BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) — Standing in the pulpit at Sixth Avenue Baptist Church — a congregation rich in civil rights movement history — Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear focused on how only the Gospel has the power to bring true, lasting transformation to society.
During Sunday morning services (June 9), Greear told the predominately African American church located on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Birmingham, Ala., “the church thrives when the Gospel is at the center.”
As he began his sermon, titled The Gospel Above all: Romans 12:1-2, Greear recognized the congregation’s history of fighting racial inequality — a past that includes hosting civil rights leaders like King and the funeral for three of four black girls who were killed in a 1963 racially-motivated bombing at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.
“To be here, right here in your historic church where so many people in the civil rights movement have been … I can’t tell you what an honor this is,” said Greear, who will be presiding over the SBC annual meeting in Birmingham this week, June 11-12.
Greear focused his 35-minute message on the power of the Gospel to transform lives and why it must be above all. The Gospel, he noted, can overcome all the world’s sinful desires, worldliness and troubles — among them is the issue of racism.
Peter’s “racist tendencies,” Greear noted, are addressed in Galatians 2.
“[Peter] wouldn’t eat with Gentiles in certain situations because a lot of Jews thought Gentiles were of a different spiritual class,” Greear said. “So, they practiced segregated eating.”
When Paul wanted to confront Peter in Galatians 2:14, Greear said, Paul publically rebuked him and told him he had “forgotten the Gospel…. Peter, God brought you in when you were an outcast! How dare you exclude somebody else.”
Greear told the congregation, “I don’t need to tell you — the church in the West has had a horrible history of racism…. There’s one primary reason that it happened: Christians lost touch with the Gospel.
“You see, the Gospel teaches us that there’s only one kind of person: human,” Greear said. “We all got one common problem: sin. We only have one hope: the blood of Jesus. And that means all people — red and yellow, black and white — all alike are precious in His sight because all are afflicted with the same problem; all require the same solution.”
He added, “Jesus wasn’t resurrected as a white man, or a black man, or a Jew or a Gentile but He was resurrected as the Lord of all humanity.”
When someone sees the world through the lens of the racial bias, Greear said, “the only explanation is that they have forgotten the Gospel.”
“It is only by renewing ourselves in the Gospel,” he said, “can we purify ourselves of the racial bias and blindness to injustice that continue to afflict us.”