(Part 1 here)
(Part 2 here)
(Part 4 here)
(Part 5 here)
The Calling and Identity of the Church – We are Spiritual
It is here I wish to pivot and call your attention to two explicit texts and while you consider these, please think about what Russell Moore, Tim Keller, John Piper, The Gospel Coalition and now the Southern Baptist Convention and many others, are proposing (some already, doing).
The Pursuit of the Church
The Apostle Paul discloses the nature of our mission as individual believer priests and the collective body of priests called the church, in Ephesians 6:12. He plainly teaches:
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.It is not the justice or injustice of this world which God has called his church to remedy. It is not to personal or social conflicts and not governmental, national or international conflicts, to which the church is beckoned by God. Ours is a spiritual battle with orders from our Monarch to fight the rulers of darkness and spiritual wickedness and not flesh and blood.
Ask yourself, what precisely is this fight where these men are proposing the church have her virtues expended upon “civil rights” or “social justice”, these fleeting social orders of human kingdoms, what is this? Have we become so enlightened as to forget the call of God’s church? What scheme seeks to tether Christ’s bride to imperial and provincial disputes of this world? And where is the acknowledgment that these men and women have abandoned the path of spiritual warfare and have replaced it with fighting against flesh and blood? Here, here!
The problem as to why Christians wrongly believe the church may be compelled to use her resources to campaign on behalf of elaborate social doctrines of real or perceived social ailments, usually finds its arrangement in the minds of those who are theologically negligent. These deputies of do-goodism are in dire need of the truth that they may, indeed, crusade for civil causes, just not with the capital of Christ’s bride. Possibly, however, they are not interested in that license since it dispossesses them of the wrongful but convenient logistical supply they wish to use namely, the church.
Martin Luther and the Book of Concord, by the Lutheran Church, have provided a legacy of many superior theological formulas (this is not a blanket endorsement, I have some standing objections). One of those Biblical prescriptions is the Right/Left Kingdoms template.
Luther observed in Scripture the distinction -both ordained of God - between the kingdom of the church (the right kingdom) and the kingdom of civil government (the left kingdom). He understood that the church was spiritual in its formation and civil government, human in its construct, both by divine intent. One was for the management of spiritual/ecclesiastical affairs and the other for human/civil affairs and neither were to have jurisdiction over the other because, as Luther and Melanchthon and so many others observed, each were instituted by God using different criteria and were issued, seaparate protocols.
This is why so many people misunderstand Luther’s complaint about the Jewish population in Germany. His words seem quite untoward as a Christian and Minister but when he spoke, he did not do so in the context of his office and the church, but as a citizen in the left kingdom, civilly. One might debate his opinion about denying the Jews a ratified place with Germans of genetic heritage, but still, one must understand this is precisely what enabled Luther and us, even as Christians, to step out of the context of the kingdom on the right and into civil life and apply different protocols which God has given for civil management.
The People of the Church - A Spiritual Construct made up of a Spiritual People
For quite some time I have been working through the many dynamic flaws of this racial preoccupation going on with The Gospel Coalition and watched as others have stood by, somewhat silent. I suspect they are afraid. I understand their anxiety seeing that the dreaded hex word, “racist” might get used and then it is all downhill from there for their ministry. No more audiences, no more influence and eventual anathema for whomsoever shall dare. Let me challenge those of you who have been filled with angst, to take this ammunition and fight.
In his first epistle Peter makes a declarative statement which reveals our identity as Christians and how we ought to see and relate to one another.
1 Peter 2:9 (English Standard Version – parenthesis mine)
But you are a chosen race (γένος/genos), a royal priesthood, a holy nation *(ἔθνος/ethnos), a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.(*ἔθνος/ethnos, is often translated "nation" since it does not share the identical use of today. However, its translation to nation is because of the nature of how nations arose namely, through a bloodline which was the primary means of its national and personal identity. This resulted in a relative morphology in appearance which coupled with certain cultural practices gave to a nation its face. Therefore, even its use in the New Testament is still rather close to ours. We may use the word a bit more generally but even today, one finds it used with respect to homogeneous nations such as Japan. Their ethnicity might be said to be Asian but many will say no, it is Japanese.)
The Implications and Applications of Peter’s Revelation
Just as Paul revealed our pursuit or fight being spiritual in context and not against flesh and blood, Peter follows suit and further assembles the identity of the church, specifically stating that our ethnicity is now “holy” and our genetics “chosen” (which is a reference to our salvation, chosen in Christ, in other words our DNA is now spiritual).
The implications and applications run directly against the promotion of our human or anthropological identities within the church which, while still real, are not the frame of reference for our identity in the church, the kingdom on the right. Those human properties are for the kingdom on the left and all of its institutions, from the self, to marriage to family and to civil government of any kind, which are based on anthropological properties.
Therefore, when a ministry is engaged in any form of preference or reference with regard to human racial identities and subsequent endeavors related to those properties, it is failing to apply the truth of the new paradigm which Peter gave us. This new and phenomenal spiritual construct removes such properties as symbolic or indicative of our person for our spiritual fellowship and endeavors which is the context and calling of Christ's body, spiritual. This is exactly why Peter states what he does and to act contrary to this is to assault the nature of the fellowship of believers.
Let’s be clear about what Peter says. We are to see ourselves and our brothers and sisters in the Lord and within the context of the body of Christ and all of its exercises, not with human ethnicity or human genetics but with “chosen” or spiritual genetics and a “holy” ethnicity. Our DNA is that of Christ's. That is our identity in the church and as the church.
The church cannot simultaneously be built on two identities. It is either one or the other.