But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? -- Galatians 4:9
Thursday, September 18, 2014
Escaping the Elements
I am an advocate for common sense. We can avoid a lot of trouble in life solely by paying attention to our sensory inputs, being courteous, and keeping our mouths shut. When it comes to spiritual truth, however, we need revelation. Our sense data and the common principles of horizontal relationships are inadequate.
The Gentiles to whom Paul preached had little to go on other than elementary rules. From those rudiments, they constructed, we might say, their gods who were fickle and petty, plagued with the same weaknesses as humans. Occasionally there were flashes of inspiration and glimpses of the absolute as God laid the groundwork for the coming revelation in Christ. The nations often had an archetype they could link to the gospel of Jesus Christ. There was nothing as full and complete as the Law and the Prophets given to the Jews, but everybody had something.
Nonetheless, Jew and Gentile alike were, for the most part, in bondage to rules, ceremonies, rituals, and rites meant to appease divine wrath and gain divine favor. The Jews had the advantage because their God, though requiring careful approach and respect, was perfect. He was, indeed, “jealous”, not willing to share worship with any idol, not subject to depiction in any form. He was, in many ways, as Paul proclaimed to the Athenians, the Unknown God.
Through Christ, though, we come to know God, even more we are known by Him. He could not know us, be associated with us, befriend us, or call us His children when we were unrighteous and unholy. We were strangers, alienated from our Father. The only way for us to be accepted was through the perfect sacrifice, the Cross. God has been satisfied in His justice, His righteousness, and His holiness. We are now family.
I no longer have to offer a lamb or a calf on an altar to be in God’s favor, to receive His grace and forgiveness, or to have access to Him in prayer. I don’t need to worry about being able to get to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover or the Feast of Tabernacles. God blesses me because I am His child, adopted in Christ – not because I give my tithe. To ask the one who has put his faith in Christ to go back to appeasing God through ceremony and animal sacrifice is an affront to the blood Jesus shed.
Yet, I still give to those in need. I help out ministries. I don’t commit adultery thereby keeping my wife from committing murder. I don’t steal, and I try not to lie or covet. I did my best to honor my parents, and I have no other gods and no graven images. I’m assuming it’s OK to have some depictions of Jesus and angels and saints. I do wish I could convince the boss that the buck-naked waterboy statue is of the devil. I’m still working on the cussing thing and the Sabbath. I don’t do or not do those things because I’m trying to impress the Lord, but because I want to live and act in a way consistent with my new nature.
I try to pay attention to the Spirit and follow His leading rather than going by what I see and hear in the natural realm. I do not want to be in bondage again to the elements of sense. I do not want to act out of fear but from faith, because … the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17).
The Law is good. The disciplines, rites and ordinances of the Church are good – baptism, communion, prayer, fasting, etc., but they don’t make us right with God. Only the Blood of the Cross makes us right. We are set free as children of the King and citizens of the Kingdom, and we ought not be in bondage to anything -- good or bad.