An interesting look at two parallel yet contrasting worlds.
The following case study is based on a dialogue between two leading members of a Protestant Church in the Midwest United States.
During the conversation, Mr. B said, “One thing that really irritates me is how some people overemphasize the Old Testament Law.” By saying this, he meant that the Church needs to place more emphasis on the love and grace of God, as described in the New Testament.
At one instance in the conversation, Mr. C made the point-blank statement, “We live by the Word!”
In reply, Mr. B boldly retorted, “We do NOT live by the word! Do you keep every Sabbath holy? Do you abstain from eating pork? Do you wear tassels on your prayer shawl? Do you give all your excess income to the poor? … Nobody in this church does any of those things!”
Mr. C sheepishly replied negatively, and he felt very confused and embarassed. Likewise, Mr. B was very indignant and annoyed.
After observing this conversation, it seems that both men were partly in the rough, with neither of them knowing exactly what the other was saying. Let’s examine their interaction from a third perspective.
Let’s focus on Mr. C’s statement first. He said, “We live by the Word!” I don’t really think that he was trying to make a theologically correct statement here, but was simply expressing some lighthearted feelings that he had at the moment. Perhaps he was speaking out of his faith. His focus was on the joy of being alive. The other people in his company, who shared a similar focus at that moment, would have immediately understood what he was saying in the way that he meant it.
If Mr. C were to make a more theologically accurate statement to describe his momentary inspiration, he might have said, “We have found a new spiritual life through our faith in God, by His love, grace and mercy that have been revealed to us through Jesus Christ.” But he is not going to say that, because the sharp technicality of such a statement is incompatible with his high feelings of the moment. Furthermore, Mr. C probably gained the opinion that Mr. B was a stodgy sourpuss, because he was critical of Mr. C’s happy expression.
Upon further preponderance, we may observe that the crucial difference between what this statement means to either Mr. B or Mr. C, hinges upon the interpretation of the last word, “the Word”. At a Fundamental Church, they will emphasize that “the Word” means the written word; the Bible, and they will revere the Bible to be inerrant and unbreakable. But in an Evangelical Church, they will point out that “the Word” means the conveyance of an idea, and that idea, specifically, is the revelation of God’s nature and His purpose for humanity, as revealed through His Son, Jesus. John 1:1-14 is the scriptural basis for this interpretation, in which we see that “the Word” is actually Jesus.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.
4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
Note that verse 14 makes the connection between God’s Word and Jesus.
So we see that “the Word” can have (at least) two meanings: (1) A literal word on a page; a commandment; the Bible; or (2) the plan and nature of God revealed through Jesus: the Gospel.
Now from this observation, it becomes quite evident that Mr. B sees the Word of God to be the first: the Law, or the Commandment; and Mr. C sees the Word of God to be the second: Jesus, or the Gospel. So in fact, both men were speaking correctly, although they were ignorant of each other’s meaning. By extension, we could conclude that Mr. B might be unfamiliar with God’s love and joy, while Mr. C might be unfamiliar with God’s grace and mercy.
Romans 3:21-31 tells us how the two “Words” come together.
21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. 29 Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, 30 since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.
The apostle Paul is one of the few people who ever lived who could express his joy and enthusiasm through a technically descriptive monologue.
There is some irony in the way Mr. B is irritated by others (like Mr. C), who seem to overemphasize the Law. Actually, Mr. B is the one who is preoccupied with the law, and his irritations arise from his own burdens about that. Mr. C’s statement also contains a similar irony. He feels happy, probably because he doesn’t know how brutal life and the Law can be. I suppose Mr. B might get some satisfaction by thinking that Mr. C’s faith will soon be tested. Meanwhile, Mr. C should carry more pity toward Mr. B, in realizing how (too much) discipline and hardships have affected his life.
- Σ Frame (Jack): A Brother Is Borne Out Of Adversity (2018-06-10)
- Σ Frame (Novaseeker): Viewpoints on Man’s Confusion about How God Works in the Life of a Believer (2021-03-29)