God’s Cure for Prejudice is the Church,
A House of Prayer for all Nations
Based on Isaiah 56:3-8
This is a brief topical study, which
considers the Bible’s teachings on racism, segregation, and other un-Biblical
manifestations of prejudice. Sunday morning church services have often
been referred to as the most segregated hour in America. Is the segregation found in many American churches in our day
based on the teachings of the Bible, or does this evidence a sinful corruption
of the Bible’s teachings? Our study will show that the racial prejudice
and other forms of segregation found
in far too many churches in our day is based on human pride and self-love, not
on the teachings of the Bible. Of course, the world has a similar tendency to perpetuate divisions
among different groups of peoples. The point is that the Bible and
Biblical Christianity are not the cause of such prejudice, but rather the root
of such prejudice is the sinful nature of human beings. The Bible actually
expresses that God's will is for His true people to be one body. So
the reality of the segregation of professing Christians in America is yet
another evidence of the corrupt state of Christianity in our day and the great
need for true reformation.
Our text is Isaiah 56:3-8: “3 Do not let the son of the foreigner Who has joined
himself to the LORD Speak, saying, "The LORD has utterly separated me from His
people"; Nor let the eunuch say, "Here I am, a dry tree." 4 For thus says the
LORD: "To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths, And choose what pleases Me, And hold
fast My covenant, 5 Even to them I will give in My house And within My walls a
place and a name Better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an
everlasting name That shall not be cut off. 6 " Also the sons of the foreigner
Who join themselves to the LORD, to serve Him, And to love the name of the LORD,
to be His servants -- Everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, And holds
fast My covenant -- 7 Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them
joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices Will
be accepted on My altar; For My house shall be called a house of prayer for
all nations." 8 The Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, says, "Yet I
will gather to him Others besides those who are gathered to him."” (NKJ)
In contrast to what we generally see in modern America, the Bible calls all races and
ethnicities to be unified as one church. Christians are unified by their
common belief in the Bible and its teachings and in their common belief in Jesus
Christ as their Savior and Lord. As Christians, we find our unity in Christ
alone and in His Word alone, not in distinctions such as race or ethnicity or even personal
preferences, which cause division. Jesus Christ is our peace because He makes
us one despite our great diversity as human beings (cf. Eph. 2:14-18).
The Old Testament book of Isaiah teaches us that the Church of Jesus Christ is
distinctively "a house of prayer for all nations."
Let us begin by considering the context of Isaiah 56:3-8. In principle,
foreigners were always welcome to join the old covenant people of God. No
racial barrier existed to keep non-Jews from becoming full participants in the
covenant promises of God. We might remember the examples of those Old Testament
women of faith, Rahab, the former prostitute, who hid the spies Joshua had sent
to spy out Jericho, and the godly Ruth, who immigrated from the Gentile nation
of Moab. Despite these examples, few Gentiles (or non-Jews) actually came to be
included in the covenant community, the congregation, of Israel.
In contrast, the prophets of the old covenant scriptures looked forward to a time
in which there would be a massive ingathering of Gentiles from throughout the
world. Nowhere is this teaching more magnificently set forth than in the book
of Isaiah. The inclusion of the nations as recipients of the blessings of
redemption and as a vital part of a restored Israel appears as a central theme
throughout the book of Isaiah.
“The foreigner” and “the eunuch” are undoubtedly intended to be representative
of all people who under the old covenant ceremonial laws were excluded from the
privileges of the covenant people of God. Isaiah looks forward to a day in
which such distinctions will be obliterated. Since Christ came, God’s kingdom
includes those “from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9).
In the new covenant scriptures, the apostle Peter’s sermon to Cornelius’s
household confirms the fulfillment of this prophecy: “. . . God is not one to
show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is
right, is welcome to Him” (Acts 10:34-35). And the apostle Paul adds in Romans
10:12-13 that “there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord
over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For "whoever calls on the name of
the LORD shall be saved."”
In Isaiah 56:7, the Prophet assures his readers that the LORD will sovereignly
act to redeem the Gentiles, the foreign nations of the world. He will bring
them to His holy mountain. Isaiah 2:2-3 likewise teaches: “Now it shall come to
pass in the latter days That the mountain of the LORD's house Shall be
established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills;
And all nations shall flow to it. 3 Many people shall come and say, "Come, and
let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; He
will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths.”
God’s “house of prayer” is the same “house” referred to in verse 5. Under the
old covenant, the temple was God’s house of prayer, but now, under the new
covenant, the Church—the assembly of believers—is God’s temple and house.
The LORD promises that He will accept the “burnt offerings” and “sacrifices”
that the Gentiles offer up on His altar. By the word sacrifices he means
true worship. The prophet Isaiah spoke in accordance with the customary
language of his time when the worship of God was wrapped up in a variety of
ceremonies. But now, instead of sacrifices of animals and grain, we offer to
God praises, thanksgivings, good works, and finally ourselves. Indeed, the
apostle Paul exhorts us to “present [our] bodies a living sacrifice, holy,
acceptable to God, which is [our] reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1). And the
apostle Peter explains that in the new covenant Church, all believers are “being
built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual
sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:5, 9).
Will you present your body to God as a
Will you surrender your time, your talents, your gifts to the service of King
Will you seek to be holy, even as God is holy?
Are you willing to die to yourself and live for Christ and His kingdom?
Jesus told His disciples, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,
and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33).
God says that His house “will be called a house of prayer for all nations” or
for all “people groups.” John Calvin comments,
Formerly the temple was appointed for the Jews alone . . . .
But now the distinction has been removed, and all men, to whatsoever nation or
place they belong, are freely admitted into the temple, that is, into the house
of God. This temple has been enlarged to such a degree, that it extends to
every part of the whole world; for all nations have been called to the worship
In the new covenant scriptures, the
promises of Isaiah 56 find their fulfillment. In Acts, chapter 8, we read of
the Ethiopian man, who was both an eunuch and a foreigner. And this eunuch was
reading the scroll of Isaiah the prophet, including the teachings regarding
Jesus, the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. Philip the evangelist preached
Christ to him, and, perhaps, he also explained God’s promise to eunuchs and
foreigners given in our text, Isaiah, chapter 56.
Let us read Acts, chapter 8, beginning at verse 26: “26 Now an angel of the Lord
spoke to Philip, saying, "Arise and go toward the south along the road which
goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." This is desert. 27 So he arose and went. And
behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen
of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem
to worship, 28 was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah
the prophet. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, "Go near and overtake this
chariot." 30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and
said, "Do you understand what you are reading?" 31 And he said, "How can I,
unless someone guides me?" And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. 32
The place in the Scripture which he read was this: "He was led as a sheep to the
slaughter; And as a lamb before its shearer is silent, So He opened not
His mouth. 33 In His humiliation His justice was taken away, And who will
declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth." 34 So the eunuch
answered Philip and said, "I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of
himself or of some other man?" 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at
this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. 36 Now as they went down the road, they
came to some water. And the eunuch said, "See, here is water. What
hinders me from being baptized?" 37 Then Philip said, "If you believe with all
your heart, you may." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is
the Son of God." 38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip
and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. 39 Now when they
came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the
eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.”
From this day forward, the Gospel of Christ spread across the vast African
continent, as it continues to do so today. Similarly, the word of the Lord
sounded forth from the Thessalonian church, “not only in Macedonia and Achaia,
but also in every place” (1 Thess. 1:8).
This is God’s vision for our church—to be a house of prayer for all nations!
Isaiah teaches us that God’s house is a house of prayer for all the nations.
First, note that the Church is a house of prayer. Pastors and elders
are called to devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word
(Acts 6:4). God calls us to pray without ceasing, at all times in the Spirit.
John Calvin comments, “[We] are called into the Church, in order that we may
call on God . . . . In whatever place we are, therefore, let us not neglect
this exercise of faith; for . . . this is the highest and most excellent
sacrifice which God demands . . .”
Are you a member of God’s house? Are you faithfully praying for God’s
kingdom—its growth, its prosperity, its purity, its unity?
Jesus said, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are
few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His
harvest" (Matt. 9:37-38). We must continue to pray that the Lord will
raise up more pastors, teachers, and missionaries. We must continue to pray.
Second, note that the Church is a house of prayer for all the nations.
The Bible does call Christians to be
separate--to be set apart from sin and set apart as holy unto God (1 Cor.
5:9-6:11; 2 Cor. 6:14-17). However, the Bible never justifies un-Biblical
prejudices and segregation. Biblical Christianity is indeed
revolutionary; it has the power to transform individual lives and to transform
societies for the better. The Bible teaches that Jewish and Gentile believers are “fellow
citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household” (Eph. 2:19). In Christ
Jesus, “there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and
uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in
all” (Col. 3:11, NAS). This means that the Church of Jesus Christ is to be
composed of all nations or people groups—blacks and whites, Hispanics and
Asians, male and female, rich and poor, young and old—Christ has gathered us all
together to be one church. There is only one Lord and one faith (Eph.
4:5). Therefore, those who seek to establish a church that is only for one
race, or one ethnicity, or one socioeconomic group, or one age group, or one
gender; those who desire to be part of a segregated church—all such people are
acting in rebellion against God. We should not lay the blame on any one group,
for all human beings have a sinful propensity toward segregation; they feel most
comfortable around those who are just like them. By nature, we take pride
in ourselves and in those who are just like us. If we are honest, we must
all admit that we have been guilty of this sin in one way or another. Despite the
corrupt state of our world and of professing Christianity, God’s Word remains true. As the Bible
declares, “let God be found true, though every man be found a liar” (Rom.
As Christians we do not boast in
ourselves; we boast in Christ alone. The apostle Paul declared, "But God
forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom
the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Gal. 6:14).
Contrary to popular opinion, it is humility, not pride, that provides
reconciliation and an end to prejudice. The Bible teaches that the resurrected Christ has gathered us—in all our diversity—He has gathered us
together to be His church, His covenant people, His bride, His one
body. He has freed us from bondage to sin; He has delivered us from the power
of the devil. He has united us as His people. At the Cross of Jesus Christ, we
humble ourselves before the presence of God and crucify our sinful prejudices, so that we may say honestly with the apostle
Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ
lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith
in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). God
calls us to lay aside our own selfishness and to work to reach out to and serve
those who are different than us. We are called to be agents of
reconciliation--reconciling the world to God and to one another through Jesus
Christ, who is the Prince of Peace (2 Cor. 5:17-21; Isa. 9:6).
So let us draw near to God “with a
sincere heart in full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:22). Through Him, “let
us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips
that give thanks to His name” (Heb. 13:15). Let us be joyful in His house
of prayer. For God’s house is a house of prayer for all nations!
Copyright © 2009 Wabash
Bible Ministries. All rights reserved.