Hope!


“May the GOD of HOPE, FILL you with all JOY and PEACE as you TRUST in HIM, so that you may OVERFLOW with HOPE by the POWER of the HOLY SPIRIT”

Amen!!!👏

Romans 15:13

We are goin’ to have church in here, Amen.

May I hear an “Amen”?

Is that all you’ve got?

Lemme see! 🤔

Who woke you up this morning? So busy! I bet you have not checked the obituaries so far! Noone you know or knew is in the hospital. If they are, code blue? You were called…knew AND know about it. Am I correct?

Actually, you may ‘think’ I am ‘bonkers’ or have gone off the deep end!

I am simply stating fact! What you and I know to be true. IF you were in the ‘obits’ you would not be reading about your passing.

Point? You ARE here! Amen.

Prayed yet today?

Sore point? I am only just askin’. I will not be silly enough to ask what you prayed for. In speaking with your mortal Dad, did I ask?

Are you aware on an instruction?

“In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.” Ephesians 6:18

Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation not desired;

Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the Lordcome upon you, before the day of the Lord‘s anger come upon you.

Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord‘s anger.

Zephaniah 2:1-3

Do not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some [is]; but exhorting [one another]: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Hebrews 10:25

Why?
– Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some [is]; but exhorting [one another]: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Hebrews 10:25

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

In His word, God commands believers to pray for one another.

…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel

Ephesians 6:18 – 19.

7 STAGGERING Things God Does When We Pray For One Another


“Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.”

James 5:14

We truly are inundated with technology. We have to ‘update’ with the period. Essentials like “Love and faith” have not changed. Yet, I say this because we do use technology to communicate.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Philipians 4:6

Very simply: Lift each other up! Pray for one another. I a number of times have recieved text messages that pointed to this exact concept – praying for the person who forwarded it to you, so that prayer was a tidal wave that does so much.

A Tidal Waves of Glory Upon You!

Tidal Wave!

God Images

I chuckle when I dare look at what is thought to be images of God. To be honest, I burst out laughing.

God in no way is physical, so the pictures of a white haired Granpa is so very wrong. Even what has been sent from Heaven; have no age!

G

God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And we can be confident that He still works in the same powerful ways, for He never changes.

G

God is The same yesterday, today, and forever. And we can be confident that He still works in the same powerful ways, for He never changes.

Angels come to bring a message from God.

Many people believe that angels are very real, even today. They are God’s messengers, and there is a vast spiritual realm that surrounds us, though we can’t visibly see it (Colossians 1:16).

There are many examples in the Bible of when God sends an angel to give a specific message to an individual or group. Sometimes it was a word of encouragement or to offer hope for what was still to come. Other times it was a clear warning for God’s people and provided protection and guidance. Here are some examples from Scripture where God sent angels with messages:

  • In Genesis 18, God sent three of these messengers to Abraham and Sarah to tell them that even in her old age, she would soon bear a son. Within just a year, those words had come true.

  • In Genesis 16, God sent an angel to Sarah’s servant, Hagar, in the desert when she ran away after feeling hurt and mistreated. We read the story of how the angel’s message was to give hope that God indeed saw her situation, and she was not forgotten.

  • He sent an angel to the discouraged Gideon in Judges 6, who greeted him with the words, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” Hardly the words Gideon may have used to even describe himself at that time. But God saw with different eyes, and the angel’s words spoke truth and life to a fearful soul.

  • God sent the angel, Gabriel, to Mary in Luke 1 to tell her that she would give birth to the very Son of God. Gabriel also came to Zechariah to tell him the news that Elizabeth would bear a son. In Luke 2, God sent an angel messenger to the shepherds to tell them of Jesus’ birth. In Matthew 28, an angel appeared at the tomb of Christ to announce that Jesus was risen.

Angels protect God’s people.

As believers, we never need to be afraid of angels. Though this may be our normal response if we ever encountered one, the Bible reminds us over and over that we do not need to fear them (Luke 2:10).

Many times throughout history, and still today, God sends angels to protect, guard, and fight for us. We do not have authority over angels, and the Bible never tells us to give them instruction or to command them. That is the work of God alone.

  • He tells us in the powerful words of Psalm 91that He would give angels charge concerning us to guard us in all our ways.

  • God sent an angel to protect Daniel when he was thrown into the lion’s den. Daniel 6:22 says that he shut the mouth of the lions so that no harm came to him who was found blameless before God.

  • God reminded the Israelites of his presence with them in Exodus 23:20 when he said, “I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.”

  • Psalm 34:7 reminds us, “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.”

  • In 2 Kings 6:17, Elisha prayed that his servant would see the armies of angels surrounding the city. God opened his eyes and he realized he had overlooked these mighty invisible beings.

  • His word reminds us of his special care over children, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father…” Matthew 18:10.

https://www.ibelieve.com/faith/5-reasons-god-sends-angels-in-the-bible-and-now.html

Mind you, we can traipse through The Word and note all of the “seen“. Never is age a factor.

These are beings that gave glory to God at Creation of the seen!
People have always been fascinated with angels. National polls reveal that 70 percent of American adults believe in angels. Time Magazine estimates that 46 percent of Americans believe they have a guardian angel and 32 percent believe they have felt an angelic presence in their lives. And that begs the question: what does the Bible actually reveal to us about angels?

1. Their Creation
Angels have not always existed. There is a point in time when they were created by God (Colossians 1:16).
When did this occur? In Job 38:4,7, God asked Job a question: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation…When the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?”
The angels were there certainly by the third day of creation to see the formation of the earth. I believe they were created much earlier than that.
How many angels were created? Hebrews 12:22 speaks of thousands upon thousands. Psalm 68:17 speaks of tens of thousands and thousands of thousands. You find the same expression in Daniel’s vision of Babylon recorded in Daniel 7:10.
In Revelation 5:11, John says he looked and saw many angels numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousands. That is what the Greek word “myriad” means. We are talking about hundreds of millions of angels.
Interestingly, the number of angels has apparently never changed. No angels ever die, though a large number of them chose to follow Satan when, as God’s chief angel, he was cast from heaven.
Angels are spirit beings and they will exist for eternity. Some praising God around the throne in heaven and others suffering eternally in the lake of fire. But they exist forever (Luke 20:34-37). The number of angels never decreases nor does it increase.
Angels do not reproduce. That is why they are sometimes referred to in scripture as “sons of God.” They are a direct creation of God.
By the way, never tell your children that when they die they become angels. No, they become much better than the angels. The become ruler over the angels.

2. Their Personality
Angels have personalities. What do I mean?
Angels have an intellect.
In some ways, their intellect exceeds ours because they have been around longer. Ezekiel 28:17 tells us that Satan, God’s chief angel, was corrupted by the wisdom that he possessed.
According to Rev. 10 and 17 they know something of God’s future. Even the fallen angels – demons – know that Jesus is the Son of God according to Mark 1:24, 34. That truth should remind you that belief that Jesus is the son of God is not enough to save you. You must not only believe intellectually but believe experientially. You must trust in Him personally.
Yet, they are also limited in their intellect. They don’t know the time of Christ’s return, and they don’t fully understand God’s motivation nor His ability to redeem mankind. 1 Peter 1:11-12 tells us that they long to understand the mystery of salvation.
By the way, did you know that one reason God sent His Son to save us was to prove to the
angels what a loving and forgiving God He is? According to Ephesians 2:7 and 3:10 we are Exhibit A to all of God’s other creation of His compassion and forgiveness.
Angels have emotion.

Job 38:7 says they express joy. Isaiah 6:3 says they worship. Luke 15:10 says they rejoice when someone walks down this aisle to trust in Christ.
Angels have a will.
They are able to determine and follow a course of action. Lucifer chose to disobey God in his five “I wills” of Isaiah 14. A large group of the angels chose to go with him. Some believe that Revelation 12:4 is a reference to a third of the angels following Lucifer whom we know as Satan. And a larger number chose to remain. Apparently both choices were irreversible – no elect angels will ever fall and no fallen angels will ever be redeemed.

C. Their Appearance
Angels are spirit beings according to Hebrews 1:14, but just because something is a spirit does not mean it is not real. There are all kinds of realities in the universe like electricity, genes, chromosomes, germs that are invisible to the naked eye, but are nevertheless real.
Although angels do not possess bodies, they still have some of the limitations of human bodies, especially in regard to time and space.

Daniel 9:21-23 speaks of angels moving quickly from one place to another. Daniel 10speaks of an angel being delayed by another spirit.
From these references we can deduce that unlike God, angels are not omnipresent, that is they are not every place at once or even more than one place at once. They are localized.
Their location is probably determined by their rank and duty (Ephesians 6:12). Apparently, some angels have responsibilities for specific countries – Michael the archangel is the defender of Israel.
Angels do at times become visible, according to the will of God. Sometimes they can appear as men as they did to Abraham in Geneses 18. In referring to that event, the writer of Hebrews reminds us in Hebrews 13:2 that we should be careful to show hospitality to strangers, because we could in fact be dealing with angels.
Other times their appearance is so startling that it causes great fear as it did to the soldiers who were guarding Jesus tomb when the angel came and rolled it away or when the angel appeared to the shepherds in the field.
The strong angel described in Revelation 10was so large that he placed one foot on the sea and the other on a continent (Rev. 10:2). That is on big angel!
But I believe one reason the Bible records the appearances of angels is not because it is the rule, but the exception to the rule. Angels, for the most part, remain invisible.
But as powerful and wonderful as angels are, they are inferior in position and power to Jesus Christ. He possesses a superior name, He is a superior object of worship, He rules over a superior kingdom, and He will one day enjoy a superior Victory.

http://www.firstdallas.org/icampus/blog/the-truth-about-angels2/

Matthew 18:10

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in Heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in Heaven.

Hebrews 1:14

Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

Matthew 4:11

Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to Him.

Hebrews 13:2

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Colossians 1:16

For by him all things were created, in Heaven and on Earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him.

https://www.openbible.info/topics/angels_gloryhttps://www.openbible.info/topics/angels_glory
God [is] a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship God in spirit and in truth.

John 4:24

Perhaps the longest running conversation between Blacks and Whites in America is a conversation about race. It’s a conversation that started in 1619 in Jamestown, Virginia as slavery and the trans-Atlantic slave trade began. The conversation moved through the Civil War, through Reconstruction, through Jim Crow segregation, and into the Civil Rights movement. And the conversation continues today in battles over affirmative action, racial profiling, and other problems in an increasingly diverse nation. In all of these conversations, the topic is “race.” Everyone talks about “race.” Lurking behind all this controversy and influencing our very identities are notions of “race.”

From time to time this discussion of race has been theological in nature. The Civil War, as historian Mark Noll recently pointed out, could be understood as a theological crisis. [1] When both the opponents and advocates of slavery raised the question of African humanity, a theological anthropology was in view. One part of that crisis involved disputes over “race.” When the “brotherhood of man” became a favorite slogan for many African-American leaders and some social gospeliers in the Civil War’s aftermath of Reconstruction, [2] a theological anthropology was pressed into the service of social and political causes.

But this ongoing conversation about race raises several questions. First, if race is a matter of theological anthropology, why has there been so little contemporary theological reflection on race? Perhaps more importantly, it’s worth asking if this idea of “race” is even biblical? I’m not sure it is. And if it’s not a biblical idea, we’re forced to ask whether the very way in which we think about “race” as a category is itself a product of the Fall.

My hope is that as we consider these foundational issues, we will become better at talking about the uncomfortable topic of race, and maybe even discover why our competency for handling racial problems isn’t much better today than it was in 1619 or 1925.

SYSTEMATIC SILENCE

Does the gospel of Jesus Christ have anything to say regarding how we’re to understand race? A survey of several prominent and otherwise useful systematic theologies suggests, “No, Jesus and the gospel are silent on race and race-related issues.” Not one of the popular systematic theologies I consulted for this article included an entry for “race” or “ethnicity” in their indexes. Several authors do briefly touch on the topic of race. William Shedd and R. D. Culver list the “racial solidarity” of humanity in sin in their indexes. [3] Wayne Grudem includes references to racial equality in the church, the gospel call to all racial groups, the imago Dei giving all races dignity, and racial equality in Christ. [4] For his part, James Montgomery Boice calls Christians to speak out against “racism” and to oppose what he called the “secular church” and its gospel-eclipsing agenda. [5]

Charles Hodge, writing during a time when the racist attitudes that Grudem and Boice rightly lament were near their peak, refutes the “anti-scriptural theories” of man’s evolutionary origins in chapter one of his systematic theology, but then he hardly addresses the “race question.” Shedd’s attention to race is worse still. He includes supplemental notes that approvingly cite Agassiz’ contention that it is “ever so abundantly demonstrated that [the African race] was but an improved species of ape and [Europeans] a degenerate kind of God.” [6] We may conclude that major theologians in the Reformed tradition have largely either been silent or unhelpful on the issue of race and humanity.

Turning to monographs devoted to theological anthropology is no more encouraging. Anthony Hoekema understands the importance of the doctrine of man and asks a number of pertinent questions about helping Christians face the “pressing problems of today’s world,” but then he fails to answer them in the rest of his book, at least on the topic of race. [7] Two recent volumes which offer theological and philosophical discussions of human being and personal identity are likewise silent on race and ethnicity. [8]

Few are the number of thinkers like Douglas R. Sharp who address at some length the issue of race as an important topic for theological reflection and concludes that “both race and racism are deeply embedded in our social and cultural lives, that they have been working for a long time to shape American national history as well as our personal and communal identities, and that on all counts they are wrong.” Sharp continues, “race and racism challenge Christian faith and contradict the gospel of Jesus Christ because they are expressions of human sin.” [9] May his tribe increase.

For the most part, systematic reflections on race have been the province of ethnic minorities and volumes on “racial reconciliation.” [10] And judging from that literature, at the end of nearly 2,000 years of theological reflection, basic questions still abound. Where are we when it comes to understanding what it means to be human? Is our “race”— in the sense that idea is used—in any way essential to that understanding? Should it be?

In my opinion—humble, I pray—we have a ways to go yet. But the way forward may involve such a renewing of the mind that our generation may balk and remain silent like many of our theological heroes did. Nonetheless, there is an opportunity for us if we have faith and courage enough to seize it. We may for the first time be able to advance a theological anthropology that biblically and thoroughly answers the “race question” and thus provides the church and her leaders with handlebars for steering through what has been a theological, social, and political quagmire for nearly four centuries.

IMAGE, BODY, AND CULTURE: UNITY IN ADAM

The obvious place to start in constructing a doctrine of man is with Scripture, and in the beginning with the Genesis account.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Gen. 1:26-27).

Man, male and female, is made in the image of God. Historically, great Christian minds have wrestled with precisely what this image consists of. Generally speaking, theologians understand the image to include certain rational, spiritual, moral, governmental, or ruling capacities and functions. Some have also distinguished between “broader” and “narrower” senses in which man bears the image of God. The “broader” sense refers to those ways in which man continues to image God after the Fall, as with man’s intellectual capacity, spirituality, moral agency, and natural affections. The “narrower” sense refers to those ways in which man does not continue to image God after the fall, as with God’s perfect righteousness, holiness, and knowledge. [11]

Bodily Solidarity with Adam

Few have given much attention to the image and its relationship to bodily characteristics. Some who do will focus on the body as the “home” for the soul and the means through which other capacities are exercised. Culver is unequivocal: “The whole of man, soul and body, is ‘in the image of God’ and ‘according to his likeness,’” even if not every aspect or part of the human being is in the image of God in the same manner. [12] I don’t think we have to get caught up in the debate over the precise relationship between body and soul in order to affirm that we humans image God bodily. Our in-God’s-image existence is embodied and biological.

From there, it’s necessary for us to observe the biological unity of all humankind. As Louis Berkhoff writes, “Scripture teaches that the whole human race descended from one pair.” He continued,

the subsequent narrative in Genesis clearly shows that the following generations down to the time of the flood stood in unbroken genetic relation with the first pair, so that the human race constitutes not only a specific unity, a unity in the sense that all men share the same human nature, but also a genetic or genealogical unity. This is also taught by Paul in Acts 17:26, “And God made of one every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth.” [13]

We may safely conclude that insofar as genealogy is concerned, the Bible plainly records that there is only one race. With regard to bodily properties like skin color, we may also conclude that, though differences exist, all people are made in the image of God—male and female; black, brown, and white; red-haired and black-haired. There is nothing about bodily distinctions that either disrupt the organic or genetic unity of humanity (Acts 17:26) or obscures the image of God in some groups with certain biological properties.

Strictly speaking, the Scripture knows nothing of our contemporary notion of “races.” People may have different skin color (or hair color), but they do not therefore belong to different “races.” The idea of “races” is, therefore, a fiction. There is but one human race descended from one parentage, all of whom are created in the image of God spiritually, rationally, morally, and bodily. (Hereafter, I will use “race” or “races” in quotations to refer to the common notion of multiple races rooted in biological differences, and the term race without quotations to refer to the biblical teaching of one humanity descended from Adam.)

The Problem with Systematic Silence

What does that mean for our theology? It would seem that an adequate theological anthropology must deny that “races” rooted in differences like skin-color is in any way a reality—that “races” don’t exist. Differing skin colors? Sure. Different races? No. But strangely, my admittedly limited survey of the anthropological literature suggests that few theologians have walked to this logical conclusion, and even fewer have been so inclusive in their definition of humanity “made in the image of God” as to include specific reference to skin color as a marker of race. [14] Rare are the theologians like Hodge who carry out their discussion of the unity of the human race against the explicitly-stated backdrop of race relations or questions about race. [15]

In light of the sparse references to race as skin color in the Bible, this general silence in the systematics would ordinarily not be a problem. If the Bible doesn’t give much attention to the idea of “race as skin color,” why should our theologies? The answer, of course, is that our theological anthropologies are not developed in a historical vacuum, but in a context prejudiced against sound biblical thinking on this topic. [16] We’re left pondering the question: How are we to think about “race” (skin color) given the organic unity of humankind? The omission is problematic, then, because (i) the contemporary conversations about “race” assume a biological definition, or at least assume that “race” is phenotypically identifiable (skin color); (ii) the silence leaves room for racial assumptions that are not biblical; and (iii) the silence allows for social constructions and actions rooted in mistaken notions of personal and group identity.

To state these problems in another way, we could say that our allegiance to “races” is a form of idolatry [17] (if not poor mental health). They are constructs inherited from the alienation produced by the Fall. We build them, and then they shape us (Ps. 115:8). But just as “an idol is nothing at all in the world” (1 Cor. 8:4), so too “races” are nothing. Therefore, the first step forward in advancing a new anthropology is to affirm the negative—that there is no such thing as “races” as we have construed and practiced them.

Of Race and Culture

Insisting upon the genetic unity of humankind and denying the reality of “races” only gets us so far. Though our contemporary notion of “races” is foreign to Scripture, diverse cultures and ethnicities are not. “Ethnicity” is a fluid construct comprised of nationality, language, culture, and sometimes religion. Unlike “races,” ethnic differences are observable and real. So, for example, my administrative assistant, Meg, and one of our faithful church members, Hugh Chin-Sinn, are proud Jamaicans. They share nationality, language (patois), and cultural patterns, but Meg is white and Hugh is black. Conversely, both Edwin Machingambi and I are black, have African names, and speak a bit of the same language (Swahili), but we are not ethnically of the same group. Edwin is Zimbabwean and I am an American nationally, culturally, etc. Ethnicity is an imperfect or fluid construct; however, it’s more precise than “race”. And as J. Daniel Hays points out, the ethnic diversity of the biblical world is far greater and much different than we imagine. [18]

So how are we to understand ethnic culture as it relates to humanity, the image of God, the gospel, and the church? This question requires a longer response than space here permits. But for now, it is important to establish that ethnic culture is not the image of God but is a product of that image.

Genesis 5:1-2 and 9:6 indicate that, after the Fall, man in some sense maintains the image of God. He has lost the perfect righteousness, holiness, and knowledge of God, but he remains a creature in God’s image. Interestingly, it’s during this period of ancient history that the development of human culture occurs. The implements and accidents of culture are scattered throughout the early record. Cain’s children build cities (Gen. 4:17), begin animal husbandry (4:20), play music (4:21), and forge metals (4:22).

However, the development of human culture was not an amoral or neutral process. Culture, like humanity, is fallen and idolatrous. The development of culture led to the perversion of marriage (Gen. 4:19), murder and vengeance (4:23-24), universal wickedness (6:5, 12), and eventually the universal judgment of the flood (ch. 6). Fallen culture also finds expression in the families, geographic distribution, and language confusion following Babel (ch. 11).

There are at least two reasons why we must remember that human culture is a post-lapsarian development: (i) to prevent us from wrongly rooting human culture itself (as opposed to the capacity for cultural production) in the original creation of God, thereby making ethnic human culture seemingly unquestionable or intractable; and (ii) to prevent us from overlooking the fact that what God is doing in redemptive history, in part, is restoring his people to the full image of God and the culture of holiness, righteousness, and true knowledge befitting life in the image.

In other words, we have let our fallen cultural constructs of “race” over-determine who we are as individuals or groups. As Dave Unander observes: “Identity, an accurate and appropriate understanding of oneself, is often a casualty of racism and bigotry.” [19] The damage to healthy, biblical identity occurs because we uncritically take real cultural differences, root them in an imagined and often idolatrous trait like “race,” and proceed to engage the world on this basis. So much of our identity is rooted in a racialized and cultural self-understanding that the pillars of our persons would appear to tremble and collapse with any significant re-examination of the notion of “races” or fallen culture.

But conforming to a biblical standard is the only antidote for centuries of distortion, abuse, and neglect. To advance a theological anthropology that addresses and perhaps helps reverse the abuses and errors of earlier periods, we must disentangle humanity (particularly redeemed humanity) from their productions (cultures). We must be able to say that the human being made in the image of God is something distinct from the culture he has created, and we must be able to jettison all of the cultural developments that are contrary to what it means to be human in the image of God. This represents for most of us a daunting risk of faith and spiritual renewal of the mind (Rom. 12:1-2).

THE CROSS, THE NEW HUMANITY, AND REDEEMED CULTURE: UNITY IN CHRIST

The fall of man into sin is the reason racial animosity, hatred, and divisions exist. Apart from the corruption of man and man’s view of himself, God, and the world, we would not have witnessed the scale of misanthropy we have witnessed through the centuries. And this habit of racial thinking, hatred, and action belongs to the nature and disease of sin from which we need to be redeemed.

The question is, has God done anything about “race” and racism? (And it is both “race”—which is evidence of unbiblical thinking about man—and racism we should be concerned about.)

The Cross and the New Humanity

Perhaps the best place to see God’s answer is the letters of Paul. There we find that God has indeed answered in Christ, and he has done something more profoundly wonderful than most people have imagined. Consider the apostle’s words in Ephesians 2:13-17:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law and commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.

Here the apostle holds up for the church at Ephesus, which is comprised of both Jewish and Gentile believers, the implications of Christ’s completed work for a doctrine of man. What’s his main point in these verses? Through the completed work of Christ on the cross a new humanity is created, one involving all nations and making them into “one new man” through union with Christ. Christ has taken the old race of Adam and made them one new spiritual race or ethnicity. We are no longer Jews and Gentiles in the earthbound, fleshly, divisive, and hostile sense; we are now God’s workmanship, a new nation and household, and a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).

This new reality is something already accomplished by Christ. Notice the past tense action of Ephesians 2. Gentile and Jew “have been brought near”; Christ has “made us both one” and “has broken down” the wall of hostility dividing us. These past tense phrases refer back to the cross. The new humanity was created “by the blood of Christ,” “in his flesh,” “in one body on the cross.” The new spiritual unity with Christ surpasses in glory and power the organic unity of Adam.

This unity with Christ entails the gradual recovery of the image of God lost in Eden (e.g. 2 Cor. 3:18). Because Jesus Christ is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3), the icon or “image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15), those united to Christ are also being restored to the image and likeness of God. As Paul explains, this new humanity—these Christians—”have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Col. 3:10; see also Eph. 4:22, 24). He goes on to write of this new humanity, “Here there is no Greek and Jew…but Christ is all, and in all” (Col. 3:11). Fundamentally the Christian individual’s identity is grounded not in the old ideas of ethnicity and “race” but in the person and work of Christ Jesus. “We regard no one according to the flesh,” and “all this is from God” (2 Cor. 5:16, 18).

Redeemed Culture

If our view of man rests not only on the organic unity we have with Adam but also on the spiritual unity Christians have in Christ, then we must be willing to jettison any ethnic-centered, divisive understanding of humanity we inherited from our fallen ancestors. If the contemporary idea of “race” belongs to the Fall, then it may rightly be considered one aspect of what Paul calls the “elementary principles of the world” (Gal. 4:3). How many of us grew up learning that “race” and all its entailments were part of the ABCs of how the world works?

But those “elementary principles” enslaved us. The apostle writes,

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? (Gal. 4:8-9).

The particular concerns Paul faced were ceremonial observances and the enslaving pull of the Law. But we may just as well include worldly views of “race” and culture among these elementary principles. “Race” is an idea that enslaves.

The good news is, Christ died for our freedom (Gal. 5:1). This means that not only does Christ achieve our redemption through the cross, he also provides the liberty to live according to a new divine culture. The apostle’s words in Colossians 2 resound for our time:

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules…?

We must not submit our identities to human tradition and rules, because we are a new humanity living in a new culture. Having been freed by Christ, we regain the ability to be imitators of God (Eph. 5:1). The “new self” we are called to “put on” departs from the old practices and human traditions of Jews and Greeks. In this new culture of a new humanity, the most fundamental thing is to grow in Christ likeness and love for the ways of God. The character and word of God must define us. Human invention must not. Therefore, when we assume that ethnic cultures are morally “neutral,” our cultural preferences and expressions will become seriously misdirected. As one theologian put it, “Theology as a reflex of cultural or racial identity can never really transform that identity.” [20] Most likely, we all need to shed much more cultural and racial baggage than we realize.

Moreover, if Christ has purchased by his blood a new humanity for himself, we must not rely on any approach to “racial reconciliation” (technically, a misnomer) that either is not the gospel work of Christ or that equates racial reconciliation with the gospel. The gospel does something more glorious and profound than merely reconcile man to man, and it certainly does something more glorious than make cohabitation between former “racists” sufferable. By the power of God, the gospel first reconciles us to Christ. Then it remakes us in his image as one new humanity. And then it enables us to share a new and holy culture of godliness. In our failure to recognize Christ’s work in this regard, we may be living beneath our inheritance, inadequately expositing the gospel work of Jesus, or worse, betraying that work by clutching the elementary principles of “race.”

THE PENULTIMATE EXPRESSION OF THE WISDOM OF GOD: THE CHURCH

What does all this have to do with our corporate lives as Christians? Are there any implications for the local church?

There is an all-too-hasty conclusion that reconciliation and the new identity in Christ await fulfillment in the age to come. Many limit the teaching of Scripture on these points to the ultimate consummation of all things and skip over what the Bible’s anthropology has to do with us today. That approach, it seems to me, is a mistake.

The failures at racial unity are glaring. But no less glaring is the need for Christ’s work to shape and change our thinking and actions across ethnic lines now. The failures simultaneously remind us of our future hope and our present need. The fact that Sunday noon remains the most segregated hour in America teaches us that the sin of racial thinking is real.

We might be helped with our challenges at living out the new humanity in Christ by asking, “If there is one human race descended from Adam made in God’s image and likeness, and if there is one new humanity being restored to the image and likeness in righteousness, holiness, and knowledge, where will this new humanity be displayed? Where is its home? Where is it lived out?”

The Bible’s answer to these questions is “the church.” Here, again, the impulse of some will be to draw a distinction between the “universal” church and the “local” church. And already having allowed for the worldly idea of “race” to create space in their thinking for division, many will conclude that “local church” and “mono-ethnic church” are synonyms. Some may insist that the “homogeneous unit principle” is not only permissible but best in building the church, while others may adopt an ecclesiological parallel to the “open but cautious” position used for spiritual gifts. They’re not prepared to deny racial and spiritual unity, but they’re leery about how to practice it. With one voice, all of these positions contend that living the new humanity achieved by Christ belongs to the “last things,” and it’s the last thing taught or cultivated.

But have we considered how much of the New Testament addresses this issue of racial solidarity in the concrete reality of the localchurch? Ephesians 2:11-22 exhorts unity across ethnic lines in the local church(es) at Ephesus. Wherever there are references to the universal church in the letter to Ephesus they are not used to justify delays in Christian unity in the local church. Or, consider the establishment of the office of deacon in Acts 6. An entire New Testament church office is created to preserve cross-cultural/ethnic unity in the local church. And Paul rebukes Peter to his face for Peter’s ethnically-inspired hypocrisy when it came to fellowshipping with Gentiles in the presence of Jews (Gal. 2).

In Ephesians 3, the Apostle Paul reminds his Jewish and Gentile Christian readers of the “mystery” he taught, a mystery “not known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Eph. 3:5). The mystery of God now made known is “the Gentiles are fellow heirs [with Jews], members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (3:6). What has been brought to light for everyone is “the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God…that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (3:9-10).

In other words, the creation of this one new humanity—Jew and Gentile—displays the once-hidden plan and diverse wisdom of God. This display is “through the church.” The establishment of peace and unity between Jew and Gentile in the church signals to the watching universe that God is wise. Israel’s middle wall of separation, a wall God himself had erected as a display of his holiness, gives way to the church as the display of unity and peace accomplished by Jesus to the praise of the wisdom of God. But what will the watching universe conclude if all the Whites are meeting in one building, all the Blacks in another, all the Asians in another, and so on? Will it perceive this wisdom?

If our anthropology insists that “race” is a fiction and Christians are a new humanity, it may be that a mono-ethnic local church in a multi-ethnic neighborhood or city is biblically unwarranted. Our local church mandate will shift from striving for the easy unity of loving people who look like us to the seemingly more difficult task of loving “others.” But this will only be more difficult if the “other” is actually an imagined other. If we recognize our fundamental unity in Adam, and our greater unity in Christ, questions of separation will be seen for what they are—a display of man’s wisdom but not God’s. And we’ll prove again that God’s ways are not our ways (Is. 55:8-9). On the other hand, if pursuing this reconciled reality becomes a “chore,” then we’ve made it a “human work,” failing to recognize that “burnout… is a theological problem—namely, a kind of Pelagianism.” [21]

THE ULTIMATE CELEBRATION: THE NEW JERUSALEM

The Lord has declared the end from the beginning. Not one thing will ever threaten the success of his plans or the power of his will. And for our encouragement, he has given us a glimpse into the end for which we were made and remade in Christ. Revelation 5:9-10 and 7:9-10 record the scenes for us:

And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed
people for God

from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our
God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

This is the glory that awaits the race of Christ. The redeemed from every people, tribe, language, and nation enjoy the glorious presence of the Lamb, worshipping him with one voice, singing of his wondrous salvation. The Father shed the blood of the Son to effect this eternal reality.

The redeemed will be in that place with glorified bodies (1 Cor. 15:44), “bearing the image of the man of heaven” (1 Cor. 15:49), “being like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). Our living on this day is preparation for our rejoicing on that day. As we eagerly reach forward to Christ beyond the veil of this life, we desperately need for this eternal view to bleed down into our temporal understanding and practice. That day is not an argument against genuine racial solidarity in the church this day. If anything, it is an encouragement for the pursuit of it now. Ironically, denying that “races” exist doesn’t lead to the denial of all differences. It leads to the affirmative action of seeking the multitudes who as one man bow together to the risen Lamb.

CONCLUSION

Recently a woman from the Maryland area visited First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman. After the service, she excitedly told me how she had driven around the island looking for a place to worship. She was drawn to FBC because of the diversity she saw. “It’s a little United Nations in here,” she exclaimed.

I smiled at her encouragement and gave God thanks for the unity and peace he has worked in the body.

As I write this article, I see that our visitor was almost correct. The church is diverse, yes. But we are not a miniature United Nations (plural). By God’s grace, we are one nation, one new and redeemed humanity in Christ. May it increasingly be so with all of Christ’s church.

ENDNOTES

  1. Mark A. Noll, The Civil War as a Theological Crisis(Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2006).
  2. See, for example, Elias C. Morris, “The Brotherhood of Man,” in Sermons, Addresses and Reminiscences and Important Correspondence (Nashville, TN: National Baptist Publishing Board, 1901).
  3. Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: God and Creation, Volume Two (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004); Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, Combined Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996); James Montgomery Boice, Foundations of the Christian Faith: A Comprehensive and Readable Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986); Robert Duncan Culver, Systematic Theology: Biblical and Historical (Great Britain: Mentor, 2005); Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994; Anthony A. Hoekema, Created in God’s Image(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1986); and, William G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, Third Edition (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2003)
  4. Grudem, Systematic Theology, pp. 194, 405, 450, and 459.
  5. Boice, Foundations of the Christian Faith, pp. 675-6, 693.
  6. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, p. 409.
  7. Anthony A. Hoekema, Created in God’s Image (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1986), p. 4. He writes: “It is therefore important for us to have the right understanding of man. As we try to arrive at a proper Christian understanding, we should keep in mind such questions as these: Are there still remnants of non-Christian anthropology in our thinking about man? How does our view of the human person help us better to understand God? What light does our anthropology shed on the work of Christ? What light does our view of man shed on soteriology? What light does our view of human nature shed on the doctrine of the church and the doctrine of the last things? What relevance does a Christian anthropology have for our daily life? How does the Christian view of man help us better face the pressing problems of today’s world?”
  8. See, for example, Richard Lints, Michael S. Horton, and Mark R. Talbot, Personal Identity in Theological Perspective (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2006); and, Ian A. McFarland, Difference and Identity: A Theological Anthropology (Cleveland, OH: Pilgrim Press, 2001).
  9. Douglas R. Sharp, No Partiality: The Idolatry of Race and the New Humanity (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002). Emphasis in the original.
  10. See, for example, Orlando Crespo, Being Latino in Christ: Finding Wholeness in Your Ethnic Identity(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003); Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith, Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000); Dennis L. Okholm (ed.), The Gospel in Black and White: Theological Resources for Racial Reconciliation(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997); Dave Unander, Shattering the Myth of Race: Genetic Realities and Biblical Truths (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 2000); Dwight N. Hopkins, Being Human: Race, Culture, and Religion (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2005), Hopkins writes from the vantage point of black liberation theology, but provides some helpful insights; and Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley and Nancy Palmer Jones (eds.), Soul Work: Anti-Racist Theologies in Dialogue (Boston, MA: Skinner House, 2003).
  11. See, for example, Berkhof, Systematic Theology, p. 204.
  12. Culver, Systematic Theology, p. 250.
  13. Berkhof, p. 188.
  14. Culver includes a four-page discussion of organic unity and “races within the unity of race” where he correctly denies the existence of races of people. However, this discussion comes from a 1968 public forum and suffers from limitations and assumptions one might associate with that time. See Culver, pp. 244-247.
  15. Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol. 2, pp. 80-81. Hodge writes, “The Caucasian and the negro have existed with their present distinguishing characteristics for several thousands of years. But this does not prove that they differed from the beginning.” And, “The great question is, are Mongolians, Africans, and Caucasians all derived from a common parent?” Thankfully and biblically, Hodge goes on to answer yes to this question.
  16. Noll, The Civil War as a Theological Crisis, p. 73. As Noll puts it: “So seriously fixed in the minds of white Americans, including most abolitionists, was the certainty of black racial inferiority that it overwhelmed biblical testimony about race, even though most Protestant Americans claimed that Scripture was in fact their supreme authority adjudicating such matters.”
  17. Douglas R. Sharp, No Partiality: The Idolatry of Race and the New Humanity (IVP, 2002).
  18. J. Daniel Hays, From Every People and Nation: A Biblical Theology of Race (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003). Interested readers might also refer to Anthony Carter’s review of From Every People and Nation in this issue of 9News.
  19. Dave Unander, Shattering the Myth of Race, p. 100.
  20. Okholm, The Gospel in Black and White, p. 10.
  21. Ibid, p. 8.
By:

Thabiti Anyabwile

Thabiti Anyabwile is one of the pastors of Anacostia River Church in Southeast DC.

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Published by Fellowship of Praise

To God be The glory. Let us praise God together for His ALL in our lives, Amen.

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