Sunday, December 27, 2015

Are We No Longer Subject to a Disciplinarian?

This Sunday's Gospel reading, John 1:1-18 combined with the expurgated reading from Galatians, 3:23-25,4:4-7 presents an opportunity to see both John's theme of light versus dark and the oft repeated errors that thinking that one is living in that light might create (i.e. those foolish Galatians in 3:1).

First look at John 1's wonderful introduction,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. 
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 
 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” ’) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known. 
"He gave power to all who received him to become children of God" is another of John's recurring themes.

Next think back to the partial, cut up reading from Galatians 3 and 4,
Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.
Generalization of, "we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian" from its specific reference to Old Testament law to mean a universal freedom is perhaps the most egregious error that those who have been adopted as children of God can possibly make. I have heard it said by former members of the Episcopal church's Executive Council that this verse can be taken to mean that we are free to make up our own rules according to how we feel rather than to study scripture. The corollary to being free to make it up as we go is that we no longer have to worry about the consequences of creating laws that go against God's word.

But as children, we should honor our Father, for when we dishonor Him, we should expect there to be consequences. At least that is how it works in my family.

The Bible is full of references to those consequences, and the most damning come from the mouth of the Son of God Himself.

Matt. 5:22, "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire."
Matt. 5:29, "If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell."
Matt. 10:28, "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell."
Matt. 23:15, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves."
Matt. 23:33, "You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?"
Luke 12:5, "But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!"
Matt. 11:23, "And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day."
Luke 16:23, "and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side."

We may be no longer slaves, but as children, more is expected of us, and while we may not be subject to all of the O.T. laws, we are now subject to the lawgiver Himself.

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