The Bible Speaks on Race

By Staff
Jan 24, 2006

The term “race” as applied to people does not appear in the Bible. In fact, the word itself is of uncertain origin and does not occur in any language until about the sixteenth century.

While the modern race problem has economic, political, and social implications, the difference between current practice and biblical truth shows it to be primarily a moral and spiritual problem. The Bible does not deal with the race problem as we know it in our time, but it gives some very important principles which can be applied to race relations.

  1. All human beings are a single family and have a common origin.

    “…God… made every nation of men to live all over the earth…” (Acts 17:24, 26).

  2. Humanity was created in the image of God and therefore every human is of infinite worth.

    “So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female” (Genesis 1:27).

  3. Jesus Christ died for the redemption of every person regardless of race or nationality.

    “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

    “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

    “This is what is written: the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day, and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47).

    “But we do see Jesus—made lower than the angels for a short time so that by God’s grace He might taste death for everyone—crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death” (Hebrews 2:9).

    “Then I saw another angel flying in mid-heaven, having the eternal gospel to announce to the inhabitants of the earth—to every nation, tribe, language, and people” (Revelation 14:6).

  4. Believers of all races are in the family of God, brothers and sisters together.

    “Don’t all of us have one Father? Didn’t one God create us?” (Malachi 2:10).

    “…Our Father…” (Matthew 6:9).

    “They will come from east and west, from north and south, and recline at the table in the kingdom of God” (Luke 13:29).

    “There is one body… one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
    one God and Father of all…” (Ephesians 4:4-6).

  5. The Christian religion either abolishes or transcends human barriers which tend to set race against race or group against group.

    “…for you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus… There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26, 28).

    “But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah. For He is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. In His flesh, He did away with the law of the commandments in regulations, so that He might create in Himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace. [He did this so] that He might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross and put the hostility to death by it” (Ephesians 2:13-16).

  6. The power of the Gospel is such as to enable Christians to overcome race prejudice.

    “…God has shown me that I must not call any person common or unclean’ (Acts 10:28).

  7. God is no respecter of persons.
    1. Jesus, particularly in his dealings with the Samaritans who with their “mixed blood” were despised by the Jews, demonstrated that God is no respecter of persons.
      1. Jesus showed a special interest in these people. “He had to travel through Samaria…” (John 4:4).
      2. One of the greatest of His parables had a Samaritan as its hero (Luke 10:25-37).
      3. Jesus singled out the Samaritan leper for special attention after he alone returned to thank Him for the healing miracle (Luke 17:11-19).
      4. He included “and Samaria” in a specific way in his commission to his disciples (Acts 1:8).
    2. The Scriptures proclaim that God is no respecter of persons.

      “There is no favoritism with God” (Romans 2:11).

      “…your Master is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with Him” (Ephesians 6:9).

      “And if you address as Father the One who judges impartially based on each one’s work…” (1 Peter 1:17).

    3. Christians are admonished not to be respecters of persons.

      “My brothers, hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ without showing favoritism” (James 2:1).

Bible Passages Often Used in Defense of Race Prejudice

Genesis 9:18-27 is sometimes used as the basis for saying that God placed a curse on Ham and his descendants, turning them black and assigning them a place of inferiority and servility in society. It will be noted in a careful reading of the passage that: (1) God placed a curse on no one; (2) Noah did the cursing after having awakened from a drunken stupor; (3) Canaan was the one actually cursed by Noah, not Ham; (4) there is no indication of God having approved Noah’s act or of His having implemented it in any way; and (5) no reference is made to anyone being turned any color different from what he already was.

Genesis 11:1-9 records the incident when God confounded the builders of the tower of Babel but not one word is said about race, and the concept of race is not in the passage.

Joshua 9:23, with its reference to “hewers of wood and drawers of water,” is Joshua’s pronouncement upon the Gibeonites, the inhabitants of the city of Canaan, who had deceived Israel into making peace with them. It is not a racially motivated pronouncement and therefore cannot be used to justify racism.

Acts 17:26 says that God “…has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live” but the reference is to nations, not to races. Those who use this verse to defend prejudice in America do not suggest that modern Americans move out of the United States and give this land back to the Native Americans to whom the Lord originally appointed it.

Conclusion

The prophet Micah speaks the word of the Lord regarding human relations when he says, “He has told you men what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: Only to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8); and Jesus speaks similarly when he says, “…whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them…” (Matthew 7:12).

The teaching of the Bible at the point of race relations may be summed up in Jesus’ own summary of the law and the prophets: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39).

All Scripture is from the Holman Christian Standard Bible unless otherwise indicated.

Further Learning

Learn more about: Citizenship, Racial Reconciliation,

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