Christ, All in All

Where there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman; but Christ is all, and in all (Colossians 3:11).

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” This is the one of the ideals enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, but the idea did not originate there. The idea that all men (and women) stand as equals before their Creator comes from Paul and the New Testament.

Paul emphasizes to the Colossians (and to the Galatians in Galatians 3:28) all divisions that keep people apart in the world have no place in the Kingdom of Christ. Rich or poor, slave or free, Greek, Jew, or barbarian, man or woman: all can be in Jesus Christ, and all are one in Christ.

This message was radical in the first century and it remains radical in the twenty-first. Even though it has been the ideal to believe that all men are created equal, there still remains plenty of prejudice in society. Racial disharmony still exists, even though few speak about it openly and plainly. There remains plenty of judgmentalism against those in different economic classes, regions of the country, cultures, and so on and so forth. We can always find plenty of reasons to consider people of other classes, cultures, races, languages, etc., as inferior or worth less than ourselves.

Yet none of this is true in reality. The truth, uncomfortable for many, is that we are all sinners, we are all guilty, and there is no reason for any of us to feel morally superior or inferior to anyone else (Romans 3:23, Philippians 2:1-4). Believers in Christ should actually be thankful for this: after all, if God were going to be prejudicial, He would have favored Israel according to the flesh, and we who are Gentiles would remain excluded from the covenant and condemned (cf. Ephesians 2:1-18)! Jesus of Nazareth was a first-century Palestinian Jew, not a white Anglo-Saxon American, or African-American, or Hispanic, or anything else. Through His death He reconciled us all to Him so that we would not be hindered by these divisions any longer (cf. Ephesians 2:11-18)!

Let us not imagine that it was “different” or “easier” then than it is now. For generations Jews were raised to feel morally superior to Gentiles (cf. Galatians 2:15); in Christ, they were now one. Greeks were bred to feel superior to all the heathen barbarians and their barbarian tongues (the word “barbarian” comes from the “bar,” “bar” sounds that Greeks heard as the language of foreigners); now, in Christ, they were one with those barbarians. In fact, even the Scythians, who defined barbarianism and were the ultimate in unsophisticated, could be one in Christ with Greeks and Romans and Jews!

The situation was similar for masters and slaves and men and women. After all, according to the society of the day, there was a reason that masters were masters and slaves were slaves. Yet now master and slave were both slaves of Christ (cf. Romans 6:18-23), and were now one in Christ. Ancient societies, in general, believed women to be morally and intellectually inferior to men. Yet, in Christ, both have equal standing. Notice that this equality does not change the fact that men and women and masters and slaves have different roles in which they function, and those roles are maintained (cf. Ephesians 5:23-6:9). Yet they all remain equally valuable before God.

Until the Lord returns, people will continue to use the differences that exist among themselves to judge one another, condemn one another, exclude one another, and to dislike one another. After all, it is more comfortable to believe that one is better because of one’s race, nationality, ethnicity, cultural heritage, class, and the like. Nevertheless, Jesus broke down all such barriers when He suffered and died on the cross. The hostility has been killed. God’s manifold wisdom can now shine forth in the church: the assembly of the saints, Jew and Gentile, white, black, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, and east or south Asian, rich and poor, male and female, employer and employee. A group of people who believe that whom you serve is far more important than what you look like or who your ancestors are or how much money you have in the bank. A place where different people with different abilities and perspectives come together to make up for the deficiencies of each other to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 12:12-27).

That is a beautiful vision, and if we believe in Christ, we must work to put that vision into place. We can only do that by killing our own hostility toward other people through reflecting Christ: self-sacrifice, humility, and love (cf. Romans 8:29, 12:1). The barriers we may be tempted to build up against other people based on race, class, or culture must be torn down if we are going to show the love of Christ to all men and women (cf. 1 John 4:7-21)! Our faith and confidence rests on the fact that God no longer shows partiality (Romans 2:11); if we continue to show partiality and prejudice, how can we live godly lives? Let us put to death any hostility and prejudice that may remain in our hearts toward our fellow man, just as we put the man of sin to death (cf. Romans 6:6, 1 Peter 2:24), and glorify God that we can all be one in Christ!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Tribulation and Peace

“These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye may have peace. In the world ye have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Peace is a state of being that is greatly sought after. Few are the people who want to live in a constant state of war or trouble. But where are we to find peace? It seems so elusive in life.

As Jesus indicates, we have tribulation in the world. In context, Jesus speaks of the trials and difficulties believers will encounter because of their stand for the Gospel (cf. 1 Peter 2:19-24). If we believe in Christ and therefore get resistance from the world, we can take comfort in Jesus’ victory over the world through His death and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15). Even if it leads to the loss of our livelihoods or lives, we will obtain a great inheritance (Luke 18:29-30, Romans 8:17-18).

While believers may be called upon to suffer tribulation in the world on account of the Gospel, it is certainly not the only reason for trial. Tribulation exists in the world on account of all sorts of reasons: wars, illnesses, economic challenges, consequences of the sins of others or perhaps even our own sins, and so on. Even if we obtain a level of stability in our lives, there is no guarantee that we can maintain that level of stability.

In reality, tribulation exists everywhere in the world, and true peace cannot be found in it. If we truly want peace, we must look to God in Christ.

We can have peace in Jesus Christ because He became our peace (cf. Ephesians 2:11-18). Peace can only exist when hostility is taken out of the way, and Jesus removed the source of hostility by bearing the law of sin and death on the cross (Ephesians 2:11-18, Romans 8:1-3). Through Jesus Christ we can have peace with God, peace with ourselves, and peace with our fellow man. Indeed, we can obtain the peace that surpasses all understanding in Jesus Christ (Philippians 4:7)!

This peace does not mean that we will not suffer trial; instead, this peace can sustain us through any difficulty we may experience. It is an inner peace that ought to flow outward in every aspect of our lives.

This peace comes at a great price: we must give up all of ourselves and serve Jesus (cf. Galatians 2:20). We must weigh the cost and see if it is worth it. When we finally get tired of the tribulation of the world, let us seek out and enjoy the peace that can only come through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Our Days in Sin

And you did he make alive, when ye were dead through your trespasses and sins, wherein ye once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the powers of the air, of the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience; among whom we also all once lived in the lust of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest (Ephesians 2:1-3).

In general, people do not like to dwell upon their failures, mistakes, and sins. When we look back at our past days, we look back at our accomplishments, successes, and good deeds fondly. If we choose to remember some of the bad things we’ve done, or some of the failures we’ve experienced, we have those feelings of despondency and unhappiness return.

Thankfully, in Christ, we can be forgiven of those past sins, and have them stand against us no more (Romans 4:6-9, 5:1-8). We can get a fresh start of sorts. We can become a “new creature,” walking according to Christ and not the flesh (2 Corinthians 5:14-17).

But, if this is the case, why does Paul dredge up our old lives of sin? We were supposed to put that behind us. We’re certainly not supposed to “resurrect” that man of sin (Romans 6:3-7)!

Neither are we to glory in our sinful past. Some people seem to get a little too excited when they talk about their sinful past, as if somehow they are gaining some pleasure in recounting those deeds. Such is itself part of the worldliness under condemnation in 1 Corinthians 2-3, 1 John 2:15-17. It should never give us joy or excitement to talk about our lives of sin; instead, it is something regarding which we should be ashamed.

Nevertheless, there are good reasons for being reminded of our past. Humans have a tendency to “re-imagine” the past to suit their own liking– we like to think of ourselves as a little less sinful, a little better of a person than we really were. While this may be natural, it can become quite dangerous, because it really minimizes the redemption we have gained through Christ Jesus. We more easily forget the value of our salvation when we forget what we were and how badly it was (and still is) needed. Yet, when we keep in mind that we were quite sinful and without hope in the world, and then we learned of the message of salvation in Christ, it will be easier to constantly value the salvation God has wrought on our behalf.

Furthermore, it keeps us humble. The pursuit of holiness is a path constantly fraught with the dangers of sanctimony and Phariseeism. When we keep in mind how sinful we once were, it allows us to sympathize with our fellow man still in his sin. When we remember how sinful we were, we recognize that we have no right to get on any judgment-seat against our fellow man (cf. James 4:12, Matthew 7:1-5). After all, it is only by God’s grace that we are what we are, and that grace can reach our fellow man, also (1 Timothy 2:4). Remembering that we were sinful ought to keep us from being too “righteously indignant” against all of those “sinners,” since we fell under the same condemnation!

Finally, it is to goad us to good works (Titus 3:8, Ephesians 2:10). Why should we serve God, promote the Gospel, show love, mercy, and compassion, abhor sin, and cling to the good? Because we were all once without Christ, without a covenant, without a state, without hope, and without God, but have now gained all these things through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:1-18).

If we are still in our sins, let us come out from them and be reconciled to God through Christ, lest we suffer the eternal consequences of our rebellion. If we have been redeemed from our sinful ways, and yet our zeal for the Lord and His Kingdom wanes, let us return in our thoughts to the days of our sin, and consider our ultimate outcome had we never learned of salvation in Jesus Christ. Then let us be thankful for what God has done for us through Jesus, and seek His will.

But God, being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus: for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:4-10).

Ethan R. Longhenry