Clearly I have a lot of doubts on this subject! This is my last one.
It’s about rule and self-rule: in the Scriptures human rule and self-rule seem to be considered good things, rather than being the essence of sin. In fact, it seems that the human problem is that we are not ruling as we should be. And self-rule is our positive duty as believers in Jesus.
In Genesis 1 and in the garden of Eden God established us rulers over the creation:
Fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over it Genesis 1:28
Now that’s an invitation to rule if ever I heard one.
Our trouble was that we let the snake call the shots instead of doing it ourselves. Like King Edward VII, we abdicated our throne and abandoned our responsibilities. That was our sin.
The story of salvation history is preoccupied with issues of leadership and kingship – the very area where we went wrong. There is always the hope that a proper man will come along who can rule again. David looks good for a while, but ultimately proves weak. Finally Jesus comes and proves himself trustworthy, and is promptly given the throne.
But luckily for us, he does not take the throne alone. He takes it for and with us. When Jesus begins to rule, humanity is restored to our rightful place in the creation: lord.
Currently we don’t look much like lords. But our future in Jesus is sure:
If we endure, we will also reign with him 2 Tim. 2:12
Rule is our destiny as humans. And that destiny is restored in Jesus.
But that restored rule is begun already, within ourselves.
Self-rule is a virtue prized by the apostles. The word is enkrateia, which is a combination of en + krateia. Krateia is rule. en means inward. So enkrateia is inward rule, or self-rule. Or autonomy.
This self-rule is one of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5). It is part of the gospel message Paul announced to governor Felix:
As Paul talked about righteousness, self–control and the judgment to come, Felix became afraid… Acts 24:25
It seems even a pagan ruler needs to repent, not of his excessive autonomy, but of his lack of self-rule. This virtue is essential if we are to ‘get a crown that will last forever’ (1 Cor. 9:25).
This emphasis on regaining autonomy makes sense in the Bible’s story-line, in which we lost control of ourselves at the Fall and became enslaved to evil powers. There is no future for us unless we get that rule back. And in Christ, we do.
But self-rule is only the warm-up, the preparation for ruling the cosmos in and with Jesus.
“‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’ Luke 19:17
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.” Luke 16:10
I’m going to stop describing the human fallen condition in terms of autonomy or self-rule. How about you?