And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:22-27)
Regardless of your political view, it is obvious our nation is erupting at the seams over the issue of race. It is under this heralding battle cry that the armies of man have risen and gathered together to protest what is now being called systemic racism, as seemingly offensive monuments are being toppled, buildings burned to the ground, people injured and sometimes murdered as anger becomes the primary emotion. My goal is to not give my political spin on Black Lives Matter, the removal of the Confederate flag, or what I think about sports leagues such the NBA, NFL, or MLB as they have each made controversial decisions. Rather, this article is a call to think and live as Bible-believing Christians. In times like this, we need to think clearly not as citizens of this world, but as citizens of the kingdom of God. In other words, the Bible is our guide for such things, and what does the Bible say about race?
The Purpose of Race
There exists great diversity and unity among humanity within ethnic groups. Each ethnic group shares in much unity as they often have common characteristics but many within each group also diverge from these similarities while still being part of the greater group. These similarities may be based on physical shared traits but also could be a collective history, language and perhaps a special way of communicating ideas, and physical location. There are so many people groups and languages in this world that even the most skilled polyglot would be unable to speak to all of them with intelligibility. Revelation 7:9 says this about the great number of people groups in this world, “a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands.” Notice the Bible does not define them by race, but rather they are equals as they are defined as “a great multitude” who are worshiping the Lord. This multitude’s ethnicity is described as originating from every nation and all peoples. This should encourage us because there will be some people saved from every people group in the world. There will not even be one left out. It is not a promise for every person but every people group.
What is the purpose of race? God could have made everyone look the same, but we should remember racism does not have its origin with God, but sinful humanity. The purpose of race is for the glory of God and we should glorify God by our own race and the ethnicity of others. This purpose is made abundantly clear in Revelation 21:22-27 as only two main ideas are proposed. The first is the extreme value of the glory of God as he is physically the light of the nations, and the second is that the nations will be present in the kingdom of God in the conclusion of Revelation. These two are significant as it fulfills God’s intention for the nations. God never intended to save just the Jewish people, but they were made to be a kingdom of priests for the world, and they were the people God chose to bring the Messiah into the world. This is not to diminish the importance and value of the Jewish people, as they were beautifully used by God throughout their great history.
Genesis and Race
The book of Genesis is instructive concerning race, and there are a few important passages I would like to discuss. First, obviously is the creation passage in Genesis 1-2, as God creates humanity. We should notice that God does not create all the races in Genesis, but he creates the potentiality of all races within the one man and woman he makes. The beginning place for any discussion concerning humanity and the multiplicity of races is they are all created in the image of God. To be human is to be created in the image of God which elevates all of us in worth above all creation. Genesis 1:26 records God’s words at creation when he says, “Let us make man in our image according to our likeness; and let them rule. . .” I believe all racism begins when we do not remember this fact about all people. Every one of them is created in the image of God and racism often views one race as more important than another.
During the flood, one family of the earth is saved, and it is important to focus on that particular family, because it is from them the peoples of the earth derive. Noah’s three sons board the Ark and preserve those who will dwell on the earth. Shem and his wife would become what would later be those who make up the people of the Ancient Near East, or the Semitic peoples. Ham became the father of the people from Africa and Japheth of the European peoples. It is interesting and tragic to see how some would permit racism from a biblical argument. At one point in Christianity, some thought Ham’s sin against his father was God’s eternal punishment for all future generations so they believed it was biblical to enslave his descendants.
Genesis 10 is often called the Table of Nations as it records the families that would come after Noah and his sons. Genesis 10 is a treasure to those who are interested in genealogy and geography within biblical history as it is our history as well. Moses describes Genesis 10:32 as the summary of the entire chapter when he says, “These are the families of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies, by their nations; and out of these the nations were separated on the earth after the flood.” There was nothing inherently sinful from one family to another. Genesis 10 simply informs the audience of the multiplicity of families on the earth after the flood and is preparing the reader for what will happen in Genesis 12.
Genesis 11 describes the sin of disobeying God’s command to fill the earth because they were concerned about being scattered over the face of the earth. The world was literally one people group with the same language and background. With their great audacity they decided to make a name for themselves so they would not have to obey the Lord, so they decided to make a capital for all humans and a great tower. It was there God made the first languages of the world and they were forced to obey God and scatter. Whereas Genesis 10 lists the peoples of the earth, Genesis 12 focuses on one small family in order to save all of the peoples. After the flood, Noah built an altar to the Lord and God said in Genesis 8:21, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.” Although God saved humanity through the Ark, those who survived were still sinners, and they needed the Savior promised in Genesis 3:15. This issue is at the heart of Genesis 12 as God chose Abram to bless the nations. Notice the language in Genesis 12:3 as God said, “And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” Our Lord’s intention was not to just save Abraham and his family but to save all families through that one family.
The New Testament and Race
The gospel is not about God’s plan to save the Jews alone but to save sinful humans. The basis of salvation is believing in Jesus for salvation. Romans 1-3 describe both Jewish and gentile rejection of the Lord. This rejection is not abnormal but is the starting place for those outside the kingdom of God. The tragic reality is that God can be clearly seen but is still rejected because of humanity’s sinful desires as described in Romans 1:20-23, “For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.”
The gospel saves the one who believes in Jesus. The gospel has never changed nor will it ever change. We cannot change it to make it more appealing to others or it will cease being the gospel. The world rejects Jesus but the one who believes in the name of Jesus will be saved, and it has nothing to do with the color of the person’ skin or the language spoken. This is the reason why the Bible is translated in so many languages. The gospel is for all the peoples of the earth. Notice the simplicity of the gospel in John 1:10-13 describing the world’s universal rejection and the effect on a person who goes against the grain and believes, “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, and the world did not know him. He came to his own and those who were his own did not receive him. But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in his name, who were not born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” The big challenge is if everyone who believes in Jesus is a child of God, then where is the possibility of racism for the Christian? Christians of all people should despise racism because how could a brother or sister in Christ be seen less than that?
Biblically, there are only two types of people on the world today, and which group they belong depends on their relationship with our Sovereign Lord. The Old Testament did this by declaring those who were outside of Israel as gentiles. It did not matter where a person was from or what God was worshiped in his land but were simply called a gentile because he was not Jewish. As we look at our world today, we see much unnecessary division and tension among people. Truly, the gospel should unite us and not divide us. The spirit of division today is the work of Satan in our world, and he will not win the day, because the victory belongs to the Lord. We should unite with other believers and stand for the gospel and the kingdom of our Lord. We should not be fearful to stand for the Lord even if it is uncomfortable and we should stand firm on the truth of Scripture and not back down regardless of what comes against us. We should not quickly judge based on the color of a person’s skin because that is what those outside of Jesus do. Leave that for them. We know what unites us is the Lord and Christianity should destroy racism because it is through the gospel that people of various ethnicity become brothers and sisters. Could it be that all of this hate and division could be destroyed if they would put down their signs and weapons and run to the gospel of the cross?
Pastor Steven Lookabaugh has been our pastor since 2016 and is passionate about proclaiming the gospel of God through the weekly exposition of God’s Word; believing application is possible when one understands the historical/cultural meaning of the text. He leads our church in fulfilling our purpose toward the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations, and to the Great Commandment as we seek to love one another. He has a Doctor of Ministry degree in Expository Preaching from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with an emphasis on parabolic exposition. He is married to Jennifer and they have three children, Andrew, Kate and Olivia.