Friday, November 18, 2011

God and Respect

Question: Does God respect people, or not? The Bible says that He respected Abel (Genesis 4:4), the children of Israel (Exodus 2:25; Leviticus 26:9), those who kept His covenant (2 Kings 13:23) and the lowly (Psalm 138:6). Yet, God does not regard persons (Deuteronomy 10:17) and has no respect of persons (2 Chronicles 19:7, Acts 10:34, Romans 2:11, Galatians 2:6, Ephesians 6:9 and Colossians 3:25). How do you answer this contradiction?

Answer: Reading the King James Version, the dilemmais easy to understand; however, a simple word study reveals something different. Since we do not speak the English of 1611, we must first check our definitions—does “respect” as we understand the term presently match the understanding of older usages? Consider the word, “prevent”: does it mean, “go before, precede” or does it mean, “keep something from happening?” Since the 1500’s the word “respect” (as a verb) means "treat with deferential regard or esteem." One other point: what about the original languages: Hebrew or Greek? The one word translated “respect” in English is at least four Hebrew words and three Greek words, each with a different meaning.
  • And the Lord had respect unto Abel.” (Genesis 4:4). The Hebrew word is sha`ah (look, gaze);
  • And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them.” (Exodus 2:25) The Hebrew word is yada` (perceive, know, see);
  • “For I will have respect unto you, and make your fruitful, and multiply you, and establish my covenant with you.” (Leviticus 26:9). The Hebrew word is panah (turn);
  • And the Lord was gracious unto them . . . and had respect unto them, because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob . . . "(2 Kings 13:23) Again, panah (turn);
  • “Though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect for the lowly.” (Psalm 138:6) Here the word is ra'ah (consider, see, perceive).

We may pause here and ask, “Does God see, perceive, know, turn toward, consider” persons? He sure does! But exactly how does He do it?

  • Let’s modernize and complete what is missing from the proof-text of Deuteronomy 10:17, “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.” (ESV);
  • For there is no iniquity with the Lord our God, nor respect of persons.” (2 Chronicles 19:7). The Hebrew word here is masso (lift up, show partiality);
  • God is no respecter of persons.” (Acts 10:34) The Greek word is prosōpolēmptēs (discriminates);
  • “For there is no respect of persons with God.” (Romans 2:11) The Greek here is prosōpolēmpsia (show partiality);
  • God accepteth no man's person.” (Galatians 2:6). This is only part of the text. Again, a modernized full version read, “And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)--those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me.” He is not swayed or influenced (as if anyone could throw more weight around than He);
  • Neither is there respect of persons with him.” (Ephesians 6:9) Again the Greek is prosōpolēmpsia (show partiality). The same is true of Colossians 3:25.
  • And if ye call upon the Father, who without respect of persons, judgeth according to every man's work.” (1 Peter 1:17) aprosōpolēmptōs (impartial). Self-explanatory.

Now we should ask if the first question is a good one, which we clearly see is not. Wouldn’t the better question be, “Does God treat people differently?” the answer is, "No. He is fair, and just because He cannot be bribed by good works. "He does not lift one person up over another, showing favoritism. If He did, we could say He was unfair, so the fact that He is “no respecter of persons” ensures that you get even-handed treatment along with everyone else in a world that despises discrimination.

Since He judges each person according to every man’s work, how does He see your heart? If you’ve ever broken any one of His commands, you must repent—turn from your sin—and put your faith and trust in the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ who died on the cross to pay the penalty for your sin. If you rely on your works, you are dead where you stand, being judged fairly. If you are lowly in heart, He will see you.

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