God Shows No Partiality – Romans 2:11

Both salvation and judgment is for the Jew first and also the Greek because “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?

22 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.

    • 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.

  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

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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.”

  8. This idea would have been extremely radical to Jews during this time period. For centuries before this, the Jews had been told that they were the “chosen people”, and they were constantly being told of the blessings that would come to them. Deuteronomy 14:2 says that they are the “holy people”, and that out of all of the nations on the earth, the Lord chose them to be his “treasured possession”. This was something amazing that Israel could boast about; something that no other nation or people was able to claim. So, when Paul claims that Jews and Gentiles are equal, and that they both have claim to God’s promises, this probably would have made the Jews very upset. And not just because they were told that they were the chosen people. The Jews had been charged with following “the Law”, which meant many different things – circumcision, special food laws, the Sabbath, etc. To the Jews, following this Law was part of what made them holy. So when Paul tells them that the Gentiles, who did not follow this law, and in many cases probably went totally against the law, were going to be treated the same as the Jews who did follow the law, they probably did not understand. However, throughout the Bible, God is portrayed as a loving God, who cares for all people – regardless of race or following the law. Rahab was a Canaanite, and a prostitute – the exact opposite of what Israel would have seen as worthy of God’s love. However, because of her faith, God saved her. There are many other stories throughout the Bible that show God being loving towards Gentiles. Because of this, the idea that Jews and Gentiles were equal should not be as radical as it was – but because many of the Jews had focused too much on good works, it was seen as very radical.

  9. “How radical is Paul’s claim that both Jews and Gentiles will face an impartial God, either for judgment or salvation?”
    It would have been a radical idea for many Jews in this time. As Moo states “The argument is designed to puncture the Jewish assumption of superiority.” (Moo, 66). Jews had been raised with the mindset that they were God’s chosen people, and that Gentiles were unclean. We can see this in Peter’s own thinking when God commanded him to speak to Cornelius. “He said to them: ‘You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shows me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.'” (Acts 10:27-28). It took a direct vision from God followed by Peter being sent into the home of a God-fearing gentile for him to change his thinking. Even by him making these comments he admits to believing Gentiles were “impure” or “unclean” up until this point. Thus Jews assumed superiority to Gentiles, especially in spiritual matters, since they were the ones who received the law from God. That is why it’s important for Paul to make it clear that God shows no partiality. The Jews are going to be judged by God just as the Gentiles will be. But it is also an encouraging note for the Gentile hearers or the letter, for they are able to receive salvation just as equally as a Jew.

  10. I don’t think it is a radical Judgment but a righteousness judgement, God clearly give’s instructions on how not to live a pagan lifestyle and be one with the father, that is through his son Jesus Christ. in Moo chapter 11 we see that we are “Released from the bondage of the law, by the death of Christ” and alive in Christ if we accept him. i think its Vidal for people to get this message of Christ clearly and Paul does a good job relating to people through the letters about what head happen in his own life. he explains we are all equal in the eyes of God not one above one or one below another even Gods people, we are all judged the same and loved the same.

  11. I believe Paul’s claim was very radical during the time that he first said it. That is because before him stating that both Jews and Gentiles would be judged equally that was never a thought. As mentioned in the reading ” Salvation is for the Jew first and then the Greek.” This way of thinking is what led to people thinking a equal judgment wasn’t the way God operated. But Paul’s view is completely right and it matches up exactly with what God is as a merciful and gracious God. And by it being an equal judgement It leads to confirming the fact that you cant just read the bible you actually have to believe and follow Jesus Christ because that is the way that a person is truly saved. Not by the covenant that the Jews lived by.

  12. For Paul to suggest that God had no favor over the Jews or the Gentiles would have been a radical thing to say back in an age where Israel was said to be God’s people. Although this may be true; God did make a covenant with them and said that his kingdom would come through them. But Jew and Gentiles were enemies and thus they could not be equal in the eyes of God right? Wrong, it is said that all that needs to be done for salvation is trust Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins (ESVSB, 1495). Romans 2:6-7 says, “He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life”. God will not judge a person based on whether or not one is a Jew or Greek rather, who seeks Him rather than oneself; “the jew first and also the Greek” (v. 9 and 10). So, God is a judge not of who you are on the outside but on the inside. He looks at your heart behind what you do and who you do it for. He has chose his people and you can be justified through faith alone; one of the central themes throughout Romans.

    Even today the book of Romans has an impact on all believers. This is due to the fact that it is truly “an expression of “the Gospel of God”, the very “power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believers” (Rom. 1:16)” (Longenecker, p. 165). It shows again that God uses people who you would not think to use and uses them for a greater purpose; His purpose. Jew or Greek, American or African, God does not discriminate and uses a variety of different people from vastly different backgrounds for His glory and honor.

  13. While Pauls’ statement on impartiality was definitely radical at the time, it certainly makes sense looking back on it now to me. This is because God does not judge people as a group, or based on their affiliation. God judges each person individually, based on their heart, and life. Not based on what group of people they belong to, or how they identify. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good” (2 Corinthians 5:10). Just because someone identifies themselves as a Christian for example, does not automatically mean they are going to be accepted into Heaven- because God loves Christians. The individually is still going to stand before God and face the same judgment as everyone else. While in the Bible there are instances of God showing favor in certain people, or groups of people- this does not exempt them from judgement, and they still are capable of making mistakes/sinning against God.

  14. What an amazing God that He shows no partiality to neither Jew nor Gentile. You would think that Jews would have more favoritism as they are God’s people, the Gentile and Jewish world are under one (Romans 2:1-16). The whole point Paul points out is that the “whole world is under the power of Sin”, that is its clutches of powers are against God’s ways (Longenecker and Still, 179). I do not think his claim is too far-fetched for judgement and salvation wise. I think for God to show partiality would go clash with who He is, of how loving He is. I do not think that to love someone is to show favoritism. For example, to have a favorite child. Sure it may change from time to time of who behaves the most, but you still love each one of them equally.

  15. I think that the idea that God will be equal with everyone was very mind blowing to the Jews. I can imagine that the Jews felt that they were entitled because God chose them out of all the other people in the world. This idea that God would judge all people the same, having no favoritism, is amazing to me. The idea that God’s impartiality extends to salvation is also amazing. I think that it just shows just how much God loves us. It makes sense with who God is, with how full of grace, merciful, and patience He is. In fact, Paul tells us how God loves us in Romans 5:8″But God shows His love for us, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. I think that Peter was very reluctant to share the gospel but he came around afterward. But still he found it hard to except that the Gentiles could be saved without becoming a Jew by culture.

  16. The first couple of chapters in Romans have always been fascinating to me. From the first chapter the Romans get this clear theme for the rest of the letter that what Paul is about to say. He says in 1:17 that the gospel reveals the righteousness of God. This is a very weighted and important claim that would have raised the ears of every listener. Then here in Romans 2 readers find that God does not show partiality. That would be an extremely countercultural statement to make to these Jewish Christians in Rome who have been raised to believe Jewish superiority. I believe that these Jewish Christians would likely have been confused hearing that Jews and Gentiles are equal and even more so confused when they hear that the God who chose them from all others shows no partiality. This would be a very radical claim.
    I believe this claim still bears weight in today’s culture. While the context of Jews and Gentiles may be different today, there is an extreme amount of division in the church. There are more denominations of the Christian church than there are students at Grace (but let’s be real, we go to a private college in Grand Rapids). The sad reality is that every denomination believes they are better than the other. Nonetheless, hearing that God does not show partiality is, in a way, a call to unity. I have been to a church where the pastor was so arrogantly better than everyone else just because he was the pastor, and this is terribly wrong. Instead of flaunting wealth and security, we should be tending the needs of the broken world we live in. God does not show partiality to sinners, similarly, Christians should not show partiality to the congregants in their churches.

  17. Paul’s claim underscores the inclusivity of God’s plan for salvation. In a religious and cultural context where distinctions between Jews and Gentiles were significant, this notion of impartiality was groundbreaking. It implied that God’s grace was not confined to one particular group but extended to all, breaking down the barriers that divided people based on their heritage. The concept of God’s impartiality is radical in a theological sense. It emphasizes that God’s judgment is just and unbiased, devoid of favoritism. This view contradicts human tendencies to favor those who belong to our own group or share our beliefs. Paul’s claim urges individuals to reevaluate their understanding of divine justice and fairness. Paul’s teaching redefines the identity of believers. No longer were Jews the exclusive recipients of God’s promises and blessings. This redefinition of identity had profound implications for early Christian communities and their understanding of their place in the world.

  18. It is a pretty radical idea that Paul came up with. This radical idea that both Jews and Gentiles would face an impartial God for judgment and salvation was a fundamental shift in theological perspective. It emphasized that one’s faith and actions, rather than their cultural or ethnic background, determined their standing before God. This concept of impartiality not only reshaped early Christian thought but also emphasized the inclusive nature of God’s grace. In light of this, Paul’s assertion was revolutionary for his Jewish audience, as it challenged their deeply ingrained beliefs about Jewish exclusivity and highlighted the universal reach of God’s love and salvation.

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