Studies in The Baptist Catechism: Section Five – Christ the Mediator (Q.24)

Earlier Studies –

Listen to the audio for this lesson here and here.

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Q.24: Who is the Redeemer of God’s elect?

A. The only Redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ;1 who, being the eternal Son of God, became man,2 and so was and continueth to be God and man in two distinct natures, and one person for ever.3

11 Timothy 2:5-6

2John 1:14; Galatians 4:4

3Romans 9:5; Luke 1:35; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 7:24-25

To this point, we have sought to lay a foundation for the necessity of Christ’s work of redemption, the great climax of all of redemptive history. We began with a survey of God’s authority, His revelation of Himself to mankind, and His saving revelation of Himself in Scripture alone. Second, we considered Theology Proper: who and what God is. Third, we considered God’s decrees of creation and providence and, specifically, how he created man and provided for him through covenantal relationship. Fourth, we observed how man broke covenant with God, fell into an estate of sin and misery, and are now subject to God’s righteous judgment apart from the forging of a new covenant.

In the last post, we looked at this new covenant. We noted first that this covenant was struck on behalf of those who God chose from eternity in accordance with His own good pleasure and His love toward us, and not on anything in us. Second, we considered the nature of the Covenant of Grace, how it unfolded throughout Holy Scripture, and how it finds its fulfillment in Christ alone. Before, we identified as slaves of sin in Adam. Now, we identify as sons of God in Christ. However, we must not think of this transition as merely being as simple as God flipping a light switch. A great ordeal was undertaken to accomplish our redemption, and it is that accomplishment of our redemption that now demands our attention.

Redemption in Christ Alone

On the outset, let us allow our eyes to be drawn to one word in the Catechism’s answer to Question 24: only. We must start by recognizing the exclusive nature of the claims we are about to make. When Christians confess that Christ is the “only Redeemer of God’s elect,” we mean to say not only that God has chosen a particular people from eternity to be His elect, but that those elect only come to Him by way of Christ. Christianity does not claim to be a way; it is the way. Christ made this claim of Himself: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me,’” (John 14:6; NASB). As such, Christians have not arrogantly devised an exclusive religion of their own imaginations. We have humbly accepted God’s own testimony about how He will be approached.

To the minds of those who have not submitted to Christ, Christian exclusivism is calloused, cold, and uncaring. They think that we have formed these ideas within our own minds, in which case their criticisms would be correct. However, given all that we have already seen of God’s goodness, love, and patience—given also His holiness, justice, majesty, and immutability—that God would be merciful to any among the sea of sinful rebels we call mankind makes God infinitely kind and gracious! The proud atheist, the Buddhist, the Hindu, and the agnostic ask why God would provide only one way. The humble Christian stands in awe of God and wonders that He provided even the one way.

The word way is a proper and biblical term. As we have already seen, Christ used the word of Himself. Christians, long before there was such a term as Christianity, also called themselves the Way (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14; 22). However, it is not as though God simply opens up a way to Himself to all mankind and simply stands there waiting for them to respond. Rather, we are told that Christ, like a great conquerer, infiltrated the kingdom of darkness and extracted from it citizens of a new kingdom (Eph. 4:7-10). In order to do so, He had to take on a new nature and become the truly man. In order to save us, He had to first identify with us both in life and in death (Heb. 2:9-13).

The Divine Nature of the Son

We must remember the infinite chasm came to exist between God and man as a result of Adam’s fall. Prior to the fall, the gulf was already great in that man was a mere finite creation of God and God the infinite, unsearchable, intangible Creator. With man’s fall, humankind parted with God in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness (see The Baptist Catechism, Q.13). No mere man, then, would be able to bridge this chasm. It would require One with both the infinite, eternal, and immutable nature of God and the knowledge, righteousness, and holiness man forfeited at the fall. The only suitable Mediator had to be divine.

Hence, the Catechism uses the divine name Son of God to refer to Christ at the introduction to His work of redemption. “As such it points to a pre-existent sonship, which absolutely transcends the human life of Christ and His official calling as Messiah,” (Berkhof, Systematic Theology, pg. 314). It is with this Son that we find the Father speaking in Psalm 2 and entering into what theologians have termed the Covenant of Redemption from eternity.

7I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord:

He said to Me, ‘You are My Son,

Today I have begotten You.

8‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,

And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.

9‘You shall break them with a rod of iron,

You shall shatter them like earthenware,’” (Ps. 2:7-9; NASB).

Much ink has been spilled by the cults to try to explain away the deity of Christ. The result in each instance is the mangling of the doctrine of the atonement such that Christ’s obedience in life and death are not sufficient for the reconciliation of God and man. Additional works are necessary on the part of man, because only One who is truly divine and truly man can fully atone for the sins of men. He had to be greater than all creatures (Heb. 1:3-14) in order to ascend to the Father “bringing many sons to glory” (Heb. 2:10; NASB). Surely, “No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man,” (John 3:13; NASB; cf. Eph. 4:9-10). So, to deny the deity of Christ (or any other aspect of the doctrine of the Trinity) is to deny the very foundation of the gospel itself.

The Baptist Confession refers to the Him as the “Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity, being very and eternal God, the brightness of the Father’s glory, of one substance and equal with him who made the world, who upholdeth and governeth all things he hath made,” (The Baptist Confession, 8.2). Indeed, this has been the confession of the church from the very ascension of Christ. There is no denying the clear meaning of Scripture in its testimony to His deity.

15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together,” (Col. 1:15-17; NASB; see also, John 1:1-3, 14, 18; 8:58; Galatians 4:4).

He is the image of the invisible God—that is to say that He is the clear representation of His nature. When we read of Christ in Scripture, we catch a glimpse of God Himself in His purest form. No picture can faithfully depict Him, but the inspired, infallible, inerrant words of God in describing Him do. By Him, and through Him, and for Him all things were created. Paul uses this type of language in another place in his writings. Of God, he writes, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36; NASB). Had he thought Christ any less than God in the flesh, He truly would have been blaspheming to transcribe these same attributes to Him in his letter to the Colossians.

The testimony of Scripture on the matter of Christ’s deity is clear. He is truly God and, as our Mediator, could not have been anything less. No less than the divine Son of God would suffice in making atonement for sinful human beings. He also had to become truly man, or it would have likewise been impossible for Him to bring many sons to glory.

The Hypostatic Union

It’s clear then that Christ identifies as God. However, where do we see that He came to identify with man in order that we, identifying with Him, might be brought to glory? It is in the humiliation of the Son that He identifies with us. The apostle Paul exhorts the Philippian saints to have the same attitude that was in Jesus Christ, “who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross,” (Phil. 2:6-8; NKJV). Here, Paul outlines several key aspects of Christ’s humiliation.

He emptied Himself; that is, He set aside divine privilege. He did not cease to be divine. Rather, not clinging to His divinity, He “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant.” Here we see the voluntary nature of Christ descension from heaven to earth. He came on a divine rescue mission. The Father chose the elect, the bride of Christ, and the Son of His own volition—though essentially of one mind with the Father—entered into a sinful, fallen world in order to purchase His bride out of her bondage in this fallen world. He descended in humiliation to become a slave and identified as a captive in order that, ascending in His exaltation, He might lead captive a host of captives (Eph. 4:8-10).

He further identified with us in our humanity, “coming in the likeness of men.” Here, we have what the Catechism states when it confesses that the Son of God “became man.” Did Christ merely seem to be a man, though? No. What we have in the confession of Paul is precisely what we see also in John 1:1-14. From eternity, the Son exists (Gk. ἦν). There is no sense in which the language of John 1:1-3 allows that Christ could have been created. The term used for created things in John 1 (made or came to be; Gk. ἐγένετο) is diametrically different from ἦν in John 1. The starkest distinction between the two types of being is found in verses 2&3:

2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being,” (NASB; emphasis added).

Interestingly, though, we find that the Son of God, emptying Himself as Paul writes, did take to Himself a body like ours. In taking to Himself a body, John now applies the Greek term ἐγένετο to the Son: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth,” (John 1:14; NASB; emphasis added). Here, we catch a glimpse of the transcendent, unapproachable God of all glory condescending to identify with us in our humanity.

Yet, in His flesh, we do not see a ceasing in the divinity of Christ. The divine name Son of God persists as a proper title for Christ well into His humiliation. “The angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God,’” (Luke 1:35; NASB). Here, we see that Christ, though yet a baby, still retains His deity in full (cf. Col. 2:9). This is more than a mere title, though. This is a functionally divine character.

“The Word was not hedged in by His body, nor did His presence in the body prevent His being present elsewhere as well. When He moved His body He did not cease also to direct the universe by His Mind and might,” (Athanasius, On the Incarnation, 17).

There is a mind-blowing concept present in this affirmation. Even as a baby in the womb of the virgin Mary, the divine Son of God was still everywhere present, holding all things together, and directing all things to His own glorious ends. In fact, the same God who knits the babe together in his mother’s womb, it is reasonable to conclude, also knit for Himself a body in the womb of His earthly mother. For this reason, the historic Christian creeds—affirmed by both Protestants and Roman Catholics—have unapologetically granted Mary the title Mother of God. The distinction being that Roman Catholics use this title to exalt Mary above where the Bible does, while Protestants use the title to emphasize the true divinity of Christ and the singularity of His Person, though consisting of two distinct natures, even while in the womb of Mary.

It was necessary, given God’s decree to save a bride, that the Son of God become a man. It was necessary not merely so that He might enter into flesh like our flesh, but also so that He might enter under the same curse under which we are born. “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law,” (Gal. 4:4; NASB). In Adam, we are all born under a curse, a curse whereby we have forfeited dominion over this earth to angelic majesties. In other words, as a result of Adam’s sin, we have been made for a little while lower than the angels (Heb. 2:5-8), and now Satan himself is the ruler of this world system (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). Hence, God the Father perfected the Son of God—the Author of our salvation—through His being made for a little while lower than the angels, His suffering, and His death (Heb. 2:9-10). His humiliation, then, was undertaken for the purpose of identifying with us, the means by which—as we shall see—He would come to redeem us.

Ethnicity and the Church (Audio)

In recent years, the issue of Racial Reconciliation has become more and more of a necessary discussion for local churches to have. It is my conviction that eventually every church will be made to care about this issue. The proponents of it have started hosting mega conferences and have gotten some rather big names in the Evangelical movement to voice their solidarity with the movement. As such, I recently took a few weeks to address the issue at our Prayer Service at Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in San Angelo, TX. The series was five weeks long, but I was unable to record the first week.

In the first lesson, we spoke about the proper way to address sins of ethnic pride, partiality, and hatred within our local body. First, we went to 1 Timothy 5:1-2 and talked about the necessity of pulling one another to the side to appeal to one another. Second, we talked about the necessity of studying one another as we would study our own spouses. We need to know the context in which one another have formulated our views on this subject matter if we hope to address it properly. In support of this second point, we went to 1 Corinthians 8-10 and talked about how even good Christians can be very wrong in their views of sin. That doesn’t make them unbelievers but, perhaps, weaker brothers. As we seek to address ethnic strife within the body, then, we can only be benefited to examine the exhortations given by Paul in regard to how one might live with a weaker brother.

Below, you can find the rest of the lessons in audio form, or you can find the entire series here.

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Galatians 1-3 – Another Gospel

In addressing the sin of ethnic hatred and partiality within the church, we must avoid the errors of the Judaizers and add no extra-biblical requirements to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

Colossians 1-3 – Look to Christ

When considering the biblical solution to sin, particularly that of ethnic pride and partiality, we need look no further than to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

Psalm 62 – Hope in God

When considering a solution to the sin of ethnic pride, the answer is not to look to man-made institutions, political philosophies, or movements. Rather, we are to place our hope squarely in God.

 

1 Corinthians 10:13 – Actual and Original Sin

Biblically defined, sin is that which is common to all men and from which God provides a way of escape, a clear means of repentance. If the church defines racism in such a way that it does not align with these biblical affirmations, the church has adopted an extra-biblical definition of sin.

The Reality of Materialism

Recently, I had the privilege of meeting a new family in our church. They’ve spent the last several years of their life in Connecticut where they struggled to find Christian fellowship, and by God’s providence, they have been able to move down to Charleston. On this past Sunday, our families had lunch together, and we spent most of the time just getting to know each other. Eventually, we discussed the spiritual state of many of the people they knew in Connecticut. They mentioned that they had numerous wealthy acquaintances, but they were among the most miserable people they knew. We all nodded heads because as Christians, we know that money cannot buy the happiness and longing that many desire. However, a statement was made during the conversation that has been on my mind for several days: “I don’t know what’s worse: the rich, miserable man who is attached to his wealth or the poor, miserable man whose great hope in life is to become wealthy.”

That statement has stuck with me because it’s speaks about the reality of materialism. There is much discussion among Christians regarding the materialism of those who are wealthy in this world. There’s much discussion of families who are public successes and private failures – those who live (and boast about) a life of luxury for everyone to see, yet in truth, they are miserably addicted to their love of wealth. These are individuals who live to work, live to make money, and showcase their extravagance for all to see, yet they have neglected their souls and their families.

However, there is not much discussion of the materialism of those who are poor in this world. Even though they may have meager possessions, their heart is still addicted to the hopeful prospect of wealth. They love to watch and mimic those who are wealthy so that they can fantasize about what they would do if they were wealthy. These are individuals who “fake it until they make it” – pretending to have wealth and possessions because they pine for the status that wealth brings. Even when the private failings of wealthy individuals become public, their only lesson is to not repeat their private failures.

In reality, there are many similarities between the materialism of “the rich” versus “the poor”. In both cases, their hearts are set on wealth. However, there is an important difference between the two: the rich have received their reward and their hope, whereas the poor have not. For the rich in this world, the question becomes: What do you do when your hope fails you? There are many passages of Scripture that are used to appeal to those who trust in their possessions, such as Luke 12:15; 1 Timothy 6:10, 17-19; Matthew 6:19-21, 24; and James 5:1-5.

For the poor in this world, the question becomes: What do you do when your hope of wealth is crushed? The response of Christians to these poor individuals should fundamentally be the same. However, I am finding that another message has been substituted for the gospel message, and it is the belief that someone has robbed them of their wealth. Ultimately, this is a message that doesn’t confront the poor for their need of Christ, but gives them another reason to cling to their wicked desires. In this case, the solution isn’t the cross of Christ because the cross of Christ doesn’t restore this wealth. Instead we must do something to take back what has been stolen from us.

Many of you who are reading this blog will immediately come to the conclusion that I’m speaking specifically about the so-called “prosperity gospel” promoted by men like Kenneth Copeland. This is true, but the so-called “prosperity gospel” could have never existed without what many people call “social justice”. In the prosperity gospel, Satan is the one who has robbed and oppressed the poor, and the solution peddled by those in the prosperity gospel is to “take back what the devil has stolen from you”. In the social gospel/social justice movement, society (via corrupt politicians and wicked businessmen) have robbed and oppressed the poor, and the solution is take back what “society” has stolen from you. When you tell the adherent of either message that Christians should rejoice based on what they have in Christ, the response is usually the same: (1) you don’t understand the implications of the gospel and (2) you are “spiritualizing” the Bible and not dealing with reality.

Someone may object: “The prosperity gospel is all about greed, whereas social justice is about caring for the marginalized and the ‘least of these’.” This is “question-begging” logic because it doesn’t address what people truly need. In other words, what do the “marginalized” and the “least of these” truly need? In addressing the disciples of John the Baptist, Jesus provides an answer to this question.

Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, “Are you the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. Matthew 11:1-5

In the works that Jesus describes to John’s disciples, He gives the remedy for the malady that is needed. It’s important to note that Jesus believes that the gospel (i.e. the good news) is the remedy needed for the poor, not freedom from poverty. This is not a “pie-in-the-sky” message that functions like therapy for the poor while ignoring their real problems. Rather, Jesus is saying that the real problem is deeper than the oppression that the poor faced under the Roman Empire because salvation is more than simply freedom from Roman (or American) oppression.

So, let’s return to our original question. What do you say to the poor in this world whose hope for wealth is crushed? First, I echo the sentiments of the musician Bryan Winchester: “Materialism and self-ambition is a foolish religion. The riches of God’s mercy is worth more than your superstition.” Chasing after wealth and putting one’s hope in it is just as worthless as chasing after the wind. Solomon’s life is a testimony of this (cf. Ecclesiastes 2:1-11).

Second, I think an honest question should be raised: Do we really believe, as Christians, that the poor will come to Christ only after you remove their poverty? If we are talking about the prosperity gospel, then there’s an easy answer: If you come to Christ for money, then He’s not your God – money is! However, if this is true for the prosperity gospel, then it’s true for all variants of social justice/social gospel. If you come to Christ only after your oppressors are overthrown, then He’s not your God – liberation/autonomy is! At the core, the social gospel and the prosperity gospel share the common core of a “worldly” faith – a faith fixed upon liberation from the problems of this world, rather than redemption from sin.

Christ, His Gospel, and Ethnicity (Full)

“The supreme judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Scripture delivered by the Spirit, into which Scripture so delivered, our faith is finally resolved,” (The Baptist Confession, 1.10).

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Introduction

With some relief, I have observed as one-by-one, major voices in Reformed thought have begun to voice concern over the way that the issue of ethnicity is being treated of late in the name of Evangelical and even Reformed Christianity. Individuals like James White and Phil Johnson have weighed in on the matter. We should recognize, though, that much of the Evangelical and Reformed church is behind the curve on this issue, and there is precious little unity in the addressing of it. In fact, the concern of many seems to be their own reputations and the way they are individually being addressed on social media.

Entire denominations are ending up on the wrong side of the issue on this one, bloggers and podcasters are seeking to address the issue one biblical passage at a time, and no one seems to be willing to say outright what I will seek to demonstrate in this very series of articles: the fact that many in the name of racial reconciliation are adding to, and thus denying, the gospel once and for all delivered to the saints. It is high time that we brought Scripture to bear on the matter of ethnicity in the Western church in a very clear manner. What clear passages speak to this issue, though?

In the articles to come, we will examine a few key texts that are necessary for laying the groundwork for a proper biblical understanding of pan-ethnic fellowship within the church of God. Though by no means an exhaustive list, the following passages will be instrumental in helping us to understand the proper biblical understanding of this often volatile issue:

  • Jeremiah 31:27-34
  • Galatians 3:7, 26-39
  • Ephesians 2:13-22
  • James 2:1, 8-13
  • Colossians 2-3

Critical Race Theory

Before we examine these key texts, it will be important for us to take a minute to briefly summarize the major teachings of Critical Race Theory (CRT), because it is well documented that this is the major view behind much of the narrative being pushed in Evangelical and Reformed churches today. “Christian” proponents of CRT have all but anathematized those who disagree with them and they have accused them of heinous sins. This series is not meant to be a responding in kind. However, there have been some recent statements that have made it clear that these men and women are seeking to fundamentally change the gospel as we know it.

What is CRT? CRT began in the 1960s and 70s as a political philosophy with roots in Critical Theory (from the 1910s) and its parent philosophy: Marxism. “Critical of both liberal incrementalism and conservative color-blind philosophies, critical race theorists carve out new ground that places central importance on power, economics, narrative, and social construction in coming to grips with America’s social problems,” (Critical Race Theory – Methodology – Law, Legal, University, and York – JRank Articles). There has been great push back against the notion that this approach to addressing ethnic disparity in the church is Marxist or, more appropriately, neo-Marxist in origin. However, there is no denying the paper trail that ties neo-Marxists like Derrick Bell, Saul Alinsky, and Richard Delgado to the formulation and propagation of Critical Race Theory.

Jeremiah 31:27-34

First, the sins of fathers and grandfathers has recently been brought into the discussion. Insofar as we should not desire to repeat the sins of our fathers, we must recount our familial and national histories with realism, not romanticism, as our guide. We must allow our forefathers to own their sins as well as their virtues. The question is whether or not it is biblical for us to require men, women, and children of today and tomorrow to answer for the sins of those who preceded them. Jeremiah 31 makes clear that we should not.

27‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and with the seed of beast. 28As I have watched over them to pluck up, to break down, to overthrow, to destroy and to bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,” declares the Lord.

29‘In those days they will not say again,

‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes,

And the children’s teeth are set on edge.’

30But everyone will die for his own iniquity; each man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth will be set on edge,” (Jer. 31:17-30; NASB).

The theological term often assigned to this area of study is the term hamartiology (doctrine of sin). What must be understood about the effects of sin in the Old Testament vs. its effects in the New Testament is the fact that there was a very real sense in which the covenant people of God were expected to repent of the sins of their fathers. Lack of such repentance would lead to great cultural consequences among the people. As such, we see corporate repentance when there is a clear, divinely established covenantal union made with a national people (i.e. Daniel and Ezra praying for the nation of Israel). To say that men are responsible for their forefathers’ sins or, as has been recently suggested, responsible for the sins of people who share their skin color assumes that they are covenantally united to them and share in their actual sins.

To his credit, Pastor Anyabwile (follow the hyperlink above) has not demonstrated an ignorance of the discrepancy between his hamartiology and that of his detractors. In fact, he specifically addresses it (however deficiently) in a recent article published on The Gospel Coalition’s website. He writes:

“Finally, and this is where our disagreement is sharpest, the New Testament does indeed sweepingly speak of ethnic, national or ‘racial’ groups and their shared guilt and need due to sin. Again, we’re keeping with the New Testament, which is good because the Old Testament examples are legion. Consider Titus 1,” (Anyabwile, “Four Ways the New Testament Identifies Ethnicity in the Church,” The Gospel Coalition).

At this point, Pastor Anyabwile quotes Titus 1:12-14: “One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.’ This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith, not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth” (NASB). What the honest reader will notice from this passage is the fact that missing from Paul’s description of the Cretans is any insistence that they must be rebuked for sins that are not individually their own. Also missing is any mention of skin color, facial features, hair texture, or any other marks that would be used by the modern Western politician or sociologist (you can apparently add pastor now) to distinguish between races.

What is being described here is a geographically unique collective, most likely with a multiplicity of ethnic backgrounds and genetic, visible differences, who share in certain culturally enshrined sinful tendencies away from which they need to be discipled through the ordained means of grace God has given the church. A modern application might be to tell a West Texas church planter today that he should prepare for an abundance of American Rugged Individualism in the thoughts and habits of many of the people (of all colors) coming out of the world and into his local assembly. He should be prepared to hold up the mirror of Scripture to the people so that they see this sinful tendency to forsake the assembly and disobey clear, biblical commands toward hospitality in their own hearts. Having demonstrated the biblical requirement, the pastor must be ready to lovingly admonish and rebuke those who willfully disobey it.

Those who have come into the fellowship of the saints in the New Covenant era are not bound together under an earthly, national covenant head like Moses. Rather, we come under the covenant Head of Christ Himself. There is no ethnic or national mandate here. I do not have a unique covenant with “white” Christians or American Christians that I do not share with Christians of other races and nationalities. The New Covenant demands that I admonish and rebuke particular sins that are clearly present in the lives of my “white” and American Christian brothers, but I do not share in their guilt merely by virtue of the fact that I too am “white” or American. At the same time, I have the liberty. . .  no, the duty to admonish and rebuke my Christian brothers of all ethnicities in the same way for the same sins. I can and should do so, because the same law that binds me binds them, regardless of ethnicity. That is the nature of the New Covenant.

31Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,’ declares the Lord. 33‘But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, ‘for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more,’” (Jer. 31:31-34; NASB).

Any understanding of repentance and sin in the New Covenant must take this passage very seriously. The requirement for forgiveness from God and admittance into the New Covenant community is repentance of one’s own personal sins, not any committed by previous generations. Each man stands or falls in the New Covenant on the basis of his own sins. In fact, each man is fully forgiven his sins in the New Covenant and his sins are remembered no more.

Galatians 3:7, 26-29

To add to this requirement is to add to the gospel itself, just as the Judaizers Paul addressed in his letter to the Galatians added to the gospel a circumcision requirement. It is proper at this point to recall that Paul pronounces a curse upon those who add to the gospel (Gal. 1:8-9). This circumcision was a requirement brought on by the Judaizers to address a real ethnic quandary in the early church. A great enmity existed between Roman-born and Roman-conquered Jews and Gentiles at this point in Jewish history (Eph. 2:11; Phil. 3:2-3). Prior to obtaining union with ethnically Jewish Christians through Christ, the Judaizers expected Gentile converts to become one with the Jews through circumcision. Paul makes clear that no such requirement can be placed upon the Christian except that which has already been required: repentance unto life and saving faith (two sides of the same coin).

7Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. . . 26For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise,” (Gal. 3:7, 26-29; NASB).

Pastor Thabiti has not required anything new. His addition to the gospel requirement is an addition that has been pushed for years in other sectors of Western Evangelicalism. Yet, his addition is an addition and must be sharply condemned as such. At this point, let me clearly state what no one else seems to be willing. What is being preached in the name of racial reconciliation in many circles today is an addition to the gospel, which amounts to a fundamental denial of the true gospel. In other words, this is nothing less than heresy, which must be condemned in the strongest terms. Pastor Anyabwile and others are telling Christians that they must add to their repentance a continual, public, irremovable recognition of collective guilt and penance. It posits a sin for which Christ’s blood cannot atone, a dividing wall defiantly indestructible even in the face of Christ and His gospel.

What we see in Christ, however, is that an abolition has taken place. As Christ did not come to this earth to identify with only one specific ethnicity—but rather with mankind in general, so that He might bring many sons to glory (Heb. 2:9-11)—so too we are called to find our primary identity in Him not in our own particular ethnicities and, in so doing, we also find our primary identities as being intertwined with one another (regardless of ethnicity). As such, we identify with one another as Abraham’s descendants according to belief, not according to ethnicity.

Ephesians 2:13-22

The perpetuity of ethnic dividing walls within the church, it must be stated, is a fundamental denial of the gospel itself. To be united with Christ in communion with the saints is to accept His finished work of erasing the primary function of ethnic identity in the church. That is not to say that the sinfulness of man will not still bring about ethnic disparity even within the covenant community of God, but this occurs as a result of precisely what people like Pastor Anyabwile are pushing for: emphasizing the perpetuity of identifying in ethnicity beyond the point of union with Christ and His body.

13But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. 17And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; 18for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit,” (Eph. 2:13-22; NASB).

What we have, then, in Pastor Thabiti and those who agree with his narrative, is a fundamental denial of the great mystery of the gospel: the expansion of the gospel through Gentile inclusion. In their writings, it is agreed that the nations are included in the New Covenant, but the dividing walls remain. Rather than finding unity in the throne and the Lamb, the tribes, tongues, and nations worshiping God in heaven are treated as having perpetual dividing walls persisting into the eternal state. Thus, even Christ’s eschatological bride is fundamentally divided in the view of these preachers and their churches, and all in service of furthering an extra-biblical “narrative.”

James 2:1, 8-13

But it has been mentioned that Paul had a specific heart inclination toward those of his own ethnicity (Rom. 9:1-5), and that there will be a great multitude “of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” in the eternal kingdom (Rev. 7:9; NKJV). By making mention of these passages, what is being justified is a certain sense of virtue in showing partiality toward one’s own ethnicity over another in kingdom work.

Yet we are told very clearly in James’ letter that partiality is most certainly a sin (Jas. 2:1, 8-13). Clearly, Paul could not have meant in Romans 9 that he loved the ethnic Israelites more than Gentile Christians. How then could he rightly refer to himself as the apostle to the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13)? Likewise Peter, though called an apostle to the circumcised (Gal. 2:8), was rebuked by Paul for showing favor to the exclusivistic Jews (Judaizers) in corporate fellowship (Gal. 2:11-12). There is no special dispensation granted any one ethnicity or another for ethnic partiality within the body of Christ. It is to be rejected wherever it is found.

So it is improper to point to Paul’s love for and desire to see the Israelites saved as an instance of acceptable ethnic favoritism within the body of Christ. Nor could the ethnic groups mentioned in John’s vision in Revelation 7 have been engaging in any such partiality in the very presence of God. Such partiality would is a clear violation of the law of God. The overtly clear passage of James must be used as a governing factor in our interpretation of these passages. Whatever they mean, they cannot be meant to contradict the clear teaching of James. Partiality in the body of Christ is always a sin.

Instead, Romans 9, it is clear that Paul means to demonstrate that his consolation is found in understanding that ethnicity is not his primary identification. Rather, as Gentiles come to faith in Christ, a great multitude of those outside of ethnic Israel is added to true Israel, which is cause for rejoicing (Rom. 9:6ff), because that means the expansion of true Israel and the eternal family of Paul. In the same way, it is more appropriate to see as primary the unifying nature of the throne and the Lamb in bringing together people out of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues over against the notion that these are disparate people standing in separate ranks still divided from one another and showing ethnic partiality to one another in the presence of a holy God for all of eternity. The very notion is borderline blasphemous.

Colossians 2-3

Perhaps partiality is not the driving factor, though. Assuming that there is no desire to foster a sense of ethnic favoritism among ethnic groups within the church, what is the stated motivation? The stated motivation is that a collective of voices is needed in order to break the power of systemic racism and overcome the tide of white privilege that pervades our culture, including even the churches in the West. Ethnic minorities are called upon the rise up with one collective voice, and to shout down the voice of any “white” man (or minority detractor) who does not join in supporting the accepted narrative.

What is the accepted narrative, though? The accepted narrative is that there are intangible, unquantifiable sins (e.g. white privilege and systemic racism) that naturally offset the balance of power within societies, institutions and, yes, even churches, and white Christians (those in power) must all own it, confess it, and enter into a perpetual life of public penance, or we are contributing to it. It must be observed, and outright stated that the definition of these sins are worldly. There is no such notion of sins in the Bible from which the Christian cannot even potentially repent (Jas. 1:13-15; 1 Cor. 10:13). Yet, it is impossible for any ethnicity, institution, society, or church to repent of such sins as are currently being defined and redefined under the aforementioned terms.

If these terms and definitions seem foreign to the biblical texts, it is because they are. Whence do they come, though? They have been smuggled into the church from the aforementioned worldly philosophy known as Critical Race Theory developed by neo-Marxists in the 1960s and 70s.

“As an outgrowth of the critical legal studies movement—an area of legal scholarship popularized in the 1970s that privileges economic and neo-Marxist understandings of structural barriers to equality—these early CRT scholars recognized that social, legal, and juridical apparatuses work in the interest of the dominant class and, therefore, serve to maintain existing social relations along racial and class lines,” (Lopez and Warren, “Introduction,” Critical Race Theory).

Behind these terms and embedded in many even Evangelical and “Reformed” articles on ethnicity today is the idea of power struggle. Marxism has always been about power struggles, and this new movement is no different. The main difference is terminology. Instead of power, the term privilege is used. In short, what we are seeing is a smuggling in of worldly philosophies in the name of combating sin.

What has been discovered and exploited by neo-Marxists, that had not quite been as well-defined in the early days with Marx and Engels, is the fact that there is power in the promulgation of the notion of perpetual, irreconcilable victimhood. Where there are victims, there is penance. Ironically, in the name of breaking down power structures, political and societal Marxism has always only accomplished the reinforcement and enhancement of them. Here, we arrive at our final text for consideration, and I will post it in full:

6Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.

8See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. . .

18Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, 19and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.

20If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21‘Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!’ 22(which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.
1Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory,” (Col. 2:6-8, 18-23; 3:1-4; NASB).

Paul’s argumentation throughout the book of Colossians is masterful. He begins in Chapter 1 by setting before the eyes of his readers a high view of Christ and His gospel. In Chapter 2, he addresses what commentators have entitled the Colossian heresy, a strange morph of Greek and Jewish thought that resembled both the Gnosticism that would arise later in the first and second century and the Judaizer (or “circumcision party”) movement already present by Paul’s penning of Galatians. These heretics were seeking to address some very valid sin issues within the church culture of Colossae, and other “sins” that were really only violations of their manmade laws and philosophies.

Paul does not agree with the narrative of the Colossian heretics. He sees that they have used their special-knowledge religion to push forth a narrative that was binding the hearts and the minds of the Colossian church to laws that God had never given. He rightly roots the error in worldly philosophies and the traditions of men. He then offers the only real solution to sin within the body of Christ. He points to the throne and to the Lamb, not to the tribes, tongues, peoples, and nations. Having instructed them not to allow themselves to be taken captive by worldly philosophies and the traditions of men, he tells them in chapter three to set their minds of the things above where Christ is.

Conclusion

Do we still battle residual sin in our members? Certainly. However, we are not to be bound by the decrees of men in our definition of that sin. Nor are we to subsequently seek to adopt their extra-biblical solutions to sin, be they real or artificial sins. Paul gives us the final answer in Colossians 2-3: look to Christ! When men seek to define sin for us, we must require them to take us to the Bible and show it to us there. When men seek to show us the solution to sin, let them take us to Christ and to His cross. Everything else, everything we have been seeing from this heretical movement, is an adding to the cross. It must be recognized as the false gospel it is. It must be decried, rejected, rebuked, and declared accursed. Otherwise, it will continue to bring destruction upon the household of God in our day. I recognize that such a stand will not be easy for those who hold communion together with people and churches who preach this false gospel, but it is the stand that is demanded of us in God’s word. If we are to guard the sheep against the wolves, we must be willing to call out the wolves in our midst.

Christ, His Gospel, and Ethnicity – Colossians 2-3

Perhaps partiality is not the driving factor, though. Assuming that there is no desire to foster a sense of ethnic favoritism among ethnic groups within the church, what is the stated motivation? The stated motivation is that a collective of voices is needed in order to break the power of systemic racism and overcome the tide of white privilege that pervades our culture, including even the churches in the West. Ethnic minorities are called upon the rise up with one collective voice, and to shout down the voice of any “white” man (or minority detractor) who does not join in supporting the accepted narrative.

What is the accepted narrative, though? The accepted narrative is that there are intangible, unquantifiable sins (e.g. white privilege and systemic racism) that naturally offset the balance of power within societies, institutions and, yes, even churches, and white Christians (those in power) must all own it, confess it, and enter into a perpetual life of public penance, or we are contributing to it. It must be observed, and outright stated that the definition of these sins are worldly. There is no such notion of sins in the Bible from which the Christian cannot even potentially repent (Jas. 1:13-15; 1 Cor. 10:13). Yet, it is impossible for any ethnicity, institution, society, or church to repent of such sins as are currently being defined and redefined under the aforementioned terms.

If these terms and definitions seem foreign to the biblical texts, it is because they are. Whence do they come, though? They have been smuggled into the church from the aforementioned worldly philosophy known as Critical Race Theory developed by neo-Marxists in the 1960s and 70s.

“As an outgrowth of the critical legal studies movement—an area of legal scholarship popularized in the 1970s that privileges economic and neo-Marxist understandings of structural barriers to equality—these early CRT scholars recognized that social, legal, and juridical apparatuses work in the interest of the dominant class and, therefore, serve to maintain existing social relations along racial and class lines,” (Lopez and Warren, “Introduction,” Critical Race Theory).

Behind these terms and embedded in many even Evangelical and “Reformed” articles on ethnicity today is the idea of power struggle. Marxism has always been about power struggles, and this new movement is no different. The main difference is terminology. Instead of power, the term privilege is used. In short, what we are seeing is a smuggling in of worldly philosophies in the name of combating sin.

What has been discovered and exploited by neo-Marxists, that had not quite been as well-defined in the early days with Marx and Engels, is the fact that there is power in the promulgation of the notion of perpetual, irreconcilable victimhood. Where there are victims, there is penance. Ironically, in the name of breaking down power structures, political and societal Marxism has always only accomplished the reinforcement and enhancement of them. Here, we arrive at our final text for consideration, and I will post it in full:

6Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.

8See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. . .

18Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, 19and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.

20If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21‘Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!’ 22(which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.
1Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory,” (Col. 2:6-8, 18-23; 3:1-4; NASB).

Paul’s argumentation throughout the book of Colossians is masterful. He begins in Chapter 1 by setting before the eyes of his readers a high view of Christ and His gospel. In Chapter 2, he addresses what commentators have entitled the Colossian heresy, a strange morph of Greek and Jewish thought that resembled both the Gnosticism that would arise later in the first and second century and the Judaizer (or “circumcision party”) movement already present by Paul’s penning of Galatians. These heretics were seeking to address some very valid sin issues within the church culture of Colossae, and other “sins” that were really only violations of their manmade laws and philosophies.

Paul does not agree with the narrative of the Colossian heretics. He sees that they have used their special-knowledge religion to push forth a narrative that was binding the hearts and the minds of the Colossian church to laws that God had never given. He rightly roots the error in worldly philosophies and the traditions of men. He then offers the only real solution to sin within the body of Christ. He points to the throne and to the Lamb, not to the tribes, tongues, peoples, and nations. Having instructed them not to allow themselves to be taken captive by worldly philosophies and the traditions of men, he tells them in chapter three to set their minds of the things above where Christ is.

Conclusion

Do we still battle residual sin in our members? Certainly. However, we are not to be bound by the decrees of men in our definition of that sin. Nor are we to subsequently seek to adopt their extra-biblical solutions to sin, be they real or artificial sins. Paul gives us the final answer in Colossians 2-3: look to Christ! When men seek to define sin for us, we must require them to take us to the Bible and show it to us there. When men seek to show us the solution to sin, let them take us to Christ and to His cross. Everything else, everything we have been seeing from this heretical movement, is an adding to the cross. It must be recognized as the false gospel it is. It must be decried, rejected, rebuked, and declared accursed. Otherwise, it will continue to bring destruction upon the household of God in our day. I recognize that such a stand will not be easy for those who hold communion together with people and churches who preach this false gospel, but it is the stand that is demanded of us in God’s word. If we are to guard the sheep against the wolves, we must be willing to call out the wolves in our midst.

Christ, His Gospel, and Ethnicity – James 2:1, 8-13

But it has been mentioned that Paul had a specific heart inclination toward those of his own ethnicity (Rom. 9:1-5), and that there will be a great multitude “of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” in the eternal kingdom (Rev. 7:9; NKJV). By making mention of these passages, what is being justified is a certain sense of virtue in showing partiality toward one’s own ethnicity over another in kingdom work.

Yet we are told very clearly in James’ letter that partiality is most certainly a sin (Jas. 2:1, 8-13). Clearly, Paul could not have meant in Romans 9 that he loved the ethnic Israelites more than Gentile Christians. How then could he rightly refer to himself as the apostle to the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13)? Likewise Peter, though called an apostle to the circumcised (Gal. 2:8), was rebuked by Paul for showing favor to the exclusivistic Jews (Judaizers) in corporate fellowship (Gal. 2:11-12). There is no special dispensation granted any one ethnicity or another for ethnic partiality within the body of Christ. It is to be rejected wherever it is found.

So it is improper to point to Paul’s love for and desire to see the Israelites saved as an instance of acceptable ethnic favoritism within the body of Christ. Nor could the ethnic groups mentioned in John’s vision in Revelation 7 have been engaging in any such partiality in the very presence of God. Such partiality would is a clear violation of the law of God. The overtly clear passage of James must be used as a governing factor in our interpretation of these passages. Whatever they mean, they cannot be meant to contradict the clear teaching of James. Partiality in the body of Christ is always a sin.

Instead, Romans 9, it is clear that Paul means to demonstrate that his consolation is found in understanding that ethnicity is not his primary identification. Rather, as Gentiles come to faith in Christ, a great multitude of those outside of ethnic Israel is added to true Israel, which is cause for rejoicing (Rom. 9:6ff), because that means the expansion of true Israel and the eternal family of Paul. In the same way, it is more appropriate to see as primary the unifying nature of the throne and the Lamb in bringing together people out of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues over against the notion that these are disparate people standing in separate ranks still divided from one another and showing ethnic partiality to one another in the presence of a holy God for all of eternity. The very notion is borderline blasphemous.

Christ, His Gospel, and Ethnicity – Ephesians 2:13-22

The perpetuity of ethnic dividing walls within the church, it must be stated, is a fundamental denial of the gospel itself. To be united with Christ in communion with the saints is to accept His finished work of erasing the primary function of ethnic identity in the church. That is not to say that the sinfulness of man will not still bring about ethnic disparity even within the covenant community of God, but this occurs as a result of precisely what people like Pastor Anyabwile are pushing for: emphasizing the perpetuity of identifying in ethnicity beyond the point of union with Christ and His body.

13But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. 17And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; 18for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit,” (Eph. 2:13-22; NASB).

What we have, then, in Pastor Thabiti and those who agree with his narrative, is a fundamental denial of the great mystery of the gospel: the expansion of the gospel through Gentile inclusion. In their writings, it is agreed that the nations are included in the New Covenant, but the dividing walls remain. Rather than finding unity in the throne and the Lamb, the tribes, tongues, and nations worshiping God in heaven are treated as having perpetual dividing walls persisting into the eternal state. Thus, even Christ’s eschatological bride is fundamentally divided in the view of these preachers and their churches, and all in service of furthering an extra-biblical “narrative.”

Christ, His Gospel, and Ethnicity – Galatians 3:7, 26-29

To add to this requirement is to add to the gospel itself, just as the Judaizers Paul addressed in his letter to the Galatians added to the gospel a circumcision requirement. It is proper at this point to recall that Paul pronounces a curse upon those who add to the gospel (Gal. 1:8-9). This circumcision was a requirement brought on by the Judaizers to address a real ethnic quandary in the early church. A great enmity existed between Roman-born and Roman-conquered Jews and Gentiles at this point in Jewish history (Eph. 2:11; Phil. 3:2-3). Prior to obtaining union with ethnically Jewish Christians through Christ, the Judaizers expected Gentile converts to become one with the Jews through circumcision. Paul makes clear that no such requirement can be placed upon the Christian except that which has already been required: repentance unto life and saving faith (two sides of the same coin).

7Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. . . 26For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise,” (Gal. 3:7, 26-29; NASB).

Pastor Thabiti has not required anything new. His addition to the gospel requirement is an addition that has been pushed for years in other sectors of Western Evangelicalism. Yet, his addition is an addition and must be sharply condemned as such. At this point, let me clearly state what no one else seems to be willing. What is being preached in the name of racial reconciliation in many circles today is an addition to the gospel, which amounts to a fundamental denial of the true gospel. In other words, this is nothing less than heresy, which must be condemned in the strongest terms. Pastor Anyabwile and others are telling Christians that they must add to their repentance a continual, public, irremovable recognition of collective guilt and penance. It posits a sin for which Christ’s blood cannot atone, a dividing wall defiantly indestructible even in the face of Christ and His gospel.

What we see in Christ, however, is that an abolition has taken place. As Christ did not come to this earth to identify with only one specific ethnicity—but rather with mankind in general, so that He might bring many sons to glory (Heb. 2:9-11)—so too we are called to find our primary identity in Him not in our own particular ethnicities and, in so doing, we also find our primary identities as being intertwined with one another (regardless of ethnicity). As such, we identify with one another as Abraham’s descendants according to belief, not according to ethnicity.

Christ, His Gospel, and Ethnicity – Jeremiah 31:27-34

First, the sins of fathers and grandfathers has recently been brought into the discussion. Insofar as we should not desire to repeat the sins of our fathers, we must recount our familial and national histories with realism, not romanticism, as our guide. We must allow our forefathers to own their sins as well as their virtues. The question is whether or not it is biblical for us to require men, women, and children of today and tomorrow to answer for the sins of those who preceded them. Jeremiah 31 makes clear that we should not.

27‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and with the seed of beast. 28As I have watched over them to pluck up, to break down, to overthrow, to destroy and to bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,” declares the Lord.

29‘In those days they will not say again,

‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes,

And the children’s teeth are set on edge.’

30But everyone will die for his own iniquity; each man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth will be set on edge,” (Jer. 31:17-30; NASB).

The theological term often assigned to this area of study is the term hamartiology (doctrine of sin). What must be understood about the effects of sin in the Old Testament vs. its effects in the New Testament is the fact that there was a very real sense in which the covenant people of God were expected to repent of the sins of their fathers. Lack of such repentance would lead to great cultural consequences among the people. As such, we see corporate repentance when there is a clear, divinely established covenantal union made with a national people (i.e. Daniel and Ezra praying for the nation of Israel). To say that men are responsible for their forefathers’ sins or, as has been recently suggested, responsible for the sins of people who share their skin color assumes that they are covenantally united to them and share in their actual sins.

To his credit, Pastor Anyabwile (follow the hyperlink above) has not demonstrated an ignorance of the discrepancy between his hamartiology and that of his detractors. In fact, he specifically addresses it (however deficiently) in a recent article published on The Gospel Coalition’s website. He writes:

“Finally, and this is where our disagreement is sharpest, the New Testament does indeed sweepingly speak of ethnic, national or ‘racial’ groups and their shared guilt and need due to sin. Again, we’re keeping with the New Testament, which is good because the Old Testament examples are legion. Consider Titus 1,” (Anyabwile, “Four Ways the New Testament Identifies Ethnicity in the Church,” The Gospel Coalition).

At this point, Pastor Anyabwile quotes Titus 1:12-14: “One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.’ This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith, not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth” (NASB). What the honest reader will notice from this passage is the fact that missing from Paul’s description of the Cretans is any insistence that they must be rebuked for sins that are not individually their own. Also missing is any mention of skin color, facial features, hair texture, or any other marks that would be used by the modern Western politician or sociologist (you can apparently add pastor now) to distinguish between races.

What is being described here is a geographically unique collective, most likely with a multiplicity of ethnic backgrounds and genetic, visible differences, who share in certain culturally enshrined sinful tendencies away from which they need to be discipled through the ordained means of grace God has given the church. A modern application might be to tell a West Texas church planter today that he should prepare for an abundance of American Rugged Individualism in the thoughts and habits of many of the people (of all colors) coming out of the world and into his local assembly. He should be prepared to hold up the mirror of Scripture to the people so that they see this sinful tendency to forsake the assembly and disobey clear, biblical commands toward hospitality in their own hearts. Having demonstrated the biblical requirement, the pastor must be ready to lovingly admonish and rebuke those who willfully disobey it.

Those who have come into the fellowship of the saints in the New Covenant era are not bound together under an earthly, national covenant head like Moses. Rather, we come under the covenant Head of Christ Himself. There is no ethnic or national mandate here. I do not have a unique covenant with “white” Christians or American Christians that I do not share with Christians of other races and nationalities. The New Covenant demands that I admonish and rebuke particular sins that are clearly present in the lives of my “white” and American Christian brothers, but I do not share in their guilt merely by virtue of the fact that I too am “white” or American. At the same time, I have the liberty. . .  no, the duty to admonish and rebuke my Christian brothers of all ethnicities in the same way for the same sins. I can and should do so, because the same law that binds me binds them, regardless of ethnicity. That is the nature of the New Covenant.

31Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,’ declares the Lord. 33‘But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, ‘for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more,’” (Jer. 31:31-34; NASB).

Any understanding of repentance and sin in the New Covenant must take this passage very seriously. The requirement for forgiveness from God and admittance into the New Covenant community is repentance of one’s own personal sins, not any committed by previous generations. Each man stands or falls in the New Covenant on the basis of his own sins. In fact, each man is fully forgiven his sins in the New Covenant and his sins are remembered no more.

Christ, His Gospel, and Ethnicity (Introduction)

“The supreme judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Scripture delivered by the Spirit, into which Scripture so delivered, our faith is finally resolved,” (The Baptist Confession, 1.10).

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With some relief, I have observed as one-by-one, major voices in Reformed thought have begun to voice concern over the way that the issue of ethnicity is being treated of late in the name of Evangelical and even Reformed Christianity. Individuals like James White and Phil Johnson have weighed in on the matter. We should recognize, though, that much of the Evangelical and Reformed church is behind the curve on this issue, and there is precious little unity in the addressing of it. In fact, the primary concern of some seems to be their own reputations and the way they are being personally addressed on social media. The stakes are much larger than personal reputation, though.

Entire denominations are ending up on the wrong side of the issue on this one, bloggers and podcasters are seeking to address the issue one biblical passage at a time, and no one seems to be willing to say outright what I will seek to demonstrate in this very series of articles: the fact that many in the name of racial reconciliation are adding to, and thus denying, the gospel once and for all delivered to the saints. It is high time that we brought Scripture to bear on the matter of ethnicity in the Western church in a very clear manner. What clear passages speak to this issue, though?

In the articles to come, we will examine a few key texts that are necessary for laying the groundwork for a proper biblical understanding of pan-ethnic fellowship within the church of God. Though by no means an exhaustive list, the following passages will be instrumental in helping us to understand the proper biblical understanding of this often volatile issue:

  • Jeremiah 31:27-34
  • Galatians 3:7, 26-39
  • Ephesians 2:13-22
  • James 2:1, 8-13
  • Colossians 2-3

 

Critical Race Theory

Before we examine these key texts, it will be important for us to take a minute to briefly summarize the major teachings of Critical Race Theory (CRT), because it is well documented that this is the major view behind much of the narrative being pushed in Evangelical and Reformed churches today. “Christian” proponents of CRT have all but anathematized those who disagree with them and they have accused them of heinous sins. This series is not meant to be a responding in kind. However, there have been some recent statements that have made it clear that these men and women are seeking to fundamentally change the gospel as we know it.

What is CRT? CRT began in the 1960s and 70s as a political philosophy with roots in Critical Theory (from the 1910s) and its parent philosophy: Marxism. “Critical of both liberal incrementalism and conservative color-blind philosophies, critical race theorists carve out new ground that places central importance on power, economics, narrative, and social construction in coming to grips with America’s social problems,” (Critical Race Theory – Methodology – Law, Legal, University, and York – JRank Articles). There has been great push back against the notion that this approach to addressing ethnic disparity in the church is Marxist or, more appropriately, neo-Marxist in origin. However, there is no denying the paper trail that ties neo-Marxists like Derrick Bell, Saul Alinsky, and Richard Delgado to the formulation and propagation of Critical Race Theory.

With this as the backdrop for the discussion, the remaining articles are soon to follow.