I have received a couple of questions regarding our belief in the sovereignty of God as it extends to the salvation of man. How is it that we can declare that God elects some to eternal life from before the foundation of the world when the Bible says that there is no partiality with God? I thought I would write a brief response for those wondering how these two truths interact.
First, I would highly encourage anyone who is wrestling with the truth of God's sovereignty in general or predestination/election in particular, to listen to and/or read the various resources that we have available on our Web site regarding these topics. This particular post will simply deal with the relation between election and impartiality and thus will not deal directly with the biblical rationale for election itself.
The truth of God's impartiality is quite evident from the following Scriptures:
Acts 10:34 "So Peter opened his mouth, and said: "Truly I understand that God shows no partiality."
Romans 2:11 "For God shows no partiality."
Galatians 2:6 "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."
Ephesians 6:9 "Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him."
Colossians 3:25 "For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality."
James 2:1 "My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory."
What is critical to understand from these passages is the immediate context. Both Acts 10 and Romans 2 are dealing explicitly with the relationship between Gentile and Jew. Galatians 2 is speaking of the reputation of those whom Paul consulted in Jerusalem. Ephesians 6 and Colossians 3 are both concerned with the relationship between slaves and masters. James 2 speaks of the partiality which is often shown to the rich at the expense of the poor.
Each use of the word or phrase translated into English as "partiality" is derived from the Greek word próspon which means "face." What Luke, Paul, and James are writing is that God does not distinguish on the basis of circumstance or characteristic. Jew or Gentile, famous or obscure, master or slave, rich or poor, these conditions are not taken into account by our God. As a literal translation of Galatians 2:6 would read, "God does not receive the face of man."
The context of these passages should clarify the meaning of the impartiality of God. He does not receive, choose or accept men or women on the basis of any condition within that person. Rather than contradict the doctrine of election, a proper understanding of God's impartiality could actually lend it support as we realize that God's electing love and mercy is not conditioned upon the character or circumstances of a man, but rather lies only within "the counsel of His will" (Ephesians 1:11). Let us therefore be like God, not in His sovereignty, but rather in His impartiality. Let us be a people who do not love or serve on the basis of color, status, reputation, language, nationality, occupation, or wealth. Let us not "receive the face of man."