|Posted on 16 September, 2015 at 14:05||comments (0)|
An earth shaking event that would forever alter the course of history occurred in the spring of 1215, eight hundred years ago. Tyrannical King John, the younger brother of Richard I, the “Lionheart,” ruled England with an iron hand. Richard, the legitimate king, had been away from England for several years engaged in the Crusades and no one knew if he was dead, alive, or in some distant prison.
King John’s word was law and he allowed no dissent from anyone. Anyone who dared cross him was subject to torture and death, as well as seizure of all his property. “In 1208 John fell out with a close associate named William de Braose and pursued his family to destruction, starving to death William’s wife and eldest son in the dungeons of his castle” while William died in exile in France (Dan Jones, Smithsonian Magazine, July 2015). In the spring of 1215, tired of John’s criminal rule, a large number of Barons led an army against John, taking control of London, and forcing him to agree to the terms of a document which would become known as the Magna Carta.
Although it is probable that most people today would be unable to identify this famous document, the framers of our own Constitution certainly were aware of it. “Clauses from Magna Carta were written into statutes governing the American colonies from as early as 1639. Later, when the people of Massachusetts rebelled against the Stamp Act, they pointed out that it violated the core principles of the great Charter” (Jones, 27). Clauses 39 and 40 of the Magna Carta are the basis for Articles III, V, and VI of our Bill of Rights.
When I consider the founding of the Kingdom of God on earth, by Jesus, the Son of God, I am reminded of His reply to a question posed by the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. Pilate asked Jesus, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered with an unequivocal affirmative, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37). It follows logically that the “truth” alluded to by Jesus exists, and since it must “exist,” what does it include and where is it found?
Although the words “constitution” or “Magna Carta” are never used in the Bible, it is clear that God’s word through his appointed prophets and apostles must be considered to be God’s law for His people. I have heard it said that the New Testament is not “law,” since John wrote, “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). However, John is certainly not saying here that the word of Christ does not have the effect of law, for Jesus Himself said “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14). The apostle Paul, while addressing the idea of “Christian liberty,” wrote that “freedom” in Christ does not mean that one is no longer amenable to “law.” He argued that although he was not under the Law of Moses, he was nevertheless not “without law,” since he was “under the law of Christ” (I Corinthians 9:21). The major difference is that the Law of Moses demanded perfect obedience, something that was impossible for sinful man, while the “law of Christ” takes into account the impossibility of perfect obedience. In Christ, we are encouraged to strive for perfection, but are covered by the blood of Christ when we fail (Ephesians 2:8-9).
With His own blood, Christ signed our spiritual “Magna Carta,” which gives us God’s will both for individuals and congregations (Hebrews 9:15; 10:9-10). Jude, probably a brother of Jesus” (Jude 1:1) calls it “the faith” which “was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 1:3). Jude was obviously talking about the “gospel,” the “body of truth held by believers everywhere” (Notes, NASB). James calls it “the law of liberty” (James 2:12) by which citizens of Christ’s kingdom will “be judged.” Paul refers to it as being “the doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:10), calling it “sound doctrine” that preachers are exhorted to preach “in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2-3). Paul’s comment follows on the heels of his statement that “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). This body of sacred writings called “the gospel” or the “new covenant” is contrasted with the law that had been written “on tablets of stone” (2 Corinthians 3:3). Paul wrote that the Law of Moses, the “old covenant,” was a “ministry of death” and “condemnation,” whereas the new” covenant is a “ministry of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 3:7-9). It is only in Christ that one finds true “liberty” or freedom from sin (2 Corinthians 3:17).
The writings which define for us the “gospel” were given by revelation, through “His holy apostles and prophets in [by] the Spirit” (Ephesians 3:2-5). The method of inspiration is clearly set forth by Paul: God had a message for mankind. He revealed this message to Paul and other apostles and prophets. They wrote it down and when we read their writings we can understand God’s message (Ephesians 3:3-4).
The writings of the apostles constitute mankind’s true spiritual “Magna Carta.” Only through the writings of the apostles can we learn about Christ, the kingdom of God, and the true pathway to righteousness, and it is only in these writings that we can find Christ’s instructions regarding His kingdom. The written gospel of Christ stands, therefore, as our “Constitution,” written by the finger of God just as surely as He inscribed the Law of Moses on the tablets of stone. Any attempts by men to change or add to this divine “Constitution” must be resisted.
Donald R. Taylor