ARP Synod Approves Report On Race Relations

At its June 7-9, 2016 the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church Synod approved a Report On Race Relations

The Theological & Social Concerns Committee of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church presented an extensive report at the Synod, which met June 7-9, 2016, on the issue race relations and the ARP.  In addition, the following motion was also approved overwhelmingly: “We, the General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, do confess the sinful failings of our church in the past in regard to slavery and racism. We reaffirm that all people are made in the image of God. We also reaffirm our historic stance that the Gospel should be offered freely to all sinners regardless of race or ethnicity through the preaching and teaching of God’s holy, inerrant, and infallible Word.”

Report On Race Relations and the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church

Theological and Social Concerns Committee

  • History of Interpretation
  • Exegetical Considerations
  • Theological Reflections
  • Pastoral Application


At its 211th stated meeting, the Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church directed the Committee on Theological and Social Concerns to “study our denomination’s history in race relations, examine how we might faithfully apply the gospel in our relationship to racial minorities in the future, and present this report to the 2016 meeting of Synod.” To fulfill this responsibility, the committee investigated the issue from four perspectives: historical, exegetical, theological and pastoral.

The historical section of the paper engages in a substantial survey of our denomination’s past regarding societal discrimination and race relations, unearthing patterns that both elucidate shortcomings and offer encouragement to our Synod. The paper then turns to Holy Scripture, so that the inerrant, infallible Word of God may shape our attitudes and practices regarding relations among the races. A systematic-theological exploration of several critically relevant doctrines follows the exegetical portion of the report. Rounding out the these three sections, the concluding portion of the paper offers practical suggestions toward deeper engagement with racial minorities in the context of our union with Christ.

It is our prayer that this paper will be read and inwardly digested, and its suggestions implemented, by the churches of the ARPC. Ours is a world shattered by sin and therefore utterly incapable of forging true harmony and love among humans of every nation, kindred, people and tongue. By God’s grace in Christ may it come to pass that, even in our midst, the blessed heavenly vision of Rev 7:9-12 will be realized in some measure—to the glory of the only Savior of sinners, the great King and Head of the Church, Jesus Christ.

Part I – Historical Section


The purpose of this brief historical overview is to survey the history of race relations within the ARPC as well as to identify influences upon and actions of the ARP Synod, including historical developments within the denomination and its associated congregations in relationship to past and current social concerns as they bear upon racism within the Church. Seven key time frames illuminate the ARPC’s social responses, statements and involvement with discrimination and with racial issues.

Scottish Experience

The first issue related to discrimination surfaced during the seminal years of the Associate Presbyterians (Seceders) in Scotland. Under the tyranny of King Charles II of Great Britain, Presbyterians were executed or enslaved if caught leading their families in worship at home.  Some of these men were sold into slavery to work on American plantations.[1] From the beginning of the ARPC’s formation slavery became a part of their religious persecution experience. Although this was not technically a form of racism (Europeans were enslaving Europeans, not another race) it was a form of extreme discrimination and oppression of inalienable rights against those who rejected the religious-dictatorial Roman Catholic influences of King Charles.

This was known as the “Killing Time” and was used in an attempt to banish Reformed family worship.[2]  If the husband were put to death or enslaved and his property confiscated, it would reduce his dependent family to a state of beggary. Such persecution of Presbyterians and Puritans was one of the reasons they fled England for areas in Europe and the newly discovered America.

Antebellum Experience

The second instance of discrimination in the ARPC came before the Civil War. Many Presbyterians were large land owners (plantations). The economy was based upon African slave labor for agricultural production.   Presbyterians owned slaves. Some Christian slave owners supported race-based slavery to varying degrees while some Presbyterians (nearly the entire body of Covenanters) were so opposed to slavery that they migrated to the Northern states where slavery already had disappeared.[3] Most ARPC gentry who owned slaves were concerned for the educational and social needs of their slaves, but this concern did not extend to giving them freedom.

Blacks and whites in the South worshiped together even though seating in churches was segregated.  Whites sat in assigned booths while blacks were permitted in the balcony. It was not uncommon for blacks to follow their masters’ religion and become Presbyterians. Presbyterians taught blacks how to read, provided Bible lessons, and apprenticed them into a commercial trade. Slaves were offered membership in the church and allowed to take communion with their masters. Some ARPC congregations were more than half “negro” slaves.[4]

The early nineteenth century was an era of institution building, which included unification of like-minded churches.  After the Revolutionary War, the AP and RPs united on November 1, 1782 in Philadelphia, becoming the Associate Reformed Synod.  In 1803 at the Old Brick Church the Synod of the Carolinas was organized, uniting churches in North and South Carolina and Georgia.  In 1826 the issue of slavery surfaced in the AR Church for the first time.  Of the 2,000 members of the First Presbytery of Ohio, 75 percent were slave owners yet held anti-slavery sentiments.[5] The Synods of the West and South also addressed this question.  Discussions on slavery within the AR Synods were mild compared to debates in other denominations.

In 1828 South Carolina politicians thought keeping slaves ignorant would perpetuate slavery. The ARPC opposed this idea as immoral and opposed the making of any laws that kept black slaves uneducated.[6]  The Synod unanimously adopted the following memorial:

Where as, it is understood that petitions will be presented to the honorable Legislature of South Carolina, at its approaching meeting, praying the enactment of a law to prohibit the instruction of slaves to read; Therefore, Resolve 1. That in the judgment of this Synod, such a law would be a serious infringement of their rights of conscience. 2. That the members of this Synod use active exertions to forward memorials to the honorable Legislature remonstrating respectfully, yet firmly, against the passage of any such law.[7]

As caring as this statement was, and in light of the social moderation of Presbyterians toward black slaves, the Synod of the South never made a statement, either in favor of or in opposition to the institution of African slavery. Synod merely addressed the spiritual nurture of slaves and the slave owner’s moral responsibility toward his slaves.

The Covenanters (RPs) were so opposed to racial slavery in the South they eventually moved to the free states of the West so as not to support black slavery. By 1831 the absorbing question in the country both politically and ecclesiastically was slavery. In May of 1831 the Associate Synod of North America, meeting in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, passed a resolution that all the members of the ARPC who owned slaves manumit (free) them immediately.[8] In previous years the Associate Synod adopted anti-slavery resolutions and was decidedly opposed to slavery. Of the nine existing Presbyteries the Presbytery of the Carolinas was implicated in this resolution, as few slave owners lived in the jurisdiction of the other eight Presbyteries.

Carolina protested—but to no avail. They did not protest manumitting slaves, but that they “were required to free them forthwith.”[9] Some ministers were unable to enforce the Act of Synod and left their congregations to pastor Northern congregations. The ultimatum drove the Presbytery of the Carolinas to secede.  It was not manumitting that offended the Presbyterians as much as it was Synod interfering in civil matters and forcing the immediate release of slaves.

The ARPC was and has always been largely and strongly opposed to slavery. The common opinion among ARPC church members was that they did not advocate but rather discouraged the practice of slavery.  They believed it was an evil inflicted upon them by the British government and perpetuated by circumstances beyond their control. Several pastors (McElwee, Heron, Anderson, and Kethin, all having more black than white members in their congregations) claimed slavery was “clearly condemned by the law of God.”[10] While this view was held, more than half of the members in some congregations remained slave holders. Their collective interest was not so much to immediately abolish the institution of slavery, but to protect black slaves against social injustices and cruelty. It was regarded as impossible under the present social circumstances to immediately free slaves and fulfill one’s Christian civic duties.

An example of the general acceptance of ARPC ministers to African Americans is seen in a story of Rev. Dr. John M. Mason, the pastor of an ARPC church in New York City (1770-1829).[11] Reverend Mason had met the elderly Katherine Ferguson, a “colored” woman who became a member of Dr. Mason’s ARP Church some forty years earlier. She kept a confectioner’s shop, making enough money to feed, clothe, and educate destitute “colored” children. She was warmly attached to the ARPC:

After Dr. Mason commenced preaching in Murray Street, some ‘gay ladies’ from Pearl Street said to him: “Doctor, it will not do for those colored people (Katherine and a male relative of hers who had made a profession of religion) to sit at the same table with the white communicants.—They should be at a Table by themselves at the last.” The Dr. simply replied, that he would think of it. When the day for the communion came round, and the people were about to take their seats at the Lord’s table, the Doctor came down from the pulpit, and taking the two colored persons by the hands, he said, “This is my brother, this is my sister. He that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister and mother. In Christ Jesus, there is neither Greek, nor Jew,—Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free,” and then led them forward to the table and set them down ‘first of all.’

The ARPC was not the only Christian denomination struggling with the issue of slavery. Baptists experienced conflicts within their ranks over the issue as well.  They divided into Baptists (pro-slavery) and American Baptists (abolitionists) in 1845. The Methodist Episcopal Church prohibited blacks to pray in the presence of whites. Blacks left St George’s MEC in 1894 to form Bethel AME Church.  They later affiliated with a Wesleyan denomination and are now known as the AME Church.

Civil War Experience

The “War” broke out in 1861 and devastated many ARP churches. The Synod took the position that it was an “Unholy war.”They unanimously approved a resolution endorsing the cause of the Confederacy as a struggle for independence (a war of aggression between the Northern and Southern states).[12] There remains a debate as to whether the war was about the independence of the states or about the elimination of the institution of slavery. Both issues had strong economic overtones. Slavery was certainly a more popular social issue upon which to justify war than economic considerations or political union.

America’s Civil War left the ARPC void of young male leadership. The churches were mainly left with gray-haired men, widows, and orphaned children as the bulk of their membership. The Southern economy was decimated, and many plantations and estates had been ransacked by Sherman’s army and/or burned to the ground by federal troops. This left a large portion of the population homeless and economically destitute.  Many ARP churches were unable to hire full-time ministers or to serve the needs of their communities. The war decimated church attendance, causing some churches to disappear from Presbytery roles; doors closed, theological students scattered (Erskine College’s endowment dwindled from $75,000 to $13,000), and the ARPC was left for dead. This was certainly the case with the once-thriving “Old Brick Church” in Fairfield County, South Carolina.[13]

Blacks especially suffered. With the destruction of their masters’ homes and livelihood, they were forced into poverty. There was little viable functioning commerce to employ a “freedman.” Without any accumulated wealth or source to generate revenue, it became extremely difficult for an emancipated slave to care for his family. With emancipation came a new type of slavery: forced poverty.

The war freed the slaves but it took the Thirteenth Amendment to formally abolish the institution of slavery in America. However, the institution of slavery was replaced with segregation (the “Jim Crow Laws”).  The Supreme Court in an 1896 decision (in Plessy v. Ferguson) regarding black and white races said they were to be “separate but equal.” Some prominent theologians (e.g., Robert Dabney) defended slavery and opposed educating blacks (although ARPC congregations generally supported the education of blacks). Other Evangelicals like 18th century English theologian Matthew Henry in his commentary on Exodus 21 expressed misgivings with slavery but never explicitly condemned it.

Emancipation Experience

The end of the war marked a fourth grouping of race-related activity.  Black ARPC members had gained a new status. On January 1, 1863 President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, making them “Freedmen.” That same year Synod requested of ministers to labor among “colored people.” They were to teach that the marriage relationship was sacred and to establish Sabbath Schools for their black congregations. A considerable amount of attention was given to the religious culture of the freedmen. Pastor J. Knox Montgomery claimed he was preaching to more “Negroes” in the ARPC than when he preached in Northern UP churches. In 1867 there was a second Synod call for more assistance for the “freedmen.” Three recommendations followed:

“1) That all congregations set up schools where colored children could receive a common education.

2) That Sabbath Schools be established for old and young freedmen.

3) That the gospel be preached to the colored in separate congregations; but preachers of their own color be discouraged to preach until they were able to instruct and edify their hearers.”[14]

An idea circulated among a few Presbyterians that the “Negro” was a son of the cursed Ham and that the Bible prophesied that his descendants (Africans) would always exist in a lower position than the Caucasian.  Unsigned articles were published in the AR church paper claiming opposition to social equality. In these articles the “Negro” was considered a “brute.” D. G. Phillips of Georgia published an article claiming the “Negro” was an inferior race doomed to perpetual slavery and that he could only be saved by man as a slave.[15] There is no record of such discussions reaching the floor of the ARP General Synod or of other ARPC ministers endorsing Phillips’ view. ARPs rejected such theology, calling his position “fanciful, illogical, and utterly unscriptural.”[16]  Nonetheless, ARP advocates for social equality were, for the most part, mute. It should be noted at this point that in some of the historical literature it appears unclear if Presbyterians in general or the ARPs in particular are being mentioned when views on slavery are debated.

Two examples of the ARP attempting to integrate its churches include the Bethany Church in Mississippi and the Due West Church in South Carolina. In 1866 the Bethany Church held separate communion services for whites and blacks. It was said of Bethany, “There is an antipathy between the races and the whites crowd them out of the church and the negroes prefer having their preaching to themselves.”[17] Some whites objected to having blacks as members. Pastor Agnew of Bethany opposed such thoughts, saying it was “not pleasing to God”–all the while affirming a segregationist position. In 1871 he wrote, “No decent white or black man desires social equality. Those who come among them, eat with them, sleep with them, kiss them and marry them are a disgrace to humanity.”[18]

In 1872 the African American members of Bethany financially supported the building of a new sanctuary, but by the end of the year racial hostility had increased. Fear grew that blacks would push whites out of the church. This racial tension led most blacks to eventually leave that church. By 1873 Pastor Agnew claimed the “Negroes” were more trouble than they were worth, as he dealt with five cases of black members involved in adultery and fornication. In 1889 the last black member was removed from the church’s membership rolls.

Before the Civil War the Due West church was quite successful in attracting black slaves as members.  During the war it added 50 black members. In 1865, after the war, black members outnumbered whites (140 to 90).  Churches used segregated seating arrangements, as was the case in most institutions. However, when the Due West ARP church built a new sanctuary, there was no “slave balcony.” Nancy Nelson, a black woman, was now permitted to sit on the main floor, but her chair was placed inside the door of the pastor’s study as she worshipped on Sunday.

  1. C. Young, a young black man, prepared for the ministry under Pastor Hemphill’s (the Due West pastor and his ex-master) encouragement and discipleship. In 1870 Second Presbytery ordained Young as its first ARPC black minister. One week later the black members of Due West organized their own congregation under the name “Mount Zion.” Young was Synod’s only black minister and Mount Zion its only African American congregation. In 1882 the church transferred to the Northern Presbyterian Church, a denomination able to supply them with African American pastors.

There were no new African American congregations in the ARPC until 1887. Pastor Peter Bryon organized a “colored” church at Mount Hebron in Tipton County, Tennessee. For thirty years it remained the only African American church in the ARPC. Upon Bryon’s death in 1914 the church closed.  In 1892 only twenty-four “colored members” were registered among nine ARP churches. The last statistical records identifying members by race in the ARPC was in 1894. The ARPC attitude toward African American individuals and congregations generally was one of detachment.

During the early twentieth century (1904) the Synod of the South entertained joining the United Presbyterians of the North. During these discussions, questions arose regarding “work among colored people.”  The Presbyterians did not want “colored” congregations incorporated into their presbyteries (sectionalism). The ARPC held similar beliefs.[19] The ARPC acknowledged they were not meeting their moral or social duty toward the “Negro,” yet they wanted to preserve racial separation (homogeneity).

An ARPC standing committee on reform was also established in 1904 to deal with racism—specifically segregation–in the denomination. The committee noted in its report to Synod that mission works in Tennessee and Alabama were always to white and not to “Negro” churches within their Presbytery. The general response to the report was that both groups of people could not be reached successfully. The ARPC concluded that it was called to a white mission.[20] ARPC Missionary to Mexico J. S. A. Hunter lamented the “strong antipathy which we have against the colored race.” He further stated, “The souls of colored people shall never sparkle in our crowns.”[21]  His rebuke of Presbytery received no rebuttal.

The ARPC lagged in evangelistic work among African Americans for two chief reasons:

“1) There was a reluctance of blacks to follow white leadership in religion in the same manner they would not follow white political leaders.

2) The United Presbyterians’ theologically liberal tendencies and social views bothered the ARPC even though they considered the UP more courageous in their persistence in reaching blacks.”[22]

In 1907 a standing committee was created by Synod to make plans using the Tampico, Mexico “Negro” congregation as a model to reach African Americans (under Pastor N. Pressly). Unfortunately, no plans ever materialized. Once again, race relations among ARPs (and Presbyterians generally) was avoided.

Industrial Revolution Experience

During the Industrial Revolution another class of people developed—and experienced racism. Textile workers rose as a poor minority in need of spiritual care. In Greenville, South Carolina, of the 48 persons in jail, 24 were black and 23 were mill workers. This was an indication of where missionary work was most needed.  ARPs were involved yet reluctant to engage this group, just as they had been unenthusiastic about reaching African Americans with the Gospel. On the one hand, the work was difficult for ARPs. Textile workers were a transient population, not willing to accept ARPC disciplines, and whereas ARPs were nearly all middle class and white collar, they found it difficult to identify with and to reach a population unlike themselves.[23] On the other hand, Baptists and Methodists set up “mill churches” to meet the mill workers’ spiritual needs. The concern to bring the Gospel to American Indians and later to Hispanic/Latino populations is also rarely if ever mentioned in evangelistic ARPC endeavors, except for overseas missionary work.

Civil Rights Experience

The fifth issue of racially motivated activity occurred during the 1960s civil rights movement in America.  In the 1930’s and 1940’s the Great Depression and two world wars pricked the social conscience of many Presbyterians.  Liberal Northern Presbyterians were engaged in a social activist form of the Gospel that many, more conservative, Presbyterians (such as the ARPC) rejected. Presbyterians, including the ARPC, valued maintaining peace within their communities and sought not to radically or quickly change (integrate) societal structures such as schools, churches, and public social locations (restaurants, public transportation, and bathrooms). The churches felt growth and recovery would take place more quickly if the races remained segregated (homogeneous).[24]

During the civil unrest of the 1960s, outspoken evangelicals such as Billy Graham as well as the Congress on Evangelism supported the civil-rights movement. They were more demonstrative and confrontational regarding the Church’s involvement in social change. For example, Dr. Graham saw racism as a barrier to the proclamation of the Gospel.

In 1965 the Voting and Civil Rights Amendments to the U. S. Constitution were passed, certifying that African Americans had the right to vote and making institutional discrimination illegal. In 1967 it became unconstitutional to restrict interracial marriages. Yet these laws did not heal racial wounds.  Interracial marriage and bi-racial children unfortunately remain a concern for many Presbyterians and conservative churches.

During this period, the issues of integration and desegregation threatened to divide the ARP Church. The 1963 General Synod appointed a “Committee of Nine” to study the issues and to make recommendations to the next year’s synod. A majority report of five members of the committee recommended that ARP churches and denominational institutions should be open for admission without regard to race. But the minority report from the other four members recommended that it was unwise for the General Synod to endorse or to approve integration of the churches and institutions. The minority report was adopted by a vote of 121 to 75.

The issue of integration was especially heated in regards to Erskine College and Seminary. Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act by the United States Congress, the 1965 General Synod voted 102 to 80 to urge the board of trustees to reconsider its decision not to sign the statement of compliance with the Civil Rights Act. The board of trustees voted to sign the statement at its July meeting by a vote of 24 to 10 .[25]

Stories are not difficult to find where ARPC members have held strong views against interracial marriages and bi-racial children. One story that surfaced during this research was about a pastoral couple who adopted a bi-racial child. His congregation had such strong views against interracial families the pastor felt he had to leave the church. And yet, Erskine College has attracted a significant African American and various minority populations while maintaining no social restrictions upon students developing interracial relationships.

Current Experience

This seventh and final encounter the ARPC is having with racial relationships has yet to conclude. A number of denominations recently have responded to their past and present racial-relationship concerns with theological papers, statements condemning racism and confessions of past racial sins. Conservative groups like the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (1964), the Reformed Presbyterian Church Evangelical Synod (1966), the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (1972), the Southern Baptist Convention (1995) and most recently the Presbyterian Church in America (2015) all have published and/or considered national memorials condemning racism, correcting their racial actions of the past, setting forth biblical principles that condemn racism, affirming equality among all races, confessing the sins that allowed institutional racism, and calling for future equitable and free advances of the Gospel by their churches to minority populations.

In 1957 Synod appointed a Committee to “Improve the Lot of the Negro in Our Midst.” The committee’s formation was also a recognition of continuing racial tensions in society and the Church. The concern to support church outreaches to develop the morals and character of the African American Christian, as was already being done among Caucasian Christians, was the committee’s main responsibility. The committee confessed that the “Negro” was not always treated with respect and consideration due a member of the “Human family.” He was not always treated “justly, honestly, or given the rightful share … of his labor.”[26] Civic acts intended to “create fear in Negroes” were condemned. Improvements in the African American’s lot would come about by mutual respect and partnerships rather than through legislation. The Church’s part in this concern was not to legislate but to proclaim a message of righteousness, kindness, and love toward their fellow African American Christians. A dichotomy had arisen among the ARPC separating political (legislative) involvement from the spiritual aspects of life.

Starting in 1958 Synod minutes included reports from the Standing Committee on “Morals and Public Welfare.” This committee recognized and deplored organizations that fostered antagonism among classes and races. In 1965 the committee again lamented racial strife throughout the world and exhorted Synod to pray.  In 1966 it was reported race relations remanded a serious problem. In 1968 the committee stated that the goal of the ARPC was to “be fully reconciled to God and to one another.” Finally, it was mentioned that interracial legislation must be considered to help resolve interracial divisiveness.[27] The committee regularly stated social and racial concerns, but no actions regarding their concerns were taken by Synod.

In 1969 a Korean Presbyterian group, another minority, requested fraternal relations with the ARPC.  Their request was forwarded to the Committee on Ecumenical Relations. The committee recommended that formal relationships with the Korean church group not be established at that time. In 1970 the Committee on Morals and Public Welfare concluded that poverty was connected to racial discrimination, citing a study that claimed one in seven whites lived in poverty while one in two “Negroes” lived in poverty.[28] It was also mentioned the ARPC was out of touch with poverty, as its churches were not located in impoverished areas.  Both the Korean Presbyterian interest in the ARPC and the ARPC’s concern for African Americans living in poverty indicate the ARPC is still wrestling with racial issues, yet little national attention has led to few effective results.

In 1963 Synod once again appointed a committee of nine to study the race issue. In 1964 the majority report included the following statements. Regarding the preaching of the Gospel, Synod affirmed “that all men of every race and nation, through Him might be saved.” It also lamented “with all the fervor at its command the racial strife in our nation.” Synod deplored both extremes on the issue, “and pleads for moderation and reason.” The report also stated that admission to public worship and to communicant membership were not to be conditioned upon race; that the ARPC accepted all believers in Christ, of whatever race, as brothers; and that race shall not be used as a criterion to bar any person otherwise qualified from full participation in the activities of any institution of our Synod.[29]

However, the minority report included additional concerns that the government was compelling integration of “Negroes” and whites, which was disrupting the normal development of cordial relations between the races. It also mentioned and deplored the invasion of unwarranted pressures from both extremes and pleaded for moderation and reason. Yet it affirmed racial differences were natural and not caused by racial conflict. Therefore it encouraged Synod not to take any action that would encourage intermarriage of the races or to endorse or approve the integration of races in churches or institutions “at this time.”[30] No reason was given for opposing interracial marriages, nor was institutional racism addressed as a problem. The minority report with its affirmation of racial differences and its negative view of interracial marriage was adopted by a vote of 121 to 75.


By the grace of God the ARP Church today confesses the same faith which it confessed at its inception in 1782. We therefore receive the Scriptures to be the very words of God:

“The position of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church on Scripture is that the Bible alone, being God breathed, is the word of God written, infallible in all that it teaches, and inerrant in the original manuscripts.”[31]

Accordingly, we confess that the whole human race has descended from our first parents, Adam and Eve.[32] We confess that the only hope for fallen sinners is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.[33] Those who believe in Christ are thus united to Christ by faith, and united also to one another.[34] Consequently in Christ, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28).

This has been our confession, but we must confess to our shame it has not always been our practice.

Our churches and institutions have not always been open to all who profess faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet by the grace of God we have turned away from many of these failings. Our current moderator has joyfully reported to this committee that in his visits to ARP churches he is seeing increasing diversity among our people.

From the inception of the ARPC several social guiding principles constantly have emerged, dictating their responses to racial issues. The first was temperance. The ARPC has moved slowly and cautiously through social issues, including race relations, throughout its history. Restraint from the extreme has been one of its stabilizing pillars, even as society reacts in extreme ways to rectify social problems. However, moderation has, on occasion, caused the ARPC to miss timely opportunities to address issues of race relations, such as injustice and inequality.

Second, the ARPC has had a long-standing commitment to preaching the Gospel to all the nations. The early Seceders of the Associate Presbytery eagerly sought for ways to evangelize the New World and to plant churches there. Once planted in America, it sought to take the Gospel to distant lands, especially Pakistan. With this evangelistic focus, the ARPC has professed the importance of the biblical imperatives to treat everyone with love and mercy—but has acted imperfectly on this principle. The denomination has professed, and in many cases demonstrated, an emphasis on the personal care, nurture, education, and respect for minorities. Yet there has been an “us/them” mentality within the ARPC, which in turn has supported homogeneous societies, which historically have fostered apathy toward reaching minorities. The evangelistic zeal that we have shown toward reaching the nations needs to be expressed in our local ministries as well.

Third, when controversies arise, the desire for “keeping the peace” can squelch vigorous response to racial injustices. This practice has been a blessing and a curse. The peace and purity of the Church are taken seriously within the ARPC. The negative side of this principle appears when substantive issues of race relations surface. The ARPC has had a mixed response of complacency or complicity to social and racial injustices, not wanting the peace of the Church disrupted.

Fourth, the ARPC throughout its history has reacted strongly and negatively against being forced into any action, social or theological. Its birth emerged from Seceders, who refused to have forced upon them ministers they had no voice in electing and who rejected liberal views of biblical authority. From congregational rebellion against patronage to the forced release of Southern slaves, the ARPC continues to resist ultimatums that force it to act against its conscience. This principle has served the ARPC well, insofar as it is one of the few mainline confessional denominations that remains theologically conservative and biblical. As with the previous socially guiding principles, this strength also manifests a weakness in the ARPC. Resoluteness also has contributed to unnecessarily delayed actions toward supporting racial minorities when social issues related to justice and equity arise.

The ARPC has understood racism as synergistic: it is a complex, intertwined political, economic, and social problem. It consistently has stated the primary, underlying problem between the races is spiritual failure. The solution is to be found in prayer for humility and through sound biblical preaching. Individual piety is needed to bring about true racial healing, as is the case in all relationship issues. Further, forced integration of the races has not solved racial issues. Individual church sessions must be allowed to make local decisions as to how their individual congregations should respond to racism. Such decisions could be supported by a national reaffirmation of the ARPC position on race relations and racial social issues.

In closing, a public confession of institutional and personal apathy or complicity towards injustices to minority groups on the local, state, and national levels may be appropriate.


1964 Statement on Biblical Principles on Racial Discrimination by the Evangelical Presbyterian Church [1961-1965]. From the minutes of the 28th General Synod of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, 43-44.

Cleveland, Christina. (2013). Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart. Downers Grove, IL: IVP.

DeYoung, Curtis; Emerson, M., Yancy, G. Kim, C. (2003). United by Faith: The Multiracial Congregation As an Answer to the Problem of Race. New York: Oxford University Press.

DeYmaz, Mark. (2007). Building a Healthy Multi-Ethnic church: Mandate, Commitments, and Practices of a Diverse Congregation. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Documents of Synod: Study Papers of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (1965-1982).  Minutes of the 144th General Synod, Committee on Racial Questions. PCA Historical Center, 12330 Conway Road, St. Louis, MO: 2007. May 4, 1966, 385-387.

Emerson, Michael; Smith, Christian. (2000). Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America.  New York: Oxford University Press.

Gilbreath, Edward. (2006). Reconciliation Blues.  Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity.

Ham, Ken; Wave, A. Charles. One Race One Blood. (2013).  Green Forest, AR: Master Books.

Lathan, Robert. (1982). History of the Associate Reformed Synod of the South. Charlotte, NC: Washburn Press. Vols. 1,2,3.

Lucas, Sean M. Duncan J. Ligon II. Personal Resolution of Civil Rights Remembrance.  Personal resolution made before the PCA General Assembly on June 10th, 2015.

Mason, Dr. John M. (2012). “Associate Reformed Anecdote.” Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church: The Evangelical Guardian, Vol. 4 (6). (November 1864). 285.

McIntosh, Gary; McMahon, Ian. (2012). Being the Church in a Multi-Ethnic Community: Why it Matters and How it Works.  Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House.

Minutes of the General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. Greenville, SC: 1960 to 1990.

Newbell, Trillia. (2014). United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity.  Chicago, IL: Moody Publishing.

“Our Nation Is Moving Toward Two Societies, One Black, One White-Separate and Unequal.” Excerpts from the 1968 Kerner Commission Report. United States, Kerner Commission Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders.  U.S. Government Printing Office: Washington, 1968.

PCA Position Papers: Racial Reconciliation. A position paper presented to the 30th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America, 2002. 30-53, (3), Item 14-16, 262-270.

Philips, Rick. Internet blog post. ( January 22, 2016.

Piper, John. (2011). Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian.  Crossway: Wheaton, IL.

“Racism and the Sins of the Fathers.” Greenville Theological Seminary Newsletter #2. (2015).

Report of the Committee on Problems of Race (OPC). An Orthodox Presbyterian Church committee report for the thirty-ninth General Assembly. 1972.

Resolution On Racial Reconciliation On The 150th Anniversary Of The  Baptist Convention.  Atlanta, GA. 1995.

Rab, Lisa. “The Bridge: Why a black Presbyterian minister feels called to serve in a white church.” Charlotte Magazine, September 2015. 45-50.

Rah, Soong Chan. (2009). The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity.  Downers Grove, IL: IVP.

Smith, Efrem. (2012). The Post-Black and Post-White Church: Becoming the Beloved Community in a Multi-Ethnic World.  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Taylor, Kenneth. “The Spirituality of the Church. Segregation, The Presbyterian Journal, and the Origins of the Presbyterian Church in America, 1942-1973.” Reformed Perspectives Magazine, Vol. 9, (34), August 19-25. 2007.

Ware, A. Charles.  (2001). Prejudice and the People of God: How Revelation and Redemption Lead to Reconciliation.  Grand Rapids, IL: Kregel Publishing.

Yancy, George. (2006). Beyond Racial Gridlock: Embracing Mutual Responsibility. Downers Grove, IL: IVP.

Part II – Exegetical Section


In approaching the matter of how the church might apply the Gospel faithfully in our relationship to racial minorities, we begin with a brief consideration of Genesis 1:26-27, as that foundational passage establishes man as God’s image bearer.[35] By virtue of bearing the image of God, all mankind possesses an inherent worth and equality that supersedes every man-made distinction. More to our point, though, this text also reveals that all human beings have our origin in one human being: the first man, Adam, the father of the human race. Although sin has marred the image of God in man, such that since the Fall we are conceived in sin (Ps 51: 5; Eph 2:1-3) and engage in such unrighteousness as harboring and promoting racism, this was not man’s original state. Because we have been created by God and are descended from one man, there is an underlying unity and equality among all human beings. It is our original sin, inherited from Adam, that has led Adam’s descendants to commit the actual sin of of denying this equality through racist beliefs, attitudes, words and actions.[36]

As the redeemed of Christ, however, we are hopeful humans. The Gospel gives us reason for hope in the work of the Last Adam, Jesus Christ (cf. – Rom. 5:12-21). And so we have chosen to examine in detail Gal. 3:26-29, as this brief text keenly and summarily addresses the impact of the Gospel – the saving work of Jesus Christ, appropriated by the elect through God-given faith in the Savior – upon famous “division markers” between humans. It is faith in Jesus Christ and not physical traits or effort, Paul writes, that justifies a person before God and marks him or her as a true child of Abraham. If one indeed belongs to Jesus Christ by faith, then he or she enjoys equal access with all other Christians to the benefits of the Savior regardless of ethnic background, sex or social status. To be sure, believers’ unity in Christ does not eradicate all points of distinction between us; but our equal need for and enjoyment of the mercies of God in Christ means that the “-isms” (e.g. – racism and sexism) that have fueled such hatred and conflict between peoples have no place among the company of the redeemed. Rather, our life together and our life of evangelistic witness to this fractious world must reflect the unity and diversity found only in the Trinity.

Context And Summary Of The Passage

The church in Paul’s day, no less than today, grappled with the ever-present temptation to hope in one’s own effort instead of the completed work of Jesus Christ for salvation. False teachers evidently had sought to lure the Galatian believers away from faith alone in Christ alone into a form of works-righteousness that rested in “the flesh” (3:3). Those false teachers had attempted to undermine Paul’s apostolic calling and authority (1:1, 11-23), while encouraging the Galatians to confide in their own ability to do the “works of the law” (3:2, 5). They demanded that the Galatians be circumcised for salvation (6:12), doubtlessly appealing to Abraham as their normative example.[37] In the face of such threats to the health of the church, Paul wrote his epistle to the Galatians.

In chapter 3, however, the apostle turns the false teachers’ argument on its head. Far from having earned his standing before God, Paul contends, Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (3:6). Those who are blessed by God are those who, with believing Abraham, are “of faith.” One receives the promised Spirit of God and the blessings of God not through physical descent or through efforts to keep God’s law but only through faith in Jesus Christ, the promised Seed of Abraham. Against this backdrop, the apostle teaches that the true children of Abraham are those who, like Abraham, rest by faith in Jesus Christ. And if one believes on Christ for salvation, he enjoys equal access to “all the privileges of the sons of God” (Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 34) with all other believers—regardless of background, sex or status. Christians’ equal enjoyment of salvation in the Lord Jesus thus sets the temporal differences between us in proper perspective under the overarching Lordship of Christ and, we would contend, enables fallen humans to live together in genuine respect, appreciation and harmony.

Detailed Exegesis

26: Paul here makes a monumental assertion about those who believe in Jesus Christ as Savior: all who trust in Christ are the sons of God; there are no second-class citizens in God’s Kingdom. “For (you) all are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus”: the word for indicates that what follows will explain what precedes. Paul has just said in vv 24-25 that, in the scope of redemptive history, the OT law was a “custodian”[38] that pointed the way to Jesus Christ both salvation-historically and in terms of one’s personal salvation. The law was a “custodian” in two senses: first, it pointed men typologically to the person and work of the Savior; and second, it pointed men to their fallenness and native inability to keep its demands. Now that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh and kept the law on behalf of his people, suffering the penalty for their law-breaking (see earlier in the chapter at v 13), the law has served its pedagogical purpose (in the first sense) in redemptive history. The law also exposed the sinfulness of fallen humanity—namely, in that era, the sinfulness of the Jews, to whom the Lord gave the law (cf. – Ps. 147:19-20; Rom. 7:7); this function of the law continues today. “Sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ”: To be a “son of God” requires faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ: this is true for the Jew as well as for the Greek. “(You) all”: As πάντες occurs at the beginning of the verse, it assumes an emphatic role in the sentence and, we would contend, in the paragraph.[39] In terms of one’s stake in Jesus Christ and in his benefits, all who believe in him share equally in his salvation regardless of background, ethnicity, sex or social standing.[40] “Are sons of God”: “are” is in the present tense, indicating a continuous situation. There is no possibility that a truly regenerate person can lose his salvation in Christ and thus forfeit his status as an adopted child of God (cf. John 10:28-29; Phil 1:6). This reality, moreover, ought to have an abiding and continual resonance in the lives of all Christians. Despite temporal changes in this world (loss of income; a spike in racism in one’s locality), the believer’s dignified status as a child of God in Christ remains unaltered and unalterable. “Through faith in Christ Jesus”: Scripture refers to different people (or groups of people) as “God’s son”: OT Israel (Hos 11:1), Adam (Luke 3:38), Jesus (e.g. – Matt. 3:17), and believers (Gal. 4:7; Rom. 8:14-17). For the purposes of this paper, observe that Jesus is the “only-begotten Son” (e.g., John 1:14, 18), and through faith in him, all believers are adopted as sons (and daughters) of God. The necessity and absolute importance of faith in Jesus Christ[41]–as opposed to relying on one’s own efforts to keep the law – for sonship in God’s family is underscored by the definite article preceding “faith.” Paul is saying, “You all are children of God through faith—your faith.”[42] And all who possess this (God-given) faith in Jesus Christ are fully and irrevocably numbered among the sons of God, equal in their interest in Jesus Christ with all other believers.

27: Those who have been “baptized into” Christ—who have entered into union with the Savior by faith in him—have “changed their garments,” spiritually, so as to be identified fully as belonging to Jesus Christ. “For as many”: the connective gar (“for”) indicates that what follows will further explain what precedes it. Believers now are the “sons of God” because they have “clothed themselves with Christ,” the Son of God, by faith. “As many as”: the word ὅσοι serves a perhaps-underappreciated role in the verse. Although the apostle could have written, “Those who have been baptized into Christ” (or some similar construction), he uses a word for which the English rendering “as many as” conveys the sense of a collected group of persons who have something in common that constitutes them a united whole. Not one believer is omitted from the group, regardless of his or her background.[43] “Baptized into Christ”: It seems most likely that Paul was referring here to water baptism; but given his emphasis in the letter on the ineffectiveness of sacramental signs (such as circumcision in the OT) to save a person ex opere operato (by virtue of the act itself), this phrase is best understood as referring to the outward rite of baptism as sign and seal of the inward, gracious work of the Holy Spirit in the believer to unite him or her by faith to Jesus Christ. Calvin’s understanding of such language in Scripture as reflecting the “sacramental union” between the sign and the thing signified assists the reader both to understand and to appreciate the apostle’s use of such terminology.[44] “Put on Christ”: become united to Jesus Christ by faith. The imagery of “putting on” likely is drawn from Hebrew tradition, in which a person changed his clothing to symbolize an inner, spiritual transformation.[45] This union does not vitiate or annul one’s personhood – to the contrary, it brings one’s personhood to true fruition (cf. Col. 3:10). In a judicial sense before God, the believer now and forevermore is viewed in the clothing of Christ’s perfect, sinless obedience to the Father. But both objectively, and with subjective implications, the Christian has been purchased by Christ at the cost of “his own blood” (Acts 20:28) and belongs personally to the Redeemer. His fundamental identity is not grounded in his racial or ethnic background or in any other aspect of his creatureliness but, rather, in his belonging to Jesus Christ. So, for example, Paul in Eph. 3:1 and in Philemon 1 refers to himself as the “prisoner of Jesus Christ” and in Rom. 1:1 introduces himself as a “servant of Christ Jesus.”

28: By dismantling three common walls of separation between human beings, the apostle exposes one consequence of Christians’ having “put on Christ”: we are united in the Redeemer. “For all of you are one in Christ Jesus”: although situated at the end of the verse, this phrase informs the rest of v 28 (the effect of Paul’s placing gar [“for”] near the beginning of the clause)–thus we examine it first.[46] “All of you”: all of those who have been “baptized into Christ” are in view. Paul’s use of “you” highlights the personal, applicatory impact of his teaching for the readers. Moreover, “all” of his readers who have believed on Jesus Christ are in view. (In fact, the word “all” begins the phrase in Gk., underscoring its significance). “Are”: the verb is in the present tense, which indicates that believers’ essential unity in Jesus Christ is an abiding reality. “One in Christ Jesus”: all Christians are united in the one and only Redeemer of God’s elect (cf. WSC 21) and enjoy the blessings of his mercy and mediation without qualification due to race, sex or status in life.[47] “There is not”: the construction with the negative conveys the sense, “It is not possible.”[48] Paul employs the present tense to highlight this ongoing aspect of believers’ being “in Christ.” Of course, he is not suggesting that there are no such groups as “Jew” and “Greek,” “slave” and “free,” or “male” and “female;” such an assertion would be absurd. Instead, he is teaching that such markers of identification (and, frequently, division) are overwhelmed by all believers’ essential identity in and with Jesus Christ. “Jew nor Greek”: “Greek” is a synecdoche for the Gentile world. Here, Paul begins to dismantle the first dividing wall: that between the Jews and Gentiles. Under the Old Covenant, the church generally was “confined to one nation” (Westminster Confession of Faith 25.2); under the New, as Paul asserts in Gal 3:7-8, all who believe in Jesus Christ—including Gentiles—comprise the people of God. This is a major redemptive-historical shift that transforms the relationship between Jews and Gentiles and sets them on equal footing before the Savior (cf. Eph. 2:11-22). “Slave nor free”: the exegete must not read the 19th-century institution of slavery into Paul’s use of the term “slave” in this passage. Although we do not have space to compare and contrast ancient and modern forms of slavery, the key point for our exegesis is that in the Roman world, the main legal distinction between people was that of slave verses free.[49] Observe also that in Eph. 6:5-9, Paul instructs Christian slaves and masters regarding how they are to conduct themselves in their positions. He is not there endorsing the institution of slavery; neither is he pretending that slavery has ceased to exist. The apostle manifests in that passage an expectation that the institution would continue, but here in v 28, he asserts all believers’ overriding and equal status in union with Jesus Christ—whether master or slave. Those who have been united to the Savior by faith are redeemed, sanctified and glorified equally in Christ regardless of legal or of social standing. “Male nor female”: the Gk. terms ἄρσεν (male) and θῆλυ (female), found in the LXX of Gen. 1:27, signify God’s creation order, which was “very good” (Gen. 1:31). That original creation, however, was warped by man’s sin and subjected to God’s righteous curse. In Jesus Christ, men and women are redeemed and being renewed after the divine image to live—increasingly in this world and perfectly in the next—as God originally intended in the pre-lapsarian period. The apostle does not teach that Jesus Christ eradicates the distinctions between the two sexes; as noted above, Paul suggests quite the opposite: the Savior redeems and refashions men and women according to the Lord’s original design. Moreover, gender distinctions and differences in authority in the home and in the church are not the products of sin; they are part of God’s order. The very nature of the Trinity, considered from the ontological and from the economic perspectives, in fact reveals the inherent goodness of such distinctions and roles for man and woman as imago Dei (in the image of God).[50] Certainly other NT passages teach an economic, functional distinction between men and women in the home and in the church (cf., e.g., Eph. 5:22-33; 1 Tim. 2:8-15; 1 Peter 3:1-7), and the inspired apostle cannot contradict himself in these Scriptures. Paul’s point is not that gender distinctions are irrelevant in Christ. He instead asserts the essential equality of man and woman in union with Christ the Savior, as both also enjoy the gift of the Spirit. It seems possible that he is suggesting, with the use of “creational” terms from Genesis 1 LXX, that Jesus Christ also enables regenerate men and women to live increasingly according to the Creator’s design.[51] Oppression, bigotry and factionalism find no support either in the pre- or post-lapsarian order of God.

29: Returning to a larger redemptive-historical theme in the epistle, Paul summarizes the pericope by asserting that those who are united to Christ by faith are, therefore, the seed of Abraham and—as his spiritual descendants—heirs according to God’s covenantal promise. “If you are of Christ”: the construction of the protasis is a genitive of possession, meaning “belonging to Christ.” The apostle’s words are directed to those who truly believe on Jesus Christ—those whom he has purchased “at the cost of his own blood” (cf. Acts 20:28; 1 Cor 6:20). Interestingly, whereas people tend to demarcate themselves as belonging to one group or another, Christians’ primary “belonging” is to Jesus Christ. “Then you are Abraham’s seed”: the apodosis draws the conclusion that those who belong to Jesus Christ are truly the offspring of Abraham, albeit in a spiritual sense. Yet the whole of the chapter leads to this point: the promised “seed” of Abraham was Jesus Christ (3:16), and Abraham’s genuine seed are those who, like the patriarch, embraced the covenant promises of God by faith in the coming Seed. In the last analysis, writes Paul, Abrahamic descent is spiritual rather than biological or social.[52] “Heirs according to the promise”: heirs not of a physical territory on earth but of all the gracious blessings in Jesus Christ the Savior, including his promised Holy Spirit and the New Heavens and Earth to come.


Exegetically, how does the Gospel inform relations between the races? In Gal 3:26-29, we discover that believers’ identity in Jesus Christ supersedes all other forms of identification. What is more, we find that the Savior alone tears down walls of division and brings people together who otherwise would be hopelessly at odds. In the final analysis, any human-generated “solutions” cannot overcome the sin inherent in the post-fall human heart. It is the Lord Jesus who redeems his people and convicts us that whether male or female, black or white, rich or poor, or whatever might be the temporal distinction in view, we are equally rich and blessed in our one and only Savior. What matters is not one’s physical descent, social status or outward characteristics but rather one’s standing before the Lord Jesus Christ. The life of the church, therefore, ought to bear testimony to this glorious reality.

This does not mean that Jesus Christ does away with all distinctions among believers, or that we should pretend such distinctions are unreal or inherently evil. Is not the magnificent diversity of nations and tongues and voices an essential, and blessed, component of the church’s Heavenly worship of God (Rev 7:9-12)? Should this Heavenly exaltation of God not inform the church’s earthly witness and worship? As the inter-Trinitarian economy moreover reveals, differences between persons are not in themselves bad and, properly understood, can be good (Mark 10:18) and edifying to the whole body (e.g., 1 Cor 12:12-25). Yet this diversity must ever be held in tension with the unity of the body, as with the triune God. Diversity and unity go hand-in-hand in the life of the Trinity and, therefore, in the life of the church. And it is the Lord Jesus Christ who saves and renews us as his body to bear this multifaceted and blessed life before a world ravaged by racism, sexism and oppression. Perhaps John Stott best captures the “new situation” that is to characterize the people of God on earth:

Christians are not literally ‘colour-blind’, so that they do not notice whether a person’s skin is black, brown, yellow or white. Nor are they unaware of the cultural and educational background from which people come. Nor do they ignore a person’s sex, treating a woman as if she were a man or a man as if he were a woman. Of course every person belongs to a certain race and nation, has been nurtured in a particular culture, and is either male or female. When we say that Christ has abolished these distinctions, we mean not that they do not exist, but that they do not matter. They are still there, but they no longer create any barriers to fellowship. We recognize each other as equals, brothers and sisters in Christ. By the grace of God we would resist the temptation to despise one another or patronize one another, for we know ourselves to be ‘all one person in Christ Jesus’ (NEB).[53]

Part III – Theological Section

In the consideration of questions concerning race, the Gospel and the Church from the standpoint of systematic theology, a fundamental question to be addressed is, “What is man?” Specifically, “What constitutes the image of God in man?” and “What does this constitution require of man toward man?” The answers to these questions—essential as they are to a full understanding of the Gospel—will drive the church and Christians in their dealings on race. These answers involve several theological loci (places, or branches, of study), namely theology, anthropology, soteriology and ecclesiology. Only a proper understanding of the imago Dei will help the church to avoid that sin of which James speaks, “My brothers, without prejudice hold the faith of our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.”[54] Though the prejudice spoken of by James is not of an adverse relationship, but of favoritism toward those who are wealthy, the principle laid down is that Christians are to avoid prejudice toward others (particularly within the church, in the context of James) on any grounds.

The reality of living in a fallen world is that men and women are prone to view differences of outward appearance as issues over which they might separate from others. For the church, outward distinctions are not to be what drives or divides her. Divisions in fellowship(s) ought never to be over economic status, social status, race, or ethnicity. If there is a substantive division, it is to be over matters which truly divide, i.e., fundamentals of doctrine.

The fact of the matter is that the theology the church employs in answering the proposed questions will be the driving force behind how she responds to a number of issues in our day. “This is a doctrine which has implications of the way in which we live, as James notes in his Epistle (James 3:9). It speaks today for those who would end the lives of unborn children, avoid the company of people from another race, argue for the superiority of one gender over another, or care about chimps more than children.”[55]

Defining The Imago Dei

In what way, then, do we define the image of God in man? There are many matters that could come into play (discussions of the competing anthropologies of monism, dichotomy, and trichotomy are relevant to the question, but not to the specific discussion of this paper), but for the purposes of this paper, we will keep the matters to those most pertinent.[56] Our confession puts it in these terms:

After God had made all other creatures, he created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after his own image; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it: and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change. Beside this law written in their hearts, they received a command, not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; which while they kept, they were happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures.[57]

Here we are told that man is separated from other creatures by virtue of reason and immortality.  Further, we take note that our Confession, Larger, and Shorter Catechisms all pointedly focus on knowledge, righteousness and true holiness, and on man’s dominion.[58] It seems that these are the focus because they are the aspects of the image of God that are notably and seriously tarnished in the fall.[59] When we speak of these being tarnished by the fall, we do well to bear in mind Chad Van Dixhoorn’s warning:

We must be clear that as a defining aspect of our creation, the image of God in us is not erased by the fall. The image of God is not a property that can be abstracted from us; to ask what aspect of humanity contains the image of God is to make a mistake. Understood in its plainest terms, the language of Genesis 1 states that man in his entirety is the image of God.[60]

Morton Smith makes a similar observation: “[A]s we read the passage carefully, we see the thrust is that man is the image and likeness of God. It is the whole man, and not just part.…None of these partial identifications take into account the simple language of the passage, which equates man as the image of God. The image is not a part of man, or an added feature to his basic nature. Man is the image of God in the essence of his being.”[61]

Post-Fall Anthropology

Recognizing that man is the image of God in the essence of his being, we must ask, “What, if anything, happened to the image of God in the fall? Did he lose the image of God by virtue of the fall?” There are various passages which refer to man, even after his plunge into sin and misery, as the image of God (cf. Gen. 9:6, Jas. 3:9 and 1 Cor. 11:7). The image of God is not used to distinguish between pre-fall and post-fall man, but between man and other creatures.  “The Scriptures do not hesitate to speak of the terrible effects of sin on man, and yet they do not apply this language to the image. The implication is that the fact that man is the image is not directly affected by sin.”[62] In what way was man affected? The image was marred, but not eradicated, as we have seen from our reference to several Biblical texts.  In the fall, man lost moral excellence (which is not the image of God itself, but a consequence of the image of God in man), and had his reason darkened, and is corrupted in every part by sin, and yet, maintains the image of God.

Though the image is greatly marred by the fall, the saving work of God provides the new birth and the renewal of the whole man so that he becomes “conformed to the image of His Son.”[63]  “It is one of the glories of the Gospel that God confers the restoration in Christ of what was lost by sin. So Eph. 4:24 and Col. 3:10 speak of the renewal of knowledge after the image of him, and the creating of righteousness and true holiness after God….[T]he rebirth involves the planting afresh in the heart of man these principles of knowledge, righteousness, and holiness.”[64] It is because of the work of Christ as Mediator of the New Covenant, then, that we address matters of redemption and of His people.

Soteriology And Ecclesiology

As we address matters of redemption (soteriology) and of the people of God (ecclesiology), there is much that can be expounded; but we will limit ourselves to the consideration of some matters from the covenant made with Abraham.  When we speak of “soteriology,” we observe that God works through His promises and ordinarily saves people through the visible church and into the visible church. It is the church that is sent out and makes disciples in the world.  For instance, we note that one chapter after God called Abraham, the patriarch begins to proclaim the name of the Lord—this is to say, proclaiming the promises of God and salvation of God in that place.[65]

Throughout the history of redemption, God’s plan has never been limited to one ethnicity or race. The promise given to Abraham in Gen. 12:3 concerning the Seed to come from him was, “And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”[66] This promise was reiterated with Isaac in Gen. 26:4 (“I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed”). And we read again God speaking with Jacob in Gen. 28:14: “Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” The promise of God concerning the salvation of sinners always has included various ethnicities and races. That the world was always in view in terms of the salvation that was to be brought by Christ was noted by the Apostle Paul when he wrote, “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the Gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the nations will be blessed in you.’”[67]

In what way(s) do we apply this truth in the church in our day? First, we see that the church is to be indiscriminate in her preaching of the Gospel.  She is to go into all the world and proclaim the Person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus commanded the church in His final words before the Ascension, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”[68] The Church, as part of her “marching orders,” has been commanded to carry the Gospel to every people group, ethnicity, and race.  There can be no justification or Biblical warrant for withholding the good news of the Gospel from anyone made in the image of God. The church, as God’s covenant people, is responsible to her covenant Lord, owing to Him all obedience to His commands.

Further, the church is to welcome all her brothers and sisters throughout the world, and to seek to be as “connected” as possible with the body of Christ. This, of course, is not to say that ethnicities/race/people groups trump doctrine. We are united around the person and work of Jesus as He is set forth in the Scriptures and summarized in our Standards. This unity in doctrine is not a unity into all the minutia; it is a unity in the essentials of the Christian faith.  There can be no true unity in this world or in the church that is not founded upon Jesus. All other unity is but transient. For the Church to be united around Jesus is for the Church to be united with her end in mind: that is, being those who redound with the praise of His glorious Person and work. “And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.’”[69]

Her primary obligation as the church—and the way in which she will be most blessed to work—is to thunder the whole counsel of God from her pulpits, and preach and teach what the Scripture says concerning the image of God in man, as well as the consequence of such. This preaching and teaching, when applied to the consciences of individual members, ought to call for repentance in those members in whom the sin of prejudice is found and for action on the part of those members as they go into their lives in the world. They should be called to work in their respective callings to bring about justice and mercy for those oppressed.[70] Men and women in positions of authority and engaged in law-making ought to seek to alleviate any oppression and systemic and systematic racism and further injustices that they might observe as citizens of this land.

Further, a good and right understanding of the law of God and its applicability to the redeemed life would inflict a drastic blow against any sort of prejudice, particularly in terms of race. Men, who are made in the image of God, must seek to preserve life (against systemic and institutional sins), especially within the body of Christ (for her edification), and more generally in their own spheres of employment—so that they might further and better the cause of other image bearers. The Larger Catechism spells out much of what it means to deal with man as the image of God. The law of God, being “a perfect rule of righteousness,”[71] is the way in which the peace, purity, and prosperity of the Church are maintained. The moral law gauges believers’ love to God and to other men as they frame their lives according to this perfect rule of righteousness. Men who love the Lord also love His law and seek to fulfill it because they love him. Men who love their neighbors seek to live in light of the duty set out in the last six commandments, because they love them. Anything less than seeking to fulfill the law toward our neighbor is not Christian love. We are to “owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. … Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” [72]

Christians, knowing that man is the image bearer of God, also know that God’s law is still required from them—not in any salvific way, but as children seeking to please their Father and in seeking the good of other image bearers. In looking to the section on the law in the WLC, we find much that is helpful in terms of how the church should respond to racial issues:

  1. 135. What are the duties required in the sixth commandment?
    A. The duties required in the sixth commandment are, all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others by resisting all thoughts and purposes, subduing all passions, and avoiding all occasions, temptations, and practices, which tend to the unjust taking away the life of any; by just defense thereof against violence, patient bearing of the hand of God, quietness of mind, cheerfulness of spirit; a sober use of meat, drink, physic, sleep, labor, and recreations; by charitable thoughts, love, compassion, meekness, gentleness, kindness; peaceable, mild and courteous speeches and behavior; forbearance, readiness to be reconciled, patient bearing and forgiving of injuries, and requiting good for evil; comforting and succoring the distressed, and protecting and defending the innocent.
  2. 136. What are the sins forbidden in the sixth commandment?
    A. The sins forbidden in the sixth commandment are, all taking away the life of ourselves, or of others, except in case of public justice, lawful war, or necessary defense; the neglecting or withdrawing the lawful and necessary means of preservation of life; sinful anger, hatred, envy, desire of revenge; all excessive passions, distracting cares; immoderate use of meat, drink, labor, and recreations; provoking words, oppression, quarreling, striking, wounding, and whatsoever else tends to the destruction of the life of any.[73]

Christian love is demonstrated in and by men when they studiously seek to keep God’s law in all its implications and elucidations.  The command in Exod 20:13, “You shall not murder,” is not fulfilled simply by a person never having taken the life of another with his own hands or carelessness. In other words, the law is not simply negative—it is also positive in what it sets forth. It is helpful here to think in opposites. The opposite of “You shall not murder,” is, “You shall preserve and promote life.”

The image of God in man requires of the Church-as-the-church to practice intolerance toward any race-based injustice and oppression in her midst. She should actively seek to promote and foster within her ranks openness and love for all the brethren. She is to preach and teach the value of all human life—that all men are made in the image of God—which demands certain things of those individual believers in her ranks. See Mic 6:1-8, Isa 56:1 and Jer 22:3 for but a small sampling of verses that exhort believers to act justly toward those who are oppressed. This is especially true of those cases where they find systemic oppression.

Individual Christians, then, have a calling that is broader than the Church as the church. The church as the church is to preach and teach the Word of God and apply it to the lives of her members. The individual members of the body have a broader influence and calling. In their lives, they live as Christians in all their employments and recreations, and can bring the Word of God to bear in places they see injustice, in hopes of seeing justice for their brothers who, like them, are being remade by Jesus Christ to bear the imago Dei more faithfully before a watching and broken world.

As we have answered questions about the image of God in man from several theological loci, namely theology, anthropology, soteriology, and ecclesiology, we have found that only a proper understanding of the imago Dei will help the church to avoid that sin of partiality and prejudice about which James writes. The church is to preach and teach the whole counsel of God, and as His Word is proclaimed, Christians will be mobilized to demonstrate the love of God that has been poured into their hearts.


Dixhoorn, C. (2014). Confessing the Faith: A Reader’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth.

Hodge, C. (1999). Systematic Theology, Volume 2. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson.

Is there a biblical basis for the Covenant of Redemption? (2008). Accessed November 7, 2015, from

Reymond, R. (1998). A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (Second ed). Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson.

Smith, M. (1994). Systematic Theology, Volume 1. Greenville, South Carolina: GPTS Press.

Part IV: Pastoral Section

We live in a world where racism and injustice are widespread and men judge one another on baseless merits of their own choosing. This aspect of fallen nature is acknowledged in the exhortation of James to the early church: “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory” (Jas. 2:1). As it was then, so it is now. Indeed, there is “nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9). In spite of the technological and scientific advancements marking both our era and our nation, the unity of man that can only be found in Jesus Christ is just as crucial and needed in our day as it has ever been. How does the Gospel inform believers about the truth of our relationship with one another in Christ? Moreover, how does the Gospel empower believers to practical unity through Christ, and what might these things mean for reaching out to racial minorities in the ARPC? These pressing questions are the focus of this essay, and in addressing these questions we will be looking to John 15 as our primary passage.


In John’s gospel, Jesus’ Upper Room discourse comes almost at the end of his earthly ministry.  Chapters 13-17 contain Jesus’ final words to his disciples, his closest earthly friends. At this point in the account they have already shared the Passover meal together, Jesus has already predicted Peter’s denial, he has predicted his own imminent death, and Judas is in the process of betraying him at that moment. The disciples are greatly troubled. They do not fully understand what Jesus is talking about or why such things have to happen. In chapter 14 Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit to give comfort, counsel, and power. Also, and more specific to our purpose, through the power of the Holy Spirit they will be able to follow Jesus’ command to “love one another” given in John 13:34-35. After this, as Jesus and the disciples walk to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray and to await the coming of Judas, chapter 15 opens with Jesus’ command to abide in Him for all that they truly need, as He uses the analogy of a vine and branches.

The Reality Of One Body In Christ

Upon walking to the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus stops at the temple. The Jewish historian Josephus noted that in the time of Jesus a great golden vine hung over the entrance of the temple, and hanging from the golden branches were golden grape clusters “as tall as a man.”[74] This image of the vine or vineyard was a favorite in Judaism during the New Testament period. It was even on its coinage. The Jews prided themselves with the thought they were the “vineyard” of God–His chosen people. Ironically, when Israel was depicted in the Old Testament as a vine or vineyard, it usually was being judged for not bearing good fruit but, on the contrary, for bearing bitter fruit (as described in the “Song of the Vineyard” in Isa. 5:3-5). In contrast to the false notion of the Jewish leaders, in John 15 Jesus says that He is the “true” vine. God’s people are branches growing from the vine of Christ; and any branches not attached to this vine will be “cut off”–like those Jews who thought they had attained righteousness through human merit. In Eph. 2:14-18 Paul speaks of the result of the work of this True Vine:

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one (Jews and Gentiles) and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

Here Paul speaks to the fact that true reconciliation between man and man is the result of the reconciliation between God and man accomplished by the work of Christ. All those in Christ are now one true community—or, as Paul says, “one body” composed of many “members” (Rom. 12:5).[75] R. Kent Hughes notes the contrast between this new community and the culture of the day: “The world at that time was torn apart by prejudicial divisions that make many of our differences pale by comparison—master and slave, Jews and Gentiles, and so on. The Greeks regarded Jews as barbarians and the Jews had a reputation of being haters of the world . . . the world seemed helplessly alienated.”[76] And so Jesus’ command to the disciples to love one another was not grounded in a mutual bond of family, or community, or nation, but only because they were fellow sinners redeemed by Christ. “Their love for each other was to be a reflection of their new status and experience as children of God.”[77] The same is true for all believers regardless of time or culture. The bond that believers share is far deeper and greater than anything else that would define them.

The Command To Be One Body Through Christ

Through the work of Christ believers are one in Christ—and because of this great eternal truth, believers therefore are commanded to be one body through Christ (to apply this truth in daily practice). In Eph 4:3-6 Paul says to the church, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all.” Such unity among believers can only come about as a result of seeking to abide in Christ.

John 15 shows us that unity with one another flows from looking to the union that Christ has established with us—just as the branch must abide in the Vine in order to bear fruit. Jesus said that such abiding will naturally bear “much” fruit. The analogy of the vine and its branches is a picture of dependency. Fruit is not something a branch can grow on its own. Branches do not have any life in themselves but receive their life through their union with the vine. The life-sap of the vine flows through them. But when we fix our eyes on ourselves or on anything other than Christ, our fruit is going to wither—because the disciples were to focus on following their Lord and on relying upon Him, seeking to maintain through Christ the unity He established by the cross.

A.W. Tozer, in his book The Pursuit of God, speaks about the fact that true unity can only happen when we look away from ourselves and look to Christ. In other words, the closer we draw to Christ, the closer we are drawn to one another.

Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same tuning fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which one must individually bow.  So one hundred worshippers meeting together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become ‘unity conscious’ and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship. Social religion is perfected when private religion is purified.[78]

This is the triumph of Christ – uniting believers together in Him and through Him. Hughes adds that on a relational level such unity is also not without human effort.

This unity . . . must be worked at. When a man and woman become one in Christ in marriage, there must be a commitment to oneness—an ongoing commitment to communicate, to share their souls, to spend time together, to have the deepest relationship possible in body, soul, and spirit. Such relationship is utterly wonderful when experienced. . . And the same is true of the unity of believers in this world.[79]

In John 17:23 Jesus calls this kind of unity a powerful testimony of the truth of the Gospel to a watching world. Abiding in Christ changes how we see and love other people. We can only love as Jesus loved if we are abiding in Him as the true source of our life. In Him we receive power to respond to the various situations in our own lives with the love,heart and mind of Christ. But when our gaze is averted from Christ, like Peter’s after Jesus’ arrest in John 18, we quickly realize the bankruptcy of our own natural ability. As Hughes noted,

We can tie fruit onto our lives like ornaments on a Christmas tree, but the real fruit of his character—comes from the Vine itself. In ourselves we cannot be loving, or patient, or faithful, or holy. That is why God does not shield us from the assaults of life – but rather exposes them, so we will learn… to hold him fast. Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.’ Abiding involves a growing understanding of our own weakness.[80]

In order to love others in the selfless ways that Jesus exemplified and commanded, we must continually (and persistently) turn away from ourselves and abide in Christ. Unless we are continually seeking to identify with Christ and be changed by Him through the ordinary means of grace, we can all too easily fall prey once again to the temptation to draw lines of distinction between neighbor and self.[81] The lordship of Christ is the only true and lasting answer to the issue of division. Whether it is in the world at-large or within our own hearts, the truth is the same: there is no true or lasting peace until Christ is exalted and everything else bows in worship and surrender (Rev 4:8-11). This is Scripture’s ultimate and final word on the issue of division.

Practical Suggestions

In light of the Upper Room discourse, the discussion of race relations on a denominational, church, and individual level begins with a yet more fundamental question:

Are we seeking to abide in Christ? Are we continually surrendering every part of our lives to the Lordship of Christ alongside a deep conviction of our own spiritual bankruptcy? It is only after these questions are addressed that we may begin to address subsequent questions of a more specific and concrete nature – such as: In the effort to be faithful witnesses of the gospel are we engaged in loving our brothers and sisters of other cultures and ethnicities? Are we reaching out in love to our fellow African-American brothers and sisters in the Lord, as well as other racial minorities? If so, in what ways? Moreover, how should we gauge the effectiveness of such outreach? Are we speaking the gospel in such a way that it is understandable to the various ethnic and racial minorities represented in the communities in which our churches are placed? D. A. Carson aptly notes, “[T]he salvation secured by Christ in the gospel is more comprehensive than justification alone: it brings repentance, wholeness, and love for brothers and sisters in the Christian community.”[82]

In his article Racial Reconciliation, the Gospel, and the Church, Dr. Jarvis Williams asserts:

Christians in general . . . must do a better job living out the gospel of racial reconciliation in community with real people in both church and society. Five . . . steps occur to me. First, Christians must believe and preach the whole gospel, including what the gospel says about racial reconciliation. Second, Christians must be honest about our racist past to answer some of the complicated questions in our racist present. Moreover, progress will be difficult, if not impossible, if we deny that racism still exists – individually and systematically, in both church and society. Third, Christians should work to listen to ethnic minority voices within the Christian movement who have thought long and hard about the issue of race, how it intersects with the gospel, and how this intersection applies today. Fourth, Christians and Christian churches must boldly press the claims of the Christian gospel onto a racist society, and we must be willing to stand against any and all forms of racism with legal and peaceful means whenever we see racism raise its ugly head. Fifth, as citizens and residents of the United States, we must hold our leaders accountable. If they commit injustice instead of uphold justice, we should take the necessary legal steps to ensure that justice under the law will be upheld for all citizens and residents.[83]

Looking fully to Jesus Christ our Savior for strength, we offer some further practical suggestions to our  brothers in the ARPC  toward  fostering unity with ethnic and racial minorities:

  • First and foremost, we should beg the Lord to search our hearts for individual sin, giving us a burdened heart of love for all human beings, and the desire to seek the forgiveness of those we have wronged;
  • Actively engage in legitimate[84] Christian fellowship with our brothers of different ethnic and racial backgrounds, including those of bi-racial relationships. Such fellowship could be as simple as a basketball game or as ministerial and purposeful as a community-wide outreach project;
  • Actively engage in praying together for our communities;
  • Consider how the ARPC might actively plant churches in different racial/ethnic communities, with a view toward earnestness in including minority groups the Lord enables us to reach; [85]
  • Actively engage in more concerted forms of evangelism to the full demographic of people groups that make up our communities; and
  • Look to a clear re-affirmation that racism in any form is a heinous sin in the sight of God, as this report makes clear.

The Church is both one community in Christ and also called to be one community through Christ—as we abide in Him, follow Him, and depend upon Him in all that is necessary to fulfill our charge. In Christ the kingdom of God has been inaugurated—yet we live in a world where evil, suffering, and injustice are all too evident; where we long for the completion of the kingdom. On that great day we shall finally see with our eyes everything in heaven and on earth brought under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Until that day, as we fix our eyes on Jesus we will reflect more and more the One whom we follow and receive His strength and joy to do what we have been called to do as his disciples. Such things the Church cannot do on her own—but He can and will do through her.


Flavius Josephus, Wars of the Jews,

  1. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Camp Hill: Christian Publications, 1993)

Available from:; accessed Jan. 14, 2016.

  1. Kent Hughes, “Colossians, Phillipians, and Philemon”, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013)

[1]                      Robert Lathan, History of the Associate Reformed Synod of the South 1782-1882 (Harrisburg, PA: Washburn Press), 11.

[2]                      Ibid., 95.

[3]                      Ibid., 359-360.

[4]                      Ibid., 303.

[5]                      Ibid., 360-361.

[6]            See Lacy K. Ford, Deliver Us From Evil:  The Slavery Question in the Old South (Oxford University Press, 2009), 92 and 473-474. According to Ford, the ARP commitment to “daily family devotionals” together with the idea that slaves were members of the family household caused them to resist the imposition of laws prohibiting teaching slaves to read.  See also History of the Associate Reformed Synod of the South, 1782 – 1882, p. 303, and Lowry Ware, Due West: South Carolina’s Oldest College Town (no date or publisher), 7.

[7]                      Lathan, History, 361.

[8]                      Ibid., 300.

[9]                      Ibid.

[10]                    Ibid., 302-303.

[11]                    The Evangelical Guardian 4 (November 1846), 285.

[12]                    Ibid., 390; cf. Lathan, History,108, 255.

[13]                    Ibid., 393.

[14]                    Ibid., 112.

[15]                    Ibid.

[16]                    Ibid., 113.

[17]                    ibid. p 114.

[18]                    ibid.

[19]                    Ibid., 120.

[20]                    Ibid.

[21]                    Ibid., 102.

[22]                    Ibid., 118.

[23]                    Ibid., 123.

[24]                    Minutes of the General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church 1964, 7, 9.

[25]                    Ware, The History of Erskine College, 1839 – 1982, 65-67.

[26]                    Minutes of the General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church 1957, 173.

[27]                    Minutes of the General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church 1968,  97.

[28]                    Minutes of the General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church 1970, 435.

[29]                    Minutes of the General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church 1964, Section B.

[30]                    Ibid., 8.

[31]                    Minutes of the General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church 2008, 514.

[32]        Westminster Confession of Faith, Ch. VI. See also Minutes of the General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church 2012, 503-505.

[33]      See Benjamin B. Warfield, ”On the Antiquity and Unity of the Human Race,” in Studies in Theology, Vol. IX of The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield (New York: Oxford University Press, 1932; reprinted Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1991), 235-258.

[34]      Westminster Confession of Faith, Ch. XXVI.

[35]   Cf., e.g., Richard Lints, Identity and Idolatry (NSBT 36; Downers Grove: IVP, 2015), 34-42.

[36]   Cf. Benjamin B. Warfield, Biblical and Theological Studies (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1968), 238-261.

[37]   For a helpful background summary of the Galatian situation, cf. D. A. Carson, Douglas Moo and Leon Morris, An Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 289-303.

[38]   Fritz Rienecker and Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980), 510.

[39]   Note the change to the second-person plural. Cf. Hans Dieter Betz, Galatians (Hermeneia; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979), 185.

[40]   Herman Ridderbos, The Epistle of Paul to the Churches at Galatia (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953), 147.

[41]   Here we are taking the prepositional phrase “in Christ Jesus” in connection with “faith,” thus making Christ the object of faith, as opposed to treating the phrase adverbially such that believers’ union with Christ would govern our “sonship-by-faith.” See Ridderbos, Galatians, 147, n. 8.

[42]   Richard Longenecker, Galatians (WBC 41; Waco: Word, 1990), 152.

[43]   “The expression as many seems to limit the ye all of verse 26. The intention, however, is to show that in baptism lies the evidence that all sorts of people (cf. verse 28), without any discrimination, share in the grace of Christ.” Ridderbos, Galatians, 147.

[44]   Cf., e.g., Ronald S. Wallace, Calvin’s Doctrine of the Word and Sacrament (Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 1982), 159-169.

[45]   R.K.Y Fung, The Epistle to the Galatians (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 172.

[46]   Ridderbos, Galatians, 149.

[47]  Richard Hove, Equality in Christ? (Wheaton: Crossway, 1999), 121. It should be observed that the church’s unity in Christ does not mean that members of the church are equal in every sense of the term, or – as we shall see below – that differences of race, sex or status vanish upon confession of faith. Men and women, for example, do not (and should not) abandon their natural composition and function simply because they come to faith in Christ. And from other passages, it is clear that elders and laymen (to name one example) are not equal in authority within the church even though they share equally in the benefits of the Savior.

[48]   Rienecker and Rogers, Key, 510.

[49]   Hove, Equality in Christ?, 65.

[50]   For example, it is the Father who decrees the salvation of the elect; it is the Son who accomplishes that salvation; and it is the Spirit who applies that salvation. Each person of the Trinity fulfills His role in the salvation of the church, but this does not mean that one person is inherently or ontologically superior to the others. And if each person did not fulfill his role in the economy of salvation, how then would the church be redeemed to God? This principle also applies to the family: both husbands and wives play an indispensable role in the production of children and in the general life of the home, but this reality does not make either party ontologically superior to the other. Cf. WLC 9-11.

[51]   The reader is directed to Hove’s thorough and careful treatment of this subject in v 28 and the “gender dispute” throughout his Equality in Christ?.

[52]   Ridderbos, Galatians, 150.

[53]   John Stott, The Message of Galatians (London: IVP, 1968), 100-101.

[54] James 2:1 per the author’s own translation. Though “partiality” is often used because the word “prejudice” generally refers to an adverse judgment about someone that is preconceived, it can refer to a preconceived favorable opinion of someone, and that fits the context.

[55] Van Dixhoorn, Chad, Confessing the Faith: A Reader’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith, (Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 2014), 65.

[56] Cf. Hodge, Charles. Systematic Theology: Volume 2, (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1999), 43-91.

[57] Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) 4.2

[58] WCF 4.2, Westminster Larger Catechism (WLC) 17, and Westminster Shorter Catechism (WSC) 10.

[59] Morton Smith, dominion is the consequence of man’s being in the image of God.  Further, it is likely, given the structure of Genesis 1:27-28, that we ought to view dominion as something conferred upon man, who is already the image of God. See Smith, Morton, Systematic Theology, Volume 1 (Greenville: GPTS Press, 1994) 236.

[60]  Van Dixhoorn, Confessing the Faith, 64.

[61]  Smith, Systematic Theology, 238.

[62]  Ibid., 240.

[63] Cf. Rom. 8:29.

[64] Smith, Systematic Theology, 240.

[65] Cf. Gen. 13:4, אַבְרָ֖ם בְּשֵׁ֥ם יְהוָֽה  וַיִּקְרָ֥א שָׁ֛ם, which can be taken to mean, “And there Abraham called upon the name of the Lord,” or “And there Abraham began to proclaim the name of the Lord.” Whichever is chosen, what is in view here is more than simply Abraham praying to God in solitude. This is an “evangelistic” act.

[66] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible.

[67] Gal. 3:8.

[68] Luke 24:46-47.

[69] Rev. 5:9-10.

[70] Micah 6:8.

[71] WCF 19.2.

[72] Rom. 13:8, 10. Cf. also Matt. 7:12, 22:36-40; Luke 10:30-37; Gal. 5:14, 6:2.

[73] Italicized for emphasis.

[74] Flavius Josephus, Wars of the Jews, V.5.4.

75 Jarvis Williams concurs: “Gospel-grounded racial reconciliation begins with what Christ accomplished at the cross. He united one-time enemies to God and therefore to one another. He made the two one. Racial reconciliation begins, in other words, with the ‘indicative’ of who we are in Christ. And then racial reconciliation shows itself in our love for the ‘other.’ It flows from the Spirit-empowered obedience and demonstration of who we are in Christ. . . Gospel-grounded racial reconciliation, after all, is supernatural, not natural.”

77 A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Camp Hill: Christian Publications, 1993), 90.

78 R. Kent Hughes, “Colossians, Phillipians, and Philemon”, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013), pg. 411-412.

79 Hughes, 357.

[80] “Left to ourselves, we seek our own . . . But when Christ comes, that changes. In the Church of Jesus Christ, we discover that the people we love and with whom we fellowship are different from us.” Ibid., 326.

81 Internet. Available from; accessed Jan. 14, 2016.

83 Jan. 14, 2016. Jarvis Williams is Associate Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Southern Seminary. He is a contributing writer for 9Marks, a church leadership organization.

84 We would define legitimate Christian fellowship as fellowship among those who profess creedal orthodoxy.

85 Minorities such as African-Americans, American Indians, Hispanic/Latinos, Asian-Americans, the inner-city poor, or other minority groups that have been overlooked, marginalized, or disenfranchised.