How should we understand God’s plan for racial reconciliation in the church? The epistle to the Ephesians and the book of Revelation offer insight into God’s plan for the church. Ephesians says that the church is only the complete church when she is Jew and Gentile together, united through the gospel of Jesus Christ, into one new humanity. The letter tells us that the fullness of God dwells in this united, diverse body, and that through such a united, diverse body the manifold wisdom of God would be made known in the heavens and the earth. Through this diverse, united body, the kingdom of God would fill the whole world, and Christ, who is the head of such a body, would bring all his enemies under his own feet, under his authority and rule. The ultimate aim of Christ’s work appears in the book of Revelation as the completion of what was purchased by his blood: a kingdom, a priesthood, from every tribe, tongue, people, and language, who will serve our God and rule on the earth (Rev 5:9–10). Thus, an ethnoracially reconciling church has the following five elements:
- A Plan for the Complete Church
Through the grace and mercy of the cross and the power of the resurrection, both Jews and the nations are made alive, included, and united in one new humanity. (Eph 2:1–18)
- A Dwelling in which God Lives
One united household of fellow citizens built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus as the chief cornerstone, built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Eph 2:19–22)
- God’s Manifold Wisdom Revealed through the Church
Through his ethnically, socioeconomically diverse and united church, God intends now to reveal his manifold wisdom to “the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.” All of this was accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, and has always been the plan. (Eph 3:10–11)
- All Things Placed Under Christ’s Feet for the Church
Christ is our head and God has seated him “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion . . . not only in this present age, but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church; which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Eph 1:20–23; cf. 1 Cor 15:24–25). God has given us access to the same incomparably great power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in heaven (Eph 1:19–20). In other words, every enemy of Jesus is now being brought under his authority, in this age and for all eternity—every evil, every injustice, every principality that oppresses people and opposes him and his kingdom ways. And the most “power-full” church, his very body in the earth, is the church united, Jews and nations as ONE NEW HUMANITY through Christ Jesus in which his fullness dwells by his Spirit!
- The Church Is Kingdom and Priesthood
In Revelation, the whole creation sings a song of praise for the work of the Lamb, singing: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open it, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God and they will reign on the earth” (Rev 5:9–10).
So, in simple terms, here is the whole plan of God: that the church would be composed of every tribe, tongue, and nation, that it would be united, healed, and healing, and loving deeply across profound human divides. This ethnoracially reconciled church will be full of the Spirit of God and will have access to God’s power and authority under Christ’s headship, bringing every enemy of Christ under his rulership until the day he hands over the kingdom to God (1 Cor 15:28).
This blog is part of an ongoing series by the speakers for Fuller’s 2017 Missiology Lectures: “Race, Theology, and Mission.” Find video and audio content from the lecture series here.
Chris N. Beard is the lead pastor at Peoples Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is executive presbyter for the Ohio Assemblies of God. A son of missionaries, Beard received a BA in Biblical Studies from Evangel University in 1989, and an MA in Christian Doctrine and History from Regent University in 1992.