors.

In Deuteronomy 10:17-19a we read: “For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward: He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. Love ye therefore the stranger…” Again, we are admonished in 2 Chronicles 19:7: “Wherefore now let the fear of the LORD be upon you; take heed and do it: for there is no iniquity with the LORD our God, nor respect of persons, nor taking of gifts.”

Job, God’s righteous servant, understood God’s impartiality when he declared: “If I despise the cause of my manservant or of my maidservant, when they contended with me; What then shall I do when God riseth up? And when he visiteth, what shall I answer him? Did not he that made me in the womb make him? and did not one fashion us in the womb?”  Job 31:13-15. In Job 34:19 we read: “How much less to him that accepteth not the persons of princes, nor regardeth the rich more than the poor? For they all are the work of his hands.”

When God revealed to the Apostle Peter His desire to bring salvation to the Gentiles, “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. The Apostle Paul, also, bearing witness of God’s impartiality to all people wrote: “For there is no respect of persons with God” Romans 2:11.

God does not see as we see (1 Samuel 16:7b) or think as we think (Isaiah 55:8), yet we are forever trying to bring Him down to our level (humanizing Him), while at the same time exalting ourselves to His level. In other words, there is a strong undercurrent today subtly eroding the divinity of God, while at the same time exalting the position of man to godhood. The true believer is faced with a massive polluted flood of so-called “Christian” books, movies, magazines, contemporary music, art, and so forth that requires a great deal of discernment to wade through. If the proper foundation of whom God is (based upon the character and attributes of His unchangeable nature) has not been established in a believer’s life through strong discipleship, then he or she is standing on a shaky foundation that will not be able to withstand the heretical assaults against the truth.

What does that have to do with being a respecter of persons? The answer is plenty! Because being a respecter of persons stems out of personal pride and prejudice. If such wickedness is not fully repented of, it will pervert one’s ability to humbly come into line with God’s character (holiness, love, mercy, etc.) and perception (righteousness judgment). Once a person’s perception is bent through self-righteous justification to his or her way of thinking, then his or her perception will taint every conclusion, judgment or decision made. At this point, self-delusion becomes the base from which all unrighteousness judgments are handed down upon others. In other words, God’s character, will and ways have been forsaken, while self-righteousness, religious standards, harsh judgments, and conclusions have taken their place. God is no longer Lord in such a person’s life, nor is He Lord of the situation. Rather, the person reigns from his or her own self-exalting position.

It’s interesting to note what God has respect to, and what He does not. Right from the beginning, in Genesis 4:3-7, we read the story of Cain and Abel and the offerings they brought to God. In verse 4b we read:“And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect.”We learn from this portion of Scripture that from the very beginning, it was understood that a true sacrifice, because of mankind’s sin, involved the shedding of blood for the remission of sins. (See Hebrews 9:22). Abel’s offering pointed to Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who shed His blood for the sins of the world. But, Cain’s offering failed to point to Christ, and was convenient and self-serving. No real sacrifice was involved, yet he impudently expected the Lord to respect (and receive) his pathetic offering.

God, being no respecter of persons, told Cain, “Why art thou wroth? And why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door.” All Cain had to do was humble himself, repent and do right to be accepted by God. Yet, Cain, exemplifying the attitude of most of mankind who love darkness rather than light, chose to maintain “his rights” by slaying his brother.

The examples left to us by Cain and Abel, and God’s response to each are important for us, as a Church, to understand if we are to grasp what is acceptable in God’s sight. Cain serves as a powerful example of many church goers today. After all, Cain believed in God. He even brought an offering to Him, and heard His voice. On the surface, a person who attends church, puts money into the offering plate and testifies of hearing God’s voice is often exalted in the eyes of others as a “good Christian.” Let’s be honest here—wouldn’t you think at first glance that such a person is acceptable to God? I know I’ve made that judgment many times in my life, only to be later proven wrong.

A person like Cain appears to be religious, and a “good person” according to acceptable, religious standards. As long as such a person continues to go along with the flow, and not “make waves,” he or she is considered a real asset to the church. But, an examination of this type of person’s spiritual life and the fruit it produces in light of Scripture tells a different story.

First, let us consider Cain’s attitude towards God. His offering reveals a man who had no respect for who God is, what He is worthy of, or what He requires. Bringing an offering of the fruit of the ground is merely offering an earthly offering to God. It’s like saying, “God, I’m a good person, so I’m offering to you my natural goodness to use as You see fit.” It’s amazing how many people say, “He or she is a ‘good’ person,” or, even worse, “I’m a ‘good’ person.” But, the Bible is clear that there is no good thing in us. Romans 3:10-12 tells us: “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” Jesus plainly stated to the rich ruler in Luke 18:19, “Why callest thou me good? None is good, save one, that is, God.”

We see that Cain did not understand, nor did he care to, by seeking after God and what was pleasing to Him. He merely gave a convenient, token offering that cost him nothing since it was given out of his abundance and did not constitute a true sacrifice such as Abel’s offering. Cain’s disrespect for God and His ways was obvious, yet in his rebellious state, he fully expected God to overlook such arrogance and to be pleased that he had offered Him anything. Sorry to say, this same attitude can be found among church people today, as they play silly religious games, pretending to be what they are not, and skirting the issue of sacrificial giving, by offering whatever is convenient for them or makes them feel good about themselves. The sad fact is, God is not pleased, nor does He have any more respect for their show of faith than He did Cain’s.

Cain, like so many heretical teachers and movements today, set about to establish his own brand of religion, thus changing the nature and character of God to suit himself. He didn’t see the necessity of maintaining truth through personal integrity and self-discipline borne out of fear of God. Rather, he wanted to redefine what was acceptable to God concerning man’s responsibilities in the area of repentance, faith, uprightness, steadfastness, hatred of evil and love for God’s ways. If Cain could get God to bow down and accept his worldly offering which excluded a blood sacrifice, then he could establish another way to God that could be accomplished through good works and self-effort. Sins could be forgiven and God’s favor secured without a blood sacrifice. Basically, it would mean that God had respect for Cain and his own version of “New Age” humanistic beliefs.

As with false teachers today, when confronted with the truth of God’s Word and ways, Cain became filled with wrath. Instead of humbling himself and repenting, Cain’s true heart and motives were further exposed. If he had truly loved God, he would have been grieved at his failure, and quick to repent and change his attitude and ways. We all know, however, the tragedy which followed as Cain began the downward spiral from a self-righteous person giving an outward show of piety, to extreme wrath at God’s rejection of such, to the decision to walk in disobedience, to eventually murdering his brother, Abel.

But, what does Abel’s life exemplify? What kind of a legacy did he leave? We know that Abel was a man of faith, one who believed God and brought a sacrifice that was accepted by God—a sacrifice that pointed to Jesus. Abel demonstrated his faith and love through his actions. We see his innocence in trusting his brother, Cain, in the field where he lost his life. But, the greatest memorial to Abel comes from the lips of Jesus Himself who called Abel righteous, and the first martyr. (See Matthew 23:35.)

Who are the Abel’s of today? They are those who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb. They are those who have confessed that there is no good thing in them, that they have fallen short of the glory of God, and that salvation can only be secured through faith in the shed blood of Christ. The Abel’s of today are those who shine like stars in the darkness, and who lead lost souls to Christ. These are those who continue to lay their lives on the altar, as living sacrifices to God. The Abel’s among us have forsaken all, denied themselves, taken up their cross and follow Jesus on the straight and narrow road. They are witnesses—the martyrs of the world who, with the Apostle Paul, boldly declare, “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God” Acts 20:24.

            The Abel’s among us today are free from the idolatry of exalting denominations, churches, religious dogma, and traditions, along with certain leaders and movements. They have no other goal than to see Jesus lifted up, and God glorified, and they work selflessly in practical service to see that goal accomplished in the lives of others. The Abel’s are no respecter of persons, but rather “condescend to men of low estate” and prefer others over themselves.

Unlike us, God is no respecter of persons, but He does have respect towards those who, out of a pure heart, keep His commandments. Jesus said, “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” John 14:23. The broken hearted can be encouraged as well: “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit” Psalm 34:18. Finally, we have this beautiful promise from the Lord: “For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word” Isaiah 66:2.

Are you that person?