No Outsiders

Most people who do genealogical research are hoping to learn interesting details about their family background. They may hope to find a link to some famous person or event in the past. Others want to know more about themselves. A few may be looking for their parents or longlost siblings.

For those descended from the tribe of Levi, genealogy was critical because this family tie was a prerequisite to serving in the temple. Genealogy was also important for the rest of those who returned to Jerusalem; accurate records were necessary in order to claim family property. Some who returned were unable to show that they were truly descended from Israel (Ezra 2:59).

Some of the returnees who were descended from Levi could not locate their family records and were excluded from the priesthood. This prevented them from serving in the reconstructed temple and prohibited them from taking part in the shares of the offerings that were due the priest until the legitimacy of their claim could be proven (Ezra 2:61–63). Nehemiah shared this concern. He was prompted by God to assemble the returnees for the purpose of validating their genealogical record (Neh. 7:4–5). The list in 1 Chronicles 9 includes priests, Levites, gatekeepers, temple servants, and musicians.

An important change that has come with the advent of the gospel: “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28–29). Our demographic distinctions don’t disappear, but they do not limit or define the scope of the gospel, which is available to all regardless of genealogy.

Apply the Word

The promises of the gospel are not limited to a particular family, caste, tribe, nation, or gender. Its offer of grace extends to everyone. This also holds true of the privileges of the gospel. It provides equal access to God for everyone who belongs to Christ. Whatever your family background, you can serve Christ with boldness and effectiveness.

BY John Koessler, Chair and Professor of Pastoral Studies

John Koessler serves as chair and professor in the division of applied theology and church ministry at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He is married to Jane and has two sons, Drew and Jarred. John is the author of The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody) and True Discipleship (Moody). John has written several other books and articles and serves as a contributing editor for Today in the Word.

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