Pastor Matthew shared the following from the platform at New Hope Church on October 3, 2021, as part of the sermon series Better Together:
Today we’re celebrating yet again God’s desire for the nations—the ethnos—to gather together around the Lamb.
As an Evangelical Free church we are “people of the Book.” That refers to the Bible, which is foundational for everything we believe. When it comes to matters relating to reconciliation and harmony and justice, we don’t find our solutions in various critical theories or Marxism or western democratic philosophy, contrary to what might be popular accusations. The Bible was written thousands of years before Karl Marx and western academia. “God’s word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path” (Psalm 119:105).
Now, this Light, this Book, this Bible, finds Jesus telling us to pray for God’s will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. When I think about this I envision the scenes in Heaven revealed in the Bible—those images that we must pray would also be on display on Earth; within the New Hope Church family.
And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain . . . and the Lamb went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the elders . . . sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”Revelation 5:6-10
Two things come to my mind:
First, contrary to much talk that conversations about all-peoples subordinates the gospel, which is a lie, these words from Revelation 5 are covered in gospel blood, gospel promise, and gospel glory.
Here we see Jesus, the One before whom this all-peoples array is gathered—the Lamb of God. Of him John the Baptist said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). He has “ransomed people for God.” This is because of His death on a cross, the great penal substitute for us sinners.
In Revelation 7:10 this multicultural and multiethnic gathering cries out, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the Throne, and to the Lamb.” All these verses from Revelation are saturated with gospel acclaim—blood shed, promised righteousness realized, our own glory as we bask in God’s greater glory.
In regards to matters of justice and reconciliation, when people say, “Just stick to the gospel,” what they’re doing is minimizing gospel-implications such as the blood-bought tribes and tongues gathering as one new redeemed humanity before the Lamb. As the Apostle Paul writes,
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility . . . that he might create in himself one new humanity . . . so making peace, and might reconcile us [all] to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.Ephesians 2:13-16
Because of the shed blood of Christ the redeemed are reconciled to God and one another.
Secondly, the pursuit of this in the here and now—in your life and mine—is a gospel-demand. In Luke 4 we see Jesus in a synagogue.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”Luke 4:18, 21
Jesus connected the gospel with liberty for captives, sight for the blind, freedom for the oppressed. He also, in Luke 4, related this good news, this gospel, to ethnic harmony, celebrating Gentiles within an audience bred to hate Gentiles. You should take time and read Luke 4 for yourselves.
But look at their response.
When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff.Luke 4:28-29
It’s noteworthy that while they celebrated the good news as helping those in the margins, they hated the notion that the good news had implications for ethnic harmony and reconciliation. They tried to kill him. This says something not about how deep a political or philosophical matter this is, but about how deep a spiritual issue is reconciliation and harmony and justice. It also tells us why being a multicultural and multiethnic church really matters.
The Sermon on the Mount is introduced with the observation that Jesus went about proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom among all-peoples: Jews and Gentiles. Then, within the Sermon on the Mount, that prayer I referenced earlier. “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
The pursuit of a robust all-peoples community is rooted in the proclamation of good news that has us crying to the Father for his will to be done right here. It’s what we see in Heaven. It’s what we seek to pursue here. The psalmist puts it this way:
Declare God’s glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all-peoples! Say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.’Psalm 96:3, 10
Traditionally churches like ours send the gospel to the nations. Praise God! Indeed, New Hope Church has 52 global workers scattered across the world. That matters! This is one more reason, by the way, why your faithful prayers and financial support are vital.
But it is evident God wants to bring the nations—the ethnos—to us. Our Latino friends represent that reality. So do our friends from Africa. From Europe. From throughout Asia.
We must learn emotional and spiritual competencies so we don’t dismiss the lived experiences of those different from any one of us. This helps us grapple with God’s justice, which I define this way: “God’s rightness manifested in our relationships, systems, structures, hopes, and dreams.”
Such allows for genuine connections that are free and not forced. We must stand as the redeemed before the Lamb, and before one another, honoring each other and seeing each other, as truth-tellers, weeping and rejoicing together—the essence of mature and healthy community.
We must know our world is starving for answers to the broken and traumatized ethnic relationships found far and wide. There is no better entity than the church of the bloodied and risen Lamb to address this. That means you. It means me. Again, that is why being a multicultural and multiethnic church really matters. It’s true, it’s real, it’s good, it’s beautiful. We’re better together.
We must be aware this is a spiritual fight. Satan is having a field day with the American church. Talk of Critical Race Theory, wokeism, and so forth are red herrings. I know not one thoughtful evangelical leader who thinks these things offer solutions to today’s problems, and yet this stuff has co-opted genuine conversation about relational harmony and how the gospel shapes it. Meanwhile, we wonder why so many so-called unsavory voices fill the public square. It’s because we are absent. Satan has the Church distracted and eating its own.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.Matthew 28:19-20
Jesus’ final words relate to helping all-peoples embody His commands and purposes. He will help us: “I am with you always.” Let us be humble Kingdom-ambassadors, seeing—really seeing—those around us, their humanity, their stories, their realities. Engaging—really engaging—them with the tender love of our bloodied and risen Lamb. Acting according to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, trusting him for the Father’s will, as seen in Heaven, to be accomplished here.
And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”Revelation 5:9