Respect Of Persons

By Don R. Hastings

My brethren, hold not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons

Don’t Try To Be A Follower Of Christ And Show Partiality And Favoritism

You cannot be a true disciple of Christ and be a respecter of persons because Christ dealt with all people fairly and without partiality (Mt. 22:16; Lk. 20:21). Jesus taught Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews (Jn. 3:1). Jesus, also, taught a Samaritan woman (Jn. 4:7-26). Jesus ate with publicans and sinners (Mt. 9:10-13).

The heavenly Father “is no respecter of persons” (Rom. 2:11). It took a vision and the Holy Spirit sending Peter to the household of Cornelius before he realized “that God is no respecter of persons” and neither should he be (Acts 10:34,35). How can we claim to be faithful children of God and yet show a respect of persons?

We should not refuse friendship with a good person because: his skin color is different; he doesn’t live in a nice house; he doesn’t wear the latest fashions; he is poorly educated; he is not popular with the “in crowd”; etc. We should refuse close friendship with those who are trying to get us to do sinful things (Prov. 22:24; 1 Cor. 15:33)!

An Example Of How To Be Guilty Of Showing Partiality

Christians can show partiality in the worship assembly. The Greek word which is translated “synagogue” could also, be translated “assembly” (see footnote in ASV in Jas. 2). “Vile clothing” refers to clothing worn by “a beggar” (Mt. 19:21), one dependent on the charity of others for his very livelihood. . .” (New Testament Commentaries James, by AGuy N. Woods, p. 108). The rich man is given a place of honor. The poor man is told to stand, which was an extreme discourtesy, or told contemptuously, “sit under my footstool.” They had become judges with evil thoughts because their partiality was motivated by selfishness (Jude 16). Being a friend of the rich meant gaining prestige, and he might share with you some riches, but what could the poor man do for you? Moses told the judges of Israel not to “respect persons in judgment” (Deut. 1:16,17; 16:19; 10:17,18).

Do We Show Favoritism?

Preachers can show partiality by not preaching boldly on a particular sin because it would offend a prominent brother or sister. Elders can show favoritism by bringing disciplinary action on some sinful Christians, but not other sinful Christians. Brethren can form cliques so that they fail to speak to others. Do we show favoritism at home, work, school, etc.?

James points out that these Christians were dishonoring those who honored God and honoring those who dishonored themselves and God. The poor are more likely to become Christians because they don’t have riches to put their trust in (Mk. 10:23-35). It is far more important to be “rich in faith” and poor in material goods than be rich in material goods and poor in faith! The poor, who are “rich in faith,” have the promise of inheriting the kingdom in heaven-a far greater inheritance than the children of the rich (2 Pet. 1:10, 11). The rich speak against the holy name, “Christian” (Acts 11:26).

How To Keep From Being Guilty Of The Sin Of Respect Of Persons

“Fulfill the royal law . . . thou shalt love. . . “(Jas. 2). We are not to pick just certain neighbors to love and “look, down our noses” at all the rest. Jesus taught that everyone is our neighbor, whom we should love (Lk. 10:25-37). If we love our neighbor, we will not hurt him by discriminating against him. We know how it feels for others to be shown favoritism over us, and we must not make someone else feel that same pain (Mt. 7:12).

If a person violates any of God’s laws, he is a sinner and stands condemned unless he obtains forgiveness. The law is like one big piece of glass-break one piece and you have broken the whole thing. A person who would violate one law of God would violate another law if that law displeased him. A person is a criminal if he only breaks one law. I like the way Guy N. Woods put it, “God’s will must be obeyed, not because it commends itself to our sense of what is right and proper, but because it is God’s will!”

We shall all be judged, impartially, by a “law of liberty, ” which sets us free from the bondage of sin (1 Pet. 1:17; Jas. 1:25). None will escape judgment. All will be judged fairly with no respect of persons.

Which one of these two men described in our text would Since we will all need greatly the mercy of God in the you want to sit by you? Would you feel uneasy sitting by judgment, let us show mercy to others now (Mt. 5:7; black Christians? A congregation where I preached had 25:34-35). Mercy is compassionate treatment to those in at one time barred the door of the building so blacks could distress-whether friend or foe, rich or poor, black or not enter. Would you teach the Bible to black people? Do white or red, etc. If we show compassion for all men, we you invite all races to come and worship with you? will not be a respecter of persons.

Guardian of Truth XXIX: 13, p. 395
July 4, 1985