The Impartiality of Free Grace

"Opening his mouth, Peter said: "I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him." (Acts 10:34-35). ". . . There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy . . . So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. (Rom. 9:14-15, 18).

Is the showing of mercy to some the same as preferential treatment -- a form of partiality? Should all receive mercy if God is going to be impartial to all? How can God treat everyone impartially and yet elect some to obtain mercy? Three truths concerning impartiality and grace:

First, God showing favor isn't the same as showing favoritism. Favor is the compassionate product of kings -- unmerited favor bestowed on undeserving subjects, even criminals. But favoritism is the unrighteous actions of a judge who circumvents the law in order to clear the guilty. God as the righteous judge has never shown favoritism toward any creature at any time -- including those He chooses to bestow mercy. Every mercy-chosen sinner has received the impartial punishing of all of his sins to the fullest extent of God's justice -- none escaped the deserved punishment that was due. The cross of Christ can attest to that.

Second, dispensing justice isn't the same as dispensing grace. Justice demands that everyone reap what they've sown -- applied equally and consistently across the board to every person -- to the Jew first, and then the rest (Rom. 2:6-11). Anything less mocks God as judge (Gal. 6:7). But grace is receiving what someone else has sown and reaped -- applied unequally and inconsistently to those whom God chooses to bless. Since Christ owns the "harvest" of His own reaping, it's only fair that He dispense it as He sees fit -- whether it's a single denarius for one hour's work or for ten hours of work (Matt. 20:1-16). It's origin is not found in the law of God -- where God must do things impartially, but the heart of God -- where He's free to be gracious.

Third, we must always treat people impartially in ministering the things of God; graciously in the things we own. All should have access to what God has given you to give to them, be it truth (1 Tim. 5:21) or simply equal respect in the assembly (Jam. 2:1ff.). But what God has given you for you alone -- your money, time, personal resources -- giving that up is grace which no man may demand.

Never expect a judge to do what only a king can -- giving what you desire rather than what you deserve. And never expect a king to do what only a judge can -- giving what you deserve rather than what you desire. Everyone has an appointment with the Judge; only the elect have one with the King.