Is the debate between mono-ethnic and multi-ethnic churches merely a twenty-first North American phenomenon, or is there wisdom to glean from the Israelites and the early church?
The Old Testament and Multi-Ethnic Groups
Despite the assumption that God developed a multi-ethnic vision in the New Testament when the risen Christ commanded the apostles to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19), God was actually concerned with all cultures from the moment he created the first one!
Even though God chose Abraham and his lineage to be the specific nation to bring about his redemptive plan (Genesis 12:1-3), nowhere does God state that this nation should be exclusive or ethnocentric. This specific nation, later named the Israelites, had always been multi-ethnic in makeup, beginning with the patriarchs. For example, Jacob’s family had “Aramean, Amorite, Canaanite, and Egyptian elements within it.” Also, Moses and many of the other Israelites married non-Israelite women (Moses married a Cushite). Even when studying Jesus’ genealogical history (Matthew 1), one notices that non-Israelites, such as Ruth and Rahab, were incorporated, not only into the nation of Israel, but also specifically into the genealogy of the Messiah.
In addition to being a multi-ethnic nation, one notices that God is deeply concerned for all cultures in the Old Testament, just as much as he is in the New Testament (Psalm 24:1; Isaiah 66:18-19). This multi-ethnic vision in Isaiah 66:18-19 is very reminiscent of the biblical vision in Revelation 7:9-10. Ergo, it is evident that God, as described in the Old Testament, is a multi-ethnic God, and his chosen nation is a multi-ethnic nation