God Is Not Partial
“God is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him.”—ACTS 10:34, 35.
1. In ancient Athens, what important statement did Paul make concerning race?
“GOD who made the world and all that is in it, being Lord of both Heaven and earth, does not live in man-made temples . . . From one ancestor he has created every race of men to live over the face of the whole earth.” (Acts 17:24-26, Phillips) Who spoke those words? The Christian apostle Paul, during his famous speech on Mars’ Hill, or the Areopagus, in Athens, Greece.
2. What helps to make life colorful and interesting, and with what was one Japanese visitor to South Africa impressed?
2 Paul’s statement may well make us think about the wonderful variety that exists in creation. Jehovah God created humans, animals, birds, insects, and plants of so many different kinds. How dull life would be if they were all alike! Their variety helps to make life colorful and interesting. For example, a visitor from Japan attending a convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses in South Africa was impressed with the diversity of race and color he observed there. He remarked how different it is in Japan, where the vast majority have the same racial characteristics.
3. How do some view a different skin color, giving rise to what?
3 But diversity of color among the races often causes serious problems. Many consider those of a different skin color to be inferior. This gives rise to animosity, even hatred and the scourge of racial prejudice. Did our Creator intend this? Are some races superior in his eyes? Is Jehovah partial?
4-6. (a) What did King Jehoshaphat say about partiality? (b) How did both Moses and Paul confirm Jehoshaphat’s statement? (c) What questions may some raise?
4 We can get some idea of our Creator’s view of all mankind by stepping back in history. King Jehoshaphat, who ruled Judah from 936 to 911 B.C.E., made many improvements and arranged for the proper functioning of the judicial system based on divine law. He gave this fine counsel to the judges: “See what you are doing, because it is not for man that you judge but it is for Jehovah . . . Be careful and act, for with Jehovah our God there is no unrighteousness or partiality.”—2 Chronicles 19:6, 7.
5 Hundreds of years earlier, the prophet Moses had told the tribes of Israel: “Jehovah your God . . . treats none with partiality.” (Deuteronomy 10:17) And in his letter to the Romans, Paul admonished: “There will be trouble and distress for every human being who is an evil-doer, for the Jew first and for the Greek also . . . For God has no favourites.”—Romans 2:9-11, The New English Bible.
6 But some may ask: ‘What about the Israelites? Were they not God’s chosen people? Was he not partial toward them? Did not Moses say to all Israel: “It is you Jehovah your God has chosen to become his people, a special property, out of all the peoples”?’—Deuteronomy 7:6.
7. (a) What resulted when the Jews rejected the Messiah? (b) Today, who can enjoy marvelous blessings from God, and how?
7 No, God was not partial in using the Israelites for a special purpose. In selecting a people through whom to produce the Messiah, Jehovah chose the descendants of the faithful Hebrew patriarchs. But when the Jews rejected the Messiah, Jesus Christ, and had him put to death, they lost God’s favor. Today, however, those of any race or nation who exercise faith in Jesus can enjoy marvelous blessings and have the prospect of everlasting life. (John 3:16; 17:3) Surely, this proves that there is no partiality on God’s part. Moreover, Jehovah commanded the Israelites to “love the alien resident” and “not mistreat him,” regardless of his race or nationality. (Deuteronomy 10:19; Leviticus 19:33, 34) Truly, then, our loving Father in heaven is not partial.
8. (a) What proves that Jehovah did not show favoritism toward Israel? (b) How did Jehovah make use of Israel?
8 It is true that the Israelites enjoyed special privileges. But they also had a heavy responsibility. They were under obligation to keep Jehovah’s laws, and those failing to obey them came under a curse. (Deuteronomy 27:26) In fact, the Israelites had to be punished repeatedly for disobeying God’s Law. Hence, Jehovah did not treat them with favoritism. Rather, he used them to make prophetic patterns and to furnish warning examples. Happily, it was through Israel that God produced the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, for the blessing of all mankind.—Galatians 3:14; compare Genesis 22:15-18.
Was Jesus Partial?
9. (a) How are Jehovah and Jesus alike? (b) What questions arise concerning Jesus?
9 Since there is no partiality with Jehovah, could Jesus be partial? Well, consider this: Jesus once said: “I seek, not my own will, but the will of him that sent me.” (John 5:30) Perfect unity exists between Jehovah and his beloved Son, and Jesus does his Father’s will in every respect. In fact, they are so alike in view and purpose that Jesus could say: “He that has seen me has seen the Father also.” (John 14:9) For over 33 years, Jesus had actual experience living as a man on earth, and the Bible reveals how he treated fellow humans. What was his attitude toward other races? Was he prejudiced or partial? Was Jesus a racist?
10. (a) How did Jesus reply to a Phoenician woman’s request for help? (b) By alluding to Gentiles as “little dogs,” was Jesus showing prejudice? (c) How did the woman overcome the objection, and with what result?
10 Jesus spent most of his earthly life with Jewish people. But one day he was approached by a Phoenician woman, a Gentile, who begged him to cure her daughter. In response Jesus said: “I was not sent forth to any but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Yet, the woman pleaded: “Lord, help me!” At that, he added: “It is not right to take the bread of the children and throw it to little dogs.” To the Jews, dogs were unclean animals. So by alluding to Gentiles as “little dogs,” was Jesus showing prejudice? No, for he had just mentioned his special commission from God to care for ‘the lost sheep of Israel.’ Moreover, by likening non-Jews to “little dogs,” not wild dogs, Jesus softened the comparison. Of course, what he said tested the woman. Humbly, though determined to overcome this objection, she tactfully replied: “Yes, Lord; but really the little dogs do eat of the crumbs falling from the table of their masters.” Impressed with the woman’s faith, Jesus healed her daughter immediately.—Matthew 15:22-28.
11. As illustrated by an incident involving Jesus, what attitude did Jews and Samaritans have toward one another?
11 Consider, too, Jesus’ encounters with certain Samaritans. Deep animosity existed between Jews and Samaritans. On one occasion, Jesus sent messengers to make preparations for him in a certain Samaritan village. But those Samaritans “did not receive him, because his face was set for going to Jerusalem.” This upset James and John to the point that they wanted to call down fire from heaven and annihilate them. But Jesus rebuked the two disciples, and all of them went to a different village.—Luke 9:51-56.
12. Why was a certain Samaritan woman surprised at Jesus’ request?
12 Did Jesus share the feeling of animosity existing between Jews and Samaritans? Well, notice what happened on another occasion. Jesus and his disciples were on their way from Judea to Galilee and had to pass through Samaria. Tired out from the journey, Jesus sat down beside Jacob’s fountain to rest while his disciples went to the city of Sychar to buy food. Meanwhile, a Samaritan woman came to draw water. Now, Jesus himself had on another occasion classified Samaritans as being “of another race.” (Luke 17:16-18, The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures) But he said to her: “Give me a drink.” Since Jews had no dealings with Samaritans, the surprised woman replied: “How is it that you, despite being a Jew, ask me for a drink, when I am a Samaritan woman?”—John 4:1-9.
13. (a) How did Jesus respond to the Samaritan woman’s objection, and what was her reaction? (b) What was the final result?
13 But Jesus ignored the woman’s objection. Instead, he seized the opportunity to give her a witness, even acknowledging that he was the Messiah! (John 4:10-26) The amazed woman left her water jar at the fountain, ran back to the city, and began telling others what had happened. Although she had lived an immoral life, she revealed her interest in spiritual matters by saying: “This is not perhaps the Christ, is it?” What was the final result? Many of the local people put faith in Jesus on account of the fine witness the woman had given. (John 4:27-42) Interestingly, in his book A Biblical Perspective on the Race Problem, Congregational theologian Thomas O. Figart made this comment: “If our Lord thought it important enough to supersede an errant racial tradition with a gracious gesture, then we should take heed that we are not swallowed up in the river of racism today.”
14. What evidence of Jehovah’s impartiality manifested itself during the ministry of Philip the evangelizer?
14 Jehovah God’s impartiality allowed for people of various races to become Jewish proselytes. Consider also what happened 19 centuries ago on the desert road between Jerusalem and Gaza. A black man in the service of Ethiopia’s queen was riding in his chariot while reading the prophecy of Isaiah. This officer was a circumcised proselyte, for “he had gone to Jerusalem to worship.” Jehovah’s angel appeared to the Jewish evangelizer Philip and told him: “Approach and join yourself to this chariot.” Did Philip say: “Oh, no! He is a man of another race”? Far from it! Why, Philip was delighted to accept the Ethiopian’s invitation to get into the chariot, sit down with him, and explain Isaiah’s prophecy about Jesus Christ! When they approached a body of water, the Ethiopian asked: “What prevents me from getting baptized?” Since nothing prevented this, Philip happily baptized the Ethiopian, and Jehovah accepted that happy man as an anointed follower of His impartial Son, Jesus Christ. (Acts 8:26-39) But further evidence of divine impartiality soon manifested itself.
A Great Change
15. What change took place after Jesus’ death, and how does Paul explain this?
15 The death of Christ did not eliminate worldly racial prejudice. But by means of that sacrificial death, God did change the relationship of Jesus’ Jewish disciples to his Gentile followers. The apostle Paul indicated this when he wrote to Gentile Christians at Ephesus and said: “Keep bearing in mind that formerly you were people of the nations as to flesh; . . . that you were at that particular time without Christ, alienated from the state of Israel and strangers to the covenants of the promise, and you had no hope and were without God in the world. But now in union with Christ Jesus you who were once far off have come to be near by the blood of the Christ. For he is our peace, he who made the two parties one and destroyed the wall in between that fenced them off.” That “wall,” or symbol of separation, was the Law covenant arrangement that acted as a partition between Jews and Gentiles. It was abolished on the basis of Christ’s death so that through him both Jews and Gentiles could “have the approach to the Father by one spirit.”—Ephesians 2:11-18.
16. (a) Why was Peter given the keys of the Kingdom? (b) How many keys were there, and what resulted from their use?
16 Furthermore, the apostle Peter was given “the keys of the kingdom of the heavens” so that people of any race could learn about God’s purposes, be “born again” from holy spirit, and become spiritual heirs with Christ. (Matthew 16:19; John 3:1-8) Peter used three symbolic keys. The first was for Jews, the second for Samaritans, and the third for Gentiles. (Acts 2:14-42; 8:14-17; 10:24-28, 42-48) Thus the impartial God, Jehovah, opened to chosen ones of all races the privilege of being Jesus’ spiritual brothers and joint heirs of the Kingdom.—Romans 8:16, 17; 1 Peter 2:9, 10.
17. (a) What unusual vision was Peter given, and why? (b) To whose home did certain men conduct Peter, and who were waiting for him there? (c) Of what did Peter remind those Gentiles, and yet what had God clearly taught him?
17 In order to prepare Peter to use the third key—for the Gentiles—he was given an unusual vision of unclean animals and was told: “Rise, Peter, slaughter and eat!” The lesson was: “Stop calling defiled the things God has cleansed.” (Acts 10:9-16) Peter was in great perplexity over the meaning of the vision. But soon three men arrived to take him to the home of Cornelius, a Roman army officer stationed at Caesarea. Since that city was the main headquarters of Roman troops in Judea, it was the natural place for Cornelius to have his home. Waiting for Peter in that very Gentile setting was Cornelius, along with his relatives and intimate friends. The apostle reminded them: “You well know how unlawful it is for a Jew to join himself to or approach a man of another race; and yet God has shown me I should call no man defiled or unclean. Hence I came, really without objection, when I was sent for.”—Acts 10:17-29.
18. (a) What momentous announcement did Peter make to Cornelius and his guests? (b) While Peter was witnessing concerning Jesus, what dramatic event took place? (c) What step was then taken in connection with those believing Gentiles?
18 After Cornelius explained God’s direction of matters, Peter said: “For a certainty I perceive that God is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10:30-35) Then, as the apostle proceeded to give a witness concerning Jesus Christ, something dramatic happened! “While Peter was yet speaking about these matters the holy spirit fell upon all those hearing the word.” Peter’s Jewish companions “were amazed, because the free gift of the holy spirit was being poured out also upon people of the nations. For they heard them speaking with tongues and magnifying God.” Peter responded: “Can anyone forbid water so that these might not be baptized who have received the holy spirit even as we have?” Who could object, since the holy spirit of the impartial God of heaven had been poured out upon those believing Gentiles? Therefore, Peter commanded that they be “baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.”—Acts 10:36-48.
“From Every Nation”
19. Why is racial animosity increasing, and to what extent?
19 We now find ourselves in “the last days,” and “critical times hard to deal with” are a fact of life. Among other things, people are lovers of themselves, self-assuming, haughty, without natural affection, not open to any agreement, without self-control, fierce, headstrong, and puffed up with pride. (2 Timothy 3:1-5) In such a social climate, it is not surprising that racial animosity and conflict are increasing worldwide. In many countries, people of different races or colors despise or even hate one another. This has led to actual fighting and even horrible cruelties in some lands. Even in so-called enlightened societies, many people have difficulty in overcoming racial prejudice. And this “disease” seems to be spreading into areas where one would least expect it, such as islands of the sea that were once almost idyllic in their peacefulness.
20. (a) What inspired vision did John see? (b) To what extent is this prophetic vision being fulfilled? (c) What difficulty do some still have to overcome fully, and where should they seek a solution?
20 Despite the lack of racial harmony in various parts of the world, however, the impartial God, Jehovah, foretold the bringing of honesthearted people of all races and nations into remarkable international unity. By divine inspiration, the apostle John saw “a huge number, impossible to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language; they were standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb,” praising Jehovah. (Revelation 7:9, The Jerusalem Bible) This prophecy is already in course of fulfillment. Today, in 210 lands over 3,300,000 witnesses of Jehovah, of all nations and races, are enjoying unity and racial harmony. But they are still imperfect. Even some of these have difficulty in fully overcoming racial prejudice, although they may be unaware of this. How can this problem be overcome? We will discuss this matter in the next article, based on helpful counsel from the inspired Word of the impartial God, Jehovah.
How Would You Respond?
□ Why would you say that Jehovah was not partial in using the Israelites?
□ What proof is there that Jesus Christ was not racially prejudiced or partial?
□ How was Peter helped to see that “God is not partial”?
□ Despite the lack of racial harmony in this world, what prophecy denoting unity is now being fulfilled?
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The apostle Paul told the Athenians that God “created every race of men to live over the face of the whole earth”
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Because Jesus was not partial, he witnessed to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s fountain near Sychar