God and Favoritism

By Don Strand

James tells us favoritism is sin, but throughout the Bible God favored one person over another. Looking at Scripture, we see there is a difference between the favoritism mentioned in James 2:3 and the favor God shows in choosing to save some and not all. God's choosing people for salvation by giving them saving faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) begins in Genesis 3:15 with the promise to Adam and Eve of a Savior, and takes further shape in Genesis 4:25 with the birth of Seth to Eve. For the murder of his brother, Cain was banished. Seth was then chosen to begin the ancestral line that ran through Noah and would ultimately lead to the promised Savior (Genesis 5:28).

At the time of Noah, the increasing corruption on the earth resulted in God bringing judgment on all mankind. Yet He showed favor toward Noah. Genesis 6:9 says Noah was righteous and walked with God, and Hebrews 11:7 explains that the favor given to Noah was due to faith. God chose Noah and gave him the faith to believe and saved his family through the judgment so the plan of God, announced in Genesis 3:15, would continue.

Noah had three sons, and God chose (favored) Shem — just him — to continue the ancestral line to Jesus the Messiah. In Genesis 11 verses 10-26, we read the list of Shem's descendants. The list ends with Abram. It was Abram whom God chose to favor by calling him out of a people and nation of idol worshippers and promising to make him a great nation (Genesis 12:2). That nation would be Israel, chosen by God — favored if you will — to be His people and the apple of His eye (Deuteronomy 32:10). God also promised Abram offspring as numerous as the stars (Genesis 15:5). Paul explains later in Galatians that the offspring promised to Abram include spiritual offspring (Galatians 3:28-29). So the favor of God toward Abram extended beyond a physical offspring and a physical land to a spiritual offspring that would include people from every tribe, tongue, and nation (Romans 16:26; Galatians 3:8; Revelation 7:9).

From Abram, the list of God choosing some but not all goes on. God favored Isaac not Ishmael, Jacob, not Esau, Judah not Reuben, Moses not Pharaoh, and on through history until God chose Mary, not some other woman, to be the mother of the Son of God. Notice how the angel Gabriel explains this to Mary: "And the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus'" (Luke 1:3031, ESV).

So the Bible is clear that God chooses to favor some and not all. It's important to stress that God's "favor" is different from "favoritism" which, as James pointed out, is a sin. Favoritism is when someone chooses a person or thing because of some perceived merit or worth. But, as David says in Psalm 14:3; 53:3, which Paul uses to summarize in Romans 3:23, all people have sinned and fallen short of God's righteous requirements. There is no human who deserves God's favor. All people deserve the wrath of God. Some He chooses to give His grace. That's why election is not favoritism.

God's decision to choose some for salvation is not for any inherent goodness of the person. It is simply God's prerogative and demonstrates His unfathomable grace. It was a decision made in eternity past (Romans 8:29; Philippians 4:3; Revelation 20:12) by the Father, who gave His Son a subset of fallen humanity to redeem by His atoning death. All those given to Jesus receive the perfect righteousness of the Son through faith alone. By this they are qualified for God's eternal kingdom (John 6:37, 44, 53; 8:47; 10:26; 13:18; 15:16; 17:9, 24; 1 Corinthians 15:23-28; Ephesians 2:8).

These Bible truths are the Gospel. It is often hard for us to accept this because we have a fallen sense of "fairness." But whether we accept it or not doesn't change the fact that the Bible's central message is about a Savior promised by and sent from God the Father. This Savior humbled Himself by taking on the flesh of humanity as the "last Adam." As fully human He fulfilled the Father's requirement for righteousness where Adam failed. As fully God, He was able to bear the wrath of the Father for the sins of those He was saving. So as Adam brought death to all, Christ brings life to all who trust in Him (1 Corinthians 15:22, 45). His sinless life qualified Him to be the final "Passover Lamb" so that all who believe in Him will not face the final judgment. His resurrection from the grave and His enthronement at the right hand of the Father is proof that the Father was satisfied by the work of His Son (Daniel 7:13-14; Revelation 11:15).

This redemption accomplished by Christ is the meta-narrative — the main story of the Bible. And central to the redemptive story is a God who is sovereign over all things, including the freely-made choices of men and women to do good and to do evil.

Here is how Peter explained God's sovereign control:
Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know — this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. Acts 2:2224, ESV
It's important to recognize that these truths are not the ultimate favoritism. Instead, this is the ultimate in favor by a God who so loved the world that He gave His only Son to redeem a world absolutely unlovable to a perfectly holy God. This is grace writ large; grace that is unmerited favor, not favoritism. The doctrine of election is not blasphemy; it is simply biblical.

And as Peter explained in Acts 2:23 quoted above, it's not that God only knows what is going to happen, He has had a definite plan from before time began. It is a plan that He actively works for His glory alone (Ephesians 1:5-10). And the ultimate act that glorifies God is the obedience of Jesus the Son, obedient in all things, even to death on a cross for the redemption of all those the Father had given His Son.

This is a rather long-winded explanation, but I hope you will study the references, look for further cross references and pray for the Spirit to lead you to understand how God is glorified by what He has done and what He continues to do through Christ and the Spirit.

Image Credit: PublicDomainPictures; untitled; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Salvation  | Biblical-Truth  | God-Father

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Published 6-2-16