Bible Study Series

Responding to Racism — A Biblical Perspective

Article 2: Does God Advocate Racism?

It would be useful for us to consider the definitions of the key terms so that we will understand the key issues behind this question: Does God Advocate Racism?

What is the definition of race?


2a: a family, tribe, people, or nation belonging to the same stock[1]

2ba class or kind of people unified by shared interests, habits, or characteristics1

I have deliberately limited this definition of race to that for family, tribe, people or nation because the further definition of race simply referring to a class or kind of people unified by shared interests, habits or characteristics is not relevant to our considerations. We can all agree that should we define race as a people with shared interests or characteristics, we would have to agree that indeed God favors those who show forth characteristics such as the fruit of spirit (e.g. love, joy, peace, godliness) and that is not what we are seeking to consider.

What then is racism?


1:    a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities, and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race1

3:    racial prejudice or discrimination1

To advocate (as a verb) in its simplest terms means to support. We ask ourselves therefore, in light of our understanding of these terms, whether our Heavenly Father, the creator of the heavens and the earth engages in political or social systems that support or has supported a family, tribe or people based on a belief that their lineage and belonging to a stock of people, has endowed them with superior traits or capabilities beyond other peoples. We must also consider the flip side of the argument as to whether our God has viewed with disfavor or judged anyone entirely based on their lineage. We will then consider whether God has supported or advocated that we treat anyone, either positively or negatively, based on their lineage, family, tribe or nation.

Considering God’s favour in the past


The Bible provides us with a treasure trove of interactions between God and those who received of His divine favour in the past. It is overwhelmingly written from the standpoint of the Jews, and we may ask ourselves why? Why did God choose the Jews over any other people? Are they in some way superior as a race? We can turn to the Scriptures because God answered this question many times.

God did not differentiate His creation by their color, eyes, hair texture or any other physical characteristic, but made them to reflect His own image and likeness.

Let us start with the account in Acts 17:26 that speaks of God creating man,

“And He has made from one blood [one man] every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings.”

Further, God tells us in Gen 1:27,

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.”

Can we pause for a bit and reflect on this statement and its implications? He did not differentiate His creation by their color, eyes, hair texture or any other physical characteristic, but made them to reflect His own image and likeness. This was not intended to be limited to our physical attributes, but also that mankind was intended to have a Godly character.

God has clearly stated what He is looking for when He looks upon man. Many of these verses will be common to us as believers:

He delighteth not in the strength of the horse: He taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man. The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear Him, in those that hope in His mercy.  (Psa 147:10-11 KJV)

God is looking for a people that will love, honor and reverence His name irrespective of their lineage or stock. He sent this message consistently to people throughout the pages of the Bible. Long before Israel came into existence, long before Abraham, there was a man called Enoch who we are told, “walked with God” or as the New Living Translation puts it, “Enoch was walking in close fellowship with God” (Gen 5:24). He loved, honored and revered the things of God.

God is looking for a people that will love, honor and reverence His name irrespective of their lineage or stock.

This man Enoch had a great, great grandson whose name was Noah of whom the same thing was said – Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God. This man Noah and his family, which totaled 8 persons, were the only ones that God saved from the great flood. Why was this? It had nothing to do with their race, but that Noah feared God and, moved with Godly fear, built an ark.

This same favour was extended through the ages to people of diverse nations under heaven. Cornelius was a Roman centurion in the NT and in God’s word it describes him in the exact same way as Enoch, Noah and others who God saved. In Acts 10:22, Cornelius was asked to send for Peter so that the Gospel would be preached to Cornelius and that he would become the first Gentile convert to Christianity. Cornelius is described this way,

“Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee.”

Cornelius was baptised along with his house and it is invaluable to see the summary made by Peter after this momentous and unprecedented occasion,

“Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him” (Acts 10:34-35 KJV).

This was Peter, Christ’s right-hand apostle and a Jew, clearly realizing what we have been able to conclude from looking through the Scriptures. He was confirming the truth we see in the saving of Rahab, the bringing in of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite, the saving of Ruth who was a Moabitess, and countless others of God’s people who were welcomed into a covenant relationship with God through faith.

What is faith? The well-known passage in Heb 11 tells us,

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. …But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. (Heb 11:1-2,6)

This reward had nothing to do with the race of the people to whom God’s divine favour was granted, but had everything to do with their faith in God.

Consider another example from Jeremiah’s days,

“Go and speak to Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring my words upon this city for evil, and not for good; and they shall be accomplished in that day before thee. But I will deliver thee in that day, saith the LORD: and thou shalt not be given into the hand of the men of whom thou art afraid. For I will surely deliver thee, and thou shalt not fall by the sword, but thy life shall be for a prey unto thee: because thou hast put thy trust in me, saith the LORD.” (Jer 39:16-18 KJV)

This reward had nothing to do with the race of the people to whom God’s divine favour was granted, but had everything to do with their faith in God.

These examples clearly dismiss the notion that God’s favour did not extend to others who feared Him outside of the Jewish race. Consider the abundance of love our Heavenly Father bestows on as many of us as would respond to His call and put our trust in Him. He did not have to do this; no one ever deserved His divine favour, and the word Scripture uses to describe God taking a sinful lump of clay and making it part of his heavenly family, is “grace” – unmerited favour. He showed this to all men and women irrespective of their color and for us who would like to be like God, we should strive to follow His example of extending grace to all those around us.

Were God to have adopted a policy based on race, it would exclude Him from showing that favour to Jews and Gentiles alike. Surely, we can all agree this was not the case, rather, His favour was based on their faith in Him.

Considering God’s judgments in the past


What then of God’s judgements? Surely, we can’t just skip over passages such as Deut 7:1-16 where God commanded His people Israel to destroy the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites.

God further says,

“And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, [and] utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them: Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.” (Deut 7:2-4)

Unfortunately, some have seen this as an example of racism because God says a little further down,

“For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto Himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.” (Deut 7:6)

However, they often fail to appreciate the following verses,

“The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you, and because He would keep the oath which He had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” (Deut 7:7-8)

Why would God, through Moses, specifically tell Israel they are chosen to be a special people? Does this not indicate a preference over other peoples and can be termed racism in our definition?

I think this would be inaccurate for a number of reasons we will now cover because you will see it as applicable to multiple instances in the Bible where it may appear to be a racial reference.

  1. Israel was special because of Abraham’s faithfulness and not because of any inherent goodness in his race,
“Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the LORD thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the LORD hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD doth drive them out from before thee. Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that He may perform the word which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Understand therefore, that the LORD thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiffnecked people.” (Deut 9:4-6)

2. These nations were destroyed because of their behavior rather than their race. How do we know this? In the same verse it says that the nations were destroyed because of their wickedness. It is very clear that God was looking for a holy people in His land. God says something similar in Habakkuk,

“For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” (Hab 2:14)

Why would anyone blame God for removing nations that were not interested in His righteous ways? Would anyone be upset with a farmer or landscaper who chooses to remove one type of plant in favour of another of his choosing? Do you remember the verse about the earth being the Lord’s? When I looked this up, I found it remarkable just how repeatedly God placed in His word verse after verse showing that all peoples are welcome to be a part of His family. Here is our verse:

“The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. For He hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.” (Psa 24:1-2)

Consider now the next verse. Think carefully about whom God is willing to show His favour:

“Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” (Psa 24:3-5)

just as God was willing to destroy the nations before Israel, He also was willing to punish Israel when they departed from His holy laws:

These words describe moral and spiritual characteristics, not race. This promise continues to be true today for all peoples as God has declared.

  1. Finally, we may ask why God forbade marriages with foreign nations as again, it was not because of their race, but because of their belief systems which would turn the hearts of Israel away from worshiping the true God and following His moral principles to their idols and the morality associated with them. Solomon is a prime example of one being misled!

We read of this and other passages and should understand that just as God was willing to destroy the nations before Israel, He also was willing to punish Israel when they departed from His holy laws:

“Thou art thy mother’s daughter, that lotheth her husband and her children; and thou art the sister of thy sisters, which loathed their husbands and their children: your mother was an Hittite, and your father an Amorite. And thine elder sister is Samaria, she and her daughters that dwell at thy left hand: and thy younger sister, that dwelleth at thy right hand, is Sodom and her daughters. Yet hast thou not walked after their ways, nor done after their abominations: but, as if that were a very little thing, thou wast corrupted more than they in all thy ways. … And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good. Neither hath Samaria committed half of thy sins; but thou hast multiplied thine abominations more than they, and hast justified thy sisters in all thine abominations which thou hast done. (Ezek 16:45-47,50-51)

This shows God’s rebuke of His people before He took them out of the land, just as He had taken the nations that were there before them.

Who are chosen people?


Often, we hear of the Jews being a chosen people, but we should ask ourselves what this means, especially in light of God saying that they are “stiff-necked”, meaning hard, cruel and obstinate.

Paul answers this question in Romans,

“So this is the situation: Most of the people of Israel have not found the favor of God they are looking for so earnestly. A few have—the ones God has chosen—but the hearts of the rest were hardened.” (Rom 11:7 NLT)

God did not reject either part of His glorious planting based on its race, but on its ability to exercise faith in Him and bear fruit.

Those who were hardened were broken off, and as many Gentiles as were willing to accept the grace of God and embrace the faith of Abraham, were grafted into the promises that God was fulfilling for Abraham’s sake:,

“But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree—some of the people of Israel—have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree.” (Rom 11:17 NLT)

This imagery is based on the grafting process we would be familiar with where part of a tree is cut off and a branch from a related tree is fitted in to grow and bear fruit. God did not reject either part of His glorious planting based on its race, but on its ability to exercise faith in Him and bear fruit.

What can we do but conclude like Peter after the conversion of Cornelius,

“Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him.” (Acts 10:34-35)

This same principle is shown in many other so-called difficult passages such as the Syrophoenician woman from Canaan who asked Jesus to heal her daughter. Jesus responded: “It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs [the children’s puppies].” (Matt 15:26)

The woman, however, answered with a recognition that God’s salvation was first to the Jews truly, but surely something would be left for the Gentiles, “for Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” (Matt 15:27)

Jesus recognised this as a statement of faith and immediately healed her daughter. This woman, not being of Israel, had an understanding and faith in God’s redemptive work that far outstripped that of the Jews of her day.

Another such example that we should now be able to understand is why under the Mosaic law, in places such as Deuteronomy 15, we read of Israel being told they could treat a Hebrew brother or sister in a certain way, but a non-Hebrew could be treated in a different manner,

“And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor that lendeth ought unto his neighbour shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbour, or of his brother; because it is called the LORD’S release. Of a foreigner thou mayest exact it again: but that which is thine with thy brother thine hand shall release.” (Deut 15:2-3)

Why was this so? As we have seen, God was cultivating His people under the law, like a school master, to bring them to Christ. A stranger that was not under the law and was not subject to developing faith in God, was not subject to the same commands, and in this case, would be reasonably expected to pay interest on a loan which is common in any financial system. It had nothing to do with their race because if those strangers converted, like Caleb and others did, then irrespective of their race, they would have the same laws applied to them. In fact, God said some words which no one could ever dispute, showing that He does not advocate racism,

“And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex Him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love Him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” (Lev 19:33-34).

What a loving God we serve! You will not find such laws anywhere else.



We have seen in detail that God’s favour towards Israel was not something based on their race, but on the promises to Abraham, Isaac and Israel. While a remnant of Israel was saved for the sake of those promises, God destroyed many in Israel, and then later in Judah through two different captivities, both in response to their disobedience and lack of faith in Him.

We have seen that God has blessed people of many other races based on their faith and obedience to Him and has also destroyed many nations that did not obey His commands

Similarly, we have seen that God has throughout the Scriptures blessed people of many other races based on their faith and obedience to Him. Likewise, God has also destroyed many nations such as the Hittites and other nations in the land that did not obey His commands. Why should we, His children that have been drawn out of a dying world, treat those around us differently when our God and His son did not? Why would we who have been repeatedly told by God in verses such as the following, think that God would in any way support racism when He repeatedly shows that He does not and that He wants us to be like Him?

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (Rom 1:16)
For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him. (Rom 10:12)
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:28)
Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. (Col 3:11)

Racism is not an option for us who are striving to be like God. In fact, it is the very opposite of what we are looking forward to and hope to be a part of,

“After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.” (Rev 7:9-10)

Why, then, would we who long to be in God’s kingdom and be a part of that glorious throng, not address this issue today and be prepared to rise above this human weakness?

The next study will give some insights on the call to overcome racism.

Dale Andrews,

Cambridge Ecclesia


[1] Merriam-Webster dictionary,

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