Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"God is No Respecter of Persons", out of context

I've heard on multiple occasions that miraculous workings from God can not take place in the modern day because God is not a respecter of persons, and if He gave a miraculous power to you but not to me, then that would make Him a respecter of persons.

This argument has never held water with me, for two reasons:

1) If it's true in the 21st century, it was true in the first century. But in the first century, not everyone had miraculous gifts. As Paul writes in Romans 12:
HCSB Rom 12:6 According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts: If prophecy, use it according to the standard of faith; 7 if service, in service; if teaching, in teaching; 8 if exhorting, in exhortation; giving, with generosity; leading, with diligence; showing mercy, with cheerfulness.
In the first century, it did not make God a respecter of persons if one person was given a miraculous gift (prophecy) while another was given a non-miraculous gift (giving with generosity). Why then would the exact same arrangement in the 21st century make God a respecter of persons? Has God changed in the past 2000 years?

The text clearly states that God gives different gifts to different people, so whatever is meant by the phrase, "God is not a respecter of persons", it can not mean that God can't give one person a miraculous gift and another a non-miraculous gift. The text is black-and-white on this issue.

2) To make this argument, the phrase "God is not a respecter of persons" must be taken out of context. Here are the two relevant scriptures:

KJV Acts 10:34Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 35But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
and

KJV 1 Peter 1:17And 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:
In the Acts passage, the context is that God is not a respecter of persons in relation to who will be accepted with him.

In the 1 Peter passage, the context is that God is not a respecter of persons in relation to how a person's work will be judged.

But the argument requires a different, third, context: that God is not a respecter of persons in relation to who gets what gifts.

This third context is not in the text. The Bible simply does not say that God is not a respecter of persons in relation to who gets what gifts, and thus this doctrine is an addition to God's Word.

Whether God gives miraculous gifts today or not is an entirely different issue. But to use the argument that He does not do so because He is not a respecter of persons is to make an argument that is not in the Bible, and is actually opposed to a clear statement of the Bible.

6 comments:

Wendy said...

Kent, what makes the gift of prophecy a miraculous gift?

Chyntt said...

Because prophecy comes from God, not from man or nature: thus, it is supernatural, or "miraculous".

1 Peter 1:21: "...no prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead, moved by the Holy Spirit, men spoke from God."

Wendy said...

Prayer is supernatural and/or miraculous then.

btw how do you define prophecy?

Chyntt said...

I have little problem with defining prayer as being supernatural/miraculous (although any human can pray, without any supernatural abilities being involved; it's only the God-heard, God-responded, God-helped prayers that have the supernatural element to them).

But my point is not to define this gift as miraculous or that gift as non-miraculous; we could disagree all day about which gifts are miraculous and which are not (or for that matter, what the definitions of miraculous/supernatural and non-miraculous/non-supernatural are).

My point is that the same distinctions we make today between miraculous and non-miraculous can be seen in the New Testament, and if those distinctions did not make God a respecter of persons then, they do not make Him one now.

As to how I define prophecy, I define it as "speaking for God". Strictly speaking, if one were to read God's written word, that person would be a prophet, as he's speaking for God. But more practically, such as it's used in 1 Cor 14, I believe prophecy is speaking for God via a direct message from God, given via supernatural means.

Chyntt said...

This blog post cross-posted to Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/3mqp8vb), where Betty Wimer McNeely had this to say:

Great job, Kent. I was just discussing this statement (respecter of persons) with someone. I've always hated the translation "respecter of persons" because it is inaccurate and makes God sound like something else BESIDES a loving Heavenly Father. The closest definition (in a translation that is most accurate) is "partiality" or "favorable bias, prejudice." In the world of grace, and in context, the Acts passage says, “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him." For Peter, this was the beginning of his ministry with the Gentiles, since God was showing him through the vision, that "Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name EVERYONE who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.” Acts 10:43. Here's another Scripture I love that shows that God might actually be ok with favorable biases: "To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, EACH ACCORDING TO HIS OWN ABILITY." Perhaps this is stretching things a bit, but I love that God is infinite, yet intimately acquainted with my abilities, thoughts, desires, (I can provide Scriptures for each of these:) and has plans for me that He Himself works together for good since I am called according to His purposes. I could go on...

Sheri said...

The water pipe to my house busted. I called a plumber who said he would come after lunch, but he never showed up. I went to the store to buy water and thought that I should ask my neighbor to help me find a plumber who would show up. When I got home, guess who was parked in front of my house? A plumber who was working for the business across the street. My pipe was fixed this morning. I give God the credit for bringing me a plumber just when I needed one. I also don't think that makes Him a respecter of persons just because He helps me out or gives me a gift.

It just happened again! I opened my Bible hoping to find the passage in Job that I saw during class tonight. My pen came up missing during class. As soon as I opened my Bible I found my missing pen had been left behind at the scripture I wanted to find!!Job 5: 20-27.God is good and He knows how to give good gifts to His children.