Is Galatians about Cultural Elitism?

Some modern Bible teachers have been teaching that certain passages of the New Testament are rebukes of racism or classism. The text in question is not the instruction of James 2, which is a direct rebuke of showing favoritism to the rich. Nor are they referring to the statements in Paul’s letters like Colossians 3:11, “Where there is neither Jew, nor Gree, circumcision, uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond, nor free: but Christ is all and in all.” These words are a clear statement that racial, national and social differences are eliminated in Christ. All believers are united together a one in Jesus. These truths are clear and are powerful opponents of racism and favoritism in the church.

However, some teachers have turned to other texts to decry elitism. Some have pointed to Galatians and Paul’s rebuke of Peter as a rebuke of promoting Jewish culture to the exclusion of Gentile culture. Paul is confronting Peter’s gospel error, not Peter’s cultural errors. Paul told Peter he was not acting according to the gospel. The climax of Paul’s argument comes when he says, “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ.” Peter’s actions compromised the clarity of salvation by faith alone. Peter’s refusal to eat with Gentiles was not just a cultural thing, it was a gospel issue. Peter was forgetting that they Gentiles were saved by faith in Christ, just like the Jews. He was forgetting the Gentiles had received the Holy Spirit, just like the Jews. Paul rebuked Peter because his actions in refusing to eat with the Gentiles indicated that the Gentiles were not full members of Christianity, that Christ was not sufficient to save them, that they had to keep the law and become Jews to really be Christians. Paul’s rebuke of Peter is a gospel rebuke. It has cultural issues as the background, but Paul is not fighting for cultural differences to be set aside. Paul is fighting for the clarity of the gospel.

In a March 2021 Christianity Today article, Michael Rhodes taught that Paul’s rebuke of the Corinthian church was a rebuke of elitism and classism. He said, “The way they came to the Lord’s Supper reinforced socioeconomic divisions among them.” In 1 Corinthians 11 Paul confronted misuse of the meal associated with the Lord’s Supper. Apparently, the church in Corinth shared a meal together before taking the Lord’s supper. The Bible doesn’t tell us why they had the meal, only that some were going hungry because others were eating before them. Some had too much and others did not have enough. Rhodes said that the rich were being promoted and were establishing their elite status by going first in line, but Paul says nothing about social class in 1 Corinthians 11. Paul rebuked the Corinthians for their selfishness, not their elitism. He tells the believers to eat at home if they are hungry and to let others eat before them. He speaks of of their selfishness and callousness to the needy, not their promotion of the wealthy. Paul’s words have a direct application to how the church handles social and financial status, but Paul’s focus is teaching about class warfare. He is confronting the selfish, greedy, gluttony that will fill its belly at the expense of others.

The Bible clearly teaches that Christians must reject all forms of status oriented, external driven favoritism. Classism, elitism, racism and nationalism have no place in the church. Since the Bible condemns favoritism, what is the harm in teaching a Biblical truth from a wrong passage? The danger is in thinking we can use any passage of the Bible to prove a point. Every passage of the Bible has a meaning that was intended by the original authors. Any meaning drawn out of that passage today must be in accord with the original meaning. To misuse the Bible for a good purpose is still a misuse of Scripture. We have no need to misapply Galatians or Corinthians to make a good point today. God’s Word speaks clearly against racism, let’s pay attention to those passages.

How should I respond to a loved one who has just come out as a homosexual?

During this holiday season some Christian’s gathering with friends and family will be faced with the challenge of responding to a loved one who has recently come out as a homosexual. Responding wisely to this heart breaking news presents a lot of challenges for the concerned Christian who wants to help homosexual loved ones.

The Christian cannot approve of this sin, yet it is not always appropriate for you to tell them of your disapproval. Use wisdom and discernment to decide if you should speak to the person about their homosexuality. The deciding factor must not be that you have a strong desire to say something to them. Do not speak just because you want to get something off your chest. Speak if you are in a position where you are responsible to correct them or if they seek your input.

Be aware that any response you give short of applause and full affirmation will possibly be seen as unkind, hurtful or toxic. Be ready to show your love for the person though they do not respond well to your words. Be prepared for the possibility that they or another family member will explode in anger.

For many, homosexuality is not a sexual attraction, it is an identity. Often rebuke of the sin of homosexuality is viewed as a personal attack. Do not be afraid to express your love or to confront their sin, but do not expect them to understand that you can still love them without loving their sin.

Do not let the possibility of a negative reaction stop you from speaking truth at an appropriate time. However, a rebuke of homosexuality is not the first thing that needs to be said. Nor is a lecture in front of the entire family the best option. Seek a good time when you can speak personally to that individual so you can gently share Biblical truth with them.

Because the goal is to communicate God’s truth, prepare ahead of time. Study what the Bible says about personhood and sexuality. Don’t look for “gotcha” verses that will prove homosexuality is a sin. Look to develop a solid understanding of all the Bible’s teachings about sex and sexuality. Seek to think like the Bible so you can present from Scripture a Biblical worldview of humanity and homosexuality that will give a foundation from which the person can begin to turn from their sin.

Be honest. Speak the truth directly and lovingly. Do not attack the person, but address their actions. Do not call them names, belittle them or berate them. “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29) Be careful to always speak in a way that edifies and reflects the grace of God. Do not make remarks about them or pointed statements calculated for them to overhear. Reject passive aggressivism and any attempt to manipulate the person. Be forthright, honest and kind. No matter how they may respond, always respond with gentleness. Remember that “A soft answer turneth away wrath.” (Proverbs 15:1) and “The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20)

Remember, you cannot change the person and changing them is not your job. Don’t try to do it. Speak truth to them in love, with boldness and forthrightness. If you are going to confront their sin, be prepared to help them through the long and difficult process of growing in obedience.

Often the one who declares themselves a homosexual has been dealing with these deep seated desires for a long time. They have given the matter a lot of thought and have struggled with telling their friends and family. Don’t expect all of that to be set aside because of a five minute conversation with you. Give them time to change. In the meantime, pray earnestly for their repentance and show your love to them in as many ways as you can.

Where did the different races come from?

With the current unrest in America, it seems good to repost an article from five years ago addressing the eerily similar death of a black man at the hands of a white police officer. If the response to the death of George Floyd is any indication racial tension has only increased in the last five years. Until we accept the Bible’s teachings about race, humanity and sin there will be no peace among men.

The one year anniversary of the shooting in Ferguson has just passed. In the twelve months since Michael Brown was shot, there have been numerous racially themed conflicts. Racial issues have been a regular theme of major news outlets. As a result, race is a topic on a lot of minds right now. The answers to racial tensions are not simple, but the Bible gives the sound foundation on which to develop a comprehensive response to racial conflicts. Whether it be an exchange of insults on a street corner or an exchange of gunfire in a crowded building the Bible gives the framework by which we can make sense of these difficult issues. One of the crucial Biblical teachings for a proper understanding of the races is what the Bible says about the origins of the races.

Race as we describe it is not something addressed often in the Bible. Most often Scriptures refers to nations, languages, tribes and cultures. In fact, the term “races” is a misnomer. Humanity is a single race with members possessing a variety of superficial differences, most easily seen in skin coloring and distinctive faical features. These variations are relatively minor and do not divide the peoples of the world into distinct races. The Biblical terminology is “kindred (tribe or family group), tongue (language group), people (community group) and nation (ethnic group)”. Though each group possesses clearly defined features, all are made up of descendants from Adam and Eve. Whether black, brown, white or yellow, all nations and peoples are members of the same family descended from the same parents.

If all humanity is one race that originated with Adam and Eve, where did the different ethnicities come from? The Bible offers a clear answer to the origins of the nations which are the source of the major “races” in the world today. The division of the peoples of the world is described in Genesis 10 and 11. Genesis 10 lists the sons and grandsons of Shem, Ham and Japheth. This chapter has been called the “table of nations” because many of the people mentioned are the founders of the major nations of the world.

Genesis 11 tells of the Tower of Babel. At the Tower of Babel God punished mankind for its continued rebellion against Him. His punishment included the confusion of languages. Before Babel everyone spoke the same language. At Babel God miraculously caused different groups to speak different languages. The punishment at Babel also included the scattering of the people across the world. The individual language groups traveled from Babel to settle in lands across the Middle East and eventually the entire world. The family leaders mentioned in chapter 10 appear to reflect the language groups created by God at Babel. As groups spread out, married and reproduced, the distinctive characteristics of the parents became more pronounced. The unique languages and hardships faced by each people gropu resulted in the distinct culture and heritage of the various nations. From the tower of Babel and the resulting hardships came the formation of the ethnicities we see today.

How should Christians respond to police brutality?

Protests and riots are taking place in cities all across America. Thousands are protesting in the aftermath of the death of a Minnesota man at the hands of a police officer. This event has once again brought the issue of police brutality to national attention. I have intentionally avoided researching the specifics of the events in Minnesota. Nothining I say here is intended to justify or condemn George Floyd or any involved in his death. Regardless of the facts of this particular situation police brutality is an unavoidable reality. How should the child of God respond when any government official abuses his authority?

Excessive force must always be condemned. Force is often required in the enforcement of law. Not all force is wrong. Romans 13 says that God has given governing bodies the sword to use against evil doers. The violence of the sword is intended by God to restrain evil. However, force that exceeds the demands of the situation, force that exceeds the requirements of justice or force that is driven by hatred must be condemned.

Even though some officers of the law act violently or murderously the Christian must always treat all governing authorities with respect. Peaceful protests are not necessarily unchristian, but violent uprisings always are. 1 Peter 2:17 says simply, “Honor all men. Honor the king.” No matter what the actions or abuses of officers of the law, they must always be treated respectfully.

Christians may be wise to call for changes to laws so harsher measures will be meted out against officers who abuse their power. The Bible teaches that those who have greater authority are held to a higher standard. In Scripture, authority always brings greater accountability. A Christian is not unreasonable to seek to influence our justice system to impose greater accountability upon those who have greater authority.

The Christian should speak up on behalf of the innocent and the powerless. Psalm 82 calls for the defense of the fatherless and widows and for justice for the afflicted. If the powers of the state are being used to persecute the innocent, then the Christian should do everything legally possible to halt such abuse of power. The Christian, British statesmen who brought the English slave trade to an end is an excellent example of Christians using all legal means to bring about justice for the afflicted.

Be careful responding to events like the death in Minnesota. Information is always limited. The temptation is to see a video and think the clip tells the whole story, but there is always more. No news report is able to give all the information. No cell phone video or body camera can tell the entire story. Be careful to not jump to conclusions or to assume what cannot be known. Proverbs 18:13 says it is “folly and shame” to answer a matter before giving it a full hearing. A fool reaches a full conclusion on half-information. A Christian must not condemn or acquit a person without first gaining a deep, first hand knowledge of the situation.

The Christian must always remember that those who govern are God’s servants appointed by Him for the terrorizing of evil. Whether the government be tyrannical or democratic, just or unjust, each one who serves to uphold the law is a servant of God for our good. Never forget that. Pray for the government. Consider the unrest of the day and pray “for all that are in authority; that we may live a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”

Is it a sin to miss church?

Widespread restrictions against large gatherings have forced the closure of many churches and have made church attendance nearly impossible at this time. The government requests that churches not hold services have also generated much discussion about whether or not it is sinful for a Christian to miss church. On one side of the conversation are those who say it is always wrong to miss a church service and they refuse to cancel services no matter what. On the other side of the conversation are those who think church attendance is entirely optional and rarely, if ever, attend.

The first question to answer is if the Bible commands Christians to attend church. Yes it does, in the clearest possible terms. The words of Hebrews 10:25 carry the force of a command, “Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another.” This verse is a command to Christians to regularly attend church. The New Testament is also full of instructions that are dependent on faithful church attendance. Fundamentally, the New Testament word for church means an assembly. If Christians do not assemble together they are not a church.

Can Christians assemble online together? Hebrews 10:25 says Christians assemble together to exhort one another. Christians go to church to interact with other Christians. While online interaction can serve a useful role, it cannot replace the relationship that can only be developed face to face. Christians need the kind of relationship that sits across the table from you, shares a meal with you, looks you in the eye, holds your hand or gives you a hug.

Virtual church may supplement church attendance, or serve as a temporary substitute when circumstances make church attendance impossible. But listening to a sermon online, singing hymns with your family or watching a church service on television can never replace face to face church attendance. Only gathering with other believers as the body of Christ is “the assembling of yourselves together.

However, the Bible does not command perfect church attendance. The command of Hebrews 10:25 is that believers “not forsake” the assembling. Christians are not to be deserters from the assembly. When the church assembles Christians should be there, but missing a church service or two is not necessarily forsaking the assembling. The Christian’s desire and priority should be to gather with other believers. The Christian who disregards church attendance, only attends when it is convenient or always has an excuse for why they cannot attend this Sunday is breaking the command to not forsake the assembly. If you go to church and the regulars greet you with surprise, or someone hands you a visitors card, that is a pretty good hint you might be forsaking the assembly.

The Christian who misses a service because of illness or weather is not sinning. The church that cancels Sunday services for a week or two because of factors outside their control is not sinning. The church is God’s great gift to the Christian. It is a wonderful gathering of the members of the body of Christ who are joined together in Jesus to worship their Savior, to serve one another, to be encouraged in Christlikeness and to be equipped to take the hope of Jesus to the unsaved. Why would you not want to be a regular part of that?