A Living Document

April 9, 2014
Hebrews 4:12, 13

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

The Constitution of the United States of America is a document consisting of seven Articles that serve as the basis of the supreme law of the country.  Adopted in 1787, it has had 27 amendments over the last 237 years, the first ten being called the Bill of Rights.  Very briefly, the seven Articles embody  the doctrine of the separation and balance of powers – congressional, judicial and executive; the relationship between states, and between the several states and the federal government; and procedures for amending and ratifying the Constitution.

The Bill of Rights – the first ten Amendments of the Constitution:

1.  Freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition.
2.  Right to keep and bear arms in order to maintain a well regulated militia.
3.  No quartering of soldiers.
4.  Freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.
5.  Right to due process of law, freedom from self-incrimination, double jeopardy.
6.  Rights of accused persons, e.g., right to a speedy and public trial.
7.  Right of trial by jury in civil cases.
8.  Freedom from excessive bail, cruel and unusual punishments.
9.  Other rights of the people – the Constitution’s authors believed that fundamental rights
exist that are not expressly enumerated in the first eight amendments and intended
by the ninth that the list of rights included in the previous eight not be deemed
10. Powers reserved to the states.

The additional 17 Amendments cover such things as voting rights, slavery, income tax and presidential terms of office among others.

Some say the Constitution is A Living Document – that is, open to new interpretation as society evolves and changes over the years.  Much of the change of meaning from what the original framers of the Constitution meant is done by judges who think such originalism cannot cover new situations society faces today – such as laws applicable to the sexual revolution and the space and computer age.

I – and many conservatives – agree with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalea who spoke at a constitutional symposium hosted by the State Bar of Georgia on Friday, March 14.  He said, “The Constitution is not a living organism.  It’s a legal document, and it says what it says and doesn’t say what it doesn’t say.”  He further argued that originalism and trying to figure out precisely what the ratified document means is the only option, otherwise you’re just telling judges to govern.  The Constitution can be amended by due process spelled out in the document itself, thus making it flexible.

Our scripture – Hebrews 4:12 and 13 – gives another meaning to A Living Document.  And to this one I whole-heartedly agree:

    For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged
    sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and mar-
    row, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  And there is
    no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the
    eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

Whereas the Constitution should not be considered A Living Document, the Bible is definitely such a document!  It is the record of God’s plan of redemption of creation from the results of sin.  Such redemption culminated in His own Son dying on the cross in our place, for out sins – becoming sin and sinner before the Father, and fully paying the price for such rebellion so we could go free.  It is living because it shows forth the Living Word, Jesus Christ (see John 1:1 and 14; Revelation 19:13).  It is also living because as one reads it, the Holy Spirit adds vitality to the words read so they will convict and convince that one that Jesus only is…the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6)  No other work written by man can do what the Bible does!

What can it do?  The Word can deeply touch and cut both the physical and non-physical parts of our being.  As the surgeon’s scalpel, it can cut out the life-threatening growths of the disease of sin and make space within for healing implantations.  But unlike the surgeon’s scalpel, there is no place too deep, too secret, for the Word to reach.  And as far as the One wielding the scalpel – He is omniscient!   As it says in verse 13, “…all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”  That should be a great comfort to the obedient believer, and a great terror to the disobedient sinner!

I may disagree with you on the interpretation of the Constitution as A Living Document – and we can both be believers.  But the message of God’s Word is plain – that it is, and remains, A Living Document!  Do not treat it as anything else!  Take it in and let it do its…living and powerful…work in your life! 

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