Category Archives: Christian Unity

A Mini Commentary, Pt. 9 (Ephesians 4:8-10) Did Jesus Preach in Hell?

This was a more complicated section on which to comment. Frankly, this could have been much longer if I had focused more on the questionable doctrine called the “Harrowing of Hades.” Nevertheless, I hope what I have written will be of some help or encouragement.


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4:8-10 8Wherefore he saith, “When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.” 9(Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)

v. 8: Wherefore he saith, “When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.”

Point One:     

Who is the one that “saith” in verse 8? For the answer we must go to Psalm 68:18; there we find the words of David describing God as a conquering King who spoils His enemies on the mountain and then distributes the spoils as gifts to the people, including to those who are rebellious.

However, one important question that could be asked is: to what extent do we take this comparison? In other words, how specifically analogous is the story of the conquering King to the argument that Paul is making regarding the gifts and the purposes of giving them by Jesus to the Church?

Some have suggested that what is being spoken of is Christ’s ascension to the cross, while others have suggested that after descending to the “lower parts of the earth” Christ rescued those held captive in Paradise and took them “captive” to heaven.

[Note: This teaching is also called “The Harrowing of Hades” and finds support in the Apostles’ Creed: “He descended into Hades.”]

Nevertheless, it would seem the best course of action to simply keep a consistent contextual reading in mind: one that of unity within the Church and individual gifts of grace which Jesus imparts, both to His friends and those who are rebellious, to exemplify His glory and wisdom.

Point Two:     

Beginning with verse seven, the context of Paul’s argument is the supplying each individual the things it needs to function properly in the Body of Christ, the Church. Are there deeper truths to be uncovered? Most certainly? However, we must not carry the analogy too far.

For as long as the author can remember, nearly every time the resurrection of Christ has been preached, the subject of Jesus descending to Paradise and taking the Old Testament saints out of there and up to heaven. The only problem is that there is nothing in the context of Ephesians 4:1-16 that addresses Paradise, hell, heaven, or even death! All that Paul addresses in these sixteen verses is the subject of unity.

Another passage that is linked to this verse is 1 Peter 3:19: “By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison.” But what is often never included with verse 19 is verse 20, which reads [emphasis added]: “Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water (1 Peter 3:20 KJV).

It is quite puzzling why 1 Peter 3:19 would be used as a supporting text (along with Luke 23:43, Psalm 68:18, and Ephesians 4:8-10) for a teaching claiming Jesus went to deliver the saints, when those to whom Jesus preached were the “disobedient.”  It is therefore illogical to deduce from this passage in Ephesians that Paul was speaking of anything other than the unity of the Body of Christ, the power of God, the Kingship of Jesus the Conquering King, and Christ’s generosity.

v. 10b: …that he might fill all things.

            Building on the image of the king that ascended to conquer his enemies, Paul speaks of Jesus’ all-encompassing Lordship with a parenthetical explanation of the logical comparison being made (beginning in verse 9). This imagery of Jesus’ omnipresent authority and power in this passage can be compared to other verses, such as: Eph 1:20-21(in the heavenly places, far above all principalities); Heb 4:14 (we have a great high priest that is passed into the heavens); Heb 7:26 (a high priest became us and made higher than the heavens).

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A Mini Commentary, Pt 6 (Eph. 4:5)

As we continue to work through this passage of Ephesians, think about where you’ve heard this verse before. How was it used? What was the point? Was it used as a tool to attack denominations? Was it used as a tool to excuse doctrinal error? Think about it as you read this part of the commentary.

As always, I’d be happy to hear your thoughts.


4:5 “One Lord, one Faith, one baptism,”

One Lord,

Here begins the second triad, that of one Lord, one faith, and one baptism.

Just as the Body of Christ, the Church, is not a self-existing, self-sustaining entity that can exist without the power of the Spirit. It is not free to do as it wills. What also unifies the Church is one Head, one Lord, and that is Jesus. He is in complete control by virtue of the price He paid, and He is the “one who is in charge by virtue of possession, owner.[1]

Jesus in our Lord, our Kyrios, our Master. All authority is His. All dominion is His. And the work and life of the Body is His, also. Therefore, anytime we say “our church” or “my church,” we should remind ourselves that what binds us together is not the confederacy of churches but the united body of the Church which belongs to the Lord, Jesus, and no other.

one faith,

            The “faith” that is spoken of here is not that of a particular dogma, catechism, creed, or religious convention. “It refers to the principle of faith by means of which all the saints enter into salvation.”[2] The Apostle Paul spoke of this faith earlier in the letter when he said:  “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesian 2:8-8). What unites us as a body of believers is not our works, anything we have done, good or bad, but the same entry requirement: faith in Jesus Christ for salvation.

one baptism,

            Here the translators transliterate the Greek words εἷς βάπτισμα (heis baptisma) as “one baptism.” Even though the words carry the meaning of being immersed into water, literal water baptism is not what is being addressed. This is a spiritual baptism, a placing of the believer in the Body of Christ. Only the Holy Spirit can do this. Paul referenced this “baptism” when writing to the Corinthians: “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether [we be] Jews or Gentiles, whether [we be] bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13).


[1] William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 577.

[2] Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: For the English Reader, vol. 4 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 96.

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A Mini-Commentary, Pt 5 (Ephesians 4:4)

I hope you all had a wonderful long weekend (here in America), because I sure did! Beside having a wonderful service Sunday morning, my family and I came together in Atlanta, GA, to attend a major-league baseball game between the Atlanta Braves and the Miami Marlins…and the Braves WON!…Twice in the same game!

Today, let us look at verse 4 in Ephesians 4. Keep in mind that the Body of Christ (the Church) may be one, but it contains individual parts, each part of an overall design, and each part performing a prescribed function. We will go deeper into that aspect a little later.

4:4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling.

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[There is] one body,

            Here the Apostle Paul, speaking of the Church as the unified Body of Christ, begins the first point in “Seven Particulars”[1], the culmination of the last making up three different triads. The first triad is that of “one body…one Spirit…one hope of your calling.” See also 1 Corinthians 12:13.

The second triad is formed from “one Lord…one faith…one baptism.” The third triad is found in verse six where, when describing God the Father, the seventh “particular,” he declares that He is “above all…through all…in you all.”

            Paul continues to use the analogy of the body to describe the importance of healthy unity. Unity in the body, especially peaceful unity (v.3) is critical for effectiveness. Although a human body be unified, all individual members working together for the common life of the body, if one member be sickly or “angry,” the rest of the body, however healthy, will ultimately be affected and the work of the body will be hindered. There are a great many truths associated with the Church being the Body of Christ on the earth, and here is no exception. But what Paul does in the next few verses is take both a wide-angle view and one that is microscopic: he speaks of the common unity we have as the Body, but he also stresses the importance of the individual member (v.7).

and one Spirit,

            What is a body without life? What is a body without a spirit that animates it? Similarly, what is the Body of Christ without the life-giving, resurrecting power of the Holy Spirit? Not only are believers part of one body, but they are also empowered by the indwelling Pneuma (the Holy Spirit; the breath of God). “For by one Spirit (Pneumati) are we all baptized into one body…” (1 Corinthians 12:13).

            It must be understood that without the presence of the Spirit, the Church would not be the living Body, Jesus Christ being the Head. Therefore, as the Body is united, and as it works, individual members will have different responsibilities, such as feet help the body to stand while the fingers grip the hilt and the arm swings the sword. Yet, all will receive their strength from the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that flows through one part of the Body is the same that flows through another whose Head is Jesus Christ. “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Romans 8:9 KJV). See also 1 Corinthians 12:13.

even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;

            The unified, universal Church is one Body, has only one life-giving and empowering Spirit and only one hope: “the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13 KJV). Those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ have a calling – a “vocation” – for which they have been called. Therefore, in everything we do, at home or at work or school, each believer has been issued a vocation in the Kingdom, and that is to point people to the only Hope of the World.

            It must be noted, however, that a careful reading of this part of verse four shows that “even as ye are called in one hope of your calling” is a phrase which helps modify the previous “There is one body, and one Spirit.” Notice how that Paul says that there is one body and one Spirit, “even as…” Therefore, a comparison is being made between the two phrases, which could even lend to the argument that there is not really a triad in this section, only a couplet modified by a couplet.

            So, what is really being said? How do we make the comparison between the two? The body needs a spirit to animate it, to make it alive; the “vocation” has only one “hope.”


[1] H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., Ephesians, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 147.

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A Mini Commentary (Pt. 4)

Are we having fun, yet!

I am!

Let’s jump back into the deep water this morning and look at Ephesians 4:3. It’s all part of a short commentary on Ephesians 4:1-16 entitled,

“The Edification of the Body of Christ by the Gifts Given by Jesus to the Church.”

But hey! When you are finished reading today’s study, leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.

Tomorrow is the 4th of July, so I’ll be sharing a post relating to that subject, not this. But check back on Monday to pick it up again as we look at Ephesians 4:4.


4:3 “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Endeavouring

            Here the Apostle Paul uses a word that adds urgency to the “vocation.” To endeavour (σπουδάζω, spoudazō) is to use make haste to do what you need to do. Even more, the sense of urgency implies that one should do everything he can as soon as he can and not waste time.

Or, as the Pulpit Commentary described, “Σπουδάζοντες is stronger than the A. V. ‘endeavouring,’ and denotes an object to be carefully and earnestly watched for and promoted.”[1] Consider how the same word is used in 2 Timothy 4:9 when Paul asked Timothy, “Do thy diligence (spoudazō) to come to me shortly.” And, again, in verse 21 of the same chapter, “Do thy diligence to come before winter…” We can sense the urgency. However, as much as the word could convey a sense of urgency, it can also point to great desire, like the heartfelt longing Paul expressed in 1 Thessalonians 2:17 where he said:

1 Thessalonians 2:17 KJV – But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured[G4704] the more abundantly to see your face with great desire.

Considering how Paul used endeavoured in other places, it would be safe to conclude that the unity to which he is referring should not only be striven for with urgency, but with great desire.

To keep the unity of the Spirit

Photo by Daniil Ustinov on Pexels.com

            What does it mean to “keep” something? The word translated here can be used to describe keeping, watching over, or guarding something.[2] It could also be used with the meaning of keeping something in a particular state or condition. However, what needs to be stressed is that unity is not something that happens naturally, at least not in the spiritual body. When we seek our own devices, we cause disunity, strife, and internal conflict. Therefore, we must “endeavor” to watch over and guard our unity. The Enemy seeks to divide and conquer, but we are stronger when we are unified.

In the bond

            The word “bond” (σύνδεσμος sýndesmos, soon’-des-mos) is an important word to know, for used in the context of unity and the body, it refers to a joint or ligament that holds the individual members of the Body together. It is figurative language, yet it is fitting considering the Church is a living body, not simply a building. The joints are therefore flexible as well as strong, but like any other living tissue in a body, it must receive nourishment, and that must come from the life-giving Spirit.

Peace

            The unity of the Spirit is kept by the bond of “peace.” As with the human body, the spiritual body, both of local congregations and of the Church, are complicated structures with many members which act symbiotically to maintain a container for life. The Church contains the Spirit, and it must endeavor to maintain unity, an unbroken body, in order to keep it (like trying to keep a physical body in one piece in order to maintain the life of the body). And what is it that keeps the body together and working? It is the bonds, the ligaments. And what are the bonds, the ligaments, in this spiritual entity? They are peace. Peace is the bond, the ligament, that binds together the individual members for the work which the body was designed to do.

            Peace is the Greek word εἰρήνη (eirēnē) – Strongs G1515 – and can refer to either a “state of national tranquility” or “peace between individuals.” The effectual working of the Body of Christ (the Church) in the world desperately depends on healthy and strong bonds of peace, yet this unity is fragile and often neglected with most of the attention and energy directed members instead of what binds them.

“Unity is maintained by the Spirit. Unity is preserved as believers make peace with one another their major priority instead of acting selfishly for personal gain and honor. Our call is not to create spiritual unity but rather to manifest spiritual unity by relational unity. Paul calls for unity in the third verse and spends the next thirteen verses elaborating on it.”[3]


[1] H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., Ephesians, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 147.

[2] William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 1002.

[3] Max Anders, Galatians-Colossians, vol. 8, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 149.

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A Mini Commentary (Pt. 3)

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Thank you for coming back!

This is Part 3, but today we are going to be looking at the second verse of Ephesians 4. My hope is that for some of you this develops a desire to go deeper in your own study of Scripture.

Again, I’d love your feedback. Leave a comment and I really would appreciate it.


4:2 “With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;”

With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering

            Before anything else, it is important to note the prepositional phrases which include the words lowliness, meekness, and longsuffering. In actuality, the second prepositional phrase (“with longsuffering”) modifies the first (“with all lowliness and meekness”), both being prerequisites for “forbearing one another in love.” Matthew Henry commented: “The first step towards unity is humility; without this there will be no meekness, no patience, or forbearance; and without these no unity.”[1] It is with humility (lowliness) that we withhold or set aside our rights or desires for vindication, thereby creating the ability to be patient and “longsuffering” with those who may abuse or misuse us, as even our own brothers and sisters often do.

  • Lowliness

            Lowliness can also be translated as humility. It is “the quality of humility— ‘humble attitude, humility, without arrogance.’”[2] Humility is the fertile soil in which meekness and longsuffering can grow.

  • Meekness

            Meekness is not weakness; it’s mildness and gentleness.[3] In Matthew 11:29 we read that Jesus was “meek and lowly.” Therefore, having the attribute of meekness should in no way imply weakness or impotence. For the Christian, meekness models Christ in that He could have claimed His rights, yet He endured with patience for the sake of others.

  • Longsuffering,

            The Greek word translated as “longsuffering” (μακροθυμία, makrothymia G3116) is found fourteen times in the King James Version of the Bible, and of those fourteen times it is only translated as “patience” twice. However, nearly every other translation of the Bible besides the NKJV and the ASV renders makrothymia as “patience” in this verse. To be fair, patience is the major meaning of this word, but it is also more.

If we look at this old word of “longsuffering,” we may notice that it is made up of two English words: long and suffering. Patience may be equal to suffering, but how long should one be patient? The prefix makro answers that question: a long time. Therefore, longsuffering should be understood to convey a sense of endurance of pain or suffering for a longer period. The same word is used by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:4 when, describing charity (love), he says it “suffereth long.”

forbearing one another in love;

            It might seem that longsuffering and forbearing are words so similar that using them both is almost redundant. However, Matthew Henry aptly distinguishes the two:

“Long-suffering implies a patient bearing of injuries, without seeking revenge. Forbearing one another in love signifies bearing their infirmities out of a principle of love, and so as not to cease to love them on the account of these.” [4]

To forbear is to endure the undeserved pain and suffering inflicted by the actions or consequences of others’ actions with intent, and in this case the intent being love. The important difference between forbearing with or without love (agape) is how it can affect the one forbearing. One could forbear, patiently bear the burden, the load caused by another, with bitterness, guilt, or resignation and add suffering to suffering. On the other hand, as Paul beseeches the reader, we could forbear one another’s inflictions with a love that demands nothing in return. What joy is had by the latter in contrast to the former!


[1] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 2312.

[2] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 747.

[3] Henry George Liddell et al., A Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), 1459.

[4] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 2312.

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Thoughts On the 2021 SBC Convention

Sometimes a Video

Good Friday morning, everyone! It’s good to be back in the blogosphere for a little while.

So much has been going on, so I apologize for not writing as much as I’d like. Honestly, writing is a good thing for any preacher to do, for it helps us hone our thoughts – at least it does mine.

But for today, and I don’t plan for this to be a regular thing, I’m going to forward the video from a Facebook live post I did Wednesday night. There’s just no way I could take the time to write out all that I cover in this video.

My Thoughts, Only

This week the largest non-Catholic denomination of Christian believers (the Southern Baptist Convention) met in Nashville, TN, for an historic gathering. 16,000 +/- people (messengers) sent from local congregations all over the country got together for collective worship and critical votes. My wife and I were two of them.

The meeting was so important that nearly all the major news networks and papers covered it. Most, of course, had no intention of being flattering – not unless they were praising the election of the left-leaning Dr. Ed Litton as President.

So, the video to which I am linking contains my thoughts, and only my thoughts, about the results of the meeting and the future of the SBC.

What is MOST Important

But I want you to understand something, my friends. What is most important about all this is how we move forward in the love and grace of Jesus Christ. What’s most important is what we are here to be and to do, and that supersedes denominational wins and defeats.

Please, I would encourage you to watch this video post that I made, because even if you are not Southern Baptist, or any kind of Baptist at all, the world is watching, the world is hurting, and the world needs the good news of Jesus Christ.

We must not allow the results of our gatherings to tear us apart.

http://www.facebook.com/anthony.c.baker.16/videos/10220227491300574

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“In Such a Time as This…”

Let’s Begin With a Comment

A reader named Stephen decided to throw in his two cents in response to a recent post called “He Will Be My President.” Before we go any further, I’d like to share it with you.

Talk is cheap and you got a website dedicated to it.
I get the feeling it won’t take long for the hypocrite in you to come out, but you’ll justify yourself in your hypocrisy. It’s what religious people do.
Reeds in the wind, flailing about trying hard to show the world just how saved you are.
Keep working at it, your salvation is near.

If you would like to read my follow-up to Mr. Stephen’s comment, you can go to the comment section of that post. For now, I want to direct you to the video below.

A 3-Pointer

It’s not that often I preach a classic three-point sermon, but this is one I would ask you watch. The subject of the sermon this past Sunday morning was how to move forward in “such a time as this.”

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments, even if they are like the one above.

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I Was Keeping a Covenant Before BLM Was Cool

24-plus Year Ago…

I was a new pastor. I hadn’t even been ordained a year. Yet, I had the opportunity to attend a once-in-a-lifetime historical event, the 1996 Promise Keepers Clergy Conference held in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

Maybe you remember when Promise Keepers was a big thing. There were a lot of positive aspects with the organization and goals, and certainly some negatives. But this conference was specifically held for pastors, and over 39,000 came from all over the country, even the world, to attend this 3-day event.

I still remember the breaks in between sessions when men would do one of two things: go to the bathroom or stand in line to call home on a pay phone. I was one of only a few that actually had a cell phone! The lines to the phones were longer than the ones to go pee!

Confession and Forgiveness

Nearly 25 years ago, there I was with pastors of every skin color and from all kinds of Christian denominations. For many like me, it was the first time ever attending an event of this magnitude. But it was also the first time I’d ever interacted with people who weren’t Baptist, or at least Church of God. And, above all, it was the first time for me to be around that many black preachers!

Oh, but there were pastors there, like I said, from every “race.” Literally, it was like “every tribe and nation” was represented at some point. There were even 200 Native American pastors present who’d – no joke – walked from reservations in the West just to attend this conference!

But one of the highlights of the conference was when an unscripted time of tearful, heartfelt confession was begun by Dr. Jack Hayford. At one point, while standing on stage weeping in front of these 40,000 men, he preceded to say the following (to the best of my memory):

“I want to confess my own sin of racism and soft bigotry. Yes, I am guilty. No, I never treated anyone of color differently in public, but there were times when in my heart I did. There were times when I could have driven through your parts of town, but I chose to take a different route. Did I think I was too good to drive through your communities? Down your street? I don’t know. But I didn’t want to see it. I didn’t want to face it. I wanted to ignore you and pretend you weren’t there.” [paraphrased from memory]

It’s been over 24 years, and there is no video and only a few pictures still around of this event. Therefore my memory of the details of when what happened is foggy. But what I do remember very distinctly is WHAT happened, even if I can’t remember in what order.

But I believe it happened like this…

After Jack Hayford had bravely stood on stage confessing his sin of soft racism, Rev. Raleigh Washington walked on stage to comfort Dr. Hayford. It was then that Rev. Washington said something like the following:

My brothers, you have just heard the heart of a dear man of God. He just confessed his sin before you and God, and asked us to forgive him. But let me just say, it’s time to do more than accept the white man’s apology; it’s time we confess our own sin of bitterness! Of unforgiveness! It’s about time we start FORGIVING!” [paraphrased from memory]

What happened next was chilling. I am serious when I say that what happened next was not normal, not natural, and totally of the Holy Spirit. Literally, like every African-American black man in the Georgia Dome had been cued by some heavenly angel, a single, deep-throated, rumble of a voice spoke out in unison,

“WE FORGIVE!”

For a split second you could sense the shock and awe of what had just happened. Everyone instinctively knew what had just happened was of God. It was a miracle!

Then the dam broke.

Beginning with Jack Hayford, then Raleigh Washington, a representative of each people group came up on stage to confess and ask forgiveness for their own sins. To each one the auditorium replied with a rumbling “We forgive!”

Rev. Tom Claus, founder of Chief.org

Finally, wearing a the full headdress, Rev. Tom Claus walked onto the stage. The crowd of 40,000 drew quiet. Rev. Claus, a literal Mohawk Indian, began to spell out a grocery list of crimes and atrocities: the stolen land, broken treaties, and the bloodshed inflicted by the American government during the 1800’s.

He said, “If anybody in here has a right to be bitter, or to hate the white man, it is my people.” Who could argue?

But then, in what became the most emotional, so-thick-you-could-cut-it-with-a-knife moment, Rev. Tom Claus spoke words that would drive the modern Left completely off the cliff these days. He said,

“But, I forgive the white man. Because if it had not been for the white man, I would not know Jesus.[Yes, he really said that!]

Folks, nearly 25 years ago in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia, I confessed and repented of any and every racist part of my life. I asked forgiveness. I was given forgiveness. And I, along with nearly 40,000 other pastors, covenanted with God and each other, with God’s grace, to never be the same.

How Much Is Enough?

Now, unfortunately, those who love to stir up contention and hate, for that is what they thrive on, are back at it. It doesn’t matter what one generation has done, they want to hold each and every consecutive generation guilty for the sins of their forefathers. Forgiveness is NOT an option.

They can say what they want to say about me, but despite what I used to be, God’s grace and the blood of Jesus Christ has cleansed me. On top of that, He opened my eyes and my heart and gave me a love for my fellow man, regardless our differences.

There was a time in my young life when I asked a legitimate, however uninformed question: “Why did God make black people different?” I never got a good answer, so I believed the bad answers.

Yes, I used to be a racist. Yes, I used to think I was better than other people. Yes, I even tended to think that blacks needed whites to be pulled out of poverty, out of the jungles, and into civilized society. Yes, I stupidly used to think black people were that way because of the curse God put on Ham.

But NO MORE! 

Over 30 years ago, when I started attending my first classes in college, I started to see the flaws in my earlier thinking about race. But that only came when I started being around people who looked different from me. It was only then that it became clear that we were all the same.

By the time I went to the 1996 Clergy Conference, I had already determined to combat bigotry and racism (I had even invited a black professor of mine – Dr. Jay P. Trimble – to speak before my wedding). The Clergy Conference and the Atlanta Covenant only sealed the deal.

That is why I sorta seriously resent modern attempts by Marxists disguised as BLM to punish me for my “white privilege.” This is why I resent being bullied into confessing I’ve been a racist all along and now need to support activist groups and give them money to pass laws to silence my voice.

I AM NOT A RACIST, and I’VE ALREADY BEEN FORGIVEN! 

After the ’96 conference was over, everyone who was there who actually signed their name to the Atlanta Covenant, we all received a small copy of the original – the one signed by those who spoke at the conference.

I still have that copy framed and hanging on my office wall.

I have typed it out so you can read it for yourself.

 


Atlanta Covenant
Clergy ’96 Conference

Our great and awesome God, in Your sovereignty You have brought us as clergy to Atlanta. You have met and dealt with us in powerful ways, You have been faithful with all of Your promises and loving toward us in all ways. We now stand before You broken and humbled, called to shepherd and pastor Your Church, believing that You are willing and ready to give a fresh outpouring of Your Holy Spirit on Your Church. Our eyes are focused on Your only Son, Jesus Chris, the perfector and finisher of our faith.

We acknowledge, confess and repent before You, that although we may not be guilty of all that is stated below, we are prompted by godly sorrow to repent because we as clergy have sinned against You (1 Corinthians 7:10-11).

Therefore, we enter into this Atlanta Covenant with You and with each other.

  1. We covenant by God’s grace to honor Jesus Christ through worship, prayer and obedience to Your Word though the power of the Holy Spirit.
    • Where we have grown cold and distant in our communion with You, we wholeheartedly commit to pursue an ever-deepening relationship with You through worship and prayer. As You lead, we commit to fast and pray for revival or our own hearts, for our churches, and for the Church of Jesus Christ.
    • Where we have disobeyed you, we commit to be obedient to Your Word, regardless of the cost.
    • Where we have quenched Your Holy Spirit, we commit by God’s grace to keep in step with Your daily activity and leading.
  1. We covenant by God’s grace to pursue vital relationships with a few other clergymen, understanding that we need our brothers in ministry to help us keep this covenant.
    • Where we have resisted affirming, accountable relationships with other brothers, we commit to pray intentionally for these relationships and seek this support, never again to be a loner in ministry.
  1. We covenant by God’s grace to practice spiritual, moral, ethical, and sexual purity.
    • Where we have conformed to the world, we commit to place other gods before You no longer, the one true God.
    • Where we have excused our moral and sexual sin and been neither repentant nor broken, we now offer our bodies to You as living sacrifices and ask that You transform our minds and hearts by your Word and Your Spirit.
  1. We covenant by God’s grace to build strong marriages and families through love, protection, and biblical values.
    • Where we have neglected our homefronts as the first place of ministry, we covenant to recapture the hearts of our wives and children, by giving them the first priority in our prayers and schedules.
  1. We covenant and commit by God’s grace to Your calling to pastor Your people and to lead Your Church faithfully in fulfilling Your mission.
    • Where we have neglected our call, we wholeheartedly recommit ourselves to the ministry of prayer and the study of Your Word.
    • Where we have driven our people rather than led them, acting as if being a pastor was simply a job and not a holy calling, we commit and pray ardently and regularly with love for our flock, recognizing that You have called and place us in the church that we serve.
    • Where we have used our ministry as a platform for our personal gain, we repent and recommit ourselves to serving Your kingdom and the growth of Your people.
    • Where we have trusted yourselves and the programs of men, rather than seeking You and Your way, we commit to seek Your heart and direction for our churches.
    • Where we have lost confidence and passion in our preaching, we commit to feed Your people with Your Word faithfully and passionately.
  1. We covenant by God’s grace to reach beyond any racial and denominational barriers to demonstrate the power of biblical unity.
    • Where we ignored praying and working with fellow pastors of differing denominations and race, we commit to seek out clergy of differing denominations and races, intentionally pursuing relationships with them, praying and working together for the building of the Kingdom of God.
    • Where we who are Anglo have enjoyed the advantages that have come to us as a result of the teaching of white superiority against people of color, we confess this is as sin. With Ezra, Nehemiah and Daniel, we confess the sins of our forefathers, who disobeyed Your Word and at times stole, killed, enslaved, broke treaties, demeaned and lied to people of color, we now acknowledge and confess this as sin against You and repent of our sin, trusting that it will lead us to reconciliation and restoration with our brothers in Christ. We now want to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly before You; and we commit to learn so that we might teach and lead our people in the area of racial reconciliation.
    • Where we who are the clergy of color have become bitter and nonforgiving of our Anglo brothers, entertaining a spirit of retaliation and guarding our ministry against Anglo partnership, we acknowledge and confess our sin before You. Where we have not applied the principles of biblical reconciliation to other racial groups, we now acknowledge that this is sin against You and repent of our sin, trusting that it will lead us to reconciliation and restoration with our brothers in Christ. We now want to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly before You; and we commit to learn, so that we might teach our people in the area of racial reconciliation.
  1. We covenant by God’s grace to influence our world, being obedient to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.
    • Where Your church has lost its saltiness and light in our nation, we covenant to lead Your people to seek God’s face for the healing of our land.
    • Where we have lost Your vision to reach all people groups with Your amazing, saving grace, we covenant to give to others freely what You have given us.
    • Where we have strayed from the Gospel of Christ, we covenant to preach with renewed passion and conviction the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In total devotion to Christ as the Chief Shepherd of the Church, we commit ourselves to these things by the power of the Holy Spirit. To that end, we give our lives as clergy to pray, to prepare, and to minister for nothing less than a spiritual revival in Your Church, that Your body might increasingly become a bride without spot or wrinkle. We pray that together we might be brought to complete unity in You so that the world may know that You sent Your son, Jesus Christ, and that You love them as You love us (John 17:20-23). This this we pledge ourselves.

Those who were present and signed the Atlanta Covenant:

Bishop Phillip Porter, Bill McCartney, Randy Phillips, Henry Blackaby, David Bryant, Tom Claus, Tony Evans, Joseph Garlington, Jack Hayford, E.V. Hill, Max Lucado, John Maxwell, Bishop George McKinney, Jesse Miranda, James Ryle, Dale Schlafer, Joseph Stowell, Chuck Swindoll, Raleigh Washington, Glen Kehrein

 

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Very Glad to Be Back!

I just wanted to share the edited YouTube version of our first Sunday morning back at Bethlehem.

I was honestly thrilled to get back together, and maybe it shows 😉

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Filed under Bethlehem Baptist Church, Christian Unity, Christianity, Church, Preaching, worship

Racial Reconciliation: It Starts Like This – With Jesus

Today I had a beautiful and powerful conversation with a fellow pastor and fellow TBS (Temple Baptist Seminary) grad, Rev. Kenneth E. Ware of New Sholar Avenue Baptist Church, Chattanooga.

Below is a link to the conversation we had.

Your comments are welcome.

 

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Filed under America, baptist, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Christian Unity, Christianity, community, current events, Jesus