Sunday, 30 October 2016

Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty...

"Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty...", the Apostle Paul writes in Corinthians. The gospel music artist Kirk Franklin found the words so sweet he made a song out of it, but I must question how such words could not be music to the ears of all who hear, and realise that the answer is rooted, as it has always been, in human greed, bigotry and desire for power.  It also leaves me questioning what do I do with a church in which liberty and freedom to be whom God created us to be does not exist?  Can the spirit of God truly dwell in such an environment?Perhaps a deeper examination of 2nd Corinthians chapter 3 passage is necessary to truly understand. 

In his second epistle to the church in Corinth Paul addresses a number of issues, among them his authority as an apostle being questioned and the New Covenant. 

 "Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?
You see, we are not like the many hucksters who preach for personal profit. We preach the word of God with sincerity and with Christ’s authority, knowing that God is watching us." 2 Co 2:15-17. In these verses Paul is answering those that question his calling stating that those whom he has criticised in his first epistle to the community in Corinth, and are refusing to heed his advice, will find his message doom and gloom; but those that heed it and embrace it will find their life enhanced. Paul's defence of his ministry thus rests on these simple principles:

1) His integrity. By stating his ministry has not been for personal profit, as was common in many religions and preachers at the time, Paul is distinguishing his ministry and the aim of it from all others. 

2) His call to preach the Gospel that was given to him by Christ on the road to Damascus. 

3) God is watching him, so God can and will judge him. 

Paul presents no theological arguments, he presents not the fact that he is from a long lineage of Pharisees, instead the authority he wields comes directly from the calling that was placed on this life.  Such was Paul's desire to make this point clear to the believers in Corinth he writes, "It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant..." 2 Cor 3:5-6

And this new covenant that Paul speaks of, what is it? 2 Cor 3:7-18 Paul speaks in details about what it is as well as what it isn't.  What it is not is a strict adherence to a list of rules. What it is not is condemnation. What it is not is death, literal or metaphorical.   What the new covenant is, is glorious. It is life. It is freedom. It is enlightening. 

Consider if you will Paul's account in chapter 3 when he relates what would happen during the reading of the old covenant and the results of it. Verse 14 says that the minds of the people were hardened, and that Christ is the only thing that can lift the veil, or in modern vernacular open their eyes; enlighten them if you will. However this veil is not restricted to only their minds, verse 15 says that this veil, this failure to understand is not solely limited to a mental capacity, but as it also covers their heart it blinds also emotionally, reducing the ability to empathise.  Acceptance of Christ should also thus shed the veil of a callous heart.

Acceptance of Christ is freedom of the mind and of the spirit of a person, and upon accepting Christ it is our commission to share the gospel with others. Thus this new covenant is liberty not just for oneself but liberty for all.  This new covenant is one in which we no longer need to be hidden behind a veil, but one in which we are to show the glory of God, for "We are not like Moses...".  

If the spirit of God is liberty, and if we are to show his Glory; if we are no longer to live under condemnation, and if the Spirit of God enlightens both hearts and minds, how then does a church vote for the wolf of uniformity dressed in the sheep's clothing of unity?   Where is the freedom of the Spirit to remove the veil from hearts and minds if we legislate that we must all be the same?   To legislate does not allow for true conversion, but rather serves to isolate and divide.  Furthermore, even in his epistle Paul notes the difference of opinions regarding him as a leader, but at no point does he call for sanctions or expulsion of those that do not hold his views (2 Cor 2:15-16).  

Liberty, is defined as "the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one's behaviour or political views."  Liberty can also be defined as "the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved".

Liberty is to have the freedom to choose what to think, feel, believe and how to act, and where choice exists so will diversity; they are two sides of the same coin.  

Does the Spirit of God dwell within my church? In a church that spans the globe with over 20 million members, it would be hard to argue against the Holy Spirit finding a safe dwelling place anywhere.  Does he exist within the recent vote on 'Uniformity Unity in the Church", perhaps not so much.  

Paul writes, "Where the Spirit of the Lord is..."

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