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Christian Biblical Studies
All Scripture citations are to the King James (Authorised) Version unless noted otherwise.
‘From one forefather [God] has created every race of men to live over the face of the whole earth. He has determined the times of their existence and the limits of their habitation, so that they might search for God, in the hope that they might feel for him and find him—yes, even though he is not far from any one of us.’
Acts 17: 26 – J.B. Phillips translation
WHEN THE APOSTLE Paul visited Athens he was invited to address the philosophers’ club, which comprised the Epicureans and the Stoics (v. 18). The book of Acts, chapter 17, vs. 15-30, gives an account of this discourse, in which Paul preached the doctrine of the resurrection. In this short article we focus on v. 26.
St. Paul is rightly called ‘the Apostle to the Gentiles’. In Acts 15 we read of the convocation in Jerusalem, attended by the principal men of the church. In addition to Paul was the Apostle Peter, who, at the Lord’s direction, had been given the privilege of converting the first Gentile, Cornelius, to the Christian faith. This event is detailed in Acts 10, to which we refer the reader.
Both Peter and Paul understood that the blessings of faith-justification were no longer confined to converts from the Jewish people. That nation had, by the crucifixion of their Messiah, rejected Jesus and in consequence were demoted from their unique privilege as God’s favourite people; the high heavenly calling then being offered to the Gentiles. See Luke 19: 41-44. (In Romans, chapter 11, to which we refer the reader, Paul expatiates on this momentous shift, underscoring nonetheless that God had not entirely forsaken Israel as far as their ultimate salvation is concerned.)
In our heading text, Paul declares the unity of the human family: Adam is the ‘forefather’ of all nations, peoples – ethnos, the Greek word here correctly rendered in the Phillips’ translation as ‘every race’ – or ethnicity – each of whom are under God’s benevolent view and who will in due course be offered salvation to eternal life.
This being the case, there is no excuse for any Christian to hold racialist views of anyone. There is one Saviour of all men and women, without exception, as Paul declares (1 Tim. 2: 4-6; italics added):
God will [would] have all men [peoples] to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men [peoples], the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.
Neither should we discriminate among fellow-Christians, each of whom, regardless of colour or social standing or personality, is accepted as righteous in the Son (Gal. 3: 28; italics added):
There is neither Jew nor Greek [non-Jews], there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
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