Read Deuteronomy 23:1-25
Sanctification . . . God’s desire that His people be fully set apart in purity for His purpose . . . that was the driving force behind many of the elements of the Law that God’s people were to live out in the Promised Land. That call would prevent some people from holding public office or from participating in public worship. This exclusion was to extended people who . . .
- Had experienced self mutilation (often associated with pagan practices) (v. 1)
- Were the product of an unbiblical union (v. 2)
- Were from certain non-Jewish nations (vv. 3-8)
Remember, God yearns to maintain the spiritual integrity of His people. This is a recurring theme in the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, externals like those listed above were treated as reflections of the heart, as safeguards from sinful infiltration, and as warnings that would curb the behavior of God’s people.
But while the Old Testament seemed to create a “no questions asked” avoidance of or separation from such people, the book of Acts presents such people as targets for the grace of God found in Christ.
- An angel of the Lord and the Spirit of God prompted Philip to initiate contact with a eunuch from Ethiopia. This man who had no access to the Jewish temple received the gospel and gained access to the kingdom of God. (See Acts 8:26-40.)
- Technically, Timothy’s parents should not have married. His mother was a Jew. His father was a Gentile. But Timothy came to faith in Christ and Paul incorporated him into his missionary efforts. (See Acts 16:1-3.)
- To Peter, it was clear that the gospel was only for the Jewish nation . . . clear, that is, until his three visions on the rooftop in Joppa and his encounter with Cornelius and his family. But God revealed to him that the gospel truly was to be extended to every nation. (See Acts 10.)
So, we now find ourselves driven by two biblical calls that complement rather than contradict each other. On the one hand, we are commissioned to be in contact with those apart from Christ. On the other, we are commanded to not become like them but to be distinct, holy, and set apart to God.