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The Race Card of the Early Church

In His resurrection, He brought forth a new humanity out of Jew and Gentile, destroying the wall of division and hostility that separated them.

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility … . His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. —Ephesians 2:14-16

Jesus Christ became the firstborn of a new creation (Romans 8:29).

The Third Race.

Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God. —1 Corinthians 10:32

This little passage contains a monumental truth. Before Jesus Christ entered the pages of human history, there were only two races: Jew and Gentile.

But with His resurrection, three races appeared on the planet: Jew, Gentile and the ekklesia of God.

For this reason, the second-century Christians called themselves the “third race” as well as the “new race.”

The body of Christ, then, is the restoration of God’s original image that creation was designed to bear. An image where there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. —Galatians 3:28

Within this new nonethnic community, the dividing lines of gender, race, class and social status are wiped away. And new distinctions of spiritual gifting are bestowed.

Watch how Paul opens his discussion on the functioning of the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12—14.

For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. —1 Corinthians 12:12

This passage is perhaps the most mind-bending text in all the New Testament. It destroys all our natural assumptions about the church. If you read the passage quickly, you’ll most certainly skip over its explosive meaning.

Paul tells the Corinthians that, just as the physical body is one unit having many members, so also is Christ. Notice that he doesn’t say, “So also is the body of Christ.”

He says, “So also is Christ.”

In other words, Christ is a body who has many members. Or to put it another way, the church is Christ. While that sounds heretical to traditional ears, this is exactly what Paul wrote.

From God’s perspective, Christ is no longer a single person. He is a corporate person. Christ and the church are a single reality. The church is the bottom half of Jesus Christ.

Paul’s idea is not that the Head is somehow screwed onto the body. His idea is that Christ embodies the church. The risen Christ is a living, inclusive, “more-than-individual” personality.

Put another way, the church is the visible image of the invisible Lord. It is the corporate Christ. It is Christ in collective human expression.

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