This short look at the life of Richard Allen began with two questions and how the answers to those questions can become a practical application in our Christian lives. How was Christ glorified in this 18th century pastor during the time of slavery? For reformation to take place in our time, what responsibilities are before us, in order that Christ will be glorified?
Christ was glorified in this 18th century pastor through Richard Allen’s personal walk with Christ and the gathering of the community of African American believers. Allen’s Christian life can be characterized as one who was constrained and compelled with the desire to make Christ known to the people. Through the realization of his own state of sin which was worse than the man made slavery into which he was born and then the proclamation of sin and atoning work of Christ, this was the message that Allen proclaimed everywhere he went. Our pattern of conduct must be the same. We as believers must have the eagerness in prayer and proclamation of the Gospel, to those who are unconverted. Men are slaves to sin, bound in the wickedness of their thoughts, words and deeds. The words of our Saviour ring true, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (John 8:34) and the same also rings true to all slaves of sin, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).
Next the community of believers must unite, under the common purposes of equipping the saints and building up the body of Christ. The African American believers led by Allen, provided each other with the Scriptural support, prayer support and fellowship flowing from Christ grace to endure the trials they were facing. Secondly the believers were being built up. Suffering was building their faith. Persecution was refining their Godly character resulting in their confession that God alone would be their source. Believers, there will be times when you will suffer when you stand to exalt the glory of our God and His Son Jesus Christ. It must not be an experience in which we retreat and hide, “but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy”(1 Peter 4:13).
Now to our second question of what responsibilities are before us? I speak to those who call themselves pastors, teachers, elders, etc. The highest lesson, the greatest example we find in the life of Richard Allen and the glory that God received out of his life is the following: The importance of the sufficiency of Jesus Christ alone and the sufficiency of Scripture alone. At their greatest trial, at the moment when they face exclusion, Allen and the African American believers proclaimed Christ alone and Scripture alone. Those who hold yourselves to be leaders in your local body, declare, Christ alone. The pastor who will not labor in the Word of God, dig into each book, chapter and verse, teaches others not to be diligent to labor in the Word of God. If you are teaching anything than what is clearly outlined by Christ and the apostles, turn from your man made doctrines and back to doctrines of Jesus Christ.
The establishment of the first African American fellowship which would eventually become independent of the Methodist church in 1815, was a reformation orchestrated by Christ Himself. Christ, using Allen’s slavery, freedom, conversion and preaching, brought about a change in the visible church and America reminiscent of Luther’s work in Europe. The African American body of believers were the recipients of God’s grace, through the exaltation of Christ, a knowledge of the sufficiency of Scripture and gaining a true understanding of their equality in Jesus Christ.
The modern day local churches, that have large are predominantly African American must learn the lessons of these free and bond people. Zeal for the worship of Christ, freely, was contained within the bounds of exalting Christ and learning the Scriptures. What is the solution for the decline in African American churches? It is the return to the centrality of Jesus Christ. Secondly, the local church must return to seeing Scripture as the sole source of how God instructs His people(2 Tim 3:15-4:1-3).
The glory of Christ will be revealed in the African American community. Community leadership, with all its good deeds, will not measure up to the eternal weight, work and worth of Christ, who must be the object of all our affections. Pray that God would revive hearts to exalt Christ alone. Pray that God will use men and women, the priesthood of believers to herald the risen King in the public square, in their home fellowships and church buildings. God, His Son Jesus Christ is to be gloried as our supreme joy in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Christ the Redeemer, was Richard Allen’s joy. Through every aspect of life, Christ must be the all satisfying center to bring lasting change to our local churches.
All quotes are from:
Allen, Richard, The Life, Experience and Gospel Labours of the Rt. Rev. Richard Allen. Martin and Boden, Philadelphia, 1833.