Friday, July 26, 2019
Freedom in the Church
1. The Freedom of the Word
The Word of God in Scripture by the Spirit for the Church means not only authority but also freedom. The prophets and apostles were the first to recognize the authority and participate in the freedom of the Word. Jesus Christ graciously called and enabled them to follow him in obedience as witnesses. They gratefully affirmed that gracious Word by freely choosing to witness in obedience.
God’s revelation in Jesus Christ is unique. So too is the direct encounter of these prophets and apostles with him. Freedom for God, however, did not end with them. In Scripture we have both the authority of God’s Word as well as their freedom as witnesses to that Word. We too are free for God as we also hear that authoritative Word as it calls and enables us, through their witness and by the Spirit, to follow Jesus Christ with gratitude.
To understand more clearly the relative freedom we enjoy, we will reflect briefly on the absolute freedom of Scripture as the Word of God. First, Scripture is free because it is a subject utterly distinct from all others. Secondly, Scripture is free because it has the unlimited power of the Word of God in relation to all other powers. Finally, Scripture is free in that it has freely chosen to create, preserve, and rule the Church that it might glorify God by witnessing to the salvation of humankind which God accomplished in Jesus Christ.
2. Freedom under the Word
We said previously that only the authority of the Word is absolute. The Church enjoys relative authority insofar as it comes under the authority of Scripture. In this same way, only the freedom of the Word is absolute. We enjoy freedom of conscience as individuals only under the corresponding freedom of Scripture. Only as the Word freely and actually creates, sustains, and governs us as Church may we as Christians prayerfully thank God for the merciful opportunity and gracious wisdom needed to understand Scripture. So under Scripture, and under it alone, do we have in the Church the mutually enhancing relationship of listening authority and responsible freedom.
We become members of the Church only because God’s Word in Scripture freely assembles, sustains, and governs us. We participate in that freedom when we willingly commit ourselves to hearing, reading, understanding, explaining, and applying God’s Word in Scripture. We live freely under Scripture when we boldly share our understanding of it with others. Finally, we are free for God as we voluntarily subordinate all of our thoughts, desires, and experiences to the revelation of God attested in Scripture.
Copyright © 2019 by Steven Farsaci.
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