In the time of Abraham, God took a man who believed Him, and through that man made a people for Himself of lineage. Abraham’s children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren served as God’s people in a cruel and crooked world. God then took that family tree out of bondage in Egypt and planted it in Canaan, a real place you could plot out on a real map. He authored a people for Himself of blood and borders.
They showed themselves (or were supposed to) to be His possession by circumcision and by being a people of the Law, God’s commandments that He gave to them through the man Moses. The people among them who were truly His in heart were always saved through faith in God, like their father Abraham, but the whole narrative played out within a panorama of ethnicity and nationhood.
But then Jesus Christ came.
In publicly taking the penalty for sins on Himself and proclaiming the Kingdom of God, this Jesus cast light on the good shadows of the Old Testament. The sacrifices and ordinances of ancient Israel turned out to point to Him. The Law and circumcision and the nation of Israel itself all turned out to be words in a Gospel vocabulary.
Two decades or so after Jesus ascended the Apostle Paul wrote this to a group of churches wrestling with Old Testament questions:
So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
These disparate people Paul was writing to had all put on the same clean clothes: The white robes of faith in Jesus Christ. The guardian was no longer a guardian. The Law and circumcision never saved people, were never supposed to, and God wasn’t using them as a paidagogos anymore, either. Where there had been a public people of blood and borders there was now a public people of faith and Spirit. And so these little local churches, these collections of upper class and lower class, Jew and Greek were made up of individuals who had more fundamentally in common with each other than they did with unbelieving neighbors or family.
God is ransoming a people for Himself from every tribe and tongue. And I believe our Savior and His apostles would have our churches, as much as possible, look like that’s what He’s doing.
This church stretches beyond family trees and state lines.
My prayer for my church and the churches of my city is that we would be homogenous in Whom we worship, but diverse in who’s doing the worshipping.
We are one people, now. Don’t let the skin colors or accents fool you.