Photo by Chad Runge / Creation Swap

Saturday, July 31, 2010


Here's an interesting question: Does God show favoritism? In other words, does He pick and choose certain people over others in regards to his grace and salvation?

I suppose the answer to that question might depend on who you are. If you're a born-again believer, your response would most likely be "no." The Bible  tells us that God shows no partiality.

But if you're not a believer, and you are offended by God's "narrow view" of salvation, you might say that God does so show favoritism. Although I suspect that if you are an unbeliever, you don't put much stock into the whole "salvation thing" anyway.

It's possible, though, that as a self-professed Christian (perhaps a nominal Christian), you have a different viewpoint toward heaven and eternal life. You might be apt to insist that God is all-inclusive rather than exclusive in His plan of salvation. For purposes of this discussion, however, these people I categorize as nonbelievers. You may disagree, but those viewpoints do not hold to Biblical teaching.

There is a need for clarification if we're truly going to understand this particular issue. On one hand, God is exclusive in that He states that only those who believe in His Son Jesus as the only way to heaven will be saved. 1 Peter 1:3-10 tells us that there are those who through election will receive God's favor. Romans 11:28-32  goes into more detail about election, but this passage is consistent in that it shows us it's still God who chooses those who will receive mercy.

One example of this is found in the Old Testament where God hardened the pharaoh's heart in order to accomplish His objective. God already knew how Pharaoh would respond to Moses and the Israelites. But even after a while it seemed as if Pharaoh might find a change of heart in letting the people go and worship God out in the desert. However, God was using Pharaoh to display His glory.  And He did so by hardening Pharaoh's heart.

The question, obviously then, is why would God do that? Romans 9:17 tells us that, "For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: 'I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.'"

In this context then, can it be reasonably assumed that God was choosing to give mercy to the Israelites, that He preordained to be saved through the water, over Pharaoh and the Egyptians who would perish? Isaiah 43:2,6-7 tells us about these that He created for His glory. Romans 9:18 explains that, "Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden."

So now the question comes. Does this show that God is using favoritism? It seems that way, doesn't it, since we're witnessing God showing favor toward those who He created so they would receive mercy?

There is something we have to consider, though, in answering this question. Let's look at the rest of Romans 9 where Paul explains in more detail about this particular act from God.

Romans 9:19-29
19One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" 20But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' " 21Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?  22What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— 24even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? 25As he says in Hosea: 

"I will call them 'my people' who are not my people; and I will call her 'my loved one' who is not my loved one," 26and, "It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them,

'You are not my people,' they will be called 'sons of the living God.'"  

27Isaiah cries out concerning Israel:

"Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved. 28For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality."  

29It is just as Isaiah said previously:
"Unless the Lord Almighty had left us descendants, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah."

Now, if we look at the definition of favoritism, what do we see? Favoritism is, "A display of partiality toward a favored person or group." But remember, God does not show partiality.  Luke 20:21 says, "So the spies questioned him: 'Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.'"

The difference with God is that what He does is not the same from what humans do. Ultimately what we're seeing here is a difference in the motive. From God's perspective, He created us for either mercy or wrath for the express purpose of His glory. From a human perspective, partiality almost always results in selfishness or preferential treatment. The motives are polar opposites. Why? Because from the point of God displaying His glory, He is displaying His love to us even more. Jesus, through selfless love, gave His life so that we might live. Romans 5:8 says, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." There was a sin problem that we couldn't deal with and God showed His love and His glory through Christ's sacrifice. God was showing that He will still display His wrath toward sin, but on behalf of the believer, His Son Jesus endured that wrath so we wouldn't have to and so we could obtain mercy.

God's decisions are not from a selfish standpoint. Nor are they preferential. A look at some Scripture gives us a glimpse at God's heart in this matter:

Leviticus 19:15
"'Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly."
Deuteronomy 1:17
Do not show partiality in judging; hear both small and great alike. Do not be afraid of any man, for judgment belongs to God. Bring me any case too hard for you, and I will hear it.
Deuteronomy 10:17
For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.
Deuteronomy 16:19
Do not pervert justice or show partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous.
2 Chronicles 19:7
Now let the fear of the LORD be upon you. Judge carefully, for with the LORD our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery."
Job 13:8-10
Will you show him partiality? Will you argue the case for God? Would it turn out well if he examined you? Could you deceive him as you might deceive men? He would surely rebuke you if you secretly showed partiality.
Job 34:18-20
Is he not the One who says to kings, 'You are worthless,' and to nobles, 'You are wicked,' who shows no partiality to princes and does not favor the rich over the poor, for they are all the work of his hands? They die in an instant, in the middle of the night; the people are shaken and they pass away; the mighty are removed without human hand.
Proverbs 24:23
These also are sayings of the wise: To show partiality in judging is not good:
Proverbs 28:21
To show partiality is not good— yet a man will do wrong for a piece of bread.

Yet, while understanding all of this, we still have to reconcile the fact that God does choose those He will show mercy and those He will display His wrath. Consider this: God knows the hearts of men, whether we will accept Him and take Him as our personal Lord and Savior, or reject Him and become the objects of His wrath. And because He knew the choices we would make, He also directs those choices to act in accordance with His will.

Though we may not understand all this, we must concede, on some level, that God knows right and wrong, He knows what is just and good, and His ways are always perfect. Isaiah 55:9 declares, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."

Does God show favoritism? No. Does God choose those He has determined beforehand to receive mercy? Yes. My question to you then is, "Has God demonstrated His love to you? Has He reached out to you and shown His love by poking and prodding at your heart and trying to get your attention?" If He has, then you must make a choice. Will you accept or reject His offer of salvation? Your answer is critical. However, God already knows the choice you will make. My prayer for you is that you are the object of His mercy; that the wrath that should be brought on to you because of your sin will have already been paid for when Jesus endured God's wrath on the cross. May today be considered the day of your salvation.


  1. Hi Dean,

    I believe you've hit on a key point, "From a human perspective, partiality almost always results in selfishness or preferential treatment. -- Therein lies the difference between God and humanity.

    You've posed an interesting view my brother..."...we still have to reconcile the fact that God does choose..." Looking at this from a human viewpoint, it would not appear fair that Pharaoh, Judas, Adolph Hitler, John Wayne Gacy and others were set apart to commit horrible acts against God and humanity. I believe individuals like these made choices and God allowed them to make those choices. I also believe that they had opportunities to repent and chose not to.

    As the scripture says, "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgements and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?"

    God is sovereign but God is also righteous; being sovereign doesn't make God right, who God is establishes Him as righteous.


  2. MTJ -

    As I said before, Romans is rich is its content. I love this Scripture in Romans that you reference. It sums this up very nicely. Thank you!

    God bless!

  3. Great study. Mankind will never understand that God is God and there will be times when we will not have the answers, but God still shows us His mercy and grace. God bless, Lloyd

  4. Lloyd -

    All I can say is praise the Lord that He has grace upon grace. Knowing what God's wrath ultimately means without having Jesus' substitutional sacrifice is very fearful.

    Thank you for visiting. God bless!

  5. I was saved, I am saved and I am being saved.Yes, but only GOD knows who they are.

  6. Michael -

    Yes, God certainly does know who He has extended mercy to. But I have to ask, why would Jesus say in John 13:35, "By this all will know that you are My disciples," if He wasn't giving us a distinction for those who are saved?

    Not only that, Jesus told us how to know if a person's life measures up to a disciple of His. He said "by their fruits you will know them." (Matthew 7:15-20) Does that mean as they believe and are saved that they're now perfect? No, of course not, but over a period of time a person ought to exhibit the fruit of the Holy Spirit as evidence to their new faith.

    Also, a person ought to be able to point to a time in their life when they committed themselves to Christ. A person can know, as Paul points out, if they're walking in the faith if they examine themselves. (2 Corinthians 13:4-6)

    I read some of your link, but I respectfully disagree with that teaching. I go strictly by what the Bible says, which is God's authoritative Word. Some of the interpretation from Scripture does not agree with what Scripture says elsewhere.

    Maybe you disagree. And that's fine. But the Bible is my stance. And you're going to have to convince me through God's Word.

    God bless!

  7. This is an excellent study! You really made some excellent points! I love this line towards the end, Though we may not understand all this, we must concede, on some level, that God knows right and wrong, He knows what is just and good, and His ways are always perfect." Awesome statement to sum up this article!

  8. Alisa -

    Thank you very much. I know there's so much that we don't know, or can't understand, about God. But as I heard from someone before, if God was someone we had all figured out, He wouldn't be God, would He?

    Thanks for your visit! God bless!