Greek Idiom: God Does Not “Receive the Face” of Man

In Galatians 2:6, Paul makes an aside regarding those of high reputation in the Jerusalem church. He writes, “What they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality.”

In the Greek, this phrase “God shows no partiality” can be more literally translated, “God does not receive the face of man.” This was a common Greek idiom, meaning that God does not show favoritism or partiality.

This idiom is used several times throughout the New Testament.

In Acts 10:34, when Peter sees that the Holy Spirit was given to Cornelius’ gentile household and neighbors, he declares that, “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.”

Here in Acts, the phrase “one to show partiality” is translated from a single Greek noun literally meaning “accepter-of-a-face” (prosópolémptés, προσωπολήπτης).

Another similar noun meaning partiality or favoritism, προσωποληψία (prosópolémpsia), is used four times in the New Testament. Three of the occurrences emphasis God’s impartiality (see Romans 2:11, Ephesians 6:9, and Colossians 3:25), while the final occurrence in James 2:1 states that “believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.” (NIV)

This is an essential part of the gospel. God’s favor does not rest just on a select portion of humanity, because God does not show favoritism. It’s not just the Jews who receive God’s favor, nor the males, nor the rich. Jesus is drawing all of humanity to himself, although many will unfortunately reject God’s mercy and remain unrepentant.

Peter declares this truth in Acts 2:17-21, quoting the prophet Joel:

‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

God’s spirit has been poured out on all His people. God’s people include both Jews and Gentiles, men and women, young and old. Even the lowest on the social ladder during this time—female slaves—could receive God’s Spirit.

Ever since that day on Pentecost, when a small group of Jesus followers declared the wonders of God in other languages, we have been living in the last days. The Holy Spirit is freely available to those who repent of sin and put their trust in God. It doesn’t matter who you are in the eyes of the world.

God does not show partiality, and that’s good news.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *