Emancipated from the Law
Tuesday of Pentecost 20
4 October 2016
Upon learning that President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, many American slaves were unsure what to do. Many remained unable to break the bonds that kept them tied to a specific place, master, or family. They were unsure where they might go or what they would do when they got there now that they had the freedom to do so. We find it easy to hold them in contempt for their inability to flee bondage. Yet, we forget that they were limited by a lack of knowledge beyond the institution of slavery. This was all they knew.  Most slaves had never even traveled beyond the confines of their masters' property. When they were free, they did not know how to use their freedom. So they should not be held in contempt, but rather pitied for being so enervated by the institution of slavery.
So it is for many people who are still held in spiritual bondage to the divine law. God has long ago proclaimed their emancipation in Christ. Yet they still live upon the property of the unrelenting taskmaster of the law. They are limited in their understanding of the freedom from sin and death that they have in Christ. Their ears are not attuned to the promise of God in Christ. They often hear only the "thou shalts" of the law. Their ears are listening to what they know; what is comfortable to them. They think the law gives good and useful boundaries to their lives. The law is extolled by them as they make "good choices."
How we should pity those so trapped by the law that they do not know the freedom they have in Christ our Lord! In the matter of righteousness before God, we should know nothing but Christ and Him crucified (1Co 2:2). Yes, the law has its uses, but not to make right before God. Only Christ Himself is able to give us that righteousness. So, be gone law! It will take a great deal of preaching the gospel to get people to have peace with their own emancipation. They will easily return to the slavery of the law. Only the message of the gospel preached with profligate predominance will ever defeat this old Adamic return to the law.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
"The law of Moses produces nothing that goes beyond the things of the world; that is, it merely shows both politically and theologically the evils that there are in the world. With its terrors it merely drives the conscience to thirst and yearn for the promise of God and to look at Christ. But for this the Holy Spirit is necessary, to say to the heart: 'After the law has performed its function in you, it is not the will of God that you merely be terrified and killed, but that you recognize your misery and your lost condition through the law and then do not despair but believe in Christ, who "is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes" (Rm 10:4).' Clearly there is nothing of the world being granted here; but everything of the world comes to an end here, and so do all the laws, while that which is divine begins. So long as we are under the elements of the world, therefore-that is, under the law, which says nothing about Christ but merely discloses and increases sin and causes wrath-we are slaves, subject to the law, even though we have the promise of the blessing to come. The law does indeed say: 'You shall love the Lord your God' (Deut 6:5), but it is unable to supply the means by which I do this or acquire Christ.
"I am not saying this with the intention that the law should be held in contempt. Paul does not intend this either, but that it should be held in esteem. But because Paul is dealing here with the issue of justification (a discussion of justification is something vastly different from a discussion of the law) necessity demanded that he speak of the law as something very contemptible. When we are dealing with this argument, we cannot speak of it in sufficiently vile and odious terms either. For here the conscience should consider and know nothing except Christ alone. Therefore, we should make every effort that in the question of justification we reject the law from view as far as possible and embrace nothing except the promise of Christ.
"This is easy enough to say; but in the midst of trial, when the conscience is contending with God, it is extremely difficult to accomplish this. It is especially difficult when the law is terrifying and accusing you, showing you your sin, and threatening you with the wrath of God and with death, to act as though there had never been any law or sin but only Christ and sheer grace and redemption. It is difficult also, when you feel the terror of the law, to say nevertheless: 'Law, I shall not listen to you, because you have an evil voice. Besides, the time has now fully come. Therefore, I am free. I shall no longer endure your domination.' Then one can see that the most difficult thing of all is to distinguish the law from grace; that it is simply a divine and heavenly gift to be able in this situation to believe in hope against hope (Rm 4:18); and that this proposition of Paul's is eminently true, that we are justified by faith alone."

Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 4.3
Psalm 119:1-8

Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD! Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways! You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently. Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes! Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments. I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules. I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me! (ESV)
Lord Christ, You have freed me from slavery to the law. Help me to live in that freedom and not again place myself under the taskmaster of the law. Grant I might proclaim the emancipation of those who are enslaved, so that they might share the joy I know as a freed son of God in You, O Christ, Son of God. Amen.
For those who have suffered strokes, that our heavenly Father would grant complete healing
For those who are suffering from infections, that they would be healed and strengthened
For President Obama, the U.S. Congress, and the Federal Judiciary, that they would uphold the law of the land and see to it that we may live peaceable lives
Art: Durer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2016
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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