Critical Questions

The Human Race and Ethnic Sin

God created the entire human race in our first parents, and He did so intending a glorious and variegated unity. “And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation” (Acts 17:26). When our first parents disobeyed Him by eating the forbidden fruit, they plunged that entire human race into spiritual darkness. This meant that we began to sin by means of everything we could lay our hands on — whether it was sex, metallurgy, tribalism, architecture, or music. If we interacted with it at all, we began to sin with it. After the judgment at Babel scattered us into all different directions, this became profoundly true of our ethnic groupings, and so our tribal enmities both grew and hardened over generations.

With the coming of Christ, God signaled that His purposes in redemption would touch even this, and so the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost indicated that the curse of Babel was now to be reversed in Christ. In Him, we “have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.” (Col. 3:10–11).

So as we labor to eradicate ethnic sin from our lives, there are two basic forms that ethnic sin can take in the Scriptures. One is when a person’s membership in a particular tribe is used as a foundation for justifying malice or enmity toward members of a different group. The second is when it is used as a foundation for a false pride or sense of inflated superiority. The two sins are therefore ethnic enmity and ethnic vainglory, and they are both hated by a holy God. But they are not more radically evil than any other forms of enmity or vainglory, grounded on other baseless trumperies. The sin is always the same kind of blind folly, and Christ died for all of it.

Sexual Justice

In a time when we have largely abandoned God’s published standards for our sexual behavior, and because pornography is so widespread, it is not surprising that sexual injustices are often perpetrated, including within the church. When such criminal behavior is discovered by church leaders, all the appropriate authorities should be informed immediately, and every effort made to support the victim or victims. When such behavior is alleged and denied, then it is the responsibility of church leaders to conduct or support an impartial investigation that will discover the truth, and deal with it accordingly.

Justification by Faith Alone

The ground of our justification before God is necessarily the obedience of Jesus Christ, the perfect man. This obedience is imputed to the individual believer, and the sole instrument for receiving this imputation is the faith that God grants to the believer in question. The righteousness of Christ that is imputed by sheer grace can be considered from two perspectives. The first is the obedience of Christ throughout the course of His life. The second is the obedience of Christ in His suffering on the cross. The former satisfies our need to have lived perfectly before God, and the second satisfies our need to pay the just penalty for having lived so imperfectly.