One of the most beautiful outcomes of the spread of the gospel is how the redeeming work of Jesus Christ unifies people across lines of ethnicity, gender, and class.
Acts was written during a time when people were more divided than perhaps any other era in history. But the gospel of Jesus Christ unified those who were separated by culture, race, and social standing. For those living in first century Rome, this unity was not only beautiful, it was astonishing. Acts repeatedly calls this to our attention by identifying people not just by name, but by their people group, to show us how the gospel unifies them.
Here is a brief overview of the key people groups named in Acts:
Jews / Hebrews / Israelites: Descendants of Abraham, and inheritors of God’s covenant. Devoted to the Law given to Moses at Mount Sinai (Genesis 17).
Gentiles: Literally, “the nations,” or everyone who was not Jewish. Romans, Greeks, and “barbarians” were regarded by most Israelites as “unclean” (Acts 10:45, 13:48, 14:4-7).
God-Fearers: Gentiles who worshipped Israel’s God but had not converted to Judaism, and did not adhere to the Jewish laws about food or circumcision (Acts 13:16, 13:26).
Romans: Roman citizens protected by Roman law; had legal rights in the Roman Empire. Citizenship could be obtained by birth, and a ruling of law (Acts 22:25-29).
Greeks: People born in Greece, or Greek-speaking people living in the eastern part of the Roman Empire (John 7:35).