Home> The Lower Lights> September 2004

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  Alan Jones, Editor

  (734) 942-7956

 

 

 

"Brightly beams our Father's mercy

From the lighthouse evermore;

But to us He gives the keeping

Of the light along the shore."

       Published monthly by the church of Christ, 35900 Palmer Road, P.O. Box 86-233, Westland, MI  48186     

Volume 4                                                                   September 2004                                                                                  No3 

 

SHOULD THERE BE "ETHNIC" CHURCHES?

 

The Detroit Metro area is truly a “melting pot” of the world’s ethnic groups.  “Ethnic” is de-fined as “sizable groups of people sharing a common and distinctive racial, national, religious, linguistic, or cultural heritage.”  Everywhere you go throughout our area you see men and women of various races and nationalities.  Restaurants serving the food of cultures around the world seem to be on every corner.  It is a wonderful thing to see the many diverse ethnic groups living and working together in peace in one community.  But, can those who live and work together, worship together?  Sadly, in many cases not.  Many churches are unnecessarily made up of one ethnic group (that is, the reason they are meeting separately from others is not a language barrier).      Is this the way that Jesus wants it to be?

            When Jesus ran the money changers out of the temple, He said, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations?’ But you have made it a robbers’ den.” (Mk 11:17)  Jesus was quoting from Isaiah 56:7, one of many O.T. passages promising that worshipping God in the days of the Messiah would not be limited to the Jewish nation.  All peoples would be able to participate together.  In another passage Isaiah predicted that it would be too small of a job for God’s Servant, the Messiah, to give help to Israel.  God would also make Him a light to the nations so that His salvation might reach to the end of the earth. (Isa 49:6)

            These prophecies were in keeping with a promise that God made to Abraham hundreds of years before  when  He told  him,  “In  you  all

 

the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen 12:3)  God chose Abraham to begin a distinct race of people (the Jews).  He set apart the nation of Israel for a time to use them to accomplish His purpose. 

A teacher of mine gave me this illustration.  When he was a child in rural KY in the 1920’s,  his teacher brought a special treat to the class each Friday, a basket of apples.  One student was cho-sen to carry the basket of apples and to pass them out to the class.  For a moment, the privileged boy or girl who was selected had all the apples, but only for the purpose of giving them to the class so that all could enjoy.  God chose the nation of Israel to be His special people.  For a “moment” they were privileged, as God used them to bring Jesus into the world to die so that all men might enjoy the remission of their sins.

            Once Jesus came through the Jews, God no longer had a special physical nation, but a privileged spiritual nation, made up of both Jew and Gentile.  Jesus was the peace between Jew and Gentile.  He made both groups into one, breaking down the wall that divided them (Eph 2:11-18).  Now there is neither Jew nor Greek.  All are one in Christ Jesus- all are Abraham’s spiritual off-spring, heirs according to promise (Gal. 3:27-29).  This is the plan of God, the mystery once hidden, but now revealed in the gospel (Eph 3:1-6).

How is it that men of all nations who call themselves  “Christians” cannot worship together in the same congregation, but are separated from one another because of ethnic differences?  What must Jesus think! 

THE GOSPEL IS FOR ALL

It wasn’t easy for Christians of different ethnic backgrounds to worship together in the 1st  century.  In the first congregation at Jerusalem, some were Hellenistic Jews (having adopted the Greek culture), while others were living by the Jewish culture.  Widows of Jewish culture were getting needed attention, while those of Greek culture were being neglected (Acts 6:1).  The Jews had an especially difficult time accepting that the Gentiles could also be God’s people.  Only God’s supernatural power could convince Peter to preach to the Gentiles and could convince his critics that “God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life” (Acts 10:1-11:18)

            Even then, the problem of Jews and Gen-tiles accepting one another was far from over.  Many Jews said that they would only accept the Gentiles if they become “Jews” (by circumcision and keeping the Law of Moses).  But God made it clear that those who would only accept the Gen-tiles if they lived like Jews were wrong (Acts 15).  Later though, even Peter stopped eating with the Gentiles once those he thought would disapprove arrived (Gal 2:11-14).  It seems that many did not understand the full import of the gospel- that ethnic differences do not matter.  They should  have become all things to all men- adapted themselves to the ethnic practices of the

 

Jew while with them and to the ethnic practices of the Gentile while among them- so by all means some souls could be saved (1 Cor 9:19-22).

            Christians of the 21st century need to understand what many 1st century Jewish Chris-tians did not.  Although men have ethnic differ-ences, their deepest spiritual need is the same.  The Gentile without the Law of Moses had the same problem that the Jew did who had the Law- SIN!  All men have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and will perish without a Savior (Rom 2:11-13, 23).  But there is “good news” (“the gospel”), God’s power to save both Jew and Greek (Rom 1:16).  The grace of God has brought  salvation to all men through the blood of Jesus (Tit 2:11-14).  So all Christians should accept one another, “just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.” (Rom 15:7-12)

            May Christians never judge one another on the basis of the color of skin, nationality, or culture that they may be truly one in their religion (Jn 17:20-21), each one putting on the new self and renewing himself in Jesus’ image, “a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free man, but Christ is all and in all” (Col 3:9-11).

ALL NEED THE GOSPEL; ALL ARE INVITED TO HEAR IT PREACHED

SEPTEMBER 12 @ 10 AM

SEPTEMBER 13-17 @ 7:30 PM

PREACHER: DAVE WALDRON OF CEDAR SPRINGS, MI



 

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