Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Page from Immanuel's History

On my desk, in a bright yellow folder, I keep a copy of the following address that was written and delivered by Dr. Paul Early, Immanuel's late pastor-emeritus, at the 1968 annual meeting of the Piedmont Baptist Association. Every now and then, I pull it out to remind myself of the great history of this church, and the legacy of gospel-centered ministry that I have the privilege of carrying on here.

The following article, penned by Dr. Paul Early, appeared in the annual Book of Reports of the Piedmont Baptist Association in 1968, when he served as Moderator of the Association.

Moderator’s Statement
October 24, 1968

Baptists have always found their primary reason-for-being in evangelism. Through revivals, through earnest invitations in all services, through personal witness, we have sought to preach the Word, and to win people to Christ.

Two primary and foundational beliefs have given strength and power to evangelism: these are trust in the inerrant Word of God, the Bible, and the missionary imperative. We declare that “the Bible is the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried.” We exhort preachers, young and old, to preach the Bible. And we take as marching order, “Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”

We thus have held in our hearts from the beginning the answers to all the problems that divide us, that cause us to fear, and make us almost hate. The Southern Baptist Convention came on the scene just over 128 years ago, and God has used us. My prayer is that He will today. I believe God is now deciding if He can further use us or not, based on our response to His need, today. And what a day it is!

Fear and distrust have so gripped our nation, that positive or negative, Christian or unchristian, liberal or conservative attitudes about race relations have become the most potent force in the campaigns of nearly all candidates for office today. What a man says or does not say about race relations seems to be the magic key to hoped-for election.

For Jesus’ sake, let Baptists go back to the foundations, the Bible and missions, and evangelize. Evangelize whom? The Bible has the answer: “Love thy neighbor AS THYSELF.” Who is the neighbor? Read on in Luke 10 and see Jesus said the neighbor was the SEGREGATED man of His day, the Samaritan. And when James quoted this commandment to love, he added, “But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin.” Whom do we evangelize, and love as ourselves, if we obey Jesus? Every human being, especially the segregated ones, those one is humanly inclined to look down upon.

The Holy Spirit straightened Peter out on his race prejudice, in Acts 10, in showing God’s requirement to forget about race when building His church and reaching people for Him. Although God had told the Jews through Isaiah centuries before, “For Mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people,” the Jews had been defiantly exclusive, and so Peter could say truthfully, Acts 10:28, “It is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, come unto one of another nation.” No, they didn’t associate with or visit people of another race. So fear and hatred grew. But after the Holy Spirit’s ministry to Peter, he knew the truth: “But God hath showed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” So he went witnessing across the racial barrier, saying, “Therefore came I unto you … of a truth I perceive that God is no respector of persons” (Acts 10:29, 34). Paul had to reprimand Peter later when he stopped eating with Gentiles, as Paul put it; Gal. 2:11,12, “I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles; but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing ….”

It really is as simple as that! We believe that God loves all people, and that being children of God makes us all brothers. There is absolutely no scriptural basis for separation of peoples in Christian worship, no basis at all for a group of people calling themselves a church not offering God’s love to all in full fellowship. Scripturally, it must be a sin against the Holy Spirit’s message to do less than this. How else is it true, Gal. 3:28? “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” Speaking about all of us, black, white, pink, or purple, God declares in Ephesians 2:13, 19, “In Christ … now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” So in Colossians 3:8-11, whatever person is in Christ must put off all anger, wrath, and malice, for he is a new creature: “Ye … have put on the new man … where there is neither Greek nor Jew, … barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free; But Christ is all, and in all.”

That kind of plain teaching makes so much more sense than a condemnation spoken, not by God, but by Noah getting over a drunk, condemning not Ham, the offender, but Canaan, whose descendants are recognized in just a cursory study to be inhabitants of the land of Canaan, Gen. 10:15-19: “Jebusites, Amorites, Girgasites, Hivites,” with borders clearly described in Palestine, not Africa.

What causes riots, fear, looting, wars, occupations, racial strife, international suicide? The absence of faith in Jesus Christ, the absence of His gospel of God’s love and forgiveness, the absence of Christian loving each neighbor as self. What does the Bible say? “Preach the gospel to every creature.” “Love your neighbor.” Jesus Christ never drew ANY lines between people, except between the lost and the saved. The New Testament declares that all the middle walls of partition are torn down.

There are signs in the Piedmont that God’s children and churches here are going to provide this kind of answer to the South’s, the nation’s, and the world’s problems. May God hasten the day! Christian brother and Christian brother, with no barrier between, mutually accepting, receiving, loving, and honoring each other, do not war against each other, or dare one another to move across a street. “Little children, let us love one another.” Amen.

Paul D. Early
Pastor, Immanuel Baptist Church

Moderator, Piedmont Baptist Association

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