How does the doctrine of election fit with the phrase that "God is no respecter of persons"?
This is a very good question and one that quite naturally would come up to the person who is thinking about these truths. I think that if we take a close look at how God uses this phrase, we will see that there is no conflict at all with his sovereign election of a specific number of people to salvation and the bypassing of others.
Respecter of Persons
There is a subtle twisting of God's inspired words taking place in many modern versions in how they are rendering the phrase "respecteth not persons". This is so subtle, that I believe most Christians have not noticed it. The change in meaning produced by versions like the NKJV, NIV, ESV and NASB unfortunately fits in with so much of modern, popular theology, that many would actually consider it to be an improvement over the King James reading. It fits the philosophy of the natural mind of man.
The concept that "God has created all men equal" does not come from the Holy Bible. God obviously has not created all men equal, nor does He deal with every single individual or nation in what seems to us to be a fair and impartial manner. Many have become so influenced in their thinking by the reasoning of the world, that they cannot discern this obvious truth.
God has created, formed and made each of us. Yet He has not given to all equal intelligence, good looks, physical skills, nor spiritual gifts. "He divideth to every man severally as He will." Exodus 4:11 tells us "And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD?".
Not all are born in a country which even has the word of God in its culture, or where it would be openly taught and encouraged. Psalm 147:19,20 "He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye the LORD."
Some are born in abject poverty, disease and ignorance, while others are blessed with abundant crops, education and families that care for them. "The rich and poor meet together: the LORD is the maker of them all." Proverbs 22:2.
The phrase "to accept the persons of men" or "to respect persons" does not mean, as the modern versions have translated it, "to show partiality" or "to show favoritism". One of the chief arguments of the Arminian side against the doctrine of election is: "God does not show partiality or favoritism, so election cannot be true." The new bibles are reinforcing this fallacious argument.
"Not to show partiality" is to treat all men equally; and God does not treat every individual equally, as His word clearly testifies. Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary defines "respecter of persons" as 'a person who regards the external circumstances of others in his judgment, and suffers his opinions to be biased by them'.
People who object to the doctrine of unconditional election raise the objection that “God is no respecter of persons.” They obviously do not understand what this phrase means.
They are the ones who end up making God a respecter of persons by their defense of conditional election. Most “free willers” think that God’s condition of election is that He somehow looked down the corridors of time and saw who would have faith and who would not, and therefore on that basis chose the ones who would believe and rejected those who would not.
This whole idea is nothing more that turning things upside down and backwards. It would mean that God DOES have respect of persons because He would be respecting the actions and choices of some men over others who did not make the same choice to believe.
The God revealed in Scripture is NOT a respecter of persons in this way at all.
God's dealings with a man are not based on outward appearance, position, rank, wealth or nationality. God's election is not based on any seen or foreseen good in those whom He chooses. Rather, His own sovereign purpose and the good pleasure of His will are the only deciding factors.
"For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth. (Romans 9:11)
We are told in Deuteronomy 7:6-8 "For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people: for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you".
Deuteronomy 10:14-17 "Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the LORD'S thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is. Only the LORD had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day." Verse 17 "For the LORD thy God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which REGARDETH NOT PERSONS, nor taketh reward."
Here both election and "not regarding persons" are used in the same context.
God says He chose ONLY the fathers (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) and their seed to be His people, and not the others. That He "REGARDETH NOT PERSONS" means that He does this, not on the basis of their nationality, nor their good moral character (for they were a stiffnecked and rebellious people), but because is was His good pleasure to do so.
Other Bibles that agree with the KJB here in Deuteronomy 10:17 are Wycliffe 1395, Coverdale 1535, the Great Bible 1540, Matthew's Bible 1549, the Bishops' Bible 1568, Geneva Bible 1587, the Bill Bible 1671, The Thompson Bible 1808, Webster's Bible 1833, the Longman Version 1841, the Boothroyd Bible 1853, the Lesser Old Testament 1853, The Revised English Bible 1877, Darby 1890, Young's 1898, the Revised Version 1881, the ASV of 1901, Rotherham's 1902, The Ancient Hebrew Bible 1907, the JPS 1917 Jewish Bible, the 1936 Hebrew-English, The Word of Yah 1993, Complete Apostle's Bible 2005 - "who is no respecter of persons", A Conservative Version 2005, the Bond Slave Version 2009, the Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010, the New Heart English Bible 2010, the New European Version 2010 - "does not respect persons", The Orthodox Jewish Bible 2011 - "which regardeth not persons", the Biblos Interlinear Bible 2011 - "regards not persons", The World English Bible 2012 - "who doesn't respect persons", The Hebrew Names Version 2014 - "who doesn't regard persons".
Interlinear Hebrew Old Testament - "which regardeth not persons"
God's First Truth 1999 - "which regards no man's person"
Bible in Basic English 1961 - "who has no respect for any man's position"
However the NKJV, NIV and NASB have "shows no partiality". The Catholic St. Joseph NAB says: "has no favorites" while the New Jerusalem bible of 1985 has: "free of favouritism". If God chose Israel to be His people, and not the others, is not this showing partiality?
Deuteronomy 14:1-2 "Ye are the children of the LORD your God...and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." Why did not God choose the other nations to be his children and to know his laws? Isn't this showing partiality or favoritism?
2 Samuel 14:14 - "NEITHER DOTH GOD RESPECT ANY PERSON"
One verse among the hundreds that have been messed up by the NKJV, NIV, ESV, Holman and NASB is 2 Samuel 14:14. Here Joab saw that king David's heart was toward his son Absalom. So Joab sends a wise woman to speak to the king. In verse 14 she says: "For we must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again: NEITHER DOTH GOD RESPECT ANY PERSON: yet doth he devise means, that his banished be not expelled from him."
In other words, we all must die, whether rich, poor, Jew, Gentile, man or woman, king or servant; God does not look at our social station and on this basis exclude some from death.
Other Bible versions that read as the King James Bible are the Geneva Bible of 1599, the Webster Bible 1833, the Longman Version 1841, The Jewish Family Bible 1864 - "NEITHER DOTH GOD RESPECT ANY PERSON", the Jewish Publication Society 1917 translation - "NEITHER DOTH GOD RESPECT ANY PERSON; but let him devise means, that he that is banished be not an outcast from him.", The Revised English Bible 1877, The Sharpe Bible 1883, Young's 1898, The Ancient Hebrew Bible 1907 - "NEITHER DOTH GOD RESPECT ANY PERSON", the KJV 21st Century version 1994, the Third Millennium Bible 1998 and the Jubilee Bible 2010 - "NEITHER DOES GOD RESPECT ANY PERSON; yet he does devise means that his outcasts not be expelled from him."
Other Bibles that read the same way and do not create this theological error are The Word of Yah 1993, The Revised Webster Bible 1995, The Concordant Literal Version 2009 - “and Elohim DOES NOT ACCEPT A PERSON", the Bond Slave Version 2009 - "neither does God RESPECT ANY PERSON", Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010 - "neither doth Elohim (אלהים) RESPECT ANY PERSON: yet doth he devise means, that his banished be not expelled from him.", Biblos Interlinear Bible 2011 - "neither does God RESPECT ANY PERSON"
Interlinear Hebrew Old Testament - "neither respect doth God person"
The Bishops' Bible of 1568, and the Geneva Bible of 1599 and The Revised Geneva Bible 2005 have the same basic meaning as that found in the King James Bible, saying: "For we must needes dye, and we are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered vp againe: NEITHER DOTH GOD SPARE ANY PERSON, yet doeth he appoynt meanes, not to cast out from him, him that is expelled."
The Boothroyd Bible 1853 says: "GOD ACCEPTETH NO PERSON" and Young's 1898 is similar with: "AND GOD DOTH NOT ACCEPT A PERSON"
The Judaica Press Complete Tanach 2004 translation done by Rabbi Rosenburg says: "For die we must, and are as water that is spilt on the ground which cannot be gathered up again; AND GOD FAVORS NOT A SOUL, but He devises means that he that is banished be not cast from Him."
This rendering agrees with the sense found in the King James Bible.
The Complete Jewish Bible 1998 has the same meaning, with: "For we will all die someday; we’ll be like water spilled on the ground that can’t be gathered up again; and GOD MAKES NO EXCEPTION FOR ANYONE."
Foreign language Bible that agree with the meaning found in the King James Bible are the Spanish Sagradas Escrituras 1569 - "ni Dios hace acepción de personas, mas busca la manera para no echar de si al desechado.", the Spanish Biblia Jubilee 2010, and the Spanish Reina Valera Gómez Bible 2010 - "y Dios no hace acepción de personas, sino que provee los medios para que su desterrado no quede alejado de Él." = "and God is no respecter of persons, but also provides the means for his banished not stay away from him", the Italian Diodati 1649 - "e Iddio non ha riguardo ad lacuna persona" = "and God has no regard for any person", and the Romanian Fidela Bible 2009 - "nici Dumnezeu nu se uită la vreo persoană; totuşi plănuieşte mijloace, încât cel alungat al său să nu fie scos de la el."
But many bibles, including the NKJV, NIV, ESV, Holman and NASB have the ridiculous reading of "YET GOD DOES NOT TAKE AWAY LIFE", instead of "neither doth God respect any person". This is a lie and a contradiction. In this very book in chapter 12:15 "the LORD struck the child" of David and Bathsheeba and it died. In I Sam. 2:6 we are told "The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up", and in Deuteronomy 32:39 God says "See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand."
It is not that the Hebrew will not allow the meaning found in the KJB, that the NKJV, NIV, ESV, Holman and NASB have so badly mistranslated 2 Samuel 14:14. They all likewise have translated these same words in other places as they stand in the KJB and others.
"No Respecter of Persons" in the New Testament
The phrase "no respecter of persons" is found six times in the New Testament, and every time the modern versions have distorted the true meaning. Romans 2:11, Ephesians 6:9, Colossians 3:25, James 2:1 and 9, and Acts 10:34. In each case it has to do with not receiving the face, outward position, nationality or social rank of another. But God does not treat all people the same, nor are we told to do so either. We are to withdraw from some, avoid, exclude, reject, separate from, and not cast our pearls before others.
Most importantly, God Himself chose His elect people in Christ before the foundation of the world and "of the SAME LUMP" makes one vessel unto honour and another unto dishonour - Romans 9:21. This is definitely showing partiality, but it is not respecting persons.
Romans 2:11 says "For there is no respect of persons with God."
So also read Wycliffe 1395, Coverdale 1535, the Great Bible 1540 (Cranmer), the Bishops' Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1587, the Beza New Testament 1599, the Bill Bible 1671, Mace N.T. 1729, John Wesley's N.T. 1755, the Worsely Version 1770, Thomas Haweis N.T. 1795, the Thompson Bible 1808 "For with God there is no respect of persons.", Webster's bible 1833, Living Oracles 1835, the Pickering N.T. 1840, the Longman Version 1841, the Hewett N.T. 1850, The Commonly Received Version 1851, Murdock Translation 1851, the Boothroyd Bible 1853, American Bible Union N.T. 1865, Anderson's N.T. 1866, Noyes Translation 1869, The Alford N.T. 1870, The Revised English Bible 1877, the Revised Version 1885, the ASV of 1901, Rotherham's Emphasized Bible 1902, the Worrell N.T. 1904, the Clarke N.T. 1913, Lamsa's translation of the Syriac Peshitta 1933, Green's Interlinear 1985, The Word of Yah 1993, the KJV 21st Century Version 1994, the Third Millennium Bible 1998, The Lawrie Translation 1998 - "For there is NO RESPECT OF PERSONS with God.", The Sacred Scriptures Family of Yah 2001, The Tomson N.T. 2002, The Revised Geneva Bible 2005, the Bond Slave Version 2009, English Jubilee Bible 2010, the Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010 - "For there is no respect of persons with Elohim (אלהים).", The New European Version 2010, The Work of God's Children Illustrated Bible 2011, and The Revised Douay-Rheims Bible 2012.
The Julia Smith Translation 1855 reads: "there is no distinction of persons with God."
Darby 1890 has: "there is no acceptance of persons with God"
Youngs 1898 says "there is no acceptance of faces"
Foreign Language Bibles
Foreign language Bibles that read like the KJB here in Romans 2:11 are the Spanish Cipriano de Valera 1602, the Spanish Reina Valera 1960 and 1995 - "acepción de personas", Luther's German Bible 1545 - "Denn es ist kein Ansehen der Person vor Gott.", the Portuguese Almeida Corrigenda 2009 - "com Deus não há acepção de pessoas.", the Italian Diodati 1649 - "Dio non v’è riguardo alla qualità delle persone.", the French Martin 1744 and the French Ostervald of 1996 - "Car Dieu n'a point égard à l'apparence des personnes."
But the NKJV, NASB, ESV, NET, ISV say "there is no partiality with God" and the NIV, Catholic St. Joseph NAB, and the New Jerusalem bible all say "God does not show favoritism".
The Worldwide English N.T. says: "God does not love some people more than others".
Yet this very book declares in Romans 9 "For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of him that calleth...Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated...I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy...So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy...Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth."
Please consider the true meaning of the phrase "no respecter of persons" and contrast it with the modern rendering. I hope you will see that it is not the same at all. Only the KJB contains the whole truth of the counsel of God.
All of grace, believing the Book - the King James Holy Bible.
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