3.20 Acts -- He Made from One, cont.
So in the 19th Century, religion and science conveniently agreed with each other: the solution to the racial problem was separation of the races. And we wonder why the Jewish followers of Jesus had such a hard time making the transition from the covenant of exclusivity to the dispensation of mercy. This is why Paul's statement, "He made from one," is so remarkable -- it is not only a doctrine of Scripture, but it is a witness of his own spiritual journey. For him to say this was as foreign to his upbringing as the doctrine of racial equality would have been to either of our white supremacist authors. The Jews jealously guarded their distinctiveness by citing their descent from Abraham, but not from Noah. Judaism has never been a missionary religion, only half-heartedly allowing God-fearers into the synagogues as second-class citizens.
But Paul set a new standard for the church's evangelistic outreach. Jew and Gentile are of common stock, they have the same spiritual need, the same Gospel, and the same Holy Spirit to baptize them into a new fellowship that takes the place of the old temple and its exclusivity. This was what the Spirit was saying to Peter when Cornelius sent men to get him (Acts 10:9-21): a sheet of "all kinds of four-footed animals," reptiles and birds of the air. "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat." Peter responded with horror, full of Old Covenant righteousness:
"I have never eaten anything impure or unclean" (Acts 10:14).
And God's response was to annihilate the category of distinction:
"Do not call anything impure that God has made clean."
By saying this, God removed the stain of the Gentiles' unworthiness. He was not interested in "grafting in" the Gentiles to the old vine of Judaism, which is what the Jerusalem church was trying to do. Rather, He had planted a new vine, Jesus Christ, and was grafting into him both Jew and Gentile. This was what Paul, uniquely, understood. And thus he was able to go to the Gentiles on the basis, not of distinction or superiority, but of common need for a divine savior.