16th May 2013

Magna Carta (Great Charter)Part 1

 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
Galatians 5:1 (NIV)

According to the British Library, Magna Carta is one of the most celebrated documents in history. The year 2015 will mark the 800th anniversary of when King John assented to the text of Magna Carta at a meeting with his barons at Runnymede in 1215. Some commemorations, however, will occur this year because the barons, who eventually forced King John to submit to their demands, first met at St Albans in 1213. The charter marked a key step in the journey from absolute monarchy to today’s constitutional format, and required King John of England to proclaim certain liberties and to accept that he could not enforce his arbitrary will on freemen. The 1297 version had the long title “The Great Charter of the Liberties of England.” This year St. Albans is planning a Magna Carta exhibition which currently is entitled, “The Journey Starts Here.” 

Many commentaries acknowledge that Paul’s letter to the Galatians has been called the Magna Carta of spiritual liberty. In the verse quoted above, Paul makes a bold statement that in Christ we have liberty. The Galatians were encouraged to stand firm and maintain that freedom lest they come under a yoke of slavery. The letter shows that one way this can occur is through legalism.

Paul begins by reminding the Galations of where their Christian journey started, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel.” (Galatians 1:6). The journey started when God called them “by” or “in” the grace of Christ. The Galatians were moving, not to paganism but to a gospel that required them to be under the Old Covenant law. “Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says?” Paul asks in Galatians 4:21.  He then interprets the narrative of Abraham’s two wives figuratively, where Hagar represents the Old covenant, including the law, given at Mt Sinai. “One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves. This is Hagar.” (Galatians 4:24). 

Paul continues by proving from scripture that the Old covenant is no longer applicable. “But what does the scripture say? Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.” (Galatians 4:30). Our spiritual inheritance does not come through the law. Law and grace cannot be combined, they are incompatible, “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing.” (Galatians 2:21) “You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” (Galatians 5:4) Grace is about the free gift of salvation through all that Christ has done in our stead; legalism is all about what is claimed the individual must do to gain, or not to lose, salvation. It contends that there is another route to salvation through personal performance and is seen by Paul as setting aside or falling away from grace. The law has been superseded by faith in Christ, “Know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 2:16) At a time when Magna Carta is celebrated perhaps it is also time to reflect on our spiritual freedom in Christ and Paul’s letter that announces it. 

Father, we thank you for the freedom we have in Christ and the free gift of justification, righteousness and salvation that we receive through your Son.

Study by Eddie Marsh


eddiemarshAbout the Author:
Eddie Marsh attends the Sheffield congregation of the Worldwide Church of God UK.

Local Congregation:
Worldwide Church of God Sheffield
Please phone or email for Meeting Place

Meeting time:
Saturday 10:30am

Local Congregational Contact:
Email: sheffield@gracecom.org.uk

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One Response to “16th May 2013”

  1. John Magowan on May 16th, 2013 9:21 am

    Thank God for the freedom we have in Christ! A good contribution Eddie, which leaves me looking forward to your second part.

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