God Shows No Partiality – Romans 2:11

blind-justiceThis salvation or judgment is for the Jew first and also the Greek, “God shows no partiality.” Having already said Salvation is for the Jew first and then the Greek, Paul now says both Jews and Greeks will be held accountable equally when God judges their works.

Paul describes God as impartiality (προσωπολημψία) in Gal 2:6; Eph 6:9 and Col 3:25, and the word is sometimes included in sin lists (Polycarp, 6:1). The word is derived from πρόσωπον λαμβάνω and only appears in Christian writing and is related to ἀπροσωπολήμπτως, 1 Peter 1:17 (K. Berger, “προσωπολημψία, ας, ἡ” pages 3:179-80 in EDNT).

In the LXX this and similar phrases are used to translate the Hebrew phrase nāśā’ pānîm, “lift up a face.” This is a sign of favor; if a king “lifted your head” he was extending a favor. God does not “lift the head” to show partiality in his judgments. In the Pauline literature, God’s impartiality means he saves both Jews and Greeks on an equal basis, the Jews do not have an advantage as God’s chosen people, nor do the Greeks have a disadvantage because they were outside the covenant given to Israel.

That God is a fair, impartial judge is found frequently in the Second Temple Period, often using similar phrases to Paul’s in Romans 2:11.

1 Enoch 63:8 On the day of our hardship and our tribulation he is not saving us; and we have no chance to become believers. For our Lord is faithful in all his works, his judgments, and his righteousness; and his judgments have no respect of persons.

2 Baruch 44:4 For you see that he whom we serve is righteous and that our Creator is impartial.

Psalms of Solomon 2:16-18 For you have rewarded the sinners according to their actions, and according to their extremely wicked sins. You have exposed their sins, that your judgment might be evident; you have obliterated their memory from the earth. God is a righteous judge and he will not be impressed by appearances.

These verses indicate God is an impartial judge with respect to judging sin. Does that impartiality also extend to salvation? For most Second Temple Jewish writers, Gentiles were going to be punished, although some may respond to God and find salvation in Israel. But this would be a very small percentage of Gentiles.

In the New Testament, Peter’s experience with Cornelius illustrates this well. After Peter preaches the Gospel to Peter, he realizes that God’s impartiality extends even to the Gentiles, a remarkable statement for a Second Temple period Jew (Acts 10:34). Peter was unwilling to share the Gospel with a gentile until God specifically commanded him to go to Cornelius. Even then, it was only after Cornelius received the Holy Spirit that Peter realizes God does not show partiality with respect to salvation.

Paul’s claim that both Jews and Gentiles will be treated the same with respect to God’s justice might have been a surprise to a Jewish reader of Romans. Surely the Jews have advantages over Gentiles as God’s people. How radical is Paul’s claim that both Jews and Gentiles will face an impartial God, either for judgment or salvation?

10 thoughts on “God Shows No Partiality – Romans 2:11

  1. I believe that this statement is quite radical for Paul to give, particularly towards the Jews. Jews have lived as the only people under God’s covenant for so long and now they have to share in a new covenant with the Gentile believers since Christ came. The Jews most likely feel entitled to having more favor with God since they are His chosen people, and to have that torn down now is quite radical of a belief. It makes sense though since Deuteronomy 10:17 tells us of God’s impartiality. The Jews have heard of this characteristic of God, but I don’t think that they had taken it to heart among all the peoples, rather within themselves. God will judge all of us the same though, whether the Jews think they deserve it, or more likely, not.

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    • I feel I would have to agree with you that this is a radical statement for Paul to make to the Jews. I also would have to agree that the Jews have lived under the old covenant of the Pentateuch for so long that this new covenant allowing Gentiles into the kingdom of God is probably hard for them to process. I also could see where the Jews would feel more entitled to God and more in favor with Him or deserving more favor purely because like you say they are the chosen people of God. I also appreciate what you say about them not taking God fully to heart and within themselves. God will judge all of us and I think it is important that we all live our lives remembering that and I feel the Jews may have struggled with that.

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  2. I think that Paul’s statement was radical in that day and age, because the Jews believed that being members of the Covenant with God, set them apart and that they were more special in God’s sight than others. Since they believed they were God’s chosen people, the Jews would have expected Paul to preach about God showing some form of favoritism for them. Paul’s writing to the Romans was therefore requiring him to set right their misconception that there was no need for “the righteousness of God in Christ, for their sin, they would argue, is taken care of through God’s covenant arrangement with them,” (Moo, 51). This letter to the Jews was telling them not too get too full of themselves for having heard the Gospel first, but because Gentiles now had equal opportunity to receive salvation through Christ, as they did. Jesus’ coming had already been shockingly different from what the Jews always expected, and after these Jewish Christians had come to accept the truth and good news regarding Christ, now they were learning that Christ had died so that they would be impartially judged for their actions and saved from their sins, and that the impartiality meant that they were on the same level as the Gentiles they’d always looked down on. I think that some Christians today have become complacent and have the sort of over-comfortable feeling those Jews did. Although we Christians are very grateful we are able to call God our Father, despite being Gentiles ourselves, many of us nowadays look towards current Jews or non-believing pagans with either pity or condemnation. Christians with that stance should learn from the Jews’ misunderstanding about acting more righteous than others. All of us are equal on earth, all of us deserve death, yet Christ died for us all regardless, due to His great love for us. Paul mentioned in his letter, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God presented Him as an atoning sacrifice through faith in His blood, in order to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance He had passed over the sins committed beforehand,” (Rom. 3:24-25). These verses were meant to illustrate that it does not matter whether one is Jewish, Gentile, grew up in church, or never heard anything about Christ before, all of us fall short of the glory of God and deserve death, but God loved all of us from the beginning, giving all of us an equal chance at redemption through the sacrifice and cleansing that occurred thanks to Jesus Christ
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  3. I tend to think the early Christians thought God’s impartiality also applied to believers and unbelievers (Eph 6.9; Col 3.25; 1 Pet 1.15-17) as well as Jews and Gentiles (Acts 10.34; Rom 2.11; Gal 2.6). The first has significant implications in my mind regarding the end judgment. Its on the same basis for all and as Jesus and some apostles said – its according to works.

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  4. I think Paul is right is saying salvation is for both the Jew and the Gentile. However, does that mean God is going to judge them equally? Probably not. The Jews have been given both natural and spiritual revelation. This is why Paul says they have an advantage. But do they have an advantage? I would think not because the gentiles have only been given natural revelation. The Jews could never keep the law perfectly, and failing to do so brings judgment. Since God is a just God, he shows no partiality. Meaning who will judge each man according to the revelation God has given them and the works which they have done on this earth. Paul is right in saying God does not have a bias as to who can receive salvation. God will also Judge each man by what He has revealed to them and the work which they have done.

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  5. In the time of the Roman church, this could have been shocking to hear. We know that the Jews and Gentiles had some inner turmoil, and now that Paul is saying that they are going to be judged together may be a wake up call. I think about this situation from the point of view of the Jew. If the Jews believed the Gentiles were so much lower than they were, they are now being dropped to that level with the Gentiles with this verse from Paul.

    In regards to God being impartial, we serve a just God who shows no favoritism towards specific people group. This must be hard for the Jews to hear as well because they have been God’s chosen people and in the Covenant with God since Abraham. We know that God shows no favoritism or partially because of the way that we gain salvation. One group of people doesn’t have to do anything different than another group. We all gain salvation into heaven by the same way. We all need to accept what Christ did for us on the cross and trust in Him forever. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sings and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We are all broken, and God sees all sin as bad; no people group are exempt of that. The power of Christ on the cross restores us.

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  6. How radical is Paul’s claim that both Jews and Gentiles will face an impartial God, either for judgment or salvation?

    At the time that Paul said this, I think that it was quite a radical thing to be saying! For the longest time, the Jews felt that they had a step up on the Gentiles, that they were better because God had specifically chosen their people to be His nation. The Gentiles were like the second picks of the draft, they weren’t good enough to be first picks, but they still had a respect for the religion. What Paul was saying was that there wasn’t any difference between the two groups of people anymore, because who by keeping the old covenant laws was doing it for the right reasons? That was where Paul’s faith and works thing came in. The passage about Abraham being faithful is a clear depiction of this. Moo says this about Abraham’s faith, “Specifically, he did not allow all the many reasons to distrust God’s promise to weaken his conviction that God would do just what he had promised” (Moo, 95). It wasn’t his action that made him righteous, but the reason behind the action.

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  7. One’s view of how radical Paul’s claim is depends on his or her perspective. Back when a Savior was promised, He was promised to man, not just to the Jews. Although God created a people for Himself, this did not change the fact that Christ would die for all men. In addition, Paul says in Romans 2 and 3 that although there is merit in being a Jew, this will not save them, his first example is that God has chosen to reveal his Law and Word to them. Many Gentiles never had that luxury. However, salvation does not come from hearing the Law, but from obeying it. None of us can hold up to the standard of the Law. This means if we are to be saved from impending judgment, we only have one common salvation: Jesus Christ. Paul reflects this in Colossians when he says that we are all one in the body of Christ and include the phrase “Here there is no gentile or Jew.”

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