RIVERS NOT DROPS
Mildred had a bowl of rotting fruit on her bench and fridge full of mouldy vegetables – an illustration of a poverty mentality and a parable of the culture of the law.
LEGALISM IS A FRUIT OF THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE. Legalism was not just a phenomenon of the Jews captivity to law. Legalism occurs when we separate the part from the whole and attempt to interpret the meaning of the whole in terms of the part.
Legalism is a child of the fall and a function of the knowledge of good and evil. Legalism is what we adopt when we urge that the incarnation is not enough and we need bits and pieces of law to support us. Life in the spirit is what we do not have when are people of the law.
THE SEPARATIST DISEASE
Legalism afflicts most religions including the ‘secular religion’ of humanism. ‘Political correctness’ is a combination of lazy thinking and secular legalism run amok. It’s irritating because all legalism gets to be irritating.
Life is meant to impart life – which is what happens when Christ is our life.
Islam is a religion created largely from legalism. Christian fundamentalism is innately legalistic. Both Islam and law-focussed christianity have an appeal to some because they appear to be a way of creating order out of chaos. This is why it is not uncommon for a Western atheist to convert to Islam. It is also why frightened Christians fall back into fundamentalism when scared by the freedom of the Spirit. And why intelligent scholars settle for a law-based Christianity as though this is the Gospel of the Kingdom when it is most certainly is not. Legalism as a method of securing ‘rightness’ appears natural and logical. Which is why for many Christians their religion is a form of moralism rather than the incarnation of Christ with life in His Spirit.
CHRIST MANIFEST AS PERSONS
Genuine Christianity is a person – not a religion. The Kingdom of Jesus Christ is His life manifest as His people.
Legalistic thinking is innately dualistic because it is the product of separation from God – the separation that began with Satan’s lie to Adam. Either/or thinking is helpful in science, up to a point, but it has its limits in the understanding of spiritual realities.
Thomas Torrance writes of, “The damaging effects of these ways of thinking upon our understanding of Christ and his Gospel. They lead to a detachment of Christ from the context of God's covenant relations with his chosen people, Israel, to a detachment of Christ from God, and then subsequently to a detachment of the Gospel from Christ or a detachment of Christianity from the person and work of Christ.
Instead of taking that line, I suggested that the proper approach would be one in which we consider things in terms of the actual relations in which they are found, relations which have to do with what they really are. These are being constituting relations or 'onto-relations', as I call them. This leads to a form of inquiry in which we probe into their internal relations in order to allow them to disclose to us their inherent organisation or structure so that we can understand them in the light of their intrinsic significance or logos which controls our interpretation and description of them.”
FUTILITY OF THE LETTER
Torrance is suggesting that we look for reality in what the words point to, rather than thinking we have found it in positions and proof texts.
The paucity of proof-texting may be seen in the case of a person claiming that they belong the Body of Christ when the gospel they have adopted is not the Gospel of Christ. The anomaly is that they do belong to the Body of Christ but the oneness that might be enjoyed in this union is niggardly and not possessed by them. Sparse, because they live in a mindset of separation in the law. Droplets and not rivers of living water. The law belongs to the age of separated Adam and believers who have not been born again from religion into union with Christ. Thus the truth of what they propose is negated by what they are.
Paul declares our oneness in Christ with the words, ‘The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!’ Gal 2.21,22 NIV. Paul defines the futility of the law and the emptiness of a law-based christ-gospel which is no gospel at all. Why set aside the grace of God because you insist on some identity you think you have in a gospel that denies genuine union with Jesus and the trinity?
NEW CREATION, BEING AND BELONGING
What we call ‘being’ takes its nature from the being of God. Torrance explains that the persons of the trinity are real and distinct. God is not some kind of a blob and the trinity is not some kind of a mixture. Neither is it an alloy. The persons of the trinity are part of each other and distinctly themselves – three persons one God. Being part of each other yet distinctly oneself was called perichoresis by the Church Fathers. Because God has ‘made the two one,’ has made us one with Himself we are in this perichoresis where we grow continually into our glory as daughters and sons.
This is the reality of God and the reality that has reached out to us in the gracious enterprise of drawing us into this fellowship of being – of being one with God and being ourselves. This is being holy as God is holy. It is ours because we have been included in God.
Oneness with God, is the opposite the separation of the fall. It’s what Paul means when he writes, ‘And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth’ Eph 1.1o NLT. He has drawn us into Himself. Our part is to agree and participate with Jesus in the oneness and togetherness that is us in fellowship with the trinity and all of us in in fellowship with the Creation that has its being in the logos of Jesus Christ..