What does it mean that God is not a respecter of persons?

Asking what the Bible means by the phrase “God is not a respecter of persons” shows at least a couple of things:

  1. It shows what translation we’re used to reading (or at least which translation we’ve done most of our memorization from…either the KJV or the ASV), and
  2. We’re interested in learning something that we don’t know.

Read other translations of verses that state our studied principle, such as Acts 10:34 (which in the King James Version says, “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:”), and you’ll find,

  • Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality.” (NKJV)
  • So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality,” (ESV)
  • Then Peter started speaking: “I now truly understand that God does not show favoritism in dealing with people,” (NET)
  • Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism” (NIV).

The word translated as “respecter” (in Acts 10:34) comes from the Greek word “Prosopoleptes” which means, “an acceptor of persons” or “one who discriminates.” In the other places of scripture where the same basic phrase is recorded but a different specific Greek word is used, the meaning of the various Greek words are, for all practical purposes, the same (maybe think of it like the English words great, fine, good and well and their relation). But regardless, when one considers the definition of the Greek word under consideration in Acts 10:34 and then combines that with the way several translators use the word based on the context, it soon becomes rather clear what the phrase “no respecter of persons” means…it means that God has the same standard for every person – and that standard is his to decide and ours to live by accordingly.

Our position of authority upon the Earth, our fame, our heritage, our race, our height, our hair or eye-color, our wealth, our sex, our education (amongst many other etceteras)…none of these gain anything with God in and of themselves. Some of these things may impress others and buy us some favoritism upon this Earth, but not with God. Some of these things bring different responsibilities in God’s eyes, but none of these things mean that God requires something of us that he will ignore in others when it comes to his righteousness.

Now therefore, let the fear of the Lord be upon you; take care and do it, for there is no iniquity with the Lord our God, no partiality, nor taking of bribes.” (2 Chronicles 19:7)

Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” (Acts 10:34-35)