Why did God choose to show favor toward some and not others?Would it surprise you to know that God does not view everyone the same; that He favors some people more than He does others? Yes, God chooses favorites and shows favoritism! As we study our Bible, it is clear that God often selects one person to show His divine favor while almost ignoring others.
Why did God choose to save Noah and not another? Why did He decide to bless Abraham and make him the father of His people, when He could have blessed someone else? Why did He pick Moses to be His deliverer? The list of people God selected to receive His divine favor goes on and on. Plainly, God does choose favorites, but why?
The Hebrew and Greek words for ‘favor’ are (חן) ‘chen’ and (χάρις) ‘charis’ respectively. However, many times our English Bible translates them as ‘grace.’
Translators often borrowed and anglicized words from the Latin translation, the Vulgate. Grace is an example of this. Instead of simply using the word ‘favor’ translators used the Latin word ‘gracia,’ and anglicized it into grace. ‘Gracia’ (or sometimes ‘gratia’) is the Latin word for favor.
Every time you see the word ‘grace’ in the Bible, you should keep in mind that it means ‘favor.’ Next time you are reading your Bible and come across the word ‘grace,’ try substituting it with the word ‘favor.’ You may be surprised to see how much this simple substitution will help clarify your understanding of that passage.
Let us examine the Old Testament
Noah found favor with God because he was a righteous man, blameless in his generation and obediently built the ark as God commanded him. Abraham believed, followed, and obeyed God. Because of this, he also was declared righteous and received God’s divine favor. Moses was said to be the most humble man. He believed and trusted the Lord completely in every way; so much so, that God spoke to him face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. God said that David was a man after His own heart who would do His will.
As the list of those who received divine favor goes on and on, we see that the common attributes of each was that they feared God and believed in Him (having faith in Him, which demonstrated itself through their actions.) Their faith made them righteous in God’s eyes. They obeyed Him and observed His commands with all their hearts and minds.
New Testament examples of men who obtained God’s favor
For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil.” 1 Peter 3:12
The New Testament records the stories of those who met God’s qualifications to receive divine favor. They had faith in God (which made them righteous) and their actions showed it. God took note of these men and women and selected them to become recipients of His favor. The Bible tells that Zachariah and Elizabeth were righteous before God. He heard their prayers. Therefore, He showed His favor by choosing them to parent John the Baptist who would bring Israel the knowledge of salvation. Joseph and Mary were both righteous people who obtained much favor. Joseph was a direct descendant of David and all the kings who came from David’s bloodline. The Lord chose them to be the mother and father of our Lord; to keep His promise that Jesus would be born of the seed of David, according to the flesh.
At the time of Jesus, many Jews, especially the Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, and Priests, thought that they had a faith like Abraham. They considered themselves righteous in God’s eyes. However, they were wrong. When they came to be baptized by John, he called them a brood of vipers.
Later, Jesus also rebuked them, saying that they outwardly appeared righteous, but inside were full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. They considered Abraham to be their father, but Jesus corrected them saying that if they were truly Abraham’s children they would do the works of Abraham.
Jesus meant that they needed to show proof of their faith. Jesus declared that they did not have faith since their works were evil. [See Matthew 23] He even prophesized that their wickedness would become complete once they had killed Him, the one whom they knew had come from God.
True righteousness comes through faith
The Bible tells us that the law was given through Moses, but favor and truth came through Jesus. (John 1:17)
In the former days, God gave the law to His people to keep and observe. They demonstrated their faith in God through their works. Their works did not make them righteous, but their faith, which they showed through their works made them righteous in God’s eyes.
In the latter days, God sent Jesus. It was no longer sufficient to have faith in God and obey Him; they must also believe that Jesus was the Christ. This was because the Law and the Prophets clearly spoke about Jesus; through them, they should know that He was the Christ.
Therefore, they also needed belief in Christ. This truth would bring salvation to them. When they believed in Christ, they would not only receive the remission of sins, but also the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit would bring about a spiritual birth and they would have life in the world to come. This gift of the Holy Spirit, leading to life, was the ultimate favor God could bestow.
Favors are not given to everyone, only those special people chosen by God Himself. If it were given to everyone, it would no longer be a favor. Not everyone received the Holy Spirit, only those who believed in God and had faith in Jesus.
In the Book of Acts, we read that apostles went throughout the land of Judea as well as the Diaspora (the lands where the Jews had dispersed since the time of the Babylonian and Assyrian exiles.) God sent them to the ends of the world to bring the gospel to all who feared and believed in Him. Peter, James, and John were pillars proclaiming the gospel among the Jews (the circumcision,) while Paul and others reached out to the uncircumcised people (that included both Greeks and Gentiles). God looked to and fro across the earth and sent apostles and evangelists to bring the gospel to those whom He had selected as worthy. They went with His message to the Jews, the Greeks, and the Gentiles so that those whom He had declared worthy could receive divine favor.
For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him… 2 Chronicles 16:9a:
God’s favor was not only for the Jews, but also for the Gentiles who had faith
Cornelius was an excellent example of a person who met all of the qualifications needed to receive God’s favor. He was Roman Centurion who loved and feared God, prayed continually, and showed mercy to the poor of Israel (alms). Because he had a faith that was demonstrated through his works, God listened to his prayers and declared him righteous. God sent Peter to tell him about Christ Jesus so that Cornelius could receive God’s greatest favor, the gift of the Holy Spirit that would give him eternal life.
After Cornelius had received the Holy Spirit and been granted eternal life, Peter explained to the Jews the wonderful news that the Gentiles could also receive favor from God. (Until that time, no one knew that Gentiles could receive the Holy Spirit or be saved. The Jerusalem Council finally settled the issue in 52 AD, approximately 20 years after Jesus death.) He related the incident explaining to them how God had accepted Cornelius.
"And he told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house, who said to him, ‘Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, ‘who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.’ "And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. "Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ "If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?" When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, "Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance (metanoeo - new understanding) to life."Acts 11:13-18
Because God looked at Cornelius and liked what He saw, He selected him to become a recipient of His biggest blessing, the Holy Spirit, and life. Only those who fear God, know Christ, and do what is pleasing to Him, will be granted the gift of the Holy Spirit and admission into His everlasting Kingdom.
How does a person become one whom God chooses to show His favoritism?
The answer is simple, and described perfectly by what Peter said about Cornelius:
“…In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality (between Jew and Gentile.)But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. Acts 10:34-35
God looks throughout the world looking for those whom He can show His favoritism. He looks for those who fear Him, have faith, and love to do good. God takes note of them and selects them to receive His favor. Because they, like Cornelius, have been chosen, He will go through extraordinary measures to assure they find and know Christ, and that they receive the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. Amen!
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper. Psalms 1:1-3
For You, O LORD, will bless the righteous; With favor You will surround him as with a shield. Psalms 5:12
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold From those who walk uprightly. Psalms 84:11
Surely He scorns the scornful, But gives grace to the humble. Proverbs 3:34
A good man obtains favor from the LORD, But a man of wicked intentions He will condemn. Proverbs 12:2