Unity in Christ

This post was originally published over at http://www.CitizenPriest.com under the heading Unity in Christ (Weekly Refreshment).



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,” (Colossians 1:3-4; NASB).

Having been raised in Texas, and that largely in the country, by the time I reached middle school age I had imbibed an us vs. them mentality in regard to ethnicity. I had never really stopped to think about it, because it was not something I was forced to think about often, but I had come to think of race relations in an irreverent fashion. To me it was a game, a “my team vs. your team” kind of a thing. Then, something amazing happened.

In my seventh grade year, my mom and I joined a new church in a larger town, though we still lived in the country. At this church, I became friends with a young man of a minority ethnicity. We spent a lot of time together and had many common interests. We both loved music and would spend hours singing along with our favorite bands’ new albums. When we did church functions together, we were inseparable.

One day, as we were at one such function, he and I had gotten off alone and, as we were engaged in our usual immature banter, I made an off-color joke about choosing a group at random to be racist against. To me, this was a provocative joke. To my friend, it was no laughing matter. He quickly sat me down and, through tears, spent over an hour explaining to me the effects that racism had already had on his young life.

This discussion was eye-opening to me. I had never realized just how terrible a thing racism could be, and I vowed from then forward never to tolerate ethnic pride, partiality, or malice in myself or anyone else. I have not done so perfectly, but I have now gotten to the point where speaking about ethnic differences with any kind of irreverence turns my stomach.

In our world today, whether in rural America or urban Korea, a borough of New York City or a small village in South Africa—no matter where you go—you will find people who still imbibe the “us vs. them” mentality. This sinful mindset knows no language, gender, or ethnic boundaries, and it can still bubble up in each one of us. It can be seen in the way that we interact with one another or choose not to interact with one another. I can be seen in the way that we speak to one another or speak about one another in the absence of certain groups or people. It happens within Christianity, in spite of Christianity, and even in the name of Christianity (see the modern Social Justice movement to see how this type of ethnic partiality is being promoted as Christian).

Christ did not come to save people and leave them in their sin, but to save people from their sin. He did not come to save people and leave them in their “us vs. them” bubbles. He came to abolish the dividing wall of ethnic strife and make His church into one new man (Ephesians 2:15). Anyone who would resurrect dividing walls among God’s people and sow division in the name of Christianity, “have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?” (James 2:4; NASB).

As you gather with your church for your midweek service, delight in the fact that your union and communion with one another is in Christ who makes you one new man. Shun partiality, and joyfully celebrate your common love for God and love for the saints. Do everything in your power to delight in the unity that you share with people of every tongue, tribe, and nation by virtue of their having been made in God’s image and redeemed by the blood of Christ. Consider the unity you have in Christ, and be refreshed!

Will the Monologue NOW Become a Dialogue?


The past two years have been very exhausting on the ethnic front. As I’m sure most of you are aware, Gabriel Williams and I have been blogging on the subject of Public Theology. It has been a long and challenging series in part because there is much we would like to address day-to-day, but we have opted instead to stick to laying a theological, historical, and biblical foundation before jumping into the weeds. Some on our side of the argument might say that this decision has been made out of cowardice. For my part, I have been speaking out on this issue for several years, and Gabe has read the source material extensively that is often cited over at RAAN. Some on the other side of the argument might say that we should just “shut up and listen.” In fact, we’ve pretty much been told as much. At this point, it is also important to note that the issue of ethnic strife is not the only issue we seek to tackle in the Public Theology series.

Some of our readers may just be hearing of a popular evangelical website called RAANetwork.com (the Reformed African-American Network). Why are they just popping up on the radar of some? Recently, in response to the election of President-elect Trump, Jemar Tisby and Beau York recorded a podcast in which Tisby admitted that the following Lord’s Day he did not “feel safe” worshiping with “white people,” because of statistics that have been floated showing a large number of white professing-evangelical voters cast their votes for Trump (for the record, neither Gabe nor I voted for Trump).

Tisby’s admission should not be taken in isolation, though. It is indicative of the arguments made over at RAAN on a regular basis. His requirement for a “safe” space is indicative of the Marxist agenda RAAN has been seeking to smuggle into the church for years. His labeling of Christian brothers as “white people” is indicative of RAAN’s not-so-subtle push to de-centralize Christ and erect ethno-centric dividing walls among God’s people. It is safe to say, after a few years of following them, that the majority position over at RAAN is one of ethnic partiality and ethno-centrism, not Christ-centrism.

In response to Tisby’s comments, Pastor Saiko Woods offered the following comments:

To his credit, Pastor Woods has been very vocal against RAAN’s teachings for some time. Dr. James White also chimed in on this 1 1/2 hour long episode of the Dividing Line.

We are glad that others are joining the conversation, even if RAAN does not seem to want to have a dialogue on this issue (just a monologue). We are also hopeful that others will be willing to take note of some of the other, more sinister teachings going on over at RAAN. As RAAN’s teachings reverberate throughout the church, we are convinced that they will wreak havoc on local churches everywhere. Please take some time to go and expose yourself to some of their teachings and then familiarize yourself with our series on Public Theology. We pray that the monologue will soon become a dialogue.

A Reformed Baptist Perspective on Public Theology: The Pauline Epistles, Part V – Galatians

You can read earlier posts in this series by clicking on the links below:


Paul, in writing to the Galatian churches, explores some of the same themes as in his letter to the Romans. Paul had noticed in his travels that there were certain very insidious teachings that had seeped in as Jewish believers and Gentile believers began to worship together. He penned his letter to the Galatians to address one such teaching.

Another Gospel

Now, it must be noted on the outset that Paul’s introduction to the letter to the Galatian churches is by far his shortest, shorter even than that of his letter to the Colossians, whom he had not likely ever seen in person (Col. 2:1). The matter about which Paul was writing was of grave importance, and he wanted his readers to feel the urgency of it. Some who had come in among them were teaching a different gospel.

Infiltrating the churches of Galatia was a group theologians have come to call Judaizers. These Jewish “converts” were teaching that the gospel of Jesus Christ was not enough. They went further and argued that, in order to become a real Christian, one must first become a Jew through physical circumcision (Gal. 1:6-9; 3:10; 5:2-6).

Paul explains in chapter 1, verses 6-9, that this gospel is not even another gospel. In fact, he labors throughout the book to demonstrate that it is the opposite. Rather than being the gospel which compels us to follow our Father’s law as sons, the circumcision taught by the Judaizers subjected its adherents to the curse of the law. These Judaizers were wishing to be justified by the law (a futile undertaking for any man), not by faith.

In the same way, there are many today who add their pet views to faith as a prerequisite for salvation, thus creating a “new gospel.” Some claim that their approach to the problem of self-defense speaks to whether or not we are truly hoping in the gospel of Christ. Others claim that their philosophical approach to the very real problem of racism and their specific terminology in addressing it is essential to a proper understanding of the gospel. Still others claim that their particular view of economics and subsequent solutions to the problem of poverty are a necessary part of the gospel to the extent that one cannot even be a disciple of Christ unless one is willing to vote in an economic system designed to take from one group and give to another. Others, while not adding to the gospel per se, add abstinence from drink to the law and to the biblical qualifications for elders and church planters (see here and here). We will address this particular heresy more fully when we get to our study of Colossians.

This approach to the gospel may be useful for shaming others who disagree, but that is not all it accomplishes. It also serves to promulgate a “new gospel,” which is not really the gospel at all. It is a false gospel!

Notice that the Judaizers were not telling Gentile converts they could not be Christians. They did not want to keep Gentiles from entering fellowship with them. Rather, they wanted to impose prerequisites on them for entering the fellowship that are not imposed by the gospel itself. In the same way, legalists in the church today (infiltrating even as far as the Reformed and Reformed Baptist camps) do not claim that people who are different than them cannot fellowship with them. They simply have to agree with all their solutions to the problems they see in society. They must circumcise the foreskin of political, social, and economic disagreement before they can expect to be welcomed to the discussion. They have to read all the right books, listen to all the right teachers, imbibe all the right terminology, and subscribe to the right social narratives. Otherwise, they must remain outside the fellowship like the uncircumcised dogs they are. They have not come under bondage to the right works of the law, so they dare not dine with those justified by these works.

The Seed of Abraham

Of course, in both Romans and Galatians, Paul condemns the idea that man can be justified by the works of the law. Rather, it is by faith that we come to have all the blessings of union with Christ, including justification. Along with justification, we have the blessing of oneness with believers of all stripes. Paul explains that these privileges come to us by way of the promise made to Abraham.

“Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham,” (Gal. 3:6-7; NASB).

Paul goes on to remind his readers of the nature of the promise: “All the nations will be blessed in you,” and to explain further that this promise was made “foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith” (vs. 8; NASB). It is important to mention, at this point, that the term translated Gentiles and the term translated nations in this one verse are the exact same term in the exact same construction in the Greek: τὰ ἔθνη. Beyond any shadow of a doubt, Paul understands this promise made to Abraham to apply to believers of every nation, even non-Jewish nations. In fact, he goes on to say as much:

“But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There 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. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise,” (Gal. 3:25-29; NASB).

Paul was not denying the existence of ethnic disparity between the Greeks and the Jews within the church. What he denied was the law-centered approach to addressing this disparity. Rather, he pointed his readers to unity with Christ. We who have faith in Christ—who have been baptized into Christ, who have clothed ourselves in Christ—belong to Christ and in Him are now considered descendants of Abraham, heirs according to promise.

This union with, and unity in, Christ does not know racial or ethnic subdivisions. Rather, it is an indivisible unit. Furthermore, to reiterate, this breakdown of ethnic divisions does not pave the way for the gospel, as was attempted by the Judaizers with their requirement of circumcision. No. The gospel laid the foundation for the breakdown of ethnic divisions. It laid the foundation, provided the fuel, and supplied all the justification necessary for the utter destruction of ethnic division between the Greeks and the Jews. Circumcision had no power to accomplish such a feat, but the gospel could see it through from beginning to end.


Having been freed from bondage to the law (chapter 4), Christians are now free to walk by the Spirit (5:16). The Judaizers, however, would have had the Galatian believers rely on a fleshly circumcision. Paul understood that there was no power in such works of the flesh. Rather, relying on our flesh to save us only leads to more “immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19b-21; NASB). Walking by the Spirit has a vastly different effect, though:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law,” (Gal. 5:22-23; NASB).

So, rather than pointing the Galatians to fleshly solutions for ethnic tension, like the Judaizers, Paul pointed his readers to the gospel. Note also that Paul did not equate the gospel with fleshly solutions to the problem of ethnic strife (e.g. adopting worldly terms like “safe spaces,” “micro-aggression,” “majority privilege,” etc.). The Judaizers went there, claiming “We will fellowship with people of other ethnicities only if they meet our extra-biblical prerequisites,” and Paul declared them accursed. Rather, Paul pointed them to the gospel of Jesus Christ as the sole sufficient and holistic solution for the ethnic strife that existed between the Jews and Greeks in the Galatian churches.


As we have seen in our study, both of Romans and Galatians, and as we will see in the rest of Paul’s letters, Paul was very concerned to see the churches of God unified in the gospel. The world will seek to divide the church of God according to gender, ethnicity, and anything else the devil might imagine. It is necessary for us, Lord’s Day after Lord’s Day, to return to our unity in the gospel, and to look for no other, no “better” solution. All such solutions are accursed! The gospel, however, is the power of God unto salvation.

A Reformed Baptist Perspective on Public Theology – The Incarnate Lord (Part III)

You can read earlier posts in this series by clicking on the links below:


As we continue in our examination of the life and teaching of our incarnate Lord, let us recall the fact that Christ’s primary mission was not that of social change. Rather, His primary goal was that of redeeming His bride (the church). However, given the fact that His bride is a multi-ethnic and multi-national bride, this work of redemption came with some very real implications for public theology because of some very real discontinuities with God’s former dealings with His covenant people.

Christ-centric Worship

The first among these discontinuities was the change of worship from being ethnocentric (for the Jews only) and geocentric (in Zion only) to being Christ-centric. Consider our Lord’s interaction with the woman at the well:

“The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth,’” (John 4:19-24; NASB).

In moving the center of worship from a people group or a location, our Lord mobilized the gospel. It was no longer a fixed temple, but was now a movable tabernacle. It was no longer bound up within borders and bloodlines, but now extended into the far reaches of the earth and was made effectual for saving men of all stripes. The church was now poised to penetrate through the barriers erected in relationships between Jew and Greek (ethnicity), slave and free, male and female (Gal. 3:28), and even Greeks and barbarians (tribes, tongues, and nationalities; see Rom. 1:14). The fact that our worship of God is Christ-centric rather than ethnocentric or geocentric will help us to make sense of the public theology of the apostles as we move forward in our study.

The CredoCovenant

Another shackle that our Lord shook off in order to mobilize the church was that of unbelievers within the covenant community. Christ interacted with many a Jewish leader who had been born Jewish, who could doubtless trace their genealogies back to kings and prophets, and who had doubtless received the covenant sign as an infant. Yet, He referred to them as whitewashed tombs. Why? Because of their unbelief. God’s people are marked by their belief in Christ, not their bloodlines, their ethnicities, or their nationalities. Jesus did not say, “Permit the children to come to the baptismal waters.” Rather, He said, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all,” (Mk. 10:14-15; NASB).

As Christians, our public theology should start in the home. We are daily to bring our children to Christ and bid them repent and believe on the Lord, for it is only those such as believe who are truly in the New Covenant community.

“‘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. They 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. 31:33-34; NASB).

This is one reason Reformed Baptists see no inconsistency with our view of the Covenant and family worship. We are bid by our Lord to permit our children to come to Him in the hopes that, in so doing, they will receive the kingdom of God. It is no different than Presbyterians who allow unbelievers to enter their public worship in the hopes that, singing the hymns and hearing the preached word, they might “receive the kingdom of God like a child.” And having received the kingdom of God, “They 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.” Every member a believer, our Covenant is a CredoCovenant.

One New Man

Belief is the entrance into the Covenant not only for children, but also for the world. Let us recall that a dividing wall once existed between Jew and Gentile, the circumcision and the “uncircumcision,” those who were near and those who were far off (Eph. 2:11-18). Through faith, the two have become one new man, the seed of Abraham (Gal. 3:16-17; 28-29), one tree comprised of both natural and engrafted branches (Rom. 11:16-24).

This teaching did not begin with the apostles. It was there in seed form in the ministry of Christ. Already, in the earthly ministry of our Lord, He was breaking down barriers between ethnicities for the furtherance of His gospel. This point is important. Christ did not break down cultural barriers for the sake of mere social reform. Christ broke down cultural barriers for the sake of expanding His kingdom in a lost and dying world.

This is one reason the fixation on the part of many Dispensationalists on Jesus’ ethnicity is so disturbing. They make much of the fact that Jesus was of Jewish descent, but that gets the order of precedence backward. The Messiah does not get His identity from the Jews; rather, the Jews were meant to find their identity in the Messiah.

Christ Breaking Down Barriers

The woman at the well understood this fact. When Christ demolished the idea of geocentric worship, telling her that the time had come when men would worship in spirit and truth rather than on this mountain or that mountain, her thoughts automatically went to the Messiah:

“The woman said to Him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When He comes, He will tell us all things.’
Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am He,’” (John 4:25-26; NKJV).

Even a half-breed Samaritan woman of questionable morals understood that discontinuity would accompany the coming Messiah. In this one interaction, Christ breaks down geocentric, ethnocentric, and gender barriers. It is no surprise that Christ’s disciples were baffled to find him talking alone with a woman upon their return from the village, let alone a Samaritan “dog.”

Tellingly, this was not the only instance in which Christ broke down barriers between ethnicities in His teaching and practice. It was a major point of the parable of the Prodigal Son, which very interestingly parallels the book of Jonah (Lk. 15:11-32; cf. Jon. 4:1-11). It was also a major point in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10:25-37). We also see Christ making much of the ethnicity of a Canaanite mother of the demon-possessed girl just before he praises her for her great faith (Mt. 15:21-28).

Jesus did not have to cast out her daughter’s demons, nor did He have to heal the centurion’s servant (Mt. 8:5-13). “Whatever the Lord pleases He does, In heaven and in earth, In the seas and in all deep places,” (Ps. 135:6; NKJV). It pleased Christ to shake the cultural foundations of the ancient world in order that the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile might crumble and men and women of every tribe, tongue, and nation might become one new man in Christ Jesus.


Given the discontinuities we have cited, God’s people do not fight to establish His kingdom on this earth. That is not to say that we do not work within our individual spheres of influence to effect change in this world, but our national allegiance is now other-worldly. We are like the exiles of the Old Testament. We have gone from a geocentric, ethnocentric worship to a worship that looks to the new heavens and the new earth where we will worship with the saints triumphant from every tribe, tongue, and nationality, and where we will see God face-to-face, and He will walk among His people.

Our place here today is to spread the gospel and to see that as many as possible receive the kingdom of God. Thus, we must strive to use the Law to prick the consciences of the lost and to prepare them, as a tutor, for the work of the gospel on their hearts. Thus, our marching orders are to take both the Law and the Gospel into a lost and dying world that the Spirit might convict them through the Law and convince them by the Gospel.

Gospel Issues: An Open Letter to Western Evangelicals

With a small amount of interest, I have occasionally turned my gaze on the provocative happenings in the world of Evangelicalism. Just to be fair, by a very loose definition, I would be considered an Evangelical, though I prefer the term Protestant or, even better, Reformed Baptist. Read me right, though. I’m not bashing the movement. As one whose hope is set intently on the inheritance being kept for me, which works to embolden my faith in Christ Jesus, I have a love and fervent concern for all the saints (Col. 1:3-5). However, I grow weary when exposed too long to the internet sensationalism surrounding much of Western Evangelicalism. I trust that many of our readers can relate.

Gospel Minimalism

Evangelicals, at the very least, are marked by a central concern for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. By this definition of Evangelicalism, I consider myself among the fold. However, many in recent days have taken to a minimalistic practice of Evangelicalism in which Christians are encouraged to focus almost exclusively on the Gospel, with very little emphasis on other very important doctrines in the Christian faith. Within this same fold are those who, wanting to minimize all non-Gospel issues as far secondary, have taken to labeling every issue under the sun a “Gospel issue.” So, they minimize all Christian doctrine that is not the Gospel while, at the same time, broadening the Gospel so that it encompasses far more than what the Bible teaches.

This is an understandable position to take if you are a Gospel-minimalist. If all issues are unimportant, or of minimal significance, unless they touch the Gospel in some way, you must demonstrate how any issue that is important to you touches the Gospel. As a result, Gospel-minimalists seem to be bending over backward to demonstrate how their pet issues are Gospel-issues. This hermeneutical technique requires such interpretive gymnastics in order to arrive at the intended conclusions that it can easily leave onlookers’ heads reeling.

I’m not arguing that the issues in question shouldn’t come under the umbrella and influence of the Gospel. They should, and all issues in that sense are Gospel-issues. Everything for the Christian, to a certain degree, is subject to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Whether we’re talking about race relations, the environment, gun control, taxes, family life, work, etc., etc., etc., the Gospel impacts every area of life. The problem arises when someone comes to endorse one particular solution to one of these issues—a solution that is not the direct result of their study of the Gospel—and then they claim that, because the issue itself is a “Gospel-issue,” Christians must without exception adopt the same solution to addressing the issue that they do.

Gospel-Issues or Gospel-Solutions

This line of argumentation fails to account for certain very important nuances within the Christian community. To say that racism is a Gospel-issue is not an incorrect statement. However, to say that only one approach to alleviating the church of racism is the correct “Gospel” approach is dishonest at the very least. Nor is it incorrect to say that orphans and widows are a Gospel-issue. However, to say that others don’t have a proper handle on the Gospel because they are convinced of the merits of a different solution than you is disingenuous at best.

The difference is a categorical difference. Simply because a brother in Christ has a different approach to solving the problem, which you both recognize as a problem, does not mean that he doesn’t recognize the implications the Gospel brings to bear on that issue. Rather, it means that his culture, his education and, more generally, his life experiences bring him to vastly different conclusions as to how to solve this Gospel-issue.

The issue itself is a Gospel-issue insofar as all things in the life of the Christian touch the Gospel at some point. However, the approach to solving it may not be shaped by the Gospel. In fact, the Gospel message itself often offers no practical, “how-to” solutions for the woes of society. It simply exposes them as woes in the minds and consciences of believers. The Gospel will often compel us to act without giving us the necessary guidelines on how to act in every particular instance.

Gospel Zeal

For instance, we understand that the two Great Commandments teach us to love God and love our neighbor. As a result of the regenerating work of the gospel and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Christians are now enabled to recognize where we need to grow in our love for God and love for neighbor, and we are now enabled to act out of love for God and love for our neighbor. The grace of God makes us zealous for good deeds (Tit. 2:11-14), but zeal without reason is foolhardy.

Christians are to temper our zeal with sound judgment. The gospel and the grace it bears emboldens Christians with a godly zeal necessary to live lives that are pleasing to our Father in heaven. However, without the tools for navigating the nuances of cultural discernment, many of us will fall into pitfalls and commit our Gospel-fueled zeal to unprofitable ends. We recognize that the Gospel emboldens us to take action and be “salt and light” in the world, so we ride off into battle without the proper weapons and armor of our warfare.

As a result, we call for action that does the opposite of what we intend. We don’t rightly understand economics, so we call for actions on the part of the government that we think help the poor when really they are the very things doing them the most harm. We don’t rightly understand the best means for preserving human life, so we call for measures to be put in place by the government that we think will minimize violent crimes and death, but those very measures make people more vulnerable to violent criminals and devalues human life. We don’t rightly understand the biblical teaching on ethnicity, so we call for measures from state and church authorities that encourage deeper divisions rather than promoting unity across ethnicities. And those are just three issues of concern.

The Gospel Hammer

Worst of all, many who promote these counter-productive solutions seek to reinforce their arguments for them by appealing to the Gospel. They (rightly) recognize that every Christian must come under the shadow of the cross when considering the issue about which they are concerned. Subsequently, they recognize that this issue touches the Gospel, in one way or another, the moment a Christian comes to consider it. Wrongly, though, they assume that their approach must be the only Gospel-centered approach to solving their issue.

This approach to addressing issues within our cultures and within our local churches has an undercurrent of gracelessness. It assumes, “If someone else’s approach to solving this Gospel-issue is different than mine, this person is not as Gospel-centered as I am.” Allow me to play the role of peacemaker, here, and call for a little more Christian charity and mercy in regard to these issues.

Simply because someone recognizes the Gospel compels us to act on an issue does not make their subsequent action necessarily right. Just because someone disagrees with your action when you were the first to point out the fact that the problem at hand is a Gospel-issue does not mean the person in question is not Gospel-centered. You don’t have the right to use the Gospel as a hammer to bash your brother in the faith simply because he endorses a different solution to the problem you both recognize. So allow me to call for a moratorium.

A Call for Gospel Grace

Let’s stop saying issues are Gospel-issues, as though not all issues should come under the authority of the cross in the Christian life. Let’s recognize that all issues to one degree or another are Gospel-issues, which means none of them are Gospel-issues in the way Western Evangelicals use (more appropriately: abuse) the term. Let’s stop telling Christians they have to endorse the exact same solutions we do, or they aren’t Gospel-centered enough. The world is more nuanced than that.

We should feel free to point out problems in our world, but then we should be humble enough to ask, “What can be done about this?” rather than shouting one another down when we have difficulty arriving at a consensus. Wasn’t it our Savior who said: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy”? Let’s endeavor to show one another a little more mercy. Let’s stop using the Gospel as a hammer to bash one another when we disagree on how to solve problems. Rather, let’s commit to listen to one another, pray, submit ourselves to the Gospel, educate ourselves so we can make the most informed decision possible, and commit to following our consciences in the zeal God has granted us by His grace.

Soli Deo Gloria

50 Shades of Christ: The Other Side of a Much Needed Dialogue

On last Thursday’s episode of The Briefing and in this article Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, made a much needed call for empathy regarding the Ferguson debacle. This call for empathy has been forefront in much of what I have read from bloggers, though it has been more implicit than explicit. In the wake of protests and riots following the tragic death of Michael Brown, African-Americans of all stripes have taken to their keypads. They have offered their unique perspectives on the issue and encourage empathy for a large group within the black community that sees Ferguson as indicative of a greater problem with law enforcement in many communities. Here and here are just a few from the Reformed blogosphere. I would recommend that our readers take the time to read them, as they are truly eye-opening.

Taking Dr. Mohler seriously that we ought to empathize with others and assuming that he’s talking to all Christians, not just majority-culture Christians, I am compelled to give my unique perspective for what it’s worth. It is my desire to be empathetic, as Dr. Mohler has urged. At the same time, I would like to aid my African-American friends in their efforts to be empathetic as well. I want this to be a dialogue, not just a monologue. I also recognize this is not a very popular subject for a Caucasian male to address. That is why this article was peer reviewed by friends of other races before I published it. Please, bear with me.


When I was in seventh grade, I remember having a life-changing conversation with a friend of mine. I had made a very insensitive comment, as I am wont to do from time to time. This time it had to do with race relations. My friend quickly pulled me to the side and with tears explained to me the negative effects that racism had had on his life.

James was the product of an interracial marriage. His dad was Irish / Native-America and his mother had immigrated from Mexico. Consequently, some people thought he was either Arabic or Indian. He told me how people had teased him, calling him a camel jockey and a towel head. From that night forward, I have fought sinful urges to tolerate racism in myself or others. A moment of honesty: I have not always been completely successful. I don’t deny that I have made some rather absent-minded, insensitive statements from time to time.

As I got older the light of nature began to reveal to me things that were only further confirmed when I came to Christ. When I would hear white people speak negatively of other races, I would become extremely uncomfortable. Over time, I also came to be increasingly uncomfortable with the idea that one ought to find a special identity with one’s own race. Notions such as “my people” and “our people” came to be just as repulsive as any other type of racism.

The Bible and Partiality

Perhaps the book in Scripture that had the most effect on me as a young man, and especially after I came to Christ, was the book of James. Some have referred to James as the Proverbs of the New Testament. It is full of pithy precepts and imperatives, one of which is the prohibition of partiality:

“My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. . . If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:1, 8-9; NASB).

In the immediate context James uses the example of partiality toward the rich as an example of how one might show favoritism within the body. The precepts he outlines are much farther reaching than just how we deal with the rich, though. Partiality of any kind ought to be condemned. When men and women leave all to follow Christ, we need to recognize the fact that we are their earthly inheritance (Mark 10:21, 28-31). Thus, to shun them for any reason, be it wealth, race, disability, etc., is to cease to function as the church ought to function.

As a Christian man seeking to apply these principles, I find it highly inappropriate to identify myself in church life as “a white man.” I am an image bearer, and I am to love all image bearers alike. To gravitate toward people who share with me in skin color to the exclusion of others would be contrary to everything I am as a new man in Christ (Ephesians 2:13-16). If the words “my people” were ever to flow from my lips, you could be quite positive that I would be referring to the whole body of Christ, not merely some people who share my skin pigmentation. Were I to use a term such as “white church,” you can bet that it would have an extremely negative connotation.

For all of the above reasons, I am at a loss for how godly pastors and bloggers who I respect would resort to using such terms so freely, African-American pastors and bloggers who claim they are for tearing down racial dividing walls. I don’t understand why, when I see many predominantly white churches bending over backwards to become more “multicultural,” it seems to be just a given that we accept the existence of “black” churches, Korean churches, Hispanic churches, etc. (the language consideration aside), without expecting them to strive for the same diversity. I hate the idea that there would be any church that would have any predominating identity other than Christ. To be honest it sickens me. At best it’s sub-Christian.


Then again, I have not been the most outspoken proponent of the modern multi-cultural movement in the American church. The call has gone out that predominantly white churches ought to be particularly intentional about seeking to look less “white” and more like the community. Here’s the problem: in order for churches to strive toward such ends, they must compete with churches in their communities that have a long history of gearing their ministry methods toward serving one race.

For instance, say you have a large Vietnamese culture in your community. You could take extra pains to teach your people conversational Vietnamese, hire Vietnamese staff members, seek to raise up or extend a call to potential Vietnamese elders, print out Sunday bulletins in Vietnamese, etc. At the end of the day, you are still at a disadvantage in competing with the Vietnamese church down the road and, in taking so many strides toward catering toward one people group, you have excluded all others. You have not become all things to all people; rather, you have become one thing to one group of people. Even worse, you have made your agenda the deciding factor, rather than the Holy Spirit, on who you hire, raise up in ministry, and even target with the gospel. Who are we to usurp the role of the Spirit in these matters?

See, the question for me is not whether you take added pains to accommodate for a select group of potential membership candidates in your area based on race and ethnicity. Rather, the question is, When you have new members who are not like you, how do you respond? How do you respond when the poor come into your meetings? How do you respond when the disabled come into your meetings? How do you respond when the white man, the black woman, the Vietnamese family, or the Hispanic couple walk through your doors? Do you give first place to any particular group, or do you wait and see who the Spirit will exalt?

Don’t get me wrong. I agree that the precepts of the gospel should result in a more pan-cultural face in local churches. I believe it has in the church where I serve. We are a very diverse group of people, and it can all be attributed to the primacy of the gospel in our body life. However, I worry that some who have made it their aim to see a more intentional approach to multi-culturalism in the church might be taking their own particular applications of these principles and equating them with the gospel itself. As such, they add to the gospel an added burden that simply is not there, making it no gospel at all. They have made multi-culturalism primary over the gospel while claiming it is subservient to the same gospel.

It seems clear to me both from the Bible and from experience that, if we simply conduct ourselves according to the principles outlined for us in Scripture, these things should iron themselves out in body life. R.C. Sproul put it best in a recent Twitter Q&A. When asked, “How important is racial diversity in the LOCAL church? What is the best approach to developing diversity?” Sproul responded, “Let the church be the church in all that she does.” Let’s be slow to judge the bride of Christ when the sin of partiality could very well exist primarily in the surrounding community and other more race-centric churches in the area.


The biggest hindrance to accomplishing the goals outlined by the multi-cultural church movement is multi-culturalism itself. As long as we have pastors who monolithically refer to their ethnic groups as “my people,” as long as it is socially acceptable to have such things as “black churches,” “Hispanic churches,” “Romanian churches,” etc., as long as we seek to be multi-cultural, letting racial dividing walls persist even within one local church, we will never see true peace among God’s people. Such rhetoric only serves to deepen the very real racial divide in the Western church. For those of you who have yet to hear this position on this issue in the church, I hope I have been of assistance. I hope this monologue can now become more of a dialogue, and I hope that we can all take strides toward the ends Dr. Mohler outlined and lead with empathy.