PEOPLE OF COLOR IN THE BIBLE
Furthering the Gospel
During Black History month, we often emphasize the many humanitarian, scientific, business, literary, and athletic, achievements of African Americans and the contributions they have made to society. However, we often overlook the role that the black-skinned person has played in the furtherance of the gospel from the beginnings of the church.
People of color are throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament. When God emphasizes people’s ethnicity in the bible, it is for a reason. God loves all people and He wants us to realize that all people are a part of His plan. Black-skinned people are a part of God’s plan. They are not an afterthought and God wants this fact to be known.
Whenever you see words (or forms of the words) like Ham (Hamitic), Cush (Cushites), Mizraim, Canaan (Canaanites), Phut, Ephraim, Phoenicians, Crete, Cyrene (Cyrenian), Niger, Sheba, Egypt, or Ethiopia, these are references to people who were dark-skinned. After Jesus died, black-skinned people took part in furthering the gospel. Listed below are just a few black-skinned people who helped further the gospel.
Simon the Canaanite: “An Apostle”
Matthew 10:2-4 (2) Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; (3) Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; (4) Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.
Simon is the only apostle/disciple whose ethnic origin is given. He is a Cannanite (which means he was black-skinned). Simon was in the upper room on the day of Pentecost. Simon was one of the leaders in the early Christian church. Simon the Canaanite was willing to sacrifice and suffer for the furtherance of the gospel. According to tradition, he did mission work in Asia Minor and Northern Africa, and was martyred in Persia along with Judas, not Iscariot.
The Ethiopian Eunuch: “A Seeker of God”
Acts 8:26-30 (30) And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. (27) And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship,
Philip, an evangelist, was divinely directed to the eunuch by an angel of the Lord. Philip explained the gospel to him, proclaimed Jesus Christ as the Messiah and baptized him. God intended to save this one individual and according to church tradition, this Ethiopian carried the gospel to Africa.
Simeon and Lucius: “Prophets and/or Teachers”
Acts 13:1 Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
These men of God were teachers and prophets in the Antioch church (the first Gentile church). Simeon was from Niger, a region of Africa. Many African slaves were brought from this region. Lucius was from Cyrene, which is in the northern part of Africa. By the leading of the Holy Spirit, these men ordained Barnabas and Saul (Paul) for the work of the Lord. These men suffered persecutions and threats for the furtherance of the gospel.
Apostle Paul: One Who Looked Like an Egyptian
Acts 21:37-38 (37) And as Paul was to be led into the castle, he said unto the chief captain, May I speak unto thee? Who said, Canst thou speak Greek? (38) Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers?
Paul could speak Greek and his native tongue was Hebrew, but from his appearance and his demeanor, the Romans assumed he was an Egyptian. The Roman captain was shocked that Paul could speak Greek. Could it be that the Apostle Paul looked like a black Egyptian (the original Egyptian were Black and not Arabic).
References: “Race, Religion & Racism” – Volume 3 by Frederick K.C. Price;
“The Black Biblical Heritage” by John L. Johnson
PEOPLE OF COLOR FURTHERING THE GOSPEL
Spread the Gospel to the Cherokee Indians
John Marrant was one of the first African-American preachers and missionaries and the first black preacher to spread the gospel to the Cherokee Indians.
Marrant was born in New York to a free Black family. His father died when he was four. He was taught to read and spell by the age of 11. He learned to play French horn and violin. By the time he was thirteen, Marrant was a sought-after musician for parties and dances.
Shortly after, Marrant was taken to hear a Methodist preacher, George Whitefield. Over the next few days, Marrant talked with a preacher and prayed until he found relief from his guilt. He was saved at the age of 13. However, his sister’s family did not agree with his faith. Marrant returned to his mother’s home but found only animosity at his change of life.
At fourteen, Marrant left home to wander in the wilderness where he was rescued by a Cherokee hunter who took him to the Cherokee village. In spite of the hunter’s pleas, he was sentenced to death in the Cherokee village in. Marrant won his life through prayer and led several people to the Lord. He spent two years among the Cherokees, Creeks, Catawars, and Howsaws, but his preaching was best received by the Cherokees. Marrant, one of America’s earliest missionaries to the Indians.
He wrote three books about his experiences as a preacher.
Liberated in Christ
Sojourner Truth was born in 1797 as Isabella Baumfree, a Dutch-speaking slave in rural New York. She was one of 13 children born to Elizabeth and James Baumfree. She spoke only Dutch until she was sold from her family around the age of nine. Truth began to find refuge in religion and begin the habit of praying aloud when scared or hurt. She was sold several times before ending up on the farm of John and Sally Dumont. As was the case for most slaves in the rural North, Isabella lived isolated from other African Americans, and she suffered from physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her masters.
In 1828, Truth moved to New York City and shortly after became a preacher. While living in New York, she attended many camp meetings held around the city, and quickly became known as a powerful speaker, capable of converting many. In 1843, the Holy Spirit instructed her to leave New York, travel east and no longer minister using the name Isabella, but under the name Sojourner Truth. This new name signified her role as an itinerant preacher, her preoccupation with truth and justice, and her mission to teach people “to embrace Jesus, and refrain from sin.”
Sojourner Truth met the abolitionist Frederick Douglass while she was living at the Northampton Association. He admired her speaking ability, however, he saw Truth as “uncultured.” Years later, Truth would use her “plain talk” to challenge Douglass. At an 1852 meeting in Ohio, Douglass spoke of the need for blacks to seize freedom by force. As he sat down, Truth asked “Is God gone?”. This exchange made Truth a symbol for faith in nonviolence and God’s power to right the wrongs of slavery.
From Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia; This Far By Faith
PEOPLE OF COLOR FURTHERING THE GOSPEL
Founder of African Methodist Episcopal Church
Richard Allen was born a slave. Allen was able to save $2,000 (about $50,000 in today’s money) in six year to buy his own freedom. Partly because Allen had already converted to Methodism and, in turn, converted his owner.
Allen moved to Philadelphia and began preaching. In 1784 he was accepted as a “minister of promise” by the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church and he concentrated his preaching among freed blacks in the Philadelphia region. Although he occupied a position of prestige within the denomination, he and other blacks continued to experience a great deal of discrimination and physical violence. During one incident, Allen and two other blacks were assaulted by a church usher who believed that blacks should seek Christian fellowship on their own.
In 1787 Allen and some others made a formal break from the Methodist Episcopal Church and founded the Free African Society; In 1799 six black Methodist congregations came together and founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church, consecrating Richard Allen as their first bishop.
Allen’s primary goals were always the moral, religious, and intellectual education of blacks in America. He founded a number of organizations dedicated to education, particularly for black children. When he died, the A.M.E. church comprised over 7,000 members in congregations throughout the United States.
AMANDA BERRY SMITH
Evangelist & Missionary
Amanda Berry Smith was born a slave in Long Green, Maryland. She was the daughter of Samuel Berry, a slave who was far above average in intelligence. He worked nights, holidays, and overtime to earn enough money to buy his freedom and that of his wife and five children. They moved to a farm in York County, Pennsylvania, where their home became an Underground Railroad station.
In 1854, at the age of seventeen, Amanda Berry married Calvin Devine. Not long after the beginning of the Civil War, Calvin Devine joined the Union Army. He was killed in battle in 1863. Amanda remarried a coachman named James Smith. Philadelphia became her new home where she was saved and joined the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
James Smith died in 1869. After his death, Amanda began to preach, which met with some initial resistance from the A.M.E. clergy, but Amanda persevered. She became a popular speaker to both black and white audiences.
Although she was not ordained or financially supported by the AME Church or any other organization, she became the first black woman to work as an international evangelist in 1878.
She served for twelve years in England, Ireland, Scotland, India and various African countries. She emerged as one of the A.M.E. Church’s most effective missionaries and one of the most remarkable preachers ever known. In the process, she had opened the way for more black women to preach in the A.M.E. church.
From Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia
MY CONTRIBUTION TO FURTHERING THE GOSPEL
Think about the many instructions given us in the Word of God to spread the good news of the gospel. Jesus commanded us to go into all nations with the gospel, but we barely share the gospel (even with our own family members). Jesus said “follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19), but we prefer to sit on the side lines and watch others (because we feel as though it’s not our “calling” or we think others can share the gospel better than us). Peter told us to always be ready to account for the hope that is within us to every man (1 Peter 3:15), but when it’s time to stand up for what we believe, we are often at a loss for words. Even in the Old Testament, Solomon said in Proverbs 11:30 that “…he that winneth souls is wise”, but we do not see the wisdom in winning souls, nor do we see the folly in failing to do so. Thus we rationalize, we try to explain to God, others and even our own conscience why we are justified in not spreading the good news of the gospel. But, there is no justification. There is no good excuse.
I admit that sharing the gospel may be uncomfortable and is not always easy, but it is the will of God; it is the work of the Lord; it is the work of the church and; it is our Christian duty. We must accept that there is a sacrifice and a suffering that goes hand in hand with furthering the gospel.
Church, the good news is that YOU are equipped to further the gospel. Jesus Christ is our example and we won’t be able to further the gospel without looking to Jesus. We must look to Jesus because we are living in tough and perilous times. Hard times will either draw you closer to God or cause you to drift away from Him. We must understand that things are not going to get better and if we don’t look to Jesus we will give in to the pull of the world and we will not do the work of the Lord.
It is both a command and expectation of our Lord Jesus Christ that every Christian be involved and participate in the furtherance of the gospel. You must be involved and participate in the furtherance of the gospel. In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus said, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
God knows that all of us have limitations and yet He decided to use us anyway, but the question is: Have we determined to be used by Him? I believe that we can be the most effective when we realize our weakness because God says that His strength is made perfect in weakness. Even in our weak state, we can make a difference because His grace is sufficient.
Sitting on the sidelines is not an option for the Christian. God knows that you can make a difference. Do you accept that you can make a difference? Your share is important, necessary and sufficient to the furtherance of the gospel!