Is there a quality that is generally more detested than favoritism? We cry out when we observe our branches of government perverted by bribery, “pork-barrel politics”, or racial bias. Some political movements are formed for the sole purpose of promoting fairness, equality, social impartiality. Many of us have felt an indignant twinge when our parents – either through appearance or actuality – showed favoritism to one of our siblings. Educators are sometimes accused of “having favorites” who they promote to the exclusion of their classroom peers. In general people hate partiality. Thankfully, our Creator is an impartial judge, a quality which the Holy Spirit emphasizes numerous times:
For there is no partiality with God. (Romans 2:11)
And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work… (1 Peter 1:17)
God does not play favorites. The King James Version renders Acts 10:34 thusly, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons…” In the eyes of their Creator, all humans are judged equally; no one is greater than the other. We are distinguished from one another by our obedience to the truth. In the verses leading up to Romans 2:11 (quoted above) Paul puts it simply:
But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who "WILL RENDER TO EACH ONE ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS": eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness--indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.
God judges our deeds. If we obey the truth and repent of unrighteousness, eternal life awaits us by the grace of Jesus Christ. If we seek our own will and continue our unrighteous living, we can expect eternal destruction. There is no partiality in God’s judgment.
While it could be said that Paul speaks in broad terms, Peter’s warning is directed specifically to Christians since he addresses those who, “call on the Father”. Previously Peter implored Christians to, “gird up the loins of your mind…As obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts as in your disobedience. But as He who called you is holy, be holy in all your conduct…” Why? Those who call on the Father must, “conduct themselves throughout the time of their stay here in fear.” Why would it be necessary for a Christian who has entered a saved condition by the grace of Jesus Christ to conduct their earthly life in fear? Because the Father on whom they call impartially, “judges according to each one’s work”. In other words, Christians should expect no special treatment or consideration when it comes to God’s judgment. If a Christian does not pursue holiness, if they conform themselves to former lusts, if they live in a state of perpetual impenitence, what should they expect from God? Peter says impartial judgment.
Imagine for a moment all of mankind standing before the throne of God. Two convicted killers are judged consecutively. The killings for which they are guilty were pre-meditated and neither individual repented of their deeds in this life. Before the judgment seat of God, one is given eternal life, one is condemned to eternal destruction. In popular theology such a scenario is possible. According to many, eternal life is possible for the ‘saved’ killer since during his/her life he/she was saved by the irresistible grace of God, thus irrevocably securing their eternal destiny in spite of that individual’s impenitence. In this scenario, these killers were equally guilty, both refused to repent, yet one is saved by God’s sovereign election, the other condemned. Though the Bible says otherwise, is there in fact partiality with God?
Someone might respond, “But God’s sovereignty is absolute. No human deed can negate God’s sovereignty.” Is God sovereign? Yes, that is indisputable. However, God’s sovereignty must be understood in light of His other characteristics. As previously demonstrated, God’s impartial judgment of human obedience and repentance is asserted by the Holy Spirit through both Peter and Paul. Yet popular theology would have us accept the following syllogism:
If the elect fail to obey and/or repent,
And if those who fail to obey and/or repent are impartially condemned (a la Romans 2:5-11),
Then the impenitent elect will receive eternal life thanks to God’s sovereign choice.
How can this illogical conceptualization of sovereignty harmoniously coexist with God’s impartiality? Is God truly an impartial judge if the elect’s impenitence does not jeopardize their salvation? By inordinately emphasizing God’s sovereignty His impartiality is essentially nullified. Like it or not, God granting one impenitent murderer eternal life over another because His divine sovereignty chose that individual before the foundation of the world renders God a partial judge.
Someone might respond, “His grace is bestowed on the elect through Jesus Christ’s blood. Granting eternal life in spite of impenitence is an expression of God’s grace, not partiality.” Really? Remember Paul’s declaration, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Romans 6:1-2) As Paul vigorously asserts, God’s grace does not grant a regenerated person license to continue sinful activity (a.k.a. impenitence). According to the Holy Spirit, God’s goodness (which would surely include His grace) leads us to repentance. (Romans 2:4) God, “commands all men everywhere to repent,” His goodness leads humans to repent, yet many would conclude that repentance is necessary for most, but unnecessary for some since God’s irresistible grace will save them. Moreover, what value or relevance does repentance have for anyone in such a system?
If once regenerated the elect need not repent to be saved,
And if the unregenerate will not repent without the miraculous imposition of God’s Spirit,
Then why does God command repentance at all?
The command to repent is essentially superfluous and meaningless if such things be true. Once again, how can we say that an impenitent murderer can be granted eternal life thanks to God’s grace and not make God a partial judge in the process?
In closing, do impenitent Christians really have anything to fear? The Holy Spirit says, “Yes! God is an impartial judge. Failure to obey and repent will result in condemnation.” Contemporary theology seductively croons, “No! You will be saved in spite of your disobedience and impenitence. Be assured that God’s grace will abound to eternal life.” My friends, carefully weigh the theological consequences before you place your trust in a doctrine which forces its adherents to overlook or undervalue significant portions of God’s character.