Family of Nations

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

Acts 2:1-12

Whether you follow the church calendar or not, today is part of the church year known as Pentecost Sunday. This is the day we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the disciples in Jerusalem. Most people focus on the Holy Spirit in this chapter, as they should. It is a crucial part of the text. But others can speak on this. I want to focus on the event that comes next.

When the Holy Spirit came, the disciples began speaking in many languages. At that time, there were many people from all across the world in Jerusalem. Look at those names again. Perhaps they look familiar, perhaps they don’t. Maybe they even look a little made up! But there is something special about all of them. All of them can be found as the descendants of the people in the Table of Nations, something I discuss in detail in my upcoming book. This table is found after the Flood account in Genesis.

The Table of Nations lists the people, or groups of people, present at the Tower of Babel event. Here, mankind decided to (again) rebel against God, and so He divided them. But what do we find on the day of Pentecost? We find a sort of reversal of Babel. Where we were once separated by nation, tribe, and tongue, that barrier has now been removed. There is no separation between us, and we are brought together by the Word of the Gospel (Col. 3:11). This was an amazing event, and there is little wonder that the people were perplexed and amazed! God came to them and removed the divisions between people so that all could be saved, not some select few. While the church struggled, and sometimes still does struggle, to reach all with the Gospel, God made it clear (both here and elsewhere) that His desire was for all people to hear this message of Salvation.

This account from Acts is one of my favorites from the Bible. But another I love is found a little later in the same book:

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.  From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.  God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.  ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

Acts 17:24-28

Like the passage from Acts 2, this passage also goes back to Genesis, though to an earlier time in history. This passage digs into the nature of people.

So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:27

We are more than the nations we are from or the languages we speak. We are more than the things that divide us. In fact, we should not be divided at all! We are people of the same family and made in the image of God. In us, we have His Spirit. We were created by God to be His children and to love one another as He loves us. We are one blood, one family, one race. Thus, we should treat each other as such (1 Jhn. 4:7-12). God made this clear on Pentecost by removing the little things we put in place to keep us separate (Eph. 2:11-22).

The history of mankind is full of rebellion, strife, war, and hate. Sin eats us and causes enmity between us. It is in our nature to find division. But what do these passages teach? They say that though we were separate, in God and the Gospel and this reversal of Babel, we are united. Look at all of those names listed in the first passage from Acts. There were representatives from across the world, all people created and loved by God. And as these people heard the Gospel, they brought that Good News to their homelands. God loves all people, and He wants that same love to be found in us for all people. We are united in Christ and in His love. We are a family, and we need to show that love to our brothers and sisters as children of God.

Blessings to you and yours,

~Madelyn Rose Craig

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