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Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Equal in Christ

Equal

by Dennis Pollock

In our nation's declaration of independence, there is a line that has become quite famous, which says, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…" Without knowing what Jefferson was referring to, many might consider that a blatant lie. Surely if ever there was anything certain in life, it is that men are vastly different from one another. We come into this world in various sizes, shades, and temperaments, and the differences only increase as we grow to maturity.

It would be nice if we varied only in trivial things, such as black or brown hair, or slight differences in build. But our differences are so huge! Some men are brilliant while others seem to live perpetually in a fog. Some have attractive outgoing personalities while others can barely hold a conversation. Some succeed at any athletic endeavor and others were always last to be chosen when teams were decided in the schoolyard.

And then there are the male / female differences. Feminists at one time tried with all their might to convince us that the only difference between men and women was the plumbing, but no one really bought it (I doubt the feminists even convinced themselves). Men are faster and stronger than women. Women talk more than men, and are more nurturing toward children than men. Men are far more aggressive than the ladies. There are ten times more guys than gals in the prisons. And it's not for no reason that insurance companies charge young men a whole lot more than young ladies.

In light of all of this, how could anyone say that we were created equal? Of course Jefferson wasn't talking about talent, personality, or temperament. He was speaking of our equality under God and the fact that it should also be so under the law. And He was right. The Bible totally concurs with this thought. Paul writes, "God shows personal favoritism to no man" (Galatians 2:6). God is not awed or impressed with any talent we may have (after all, He is the One who gave us that talent), nor does He look down on those that may lack talent in many areas. His love is not poured out toward the cool, the gifted, the wealthy, and the socially adept only; He loves the weak, the fumbling, and the overlooked souls equally. Jesus tells us, "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son…" And that means everyone from every race, every temperament, every economic status, and every educational level.  

"You are all one" 

Perhaps the plainest passage which deals with this concept is from Galatians, where we read: 

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:27,28) 

To be in Christ is to be declared equal with all others who are also in Christ. For this reason God instructs us to see each other as brothers and sisters. Men love to assign greater and lesser value to various categories of people. The racist says that his race is far more valuable than any other race. Intelligent people sometimes look down on the simple minded and have no desire to relate to them. Women have historically been considered of less value than men, by the men. In China today, where they allow only one child per couple, unborn baby girls are often aborted in the hope that the next pregnancy will result in a boy. Of course beautiful women are often prized and considered of great value. Men, who are natural hunters, will tell these women how precious and how special they are, and will pledge undying affection and honor to them if only they will consent to marriage. But once the wedding is over and the hunter has bagged his quarry, and a few years and a few pregnancies result in the woman looking a bit plumper and a little older, things can change radically. Those same men may stop saying all those sweet things to their wives, and even start looking for a newer model. In their eyes, their wives have greatly depreciated in value. 

Such is not the case in the eyes of our compassionate Heavenly Father. To Him the wrinkled and sagging and aged are as precious as the youth bursting with vitality. To be baptized into Jesus is to put on Jesus, to be clothed with the beauty and righteousness of the spotless Son of God. We become children of the same Father and are all dressed in the same "wedding garment," the robe of righteousness given to all who believe on Jesus Christ the Lord. All human distinctions are dissolved at the foot of the cross. There is neither black nor white, neither male nor female, neither cool dudes nor nerdy losers. We are all one in Christ.

On All Flesh 

Nearly every believer would agree with this in theory, but in practice it becomes a little more difficult. The church has often been as class conscious, race conscious, and gender conscious as the world – sometimes more so. In America the all white and all black churches have been a standard fixture for centuries, and only recently are we seeing a definite improvement in this area. Women have often been shut out of most ministries, save for the Sunday school classes. We have had rich people's churches and poor people's churches, churches where the educated folks attend and churches where the less educated feel comfortable. 

Yet there have been some exceptions. During times of great revival, seasons of rich Holy Spirit outpouring, races and classes have mingled freely and without reservation. Women have ministered boldly and effectively. There is a very clear Scriptural basis for this. On the Day of Pentecost, when onlookers are wondering why the Christians are acting so strangely as they are filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter quotes the prophet Joel, saying: 

This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:  'And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy. (Acts 2:16-18) 

Spirit poured outNotice the inclusive nature of the prophecy. The Spirit will be poured out on both sons anddaughters. Both old and young will experience supernatural gifts of the Spirit, dreaming and seeing visions. Men and women will both be anointed and prophesy the word of the Lord. In the atmosphere of the outpoured Holy Spirit all distinctions will be dissolved. The Holy Spirit will pay no attention to all the categories by which we assign value to people. He will come sovereignly and distribute gifts and grace to all kinds of people, even people most might think do not qualify for them. The Bible says, "The same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills" (1 Corinthians 12:11). I always thrill at those three words as He wills. It means that we do not require man's approval or recognition to minister in the power of the Spirit. Gifts are given to us, not because some committee was impressed with us and voted in our favor, but because God the Holy Spirit chose us for His own sovereign purposes. 

Smashing Barriers by the Spirit 

Kathryn Kuhlman was a great example of this. By almost anyone's standards she should never have made even the tiniest splash in the body of Christ. For starters she was a woman preacher in a day when women preachers were almost universally despised. Secondly she was divorced, which was looked upon in those days as the nearly unforgiveable sin. And finally she spoke in a corny, theatrical manner that grated on the ears until you finally got used to it (many never did!). And yet she was loved by multitudes, and her influence reached around the globe. For a season (1960's & 70's) she was God's leading instrument to introduce the body of Christ to the Person and power of the Holy Spirit. 

One pastor who tried to help organize her meetings in California resigned in frustration over her rigid ways. He complained, "Working with her was like working with a buzz saw… She was absolutely inflexible. Yet there was no denying that the power of God was on her. Every time she stepped on that stage, the Holy Spirit came with her." Amazing miracles followed her wherever she went. Had it been up to us, most of us would never have even considered this lady for such a powerful gift. But then the Holy Spirit isn't like most of us – or any of us for that matter! 

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit has always had a tendency to break down barriers and remove consciousness of class, race, and gender. Feelings of superiority and prejudice must melt away in the white hot love of God which is manifested when the Holy Spirit's presence is powerfully poured out. At the beginning of the twentieth century a black minister named William Seymour became eager for more of the Spirit in his life. He learned of a school in Houston, Texas run by a man named Charles Parham, where students were being taught that the Holy Spirit's gifts and operations were as much available in the present day as they were in the days of the book of Acts. Seymour asked permission to attend the school, but in those days Texas laws forbade blacks and whites attending school together. Parham didn't want to break the law, but told Seymour he could sit out in the hall. They would keep the door ajar so that he could hear all that was being taught. Seymour was so hungry for the Spirit's power in his life that he submitted to this indignity, and sat and absorbed all he could. 

William SeymourSoon Seymour found himself in Los Angeles, California pastoring a small black church. Then the Holy Spirit fell. Dramatic and miraculous healings took place, gifts of the Spirit were powerfully manifested, and worship services went on for hours and hours. And something else just as amazing began to happen. In an age of segregation, white men and women began to come to this church and worship alongside their black brothers and sisters. The tiny church couldn't hold all the people that rushed to experience the power of the Spirit and the crowds soon spilled out into the yard and even as far as the street. Whites and blacks prayed together, hugged each other, and worshiped as one. This revival, occurring on Azuza Street in Los Angeles, is historically known as the Azuza Street revival, and is the fountain from which all Pentecostal and Charismatic churches spring. Frank Bartleman, an early chronicler of the movement, said simply, "The 'color line' was washed away in the blood of Jesus." And not just the 'color line.' Women were given leadership roles and opportunities for ministry in the church, something unheard of in many quarters in those days. The prevailing attitude in the church seemed to be, "What God has cleansed and filled, let no man call common." 

Deborah, the Prophetess 

Even in the Old Testament we see an example of how the Holy Spirit erases differences. In the book of Judges, which portrays the fierce leaders of Israel in the days before they became a monarchy, we find to our amazement a woman named Deborah acting as judge over the Hebrews. She would sit under a tree and decide cases brought to her. What's more, we find her giving military advice and strategy to a man named Barak, who seemed not nearly as eager to engage in battle with their oppressors as she was. How in the world did this lady become a judge and a military strategist? We find the answer in these simple words: "Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, was judging Israel at that time" (Judges 4:4). Deborah was a prophetess, which meant she was filled with and empowered by the Holy Spirit. And somehow the people of Israel recognized that, female or not, this lady was eminently qualified for her place of leadership. 

The key to our equality is found in the simple phrase "in Christ." In God's eyes there are only two categories of people: those in Christ and those outside of Christ. To be in Christ means to be justified and accepted in the eyes of Almighty God. There is no higher ground. Male or female, Jew or Gentile, black or white, obscenely rich or dirt poor, we are all one in Jesus.




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