Christian Churches of God
(Edition 2.0 19970823-19991206)
One of the most common sins in the Churches in the twentieth century is the sin of respect of persons. Many do not understand it and many do not even know it is sin. What does the Bible say about it and how do we tell if we are in respect of persons?
Respect of Persons
The Bible is most emphatic that God is not a respecter of persons. If that is the case then neither should we be respecters of persons.
2Samuel 14:14 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. (KJV)
This is a powerful promise, yet the power of God is not exercised in respect of any person.
It is a matter of the laws of God that there shall not be respect of persons in judgment of any sort.
Leviticus 19:15 Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour. (KJV)
This is a direction to the poor and the mighty. Neither is to have respect of persons in any matter. This law is again reinforced in Deuteronomy.
Deuteronomy 1:17 †Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God's: and the cause that is too hard for you, bring it unto me, and I will hear it. (KJV)
It is an order in respect to righteousness and to judgment. The Bible has a great deal to say about respect of persons and especially in the congregation of the Lord. Why is this so? It was necessary because it was endemic to the nations of the world including Israel in its judges and especially the priesthood.
The tendency to respect persons is encouraged in any theocracy or, for that matter, in any society where power is concentrated in the hands of an elite class.
God spoke about this matter through His servants the prophets and set His kingship to ensure just and righteous judgment, in both judge and priest.
2Chronicles 19:4-11 And Jehoshaphat dwelt at Jerusalem: and he went out again through the people from Beersheba to mount Ephraim, and brought them back unto the LORD God of their fathers. 5 And he set judges in the land throughout all the fenced cities of Judah, city by city, 6 And said to the judges, Take heed what ye do: for ye judge not for man, but for the LORD, who is with you in the judgment. 7 Wherefore now let the fear of the LORD be upon you; take heed and do it: for there is no iniquity with the LORD our God, nor respect of persons, nor taking of gifts. 8 Moreover in Jerusalem did Jehoshaphat set of the Levites, and of the priests, and of the chief of the fathers of Israel, for the judgment of the LORD, and for controversies, when they returned to Jerusalem. 9 And he charged them, saying, Thus shall ye do in the fear of the LORD, faithfully, and with a perfect heart. 10 And what cause soever shall come to you of your brethren that dwell in their cities, between blood and blood, between law and commandment, statutes and judgments, ye shall even warn them that they trespass not against the LORD, and so wrath come upon you, and upon your brethren: this do, and ye shall not trespass. 11 And, behold, Amariah the chief priest is over you in all matters of the LORD; and Zebadiah the son of Ishmael, the ruler of the house of Judah, for all the king's matters: also the Levites shall be officers before you. Deal courageously, and the LORD shall be with the good. (KJV)
The prayer of the king details the matter of the supplication of God from the congregation of Israel Ė both native born and alien within the congregation. This extends to the entire structure high and low, and anointed king and priest and of the saints.
2Chronicles 6:17-42 †Now then, O LORD God of Israel, let thy word be verified, which thou hast spoken unto thy servant David. 18 But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built! 19 Have respect therefore to the prayer of thy servant, and to his supplication, O LORD my God, to hearken unto the cry and the prayer which thy servant prayeth before thee: 20 That thine eyes may be open upon this house day and night, upon the place whereof thou hast said that thou wouldest put thy name there; to hearken unto the prayer which thy servant prayeth toward this place. 21 Hearken therefore unto the supplications of thy servant, and of thy people Israel, which they shall make toward this place: hear thou from thy dwelling place, even from heaven; and when thou hearest, forgive. 22 If a man sin against his neighbour, and an oath be laid upon him to make him swear, and the oath come before thine altar in this house; 23 Then hear thou from heaven, and do, and judge thy servants, by requiting the wicked, by recompensing his way upon his own head; and by justifying the righteous, by giving him according to his righteousness. 24 And if thy people Israel be put to the worse before the enemy, because they have sinned against thee; and shall return and confess thy name, and pray and make supplication before thee in this house; 25 Then hear thou from the heavens, and forgive the sin of thy people Israel, and bring them again unto the land which thou gavest to them and to their fathers. 26 When the heaven is shut up, and there is no rain, because they have sinned against thee; yet if they pray toward this place, and confess thy name, and turn from their sin, when thou dost afflict them; 27 Then hear thou from heaven, and forgive the sin of thy servants, and of thy people Israel, when thou hast taught them the good way, wherein they should walk; and send rain upon thy land, which thou hast given unto thy people for an inheritance. 28 If there be dearth in the land, if there be pestilence, if there be blasting, or mildew, locusts, or caterpillers; if their enemies besiege them in the cities of their land; whatsoever sore or whatsoever sickness there be: 29 Then what prayer or what supplication soever shall be made of any man, or of all thy people Israel, when every one shall know his own sore and his own grief, and shall spread forth his hands in this house: 30 Then hear thou from heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and render unto every man according unto all his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou only knowest the hearts of the children of men:) 31 That they may fear thee, to walk in thy ways, so long as they live in the land which thou gavest unto our fathers. 32 Moreover concerning the stranger, which is not of thy people Israel, but is come from a far country for thy great name's sake, and thy mighty hand, and thy stretched out arm; if they come and pray in this house; 33 Then hear thou from the heavens, even from thy dwelling place, and do according to all that the stranger calleth to thee for; that all people of the earth may know thy name, and fear thee, as doth thy people Israel, and may know that this house which I have built is called by thy name. 34 If thy people go out to war against their enemies by the way that thou shalt send them, and they pray unto thee toward this city which thou hast chosen, and the house which I have built for thy name; 35 Then hear thou from the heavens their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause. 36 If they sin against thee, (for there is no man which sinneth not,) and thou be angry with them, and deliver them over before their enemies, and they carry them away captives unto a land far off or near; 37 Yet if they bethink themselves in the land whither they are carried captive, and turn and pray unto thee in the land of their captivity, saying, We have sinned, we have done amiss, and have dealt wickedly; 38 If they return to thee with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their captivity, whither they have carried them captives, and pray toward their land, which thou gavest unto their fathers, and toward the city which thou hast chosen, and toward the house which I have built for thy name: 39 Then hear thou from the heavens, even from thy dwelling place, their prayer and their supplications, and maintain their cause, and forgive thy people which have sinned against thee. 40 Now, my God, let, I beseech thee, thine eyes be open, and let thine ears be attent unto the prayer that is made in this place. 41 Now therefore arise, O LORD God, into thy resting place, thou, and the ark of thy strength: let thy priests, O LORD God, be clothed with salvation, and let thy saints rejoice in goodness. 42 O LORD God, turn not away the face of thine anointed: remember the mercies of David thy servant. (KJV)
Here we see that no matter whom in the congregation and no matter what they have done, if they turn to the Lord in repentance they will be heard and restored. There is no respect of persons in the eyes of God and in the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
Respect of persons strikes at the concept of the justice of God and the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
How is it then that we see this problem develop? The first cause is from a desire to reserve power and money to a priesthood or an elite class. This is often easier in a religious body because people have an inherent desire to be justified in the eyes of God or, more particularly, to be righteous in their own eyes or they would not be there in the first place.
The Bible demands that we have respect unto the laws of God and His covenant.
Psalm 74:20 †Have respect unto the covenant: for the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty. (KJV)
Psalm 119:6-17 Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments. 7 I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments. 8 I will keep thy statutes: O forsake me not utterly. 9 BETH. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. 10 With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. 11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. 12 Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes. 13 With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth. 14 I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches. 15 I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. 16 I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word. 17 GIMEL. Deal bountifully with thy servant, that I may live, and keep thy word. (KJV)
This respect of persons is not to be confused with simple respect to those who are of lowly station. This is also demanded of those who are placed in power or who seek to exercise the authority of God.
Psalm 138:1-8 A Psalm of David. I will praise thee with my whole heart: before the gods will I sing praise unto thee. 2 I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name. 3 In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul. 4 All the kings of the earth shall praise thee, O LORD, when they hear the words of thy mouth. 5 Yea, they shall sing in the ways of the LORD: for great is the glory of the LORD. 6 Though the LORD be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off. 7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me. 8 The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O LORD, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands. (KJV)
The Lord is Most High, yet He has respect unto the lowly. How much more so should we have such respect? Yet, it is often the reverse. The religious look down on the poor and lowly. The Pharisees loved the best places at the synagogues and feasts. The penitent is despised. Those sinners who are saved by the grace of God are held in contempt. This is the problem seen in Malachi.
Malachi 2:1-12 And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you. 2 If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the LORD of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart. 3 Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it. 4 And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi, saith the LORD of hosts. 5 My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name. 6 The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity. 7 For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. 8 But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the LORD of hosts. 9 Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law. 10 Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers? 11 Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the LORD which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god. 12 The LORD will cut off the man that doeth this, the master and the scholar, out of the tabernacles of Jacob, and him that offereth an offering unto the LORD of hosts. (KJV)
The truth is the central theme of the just and the righteous. The priest and the scholar will be cut off from God if they pervert truth (cf. Rom. 1:18).
Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; (KJV)
Thus, it is the central concern that the truth is of the laws of God and that any person in the congregation of the Lord who is repentant is able to stand before God and there is no respect of persons in the way in which God hears or deals with them.
In the congregation of the Lord there is to be no placement of the congregation one above the other. There must be no respect of persons in judgment.
Proverbs 24:23 These things also belong to the wise. It is not good to have respect of persons in judgment. (KJV)
Proverbs 28:21 To have respect of persons is not good: for, for a piece of bread that man will transgress. (KJV)
Once respect of persons is admitted to the congregation it leads to the corruption of judgment, equity and truth. The Scribes and Pharisees were condemned for their outward show of religion and their inward respect of persons.
Mark 12:38-44 †And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces, 39 And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts: 40 Which devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation. 41 And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. 42 And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. 43 And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: 44 For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living. (KJV)
The attitude of the heart is what God sees and judges. The apostles, as well as Christ, specifically condemned this sin in many instances.
Acts 10:34 †Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: (KJV)
This even-handedness meant that salvation was of the Gentiles and that there was no elite priesthood or nation by decree of God. All are judged by God according to truth.
Romans 2:1-11 Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. 2 But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. 3 And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? 4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? 5 But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; 6 Who will render to every man according to his deeds: 7 To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: 8 But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, 9 Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; 10 But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: 11 For there is no respect of persons with God. (KJV)
This understanding is not taken to heart in the Church and there is, and has been, the most appalling respect of persons for decades. Many do not even know they sin. Many use respect of persons as a control measure when they, themselves, do not have a sufficient understanding of the truth. Sometimes, it involves treating guests differently at a function. Sometimes, it involves disregarding a petition or case based on the standing of a person in the Church. Often it is simply a way of retaining control when those in power do not have the answers to the problem. Most often, this is the case. Often, as in Protestantism, it is involved in giving lessons about Christ rather than dealing with the gospel of the Kingdom of God, which he came to preach.
Respect of persons generally accompanies a desire to control the information people read and, hence, the way they think about matters. It is often about who. You donít look at what is being said, but who is saying it. Consequently, if you donít like the person saying it, you donít have to seriously evaluate anything they say. People attack others and do not evaluate what they say. It leads to complete erosion of freedom of speech and the evaluation of truth.
The Bereans searched the Scriptures daily to see whether the things they heard were true.
Acts 17:10-14 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11† These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few. 13 But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people. 14 And then immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea: but Silas and Timotheus abode there still. (KJV)
Here, we see the Jews at Berea sought to minimise the word of God as it was being taught by the Church. They had no answer and so they sought to play the man rather than to examine in the light of Scripture what was said.
The same problem is evident among the cults who think they have all truth revealed to them. As the errors in their arguments are exposed by history, or new evidence, or better research, they try to hold on to the problem by attacking the messenger rather than by answering the matter in truth. This invariably is accompanied by slander and malice. One could and does observe it in operation in the many sects and groups of the world systems including these churches referred to here. According to the biblical teaching, the teachers are not to threaten or intimidate. In addition to warning the Romans, Paul had to address the Ephesians about this matter.
Ephesians 6:9 And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him. (KJV)
He also warned the Colossians.
Colossians 3:25 But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons. (KJV)
Yacob the brother of Jesus Christ (called James in the English texts) had this to say about the problem of respect of persons which he found in the Church and seemingly even at Jerusalem.
James 2:1-20 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. 2 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; 3 And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: 4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? 5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? 6 But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? 7 Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? 8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: 9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. 10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. 11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. 14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. 19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? (KJV)
Peter takes this theme on to the development of the mind of the elect.
1 Peter 1:13-25 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: 15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. 17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: 18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, 21 Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. 22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: 23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. 24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: 25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you. (KJV)
God chose to speak to Balaam through the mouth of a donkey. He speaks to the elect through manifold sources. All speakers must be judged on the merits of what they say. Papers and expositions can be written by men or women, elders, deacons or any form of labourer in the service of God. Papers come from other churches and individuals in those organisations and people from no organisations at all.
We should look at what is said on the basis of its merits of what we understand of the truth. We should be convicted by truth, no matter where it comes from, no matter in what guise it comes. If it is true then it is true and we should act logically. We should be logically compelled by truth. We should not be looking at the garb that it comes in. God can speak out of the mouth of anybody - out of the mouth of babes - and He does. We should be prepared to listen and evaluate truth. People donít do this. They do not organise according to the faith once delivered. People spend many years defending entrenched positions, not because they are true, but because they are comfortable with it. That is exactly the wrong thing to do.
We perceive that with God there is no respect of persons at all. Those whom He has chosen to call and to whom He gives His Holy Spirit, are saved by His grace and redeemed by His intervention, through the activities of His son and the Holy Spirit. God is not limited as to whom He will decide to use and to how He will act in that process. Hold fast to that which is true. As Paul said to the Philippians:
Philippians 4:6-9 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. 9 Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. (KJV)