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The Sin of Partiality

Truth In Love 378

Why is it important to have a biblical anthropology in the church? How does this relate to the sin of partiality?

Aug 29, 2022

Dale Johnson: This week on the podcast, I’m delighted to have with me a dear friend, Virgil Walker. He serves as the Executive Director of Operations for G3 Ministries. Virgil served as the discipleship pastor at Westside Church in Omaha, Nebraska for six years, and is the co-host of The Just Thinking Podcast. And so, what a great thing to have him with us. Virgil and I go way back quite a few years, teaching biblical counseling up at Omaha. Got to know this brother and his love for the Scriptures, his love for biblical counseling and soul care, and his love for God’s church. I’m looking forward to the time that we’re going to be spending together, coming up here real soon, October 3rd through the 5th on our conference, created In His Image. And I want you to be with us there in Memphis. There’s still time to sign up. So, make sure that you avail yourself of that.

I want to mention something that’s really important, Virgil before we get into this whole, talk about the sin of partiality, this is something that’s dominated the news for several years now, and we need to have biblical clarity on this. And honestly, there are three primary things, I think are so critical for us to speak into in our world. Number one, ecclesiology. We have to get a right understanding of God’s Church, there’s no plan B and we have to do this well according to Scripture. The second thing is this issue of the sufficiency of the Bible. We’ve got to get clarity on the extent of the Bible. We seem to be short arming ourselves thinking of authority, but often lacking in sufficiency. And we’re not only to hear the Word to have intellectual assent to authority, we are to do the Word, which demonstrates that we believe in sufficiency, that it is authoritative over on our life, practically. And then, part of what we want to talk about today and the sin of partiality is anthropology. There’s not been a more damaging place that I’ve seen psychology infiltrate than a biblical understanding of man, it’s radically altered the way we think about it. And here’s the thing downstream Virgil, what we see is partiality and issues like this, where we see the destruction of biblical understanding of man, and then we try to respond in ways that are that are different than what the Scripture tells us to respond.

So, first of all, welcome to the podcast. I did a little longer intro there, but I’m so grateful that you’re here, brother, and our relationship. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you and growing in our friendship and I’m so grateful that you’re here. 

Virgil Walker: Glad to be here, man, excited for what we’re going to jump into today. 

Dale Johnson: Alright, so we’re just going to jump in. Okay? Why is having a biblical anthropology important in the church?

Virgil Walker: Yeah, I think it’s important for a variety of reasons. Let’s start with what’s happening in culture. When we look around the landscape of culture, what we see is a lack of understanding of who man is, right? There’s questions everywhere. Is a man really a man? Can a man be a woman? And can a woman be a man? So, you’re dealing with issues around gender and sexuality, whether it’s the issue of sexuality with homosexuality, and what kinds of things should be allowed. And what flavor of sin am I into this week, right? And so, you got all those issues and then compound upon that, it’s like a yin and yang. If at one point, we’re not dealing with gender issues, on the other end, we’re dealing with race, right, and ethnicity. And it’s as if like, you know, you’ve got two years or three years of really, a push with the agenda of the LGBTQ. And then, once that kind of wanes a bit, then you have the issue with ethnicity, people of color, and all this segmentation that’s happening, as cultures is reeling with that, unfortunately, because of a lack of what you just mentioned, biblical sufficiency, biblical authority and really Scripture being preached in an exposition way from the pulpit, what we’re seeing happen is those same ideas about who we are as human beings are infiltrating the church. So, what you end up seeing is you see churches wrestling with do I embrace the LGBTQ? Do we open the doors? We need to be more caring, more loving and so, pragmatic approaches begin to really show themselves where there’s a lack of real biblical clarity on these issues.

The same is true that we’ve witnessed with regard to social justice. The idea is everybody’s for justice, who’s not for justice? Who’s not in favor of someone experiencing something right rather than something wrong? Well, when we add on to it the idea of social justice, we’re walking away from what God designed as righteousness and the meaning of justice, and now we’ve attached to it our own political proclivities that come alongside that. So, now what we’re advocating for is rather than that which is right from wrong, what we’re advocating for is, we’re advocating for government to intervene in situations in an effort to empower one group at the subjugation of another.

So, all of this creates chaos, absolute chaos culturally speaking, and then, once it invades the church, we really have no thought process about how to address, how do we deal with this? How do we do it? And again, I mean we could, this one question, bro, we could spend a lot of time on because of the pragmatic approaches that have been that have invaded the church, and the sentimentalism that is attached to the pragmatism that’s happening in the church. 

Dale Johnson: Now, I want to get to that, and talk about how this has invaded the church. One important step that we need to cover first is the implication of some of the things that you just described, okay. Some of the implications that we’re describing here is that if we have a different view of anthropology, we treat people differently based on some other system. Social justice in and of itself is a sociological framework. So, now we’re appealing to something else by that qualifier. Now in order to measure what is just and what is not.

The Scripture makes very clear in Hebrews 5:14, that what it means to be discerning, what it means to be mature is that our powers of discernment are strengthened by us understanding what’s good and evil from God’s perspective, that’s a definition of maturity. And so, if we’re not measuring justice from God’s perspective, then we have a short-sighted view of what is truly just. We may get some things right that are consistent with biblical principles and God’s perspective, but the aim is going to be something radically different. And we have to pay attention to the confusion that this is contributing to in the society in which we live, and into the church that we live in right now and so, we have to bring clarity that these things are not benign. These things matter because the implications, if we don’t stand fast on biblical truth is the practice then starts to lead us away from that foundation of God’s declaration of good and evil. Now, we get to talking about this issue of how has this invaded the church? Okay, so the question is, how? And then, I want us to sort of flesh that out as to, what are the implications in the ways that the church has impacted, as we think about this ideology invading the church?

Virgil Walker: Well again, I think it started long ago. I’ve always argued that most will look at two kinds of lynch points. The Obergefell decision with regard to the LGBTQ issues. And then, they’ll look at with regard to social justice, kind of what just happened in 2020 with the George Floyd issue. So, they’ll look at those two flashpoints, and I would argue that all those did, was it exposed what was going on long before, which really if you go back and begin looking at what was happening in evangelicalism was the embrace of a more pragmatic approach to everything that we did related to ecclesiology.

You mentioned it earlier the idea that you know what we need to have more sermons that are more focused on topics rather than really pulling from the Scripture, the idea that we’ve got to figure out how to woo the culture into the church rather than recognizing that the church is to be those who are called out by Christ to come into the family of God, by faith through repentance. When we do those things and look at church growth processes and practices, we begin to walk away from the sufficiency of Scripture. Our thought process is, you know what, Scripture was good, but it’s kind of old-timey, it’s kind of old-timey. So, we need to try something new, and our approach is probably the better one. God really didn’t have this thing down like we’ve got it down today, so we’ve got to do something different. And as we do that, what begins to happen? Pragmatism takes hold, we’re practicing those things that we think are going to woo people in, and then you add to that sentimentality, you hear that in every worship song, you hear that in how we sing to God, how we sing about God. And then, those approaches about how we view God have the tendency to focus on how we view one another. So, now the person with the saddest story, with the confused background with issues that they’ve struggled with during their childhood, they’re raised to the fore rather than recognizing all of us are sinners before a holy God and our need of repentance and faith in Christ. 

Dale Johnson: Well, that sentimentality begins to reshape a morality that our consciences are built on, and then emotionalism becomes a part of that. Because you know, we’ve now breached that standard of morality that’s built upon sentimentality, you talk about ecclesiology and what we’re appealing to. Listen, guys, this is how anthropology matters is because when we redefine anthropology in such a way that it changes the man or the woman that we think we’re trying to reach in the church, we now start appealing to the flesh, and here’s the deal right? And Virgil, you know this, when we appeal to the flesh, we are running a fool’s errand to expect spiritual results, but yet it comes down to the definition of what we think the church is actually for. Is the church for proclaiming the truth and us conforming to God? Or are we going to dismiss the standard that God grants and try to conform Him to us, right? Those are our options, right?

So, when we talk about this issue, don’t miss the foundational aspects of anthropology that are rooted in center point here, and we have to cover this because some people are looking at this and being very, very confused. Like why is this happening? How did this happen? We see this happening in multiple areas. Our topic today is the sin of partiality and the way it affects us, race and how we view things like that, social justice. But this is happening across the board relative to complementarity, sexuality, sexual identity, those sorts of things, even authority, pastoral authority, those sorts of things. And we’re seeing a similar trend ideologically where we’re divorcing ourselves from those good social orders that God has granted to us.

And so, what I want to do now is take all of this stuff people are probably very familiar with your Just Thinking Podcast and some of the things that you and Darrell Harrison developed on that podcast. We’ve recommended it here, just for clarity on some of these issues because there’s so much confusion. What I want to do now, Virgil is just to give you an opportunity to really hone in and talk to that pastor who’s out in the middle of serving a church faithfully, his people are all over the map. They don’t know how to deal with this. They’re confused, they see good in people wanting justice. Like, isn’t that biblical? This is good. So, I want to just be very pointed in this question. How should a pastor handle some of the challenges of the culture that we’re experiencing right now with issues, just like social justice and CRT?

Virgil Walker: Yeah, my short answer is trust the gospel to do its work. That’s my short answer, but what happens is and I wanted to speak with specificity to how this what this looks like in a local church, more times than not what it doesn’t look like it. Probably those who are listening to your podcast to this information here, they hadn’t gone woke. These aren’t people who are out marching with Black Lives Matter folk, right, they understand that, hey, that’s a different ideological framework. But perhaps, they’re in their own setting looking around and seeing a bunch of white faces and feeling a lot of guilt about that, right? They’re thinking, man, there’s got to be some more people of color that can be a part of the church here, and what can we do to switch our, maybe we’ll change up the music a little bit. Maybe we’ll sing this way and do certain things this way. And I would argue that God knows who He’s calling to be a part of His church, right? When we look at Scripture, we identify that at the end of it all in Revelation, what do we see? Every tribe, tongue, and nation is before the Lamb of God, right? So, if we trust that to be true, what we do is what we’ve been called to do, which is go out and proclaim the gospel and do so without any thought process to partiality of any kind. Preach to everyone, in every way, shape, and form, and allow the gospel to do the work of drawing men unto Himself. That’s what it’s designed to do. 

Dale Johnson: That’s exactly right. I think that’s a good anchoring word for us because the Bible tells us in Hebrews 6:19 that it is this confession of Christ, the Gospel of which you speak, Virgil, that is the anchor of our souls in really tough, and turbulent times, like what we see right now.

I want to bring this down to talk about partiality itself, okay? we understand right there are evil actors in the world. Some of the things that people utilize to talk about racial divides, ethnic tensions, and these sorts of things, some of those things are absolutely real, there are evil actors, and when we see the gospel not present, bringing peace. We see divisions across all kinds of socio-economic classes, ethnicities, and so on, but we have to be cautious when we’re thinking about this issue of partiality.

I want you to help us to understand how are these things presented, right? The sins of partiality, because we want to correct those. That is God’s justice. That is how we see the gospel bring peace and erase those divides. I want to see churches where the explanation of those people being together whatever in the world they should be divided on, is the explanation of the Gospel. So, how do we number one, recognize legitimate sins of partiality, and then how do we start moving in a direction where the Gospel starts to help us? 

Virgil Walker: Yeah, one of the things, I think we’ve got to recognize with regard to the sin of partiality when we’re looking for it, right? We’re out there, we’re examining the world in which we live. We’re looking for, we should be shocked if we understand the true nature of sin that we don’t see it more often than we do. So, I think we’ve got to first begin there, man, we should see a whole lot more of this than we actually do. God’s hand is actually with us, as far as the people of God, I’m talking about the church as it pertains to local assembly. We should see more of this than we do. Thank God, we don’t. But when we do, we’ve got, we’ve got a Bible that tells us how to deal with this. And what we do regarding the sin of partiality, what we end up doing because of the cultural narrative is we’re looking for partiality between black and white, partiality between the have’s and the have not’s. We’ve got markers now, the oppressed and the oppressor, right? That’s Marxian, you know, ideology.

Dale Johnson: Men and women. Those who defend feminism.

Virgil Walker: Absolutely, absolutely. So, you got all of these things and I think there’s wisdom when looking at when brothers and sisters sin against one another. I think we need to eradicate race-ism, right? And by that, what I mean, is stop using that terminology altogether. Because at the end of the day, if you hate me because of the color of my skin, at the end of the day that sin is hatred, and as a result, if you have hatred in your heart against me, you are a murderer, right? Scripture says it, Scripture calls it that way.

So, let’s address it not from an “ism”, what we’re doing when we add the “ism” onto it is we’re trying to speak to motivation. What motivated you to hate me rather than recognizing that’s the sin of hatred. And as a result of that, we need to deal with that biblically by calling that sin what it is, it’s sin, and commanding those to repent of that sin. This isn’t rocket science. This really isn’t that difficult if we stick to biblical anthropology that we’re created in the image of God that He made from one man, every ethnos, every nation right under heaven. So, we know that we recognize that we’re no different than one another, we’re all image bearers who are filled with sin and need to repent of that sin and place our full faith in Jesus Christ. 

Dale Johnson: Yeah absolutely. And do you guys, do you hear the simplicity? That God really puts it on a shelf where we can grasp it, and any time we start making things more sophisticated than what they need to be, what you’re describing here, Virgil is if we call these things an “ism”, then we create a new path to remedy of these things, and then Colossians 2:23 makes very clear. When we try to utilize those types of self-made wisdom, human wisdom to wrangle the flesh. The Bible says, it is of no value in overcoming the powers of the flesh, and the indulgences of the flesh.

And so, yeah, we have to be very cautious here when we categorize it appropriately and you’re not running from it, you’re not sweeping it under the rug, you’re not saying this isn’t a manifestation of sin in our heart, we’re acknowledging that. But when we determine this to be sin as God defines it, now, there’s a remedy to what we can see legitimate change. And that’s what we’re after.

Well, listen, this has been a really great conversation and I’m so grateful for Virgil, and our friendship over the years. I knew him before he was famous, truthfully. I love this brother. We’ve had a lot of good conversations and I just appreciated his wisdom over the years, as we’ve batted back and forth ideas. And I hope you’ve enjoyed just getting to sit in on what some of those conversations would be like, as we’ve enjoyed short, fun moments together. And so listen, I want to finish by saying come to our conference. Virgil’s going to be with us. He’s going to be one of our plenary speakers. He’s going to be talking about this issue at more lengths, the sin of partiality.

Find out more information about ACBC’s 2022 Annual Conference, In His Image.