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Freedom in the Spirit

Reading this morning in 2 Corinthians 3 verses 7-18 about the Glory of the New Covenant. In this passage Paul compares and contrasts the receiving of the Old Covenant, written on Tablets of stone, with the reception of the New Covenant which is administered by the Holy Spirit. He speaks of the glory that was evident on Moses' face when he came down from the mountain, having been for so long in the very presence of God. It was a fading glory but it was still evident to the people of Israel. So much so that they could not bear to look at Moses' face, requiring him to wear a veil. Paul poses the question, "Shouldn't we expect a far greater glory when the Holy Spirit is giving life?" (verse 8) The chapter concludes with the thought that this Spirit given glory should not fade but to the contrary, "...reflect his glory even more." (verse 18)

For me there is a contrast here between the condemning letter of the law and the life giving power of the Holy Spirit, "If the Old Covenant, which brings condemnation, was glorious, how much more glorious is the New Covenant, which makes us right with God!" (verse 9) Paul goes on to say, "So if the Old Covenant, which has been set aside , was full of glory, then the New Covenant, which remains forever, has far greater glory." This leads him to state emphatically, "Since this New Covenant gives us such confidence, we can be very bold." (verse 12) As I read these verses I could not help but think again of the issue of Biblical equality and its opposite, gender hierarchy. It seems to me that gender hierarchy is somewhat like the letter of the law and has a fading glory because it, like the Old Covenant has been set aside for something far greater. It is the condemnation of the law that binds people to interpretations that espouse hierarchy rather than allowing them to experience the revelation of the Holy Spirit who gives life and freedom, because the veil is taken away. (see verse 16,17) When our eyes are opened to this truth it should release in us a "confidence and boldness" (verse 12) to proclaim this glorious message of Biblical equality unashamedly.

The metaphor of the veil is very helpful in this context because it reminds us again that the truth of Biblical equality is a revelation issue. Yes, we can have a sound Biblical argument, a correct hermeneutic and reliable interpretation but at the end of the day we need a spiritual enlightenment that grants us true freedom. Tragically Church tradition and culture has developed an 'embedded' deposit of truth regarding hierarchy that somehow continues to overshadow the liberating truth the Holy Spirit would impart in respect to gender and ethnic equality. It should be enough that Jesus, God's last Word to humanity, broke down all the barriers of class, ethnicity and gender in His earthly ministry. Jesus' attitudes and actions should be our only and final authority on this matter and Bible texts that seemingly suggest otherwise should be subordinated and interpreted by this over arching truth.

Paul concludes by saying that, "...all of us have had this veil removed so that we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord." (verse 18a) In respect to Biblical equality this is sadly not so. Many in the Church universal are still blind (veiled) to this truth. Perhaps now more than ever the truth of Biblical equality needs to be boldly proclaimed by the Church to the watching world. The Church should be, as Jesus was, at the forefront in setting the captives free. Forced marriages, sexual bondage and many forms of slavery are still very much a part of the 21st century, as is widely reported. These continuing atrocities are attributed largely to the religious and cultural practises of patriarchy and hierarchy. We should be, as Jesus and the infant Christian Church were, demonstrating this truth by our words and actions. In that way the rest of verse 18 would prove to be true. "And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like Him and reflect His glory even more."

My prayer, and hopefully yours is:

"Oh for such light and liberty to be 'gloriously' evident and 'mirrored' by the 21st century Church."

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