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Christian Liberty: The Series…

April 25, 2008

rIn recent discussions with a new found brother in Christ I have found the inspiration to examine the idea of Christian Liberty and the behaviors of Christians as it pertains to freedom through grace, sanctification, and the Kingdom of God on earth.

Over the next few posts I will be exploring these ideas and hopefully together (me, fellows in Christ, and the Holy Spirit) we can come to some agreement on what Christian Liberty means, and what it doesn’t mean. To start this exploration I offer a sermon from John Piper entitled “I Will Not Be Enslaved By Anything” :


1 Corinthians 6:12-20

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two shall become one flesh.” But he who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Shun immorality. Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Friday morning I looked out the bedroom window as I was buttoning my shirt and saw a parable of modern American life. A middle-aged man in a three-piece green suit was walking westward toward our house on the north side of 18th Street. He had something yellow in his right hand, perhaps a banana peel or potato chip bag. I couldn’t tell. As he walked along, he looked to his left across the street. Then he turned and looked behind him. And then he tossed the yellow thing over the fence by the freeway.

Two Marks of Secular American Life

In that little episode there are at least two marks of secular American life. One is practical atheism. And the other is physical hedonism.

1. Practical Atheism

The freeway fence was on his right concealing him with bushes. He could see to the front as he walked. The ground was underneath. And he covered himself to the left and behind with a glance. Why didn’t he look up? Because at that moment he was a practical atheist. There might have been someone to the left or behind that mattered. But there was no one in heaven that mattered. American life is by and large atheistic when it comes to bananas and potato chips. What people say is not what shows their practical atheism. It’s whether they look up when they think they are alone.

2. Physical Hedonism

The other mark of American life I saw was physical hedonism. Why did this fellow want to throw the yellow thing away instead of carrying it to a can? Because it was inconvenient to carry. It was annoying, unpleasant.

But why did he look over his shoulder before he tossed it? Because his conscience told him it was an action that is not good and that people would disapprove. So a minor skirmish went on in his soul. It lasted about five seconds. “Shall I opt for the pleasure of not carrying this thing? Or shall I opt for the pleasure of a clear conscience?” It clearly was not much of a battle. The physical pleasure won out. And that is another mark of our culture. Physical hedonism. If it feels good to your body, why deny yourself? The curse of our culture is that physical pleasures are desired more strongly than spiritual joy.

And of course the two things go together: practical atheism and physical hedonism. Once God is out of the picture, then my conscience has no ultimate significance as a part of God’s image, and so, “Let us eat, drink, and litter the freeway, for tomorrow we die—and that’s it.” If you can just keep God out of the bananas and potato chips of your life, then you can proceed with your indulgences.

The Goal of This Message

The point of the story is simply to help you remember what I am about to unpack from this text—that we who are not atheists, but believers in Jesus Christ, will not be the slaves of physical pleasure. When the battle begins in our own soul, we will look up, and by the power of the Spirit of God, we will be free from the desires of the body. We will not be enslaved by anything.

The goal of this message is the fulfillment of 1 Corinthians 6:20 in your lives. “You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” We’ve said it a thousand times, but do we sit down to the table before our food and drink and do what the word says? Do we eat to the glory of God? Do we drink to the glory of God? How can we?

Reading the Text Backwards

Let’s focus our attention on 1 Corinthians 6:12–14.

12. “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything. 13. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power.

To understand these verses we need to read them backward—take the last words first. At the end of verse 13 Paul says, “The body is not meant for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us.”

The Body Is for the Lord

The body is for the Lord! Your body has been given to you for one reason: to be an instrument for glorifying Christ (6:20). The way you use your body and the way you take care of your body should communicate that the glory of Christ is all-satisfying.

The Lord Is for the Body

Then he says that not only is the body for the Lord, “the Lord is for the body.” That is, Christ is not indifferent to the body. He cares about it. He puts a premium on how we make use of it. He makes the body his temple (6:19). He is “for the body”—not against it, and not indifferent to it.

God Will Raise Our Bodies

Finally Paul says (in verse 14), “God raised the Lord and he will raise us.” In other words the body will never lose its importance. It may decay for a season in the grave. But it will be raised and restored. God gave Jesus a resurrection body and God will give us a resurrection body. The resurrection is God’s final declaration that he is for the body.

“Food for the Stomach and the Stomach for Food”

What are we to make, then, of the first part of verse 13? “‘Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food’—and God will destroy both one and the other.” This sounds like a view that is exactly the opposite of the one we just described. It sounds like an argument that says: the body is just going to decay in the ground anyway; so it has no real moral significance; it’s just here to process food for a while and then it’s gone.

I think that is exactly what it did mean in the mouth of some of the Corinthians. It was probably a slogan: “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food!”—pass the potatoes. Probably they used this slogan for sex and drink as well. “Sex for the body and the body for sex!” That’s probably why Paul switches from food to sexual immorality in the second part of verse 13 (where he says, “the body is not for immorality”).

Some of the Corinthians had a view of the body that made what they did with it morally indifferent. In 1 Corinthians 5:2 they actually boasted about an act of incest in the church. In 11:21 some of them even got drunk at the Lord’s Supper. They reasoned: the body and food and drink and sex are going to be destroyed in the end. There will only be free spirits. So the body does not matter. You can eat and drink and have sex any way you like because the body is morally irrelevant. It’s what you know and think that really counts (8:1–3).

Paul opposed this view with all his might. He gave them a new and radically different slogan: “The body is for the Lord and the Lord is for the body.” The body is not just going to be destroyed; it is going to be raised. The body is not morally indifferent. It is for the glory of God.

So what you have in verses 13 and 14 is a Corinthian slogan used to justify immorality and drunkenness and overeating, and then Paul’s response to it.

“All Things Are Lawful for Me”

That is also what we have in verse 12: a slogan and Paul’s responses to it.

“All things are lawful for me,”
but not all things are helpful.
“All things are lawful for me,”
but I will not be enslaved by anything.

It may well be that the words, “All things are lawful for me,” come from Paul’s own teaching, because he does not deny their truth. He does not say, “No, all things are NOT lawful for me.” I think, in fact, that he agrees with the slogan. But he means something very different by it than the loose people in Corinth.

He means that when you cease to live by legal lists of dos and don’ts, you must start to live by Christian love and Christian liberty. Yes, the old law of the letter that coerces the flesh with threatenings should give way. We are no longer under law (Romans 6:14). We are under the sway of grace. Now what?

Two Guidelines for Living

Paul answers in verse 12 with two guidelines which I have called the law of love and the law of liberty.

1. The Law of Love

First, he says, “All right, all things are permitted in one sense, we should not live under external legal constraints; BUT NOT ALL THINGS ARE HELPFUL.” In other words, don’t ask, “What do I HAVE to do?” Instead ask, “What is HELPFUL to do?”

I call this the law of love because it’s love that wants to be helpful to others. Paul makes the connection between helpfulness and love in a round about way. Notice in 1 Corinthians 10:23 that being helpful is explained as building others up: “All things are lawful, but not all things are HELPFUL. All things are lawful, but not all things BUILD UP.” Helpful things are things that build others up in their faith.

But then notice in 1 Corinthians 8:1 how Paul relates the act of love to the act of building others up. “Knowledge puffs up, but LOVE BUILDS UP.” So if love is what builds up and if building up is what Paul means by being helpful, then the point of 6:12 (when it says, “not all things are helpful”) is that we should let our lives be guided by the law of love.

Surely this is the “law” Paul had in mind in Galatians 6:2 when he said, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” And in 1 Corinthians 9:21, when he said, “To those outside the law I became as one outside the law—not being without law toward God but under the law of Christ—that I might win those outside the law.” We are not under the law as a mere external constraint. We are under grace which provides an internal constraint to love, that is, to be helpful and build others up in faith.

2. The Law of Liberty

Second, Paul says in 6:12, “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything.” In other words, not only let your actions be guided by the law of love, but also let them be guided by the law of liberty. Don’t ask, “Am I permitted to do this as a Christian?” Instead ask, “Am I a slave to this act? Is this food or drink or sex or hobby or work becoming my master instead of my servant?”

What is the LAW OF LIBERTY? It is simply the control of the Holy Spirit from within. Paul says in Romans 8:2, “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death.” In other words the working of the Spirit is a LAW OF LIBERTY. It frees from the power of sin and death. “For where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom!” (2 Corinthians 3:17; see James 1:25; 2:12).

So there are two laws that govern the behavior and habits of a Christian: the law of love (”Will this be helpful, will it upbuild?”), and the law of liberty (”Will this enslave me, will it addict me?”).

How These Two Laws Relate to Each Other

If we ask how these two laws relate to each other, Galatians 5:13 gives an answer, “You were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another.” Freedom is more foundational than love. Inner freedom is the spring; love is the water that flows out in “helpfulness” to others. The inner work of the Holy Spirit, freeing us from the enslavements of all but God, is the source of love.

So the most basic challenge 1 Corinthians 6:12–14 has to give is: preserve your freedom in Christ! Can you say with Paul, “I will not be enslaved by anything!”?

Two Biblical Motivations to Live in Freedom

I close with two biblical motivations for why you should strive to free yourself from all enslavements, whether to food or drink or lust or laziness or work. First, because slavery is so dangerous. And second, because freedom is so wonderful.

1. The Danger of Slavery

First, slavery is so dangerous. Here is what I mean. The persistent refusal to say no to an enslaving habit (like overeating) runs the risk of hardening your conscience so that you no longer feel guilty for that enslavement. And then others become more easy to justify and pretty soon it can happen that the whole biblical concept of spiritual warfare and vigilance and self-denial and self-control drops out of your life.

“Let him who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall!” Do you think you are beyond the possibility of making shipwreck of your faith? Where do you think backsliders and apostates come from? They come from people who, little by little, in things that are seemingly unimportant, ignored the voice of God in their own conscience. “Food for the body, the body for food—both will decay in the grave someday; its not important how I eat or drink.”

Why does God record for us in Hebrews 12:16–17 the tragedy of Esau with these words: “Do not be . . . like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears”?

How did Hymenaeus and Alexander fall away from the Lord? 1 Timothy 1:19 tells us: “By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith, among them Hymenaeus and Alexander.” What do you expect the spiritual consequences to be when day after day you reject the voice of conscience and yield to the enslavement of food or drink or lust?

What did Paul mean when he wrote to the Philippians, “I tell you now with tears that many live as enemies of the cross, whose end is destruction and whose god is their belly” (Philippians 3:18–19)?

Why did Paul command the Corinthians, “Run that you may obtain the prize. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:25–27)?

Why, in his first and perhaps only sermon to the governor Felix, did the apostle Paul choose for his sermon outline: “Justice, SELF-CONTROL, and future judgment” (Acts 24:25)? If you had one sermon to preach to a governor from prison, would your second point be self-control?

Why did Jesus say, “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away. It is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell”?

God has said all these things for our sake! They are written that we might realize that bringing the body under control is no minor matter! “All things are lawful for me, BUT I WILL NOT BE ENSLAVED BY ANYTHING!” Cast off the bondage of your body. You were not meant to be led like a dog on the leash of lust or hunger.

2. The Wonder of Freedom

The second reason we should strive to free ourselves from all enslavements is that freedom is so wonderful.

When that man in the three-piece suit chose the pleasure of an empty hand swinging at his side over the pleasure of a clear conscience, did he choose JOY?!!! “Happy is the man who has no reason to judge himself for what he approves,” says the apostle Paul (Romans 14:22). Persistent yielding to the inordinate desires of the body against the voice of conscience is a life of misery!

But to turn and do the opposite: to avail yourself of the law of the Spirit of life within, and to feel yourself bearing the fruit of self-control, and to pommel the rebel body into submission until it is no longer a master but a servant—this is victory and this is joy!

Brothers and sisters, you were bought with a price. Your bodies count. They are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Glorify God in your bodies: receive his gifts of pleasure with gratitude, and deny yourselves all excesses by the liberating addiction of his majesty.


By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org
The important point here is that Christian Liberty is NOT the freedom to sin, but it is the freedom from sin. Through His grace we suffer no condemnation for our sins (repentant sins), but the removal of condemnation does not give us the freedom to knowingly sin, or to knowingly walk outside the boundaries that bring Glory to God and builds up His Kingdom here on earth.

In later discussions I will touch on Paul’s letter to the Corinthians in which he discusses causing a brother to stumble by our actions and I will explore what that means and what it doesn’t mean. I will hopefully tie together these ideas.

April 21, 2008

In two earlier posts I discussed if it was okay for Christians to cuss and profanity and the Christian and I made no bones that I felt scripture makes it clear that the use of profanity should not be acceptable to the faith-walking Christian. In Romans 12 Paul writes:

Rom 12:1-2 I APPEAL to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship. (2) Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].

There is absolutely no doubt that Paul is telling the faithful that we, as followers of Christ, are admonished to live a life that is holy and well pleasing to God. He tells us not to be conformed to this world but to be regenerated so we may demonstrate to ourselves what is acceptable in His eyes for us.

Clearly, the absorption of mannerisms and patterns of speech which is acceptable to the carnal world falls into this category of that which we are supposed to be separate from. Furthermore, Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians:

Eph 5:1-11 THEREFORE BE imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father]. (2) And walk in love, [esteeming and delighting in one another] as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a slain offering and sacrifice to God [for you, so that it became] a sweet fragrance. [Ezek. 20:41.] (3) But immorality (sexual vice) and all impurity [of lustful, rich, wasteful living] or greediness must not even be named among you, as is fitting and proper among saints (God’s consecrated people). (4) Let there be no filthiness (obscenity, indecency) nor foolish and sinful (silly and corrupt) talk, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting or becoming; but instead voice your thankfulness [to God]. (5) For be sure of this: that no person practicing sexual vice or impurity in thought or in life, or one who is covetous [who has lustful desire for the property of others and is greedy for gain]–for he [in effect] is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (6) Let no one delude and deceive you with empty excuses and groundless arguments [for these sins], for through these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of rebellion and disobedience. (7) So do not associate or be sharers with them. (8) For once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of Light [lead the lives of those native-born to the Light]. (9) For the fruit (the effect, the product) of the Light or the Spirit [consists] in every form of kindly goodness, uprightness of heart, and trueness of life. (10) And try to learn [in your experience] what is pleasing to the Lord [let your lives be constant proofs of what is most acceptable to Him]. (11) Take no part in and have no fellowship with the fruitless deeds and enterprises of darkness, but instead [let your lives be so in contrast as to] expose and reprove and convict them.

What is not understood here? BE IMITATORS OF GOD. Let there be no filthiness (aischrotēs; meaning ‘obscenity’), foolish and sinful talk, or coarse jesting (dirty jokes). It does not get any clearer, and there can be left no doubt in the mind of any Bible-believing Christian about the inappropriateness of foul language in the eyes of God.

Let me point to verse 6 of that passage specifically: (6) Let no one delude and deceive you with empty excuses and groundless arguments [for these sins], for through these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of rebellion and disobedience.

I point this out in rebuttal to many of the counter-arguments I have seen posted in response to my ‘cussing’ post, and which have come up often times in conversation and which has also been heavily posited by the ‘emergent church’ crowd. Their ‘justifications’ for using profanity amount to no more than empty excuses and groundless arguments. There is no scriptural support for the use of profane language for the followers of Christ, no matter what kind of rhetorical gymnastics one may do to attempt to justify those behaviors.

This leads me to another sub-topic of sorts: Church discipline, or the judgment of Christians upon Chrisitians:

Mat 7:1 DO NOT judge and criticize and condemn others, so that you may not be judged and criticized and condemned yourselves.

Christians are often accused of “judging” whenever they speak out against a sinful activity. However, that is not the meaning of the Scripture verses that state, “Do not judge.” There is a righteous kind of judgment we are supposed to exercise—with careful discernment (Joh 7:24 Be honest in your judgment and do not decide at a glance (superficially and by appearances); but judge fairly and righteously. ). When Jesus told us not to judge (Matthew 7:1), He was telling us not to judge hypocritically. Matthew 7:2-5 declares, “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” What Jesus was condemning here was hypocritical, self-righteous judgments of others.

In Matthew 7:2-5, Jesus warns against judging someone else for their sin when you yourself are sinning even worse. That is the kind of judging Jesus commanded us not to do. If a believer sees another believer sinning, it is their Christian duty to lovingly and respectfully confront the person with their sin (Mat 18:15-17 If your brother wrongs you, go and show him his fault, between you and him privately. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. (16) But if he does not listen, take along with you one or two others, so that every word may be confirmed and upheld by the testimony of two or three witnesses. (17) If he pays no attention to them [refusing to listen and obey], tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a pagan and a tax collector.). This is not judging, but rather pointing out the truth in hope—and with the ultimate goal—of bringing repentance in the other person (Jas 5:19-20 [My] brethren, if anyone among you strays from the Truth and falls into error and another [person] brings him back [to God], (20) Let the [latter] one be sure that whoever turns a sinner from his evil course will save [that one’s] soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins [procure the pardon of the many sins committed by the convert].) and restoration to the fellowship. We are to speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15 Rather, let our lives lovingly express truth [in all things, speaking truly, dealing truly, living truly]. Enfolded in love, let us grow up in every way and in all things into Him Who is the Head, [even] Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). We are to proclaim what God’s Word says about sin. 2 Timothy 4:2 instructs us, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction.” We are to “judge” sin, but always with the goal of presenting the solution for sin and its consequences—the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:6).

Let me reiterate the point of what we just read: It is our duty as brethren in Christ to righteously and fairly discern and judge the actions of our fellowship and to show them their fault, in love, and encourage repentance.

April 26, 2008

I must confess, I am befuddled, bemused, discombobulated, and generally confused as to where to go in my quest to write ‘the series’ concerning Christian liberty.

There are sooooo many things involved in this issue and I want to try to cover them all, intelligently, scripturally, and most of all practically for the the real Christian person. This is, as I am discovering, not an easy task. The issue touches on a plethora of aspects of Christianity and each aspect is vital to explore on its own, and absolutely required to be connected to every other aspect. The identifying feature of any sound doctrine is that it incorporates the whole Word of God and not just one part of it.

Many doctrines we are taught, are one sided, incomplete, and sometimes just contrary to the entirety of God’s Word. Many cults, Christian wannabe denominations, and deluded belief systems are based on this reality. This was one of the driving forces behind the Reformation of the 1500’s, and to this day becomes one of the central issues of division within the Body that should not be divided. I want desperately to avoid presenting any ideas that do not consider thoroughly the whole of God’s Word and the lessons and admonishments contained therein.

Some aspects which must be explored:

  • Being in the world but not of the world
  • Being all things to all peoples
  • Being the salt and the light (you can read more about this here)
  • Forgiveness, repentance, freedom from the wages of sin, and committing sin
  • Sanctification vs. Salvation

and the list does indeed go on….

So, here I am, faced with this seemingly daunting challenge and savoring the idea of the study and contemplation necessary to write something meaningful, and yet there is something else entirely that seems pressed upon my mind and heart which is making it increasingly difficult to concentrate on the topic at hand.

At some point yesterday I was overwhelmingly consumed with the idea of Christian men and pornography. Not being one who has confessed to much ‘emotional’ drive in my Christian life (I have to tell you that I am not, nor ever have been, one of those cookie cutter Christians you see on Sunday – all smiles, hearty handshake, “bless you”, “praise God!”, “Life is sooooo good because God has blessed me daily”, blah blah blah…

I am, and probably always will be an intellectual Christian. I came by my faith through thought, not emotion. I was not moved to tears at my conversion, I didn’t feel some glowing inner light, or anything like that. In fact, it was the absence of this emotional evidence that caused me to doubt God, faith, regeneration, etc. and drove me from church decades ago.

um…. sorry, I started to digress…. What I am trying to say is that this niggling need to discuss the issue of pornography and the Christian man is what I would consider to be the push from the Holy Spirit. I could say that I feel ‘called’ to do it. Thus, with all of that being said, I will write a post about this subject, and I should warn anyone reading (all 2-3 of you) that some of what I have to say will not be pleasant. If you are a Pastor, I offer my apologies now, for I’m sure I will offend you (actually, I aim to offend you…)

Okay. I’m done rambling for now. I will ask that if you are reading this that you will remember me in your prayers and ask that He guide my hand (my keyboard) and that He inspire me to write what He wills, and that if He is willing, that I am able to get back to ‘the series’.

Thanks.

The Series… Being all things to all people May 4, 20081Co 9:19-23 For although I am free in every way from anyone’s control, I have made myself a bond servant to everyone, so that I might gain the more [for Christ]. (20) To the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to men under the Law, [I became] as one under the Law, though not myself being under the Law, that I might win those under the Law. (21) To those without (outside) law I became as one without law, not that I am without the law of God and lawless toward Him, but that I am [especially keeping] within and committed to the law of Christ, that I might win those who are without law. (22) To the weak (wanting in discernment) I have become weak (wanting in discernment) that I might win the weak and overscrupulous. I have [in short] become all things to all men, that I might by all means (at all costs and in any and every way) save some [by winning them to faith in Jesus Christ]. (23) And I do this for the sake of the good news (the Gospel), in order that I may become a participator in it and share in its [blessings along with you].

I would like to say that no other passage in all of His Holy Inspired Word was as misinterpreted and misapplied as this passage, however, that would not be accurate as we continue to come accross doctrine and belief that adheres to a particular understanding in complete ignorance of the totality of scripture (universal restoration perhaps cheif among these beliefs…).

I will say though, that being all things to all peoples is right up there among the top and is evidenced by the growing popularity of the ‘emergent’ church, and the mega-churches we see out there in the world.

Let’s break this down:

In the beginning of this passage Paul writes of being free from any man’s control. Let us understand the cultural significance of this: Paul was a free-born, a citizen of Rome. He was in bondage to none, nor depended upon any for his subsistence; yet he made himself a servant to all, that he might gain the more. He behaved as a servant; he worked for their good as a servant; he was careful to please, as a servant to his master; he acted in many cases as if he had no privileges; and this that he might gain the more, or make the more converts to Christianity. He made himself a servant, that they might be made free.

Verse 20 is fairly easy to understand; while Paul understood that the ceremonial law was a yoke taken off by Christ, in many instances he submitted to it, that he might work upon the Jews, remove their prejudices, prevail with them to hear the gospel, and win them over to Christ. These leads us to verse 21, where the trouble begins:

21) To those without (outside) law I became as one without law, not that I am without the law of God and lawless toward Him, but that I am [especially keeping] within and committed to the law of Christ, that I might win those who are without law.

Paul is not saying that he became lawless and depraved in order to win those people. Let us understand who those ‘without law’ truly are: Gentiles, whether converted to the Christian faith or not.

Matthew Henry writes this:

In innocent things he could comply with people’s usages or humours for their advantage. He would reason with the philosophers in their own way. And, as to converted Gentiles, he behaved among them as one that was not under the bondage of the Jewish laws, as he had asserted and maintained concerning them, though he did not act as a lawless person, but as one who was bound by the laws of Christ. He would transgress no laws of Christ to please or humour any man; but he would accommodate himself to all men, where he might do it lawfully, to gain some. Paul was the apostle of the Gentiles, and so, one would have thought, might have excused himself from complying with the Jews; and yet, to do them good, and win them over to Christ, he did, in innocent things, neglect the power he had to do otherwise, and conformed to some of their usages and laws. And though he might, by virtue of that character, have challenged authority over the Gentiles, yet he accommodated himself, as much as he innocently might, to their prejudices and ways of thinking.

The the weak he encouraged and lifted them up. He did not judge nor despise them, nor did he leave them behind in their weakness, or become a stumbling block through his use of his liberty, he refrained himself. He denied himself for their sakes, that he might insinuate into their affections, and gain their souls. Paul basically is saying:

I did not shock them. I complied with their customs. I conformed to them in my dress, habits, manner of life, and even in the services of religion. I abstained from food which they deemed it their duty to abstain from; and where, if I had partaken of it, I should have offended them.

Now comes the bane of this whole passage: I have [in short] become all things to all men, that I might by all means (at all costs and in any and every way) save some [by winning them to faith in Jesus Christ].

This is what we see in the history of Paul’s life: He did not disobey the law of God, thus we can surmise that in this passage Paul is telling us:

I became all things to all men, that I might by all, lawful, means gain some. I would not sin against God to save the soul of my neighbor, but I would very cheerfully and readily deny myself. The rights of God I could not give up, but I might resign my own, and I very often did so for the good of others.

So, where does that leave us? We have ‘Christians’ who claim that through their liberty in Christ, their freedom from the yoke of the law, that they are able to engage in any behavior of which they choose. Their language is riddled with profanity, their general behavior is nearly, or entirely, indistinguishable from any other person on the street.

There are churches that promote and attempt to justify making their ministries conformed to the ways of the world, because they seemingly ‘preach the gospel’. More often than not they use Paul’s words as justification for being no different than the world.

The problem is not in the idea that Christian liberty does indeed give us freedom in some respects, but that the ideas presented as Christian liberty and being all things to all people do not take into account the entirety of the Word of God. What is needed here is a balance between what Paul writes in 1 Cor 9:22 and what he writes in Rom 12:1-2:

Rom 12:1-2 I APPEAL to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship. (2) Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].

There is a tension here, but it can be, and must be balanced if we are to be the light:

Eph 5:8 For once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of Light [lead the lives of those native-born to the Light].

Mat 5:14-16 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. (15) Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a peck measure, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. (16) Let your light so shine before men that they may see your moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and recognize and honor and praise and glorify your Father Who is in heaven.

The Series… Salvation (Justification) vs. Sanctification May 11, 2008

“What we have here, is a failure to communicate…”

Christians and the bulk of ‘Christianity’ discuss salvation ad nauseum. You must be ’saved’, salvation is by Grace through faith, etc. etc. etc… What is at issue is the umbrella term ’salvation’ being used to discuss the entirety of a variety of meanings – justification, regeneration, sanctification, glorification, and more.

In my ‘Statement of Faith’ page, I’ve outlined the aspects of salvation, here it is again for discussion:

Salvation

Salvation is the gift of God, by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, whose blood was shed for the forgiveness of our sins; that this salvation is the possession of those who by faith accept Christ as their personal Savior. I believe that there is no other way of salvation

In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.

Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace.

Repentance is a genuine turning from sin toward God. Faith, a gift from God, is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Savior.

Justification is God’s gracious and full acquittal upon principles of His righteousness of all sinners who repent and believe in Christ. Justification brings the believer unto a relationship of peace and favor with God.

Sanctification is the experience, beginning in regeneration, by which the believer is set apart to God’s purposes, and is enabled to progress toward moral and spiritual maturity through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. Growth in grace should continue throughout the regenerate person’s life.

Glorification is the culmination of salvation and is the final blessed and abiding state of the redeemed.

Let’s look at the peices and try to determine where the bible addresses the idea of ‘Christian Liberty’ in terms of salvation;

Justification is God’s gracious and full acquittal upon principles of His righteousness of all sinners who repent and believe in Christ. Justification brings the believer unto a relationship of peace and favor with God.

The ‘Christian’ life begins with justification by grace, through faith:

Rom 3:24-25 [All] are justified and made upright and in right standing with God, freely and gratuitously by His grace (His unmerited favor and mercy), through the redemption which is [provided] in Christ Jesus, (25) Whom God put forward [before the eyes of all] as a mercy seat and propitiation by His blood [the cleansing and life-giving sacrifice of atonement and reconciliation, to be received] through faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance He had passed over and ignored former sins without punishment.

Rom 4:22-25 That is why his faith was credited to him as righteousness (right standing with God). (23) But [the words], It was credited to him, were written not for his sake alone, (24) But [they were written] for our sakes too. [Righteousness, standing acceptable to God] will be granted and credited to us also who believe in (trust in, adhere to, and rely on) God, Who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, (25) Who was betrayed and put to death because of our misdeeds and was raised to secure our justification (our acquittal), [making our account balance and absolving us from all guilt before God]. Rom 5:1-2 THEREFORE, SINCE we are justified (acquitted, declared righteous, and given a right standing with God) through faith, let us [grasp the fact that we] have [the peace of reconciliation to hold and to enjoy] peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). (2) Through Him also we have [our] access (entrance, introduction) by faith into this grace (state of God’s favor) in which we [firmly and safely] stand. And let us rejoice and exult in our hope of experiencing and enjoying the glory of God.

Rom 5:19 For just as by one man’s disobedience (failing to hear, heedlessness, and carelessness) the many were constituted sinners, so by one Man’s obedience the many will be constituted righteous (made acceptable to God, brought into right standing with Him).

This justification in the eyes of God, is an adoption into the family of God:

Gal 4:4-7 But when the proper time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born subject to [the regulations of] the Law, (5) To purchase the freedom of (to ransom, to redeem, to atone for) those who were subject to the Law, that we might be adopted and have sonship conferred upon us [and be recognized as God’s sons]. (6) And because you [really] are [His] sons, God has sent the [Holy] Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba (Father)! Father! (7) Therefore, you are no longer a slave (bond servant) but a son; and if a son, then [it follows that you are] an heir by the aid of God, through Christ.

This ‘adoption’ as sons and daughters of the Righteous God is the beginning. This justification is what ’saves’ us from the wrath of God – the wages of our ’sin’:

Rom 5:9 Therefore, since we are now justified (acquitted, made righteous, and brought into right relationship with God) by Christ’s blood, how much more [certain is it that] we shall be saved by Him from the indignation and wrath of God.

We must realize however, know in our minds and our hearts, that this righteousness, this justification, is imputed to us, it is given to us freely by God’s grace, that there is nothing we have done, or ever could do, to earn it or deserve it:

Php 3:9 And that I may [actually] be found and known as in Him, not having any [self-achieved] righteousness that can be called my own, based on my obedience to the Law’s demands (ritualistic uprightness and supposed right standing with God thus acquired), but possessing that [genuine righteousness] which comes through faith in Christ (the Anointed One), the [truly] right standing with God, which comes from God by [saving] faith

From the point of justification by grace through faith we move into a state of repentance (I want to point out that faith is not mere ‘belief’, it is something much deeper; it is better defined as a trust in, a clinging to, a reliance on Him). True repentance represents a turning to God, a turning from evil, and an intent to serve God (1Th 1:9 For they themselves volunteer testimony concerning us, telling what an entrance we had among you, and how you turned to God from [your] idols to serve a God Who is alive and true and genuine, ). It involves the intellectual recognition of sin (Rom 3:20 For no person will be justified (made righteous, acquitted, and judged acceptable) in His sight by observing the works prescribed by the Law. For [the real function of] the Law is to make men recognize and be conscious of sin [not mere perception, but an acquaintance with sin which works toward repentance, faith, and holy character]), an emotional change of feeling for sin committed against a holy and just God (2Co 7:9-10 Yet I am glad now, not because you were pained, but because you were pained into repentance [and so turned back to God]; for you felt a grief such as God meant you to feel, so that in nothing you might suffer loss through us or harm for what we did. (10) For godly grief and the pain God is permitted to direct, produce a repentance that leads and contributes to salvation and deliverance from evil, and it never brings regret; but worldly grief (the hopeless sorrow that is characteristic of the pagan world) is deadly [breeding and ending in death]), and a willful turning away from sin (1Pe 3:11 Let him turn away from wickedness and shun it, and let him do right. Let him search for peace (harmony; undisturbedness from fears, agitating passions, and moral conflicts) and seek it eagerly. [Do not merely desire peaceful relations with God, with your fellowmen, and with yourself, but pursue, go after them!] .

Upon true repentance we move into regeneration. Regeneration is at its simplest definition: a new birth (Jn. 3:3, Tit. 3:5) that makes us new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) through the work of the Holy Spirit (Jn. 3:5-8).

(let me state that regeneration and repentance are not mutually exclusive, or necessarily linear, but are hand-in-hand aspects of ’salvation’, we continually repent and are continually undergoing regeneration.)

This this leads us to the real crux of the Christian life; Sanctification and progressive sanctification, which we will pursue in the next part of ‘The Series’.

The Series… Sanctifcation May 11, 2008

In the previous post we discussed justification as Christ’s righteousness imputed to us through God’s grace by faith (a reliance upon and trust in Him). That justification, a one time adoption as heirs to the Glory of God breeds regeneration (a new birth as new creatures in Christ) thus leading us to sanctification and continuing (progressive) sanctification:

Sanctification [positional], is to be set apart, to be made holy. A status conferred not by moral transformation but by the sacrifice of Christ:

Heb 10:10 And in accordance with this will [of God], we have been made holy (consecrated and sanctified) through the offering made once for all of the body of Jesus Christ (the Anointed One).

Through faith and grace, through the sacrificial atonement of Christ Jesus we are set apart, we are made holy, in the eyes of God, and thus in the eyes of the world. This is the keystone to Christianity and the failure of the idea of being able to do whatever we want to do, however we want to do it. As new creations in Him, we are to be Christ-like in our lives, our witness is not in only what we say, but how we live.

Not only have we been made holy (consecrated and sanctified) once and for all, we continue in ongoing process of sanctification that conforms us to the image of Christ:

Php 2:12-13 Therefore, my dear ones, as you have always obeyed [my suggestions], so now, not only [with the enthusiasm you would show] in my presence but much more because I am absent, work out (cultivate, carry out to the goal, and fully complete) your own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling (self-distrust, with serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of Christ). (13) [Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight.

2Co 3:18 And all of us, as with unveiled face, [because we] continued to behold [in the Word of God] as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are constantly being transfigured into His very own image in ever increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another; [for this comes] from the Lord [Who is] the Spirit.

Heb 12:14 Strive to live in peace with everybody and pursue that consecration and holiness without which no one will [ever] see the Lord.

2Pe 3:18 But grow in grace (undeserved favor, spiritual strength) and recognition and knowledge and understanding of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (the Messiah). To Him [be] glory (honor, majesty, and splendor) both now and to the day of eternity. Amen (so be it)!

What exactly are we being told by God’s Holy Inspired Word? We are told that we are to work on our sanctification with trust and reverence to the power of God working in us, that we are not to trust in, and be cautious of, our own ideas and to guard against those things that would discredit the name of Christ. We are told that we do this continually and to grow in His grace from now until the day we leave this earth and that without this pursuit of holiness others may not ever see the Lord.

How more plain can scripture be? We are to strive to be Christ-like in all that we do, we are to place our faith and trust in Him to cause this holiness to come to fruition for we cannot do it in and of ourselves, and that if we do not continue in this pursuit, the world will not see Him.

Since we are admonished to preach the Gospel to all peoples, and to go out to all nations making disciples it is a no-brainer to understand that the way we act, the way we live, is as important, if not more so, than what we say.

Preach the Gospel at all times; and if necessary, use words.

So, what’s the deal then? What of ‘Christian liberty’ and the freedom from condemnation if we cannot live the lives we want to live? The answer is simple:

We are set apart by the most righteous God to be His representatives to the unsaved world. We cannot represent Him if we are ‘wearing’ the ways of the world.

He is not of this world and the things of this world, and as His representatives here in this world, we cannot be of this world and the things of this world either. If your neighbor or co-worker cannot look at you on a daily basis and see the light of God shinning from you in the way you act, the things you say, or the way you say them, then that neighbor or co-worker cannot see God.

Christian liberty is not the freedom to be, or behave, in any fashion we choose. It is the freedom from death and condemnation for the sins we have committed or may commit.

This then brings us to the pragmatic issues of Christianity and the Christian life; hypocricy, self-righteousness, striving to be a ‘good Christian’, legalism, et al. These are the big issues, these are the tough issues. Do we pretend to be ‘holy’ when we want to cuss and scream? Do we risk acting as if something we do not feel in our hearts that we truly are? Do we rely on what we ‘feel’ or what we know?

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”

This will be the underpinning purpose here at JP’s Mind; to address the practical issues of daily Christianity from time to time, in order to pursue my own holiness through Him as well as help others in their own pursuits.

The Series: Romans 14 broken down May 15, 2008

Rom 14:1-6 AS FOR the man who is a weak believer, welcome him [into your fellowship], but not to criticize his opinions or pass judgment on his scruples or perplex him with discussions. (2) One [man’s faith permits him to] believe he may eat anything, while a weaker one [lim

Rom 14:1-6 AS FOR the man who is a weak believer, welcome him [into your fellowship], but not to criticize his opinions or pass judgment on his scruples or perplex him with discussions. (2) One [man’s faith permits him to] believe he may eat anything, while a weaker one [limits his] eating to vegetables. (3) Let not him who eats look down on or despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains criticize and pass judgment on him who eats; for God has accepted and welcomed him. (4) Who are you to pass judgment on and censure another’s household servant? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he shall stand and be upheld, for the Master (the Lord) is mighty to support him and make him stand. (5) One man esteems one day as better than another, while another man esteems all days alike [sacred]. Let everyone be fully convinced (satisfied) in his own mind. (6) He who observes the day observes it in honor of the Lord. He also who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; while he who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.

It is apparent that differences of opinion existed with Christians even among the immediate followers of Christ Jesus, just as it is today. Paul used much of this chapter to discuss this idea, but he did not attempt to put an end to those differences of opinion yet chose to try to find a balance.

Paul makes distinction between those strong in the faith and those weak in the faith, and many scholars debate still as to who is who exactly. The most common understanding is that Paul referred to the converted Jews as those weak in the faith, but I would offer that he more so referred to those who take a legalistic view of faith, obedience, and doctrine as those who were weak. In that the view of ‘must do’ and ‘must not do’ in terms of Christianity offers a crutch to those who cannot release themselves to the truth of the Gospel given to us repeatedly as; salvation by Grace through faith, and not of works, or self-effort:

Rom 3:28 For we hold that a man is justified and made upright by faith independent of and distinctly apart from good deeds (works of the Law). [The observance of the Law has nothing to do with justification.]

Rom 4:5 But to one who, not working [by the Law], trusts (believes fully) in Him Who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited to him as righteousness (the standing acceptable to God).

Eph 2:8 For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God;

Gal 2:16 Yet we know that a man is justified or reckoned righteous and in right standing with God not by works of the Law, but [only] through faith and [absolute] reliance on and adherence to and trust in Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). [Therefore] even we [ourselves] have believed on Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the Law [for we cannot be justified by any observance of the ritual of the Law given by Moses], because by keeping legal rituals and by works no human being can ever be justified (declared righteous and put in right standing with God). [Ps. 143:2.]

The difficulty here is that this legalism, this weakness of faith, compels one to assent to doctrine or practices which one does not fully embrace. This hypocrisy avails the believer no benefit and leads unconstrained to self-righteousness.

I also believe that Paul understood that any attempts for producing absolute oneness of mind among Christians would be useless; but he desired instead to push the idea that Christian fellowship should not be disturbed with the ‘striving of words’. It would be wise for us to ask ourselves, when tempted to disdain and blame our brothers in Christ; “Does not God own them?” and if He does own them, dare I disown them?

Paul’s admonitions here are twofold: Let not the Christian who uses his liberty, despise his weak brother as ignorant and superstitious, and let not the scrupulous believer find fault with his liberated brother, for God accepted him, without regarding the distinctions of meats, days, etc. If we do so, we usurp the place of God, and take upon us the responsibility to judge the thoughts and intentions of others, which are out of our view.

Rom 14:7-13 None of us lives to himself [but to the Lord], and none of us dies to himself [but to the Lord, for] (8) If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or we die, we belong to the Lord. (9) For Christ died and lived again for this very purpose, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. (10) Why do you criticize and pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you look down upon or despise your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God. (11) For it is written, As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God [acknowledge Him to His honor and to His praise]. [Isa. 45:23.] (12) And so each of us shall give an account of himself [give an answer in reference to judgment] to God. (13) Then let us no more criticize and blame and pass judgment on one another, but rather decide and endeavor never to put a stumbling block or an obstacle or a hindrance in the way of a brother.

Although some are weak, and others are strong, all must agree not to live to themselves. No one who has given up his name to Christ is, or can be, a self-seeker; that is against true Christianity. The business of our lives is not to please ourselves, but to please God. That is true Christianity, which makes Christ all in all. Though Christians are of different strength, capacities, and practices in lesser things, they are all the Lord’s; all are looking and serving, and approving themselves to Christ.

Christians should not judge, in the spirit of condemnation, or despise one another, because both will have to give an account to the Lord. Every one of us should search his own heart and life; those of use who are strict in judging and humbling ourselves, will not be so ready to judge and despise his brother. Nor should we say or do things which may cause a brother to stumble or to fall, and nothing creates a more prominent stumbling block than judgment and condemnation.

Rom 14:14-18 I know and am convinced (persuaded) as one in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is [forbidden as] essentially unclean (defiled and unholy in itself). But [none the less] it is unclean (defiled and unholy) to anyone who thinks it is unclean. (15) But if your brother is being pained or his feelings hurt or if he is being injured by what you eat, [then] you are no longer walking in love. [You have ceased to be living and conducting yourself by the standard of love toward him.] Do not let what you eat hurt or cause the ruin of one for whom Christ died! (16) Do not therefore let what seems good to you be considered an evil thing [by someone else]. [In other words, do not give occasion for others to criticize that which is justifiable for you.] (17) [After all] the kingdom of God is not a matter of [getting the] food and drink [one likes], but instead it is righteousness (that state which makes a person acceptable to God) and [heart] peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (18) He who serves Christ in this way is acceptable and pleasing to God and is approved by men.

Paul expresses his absolute certainty that nothing is essentially unclean for those who abide in the Lord – nothing in and of itself that is. He tells us though that if one views something as ‘unclean’, then it is; and because of that truth, we are not to engage in those things that pains our brothers. We should not give others an occasion to criticize us for our actions – regardless if we feel justified in those actions spiritually. Because the truth of the matter is that the Kingdom of God is not about getting or doing the things we like but in living in righteousness, peace, love and joy.

Basically, if we are in fellowship, and I view the use of foul language as unclean or improper and you do not view it as such and so continue to use such language in my presence, then you are no longer walking in love. I take the time here to remind us Christ Jesus’ command to us all:

Mat 22:36-40 Teacher, which kind of commandment is great and important (the principal kind) in the Law? [Some commandments are light–which are heavy?] (37) And He replied to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (intellect). [Deut. 6:5.] (38) This is the great (most important, principal) and first commandment. (39) And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself. [Lev. 19:18.] (40) These two commandments sum up and upon them depend all the Law and the Prophets.

Rom 14:19-23 So let us then definitely aim for and eagerly pursue what makes for harmony and for mutual upbuilding (edification and development) of one another. (20) You must not, for the sake of food, undo and break down and destroy the work of God! Everything is indeed [ceremonially] clean and pure, but it is wrong for anyone to hurt the conscience of others or to make them fall by what he eats. (21) The right thing is to eat no meat or drink no wine [at all], or [do anything else] if it makes your brother stumble or hurts his conscience or offends or weakens him. (22) Your personal convictions [on such matters]–exercise [them] as in God’s presence, keeping them to yourself [striving only to know the truth and obey His will]. Blessed (happy, to be envied) is he who has no reason to judge himself for what he approves [who does not convict himself by what he chooses to do]. (23) But the man who has doubts (misgivings, an uneasy conscience) about eating, and then eats [perhaps because of you], stands condemned [before God], because he is not true to his convictions and he does not act from faith. For whatever does not originate and proceed from faith is sin [whatever is done without a conviction of its approval by God is sinful].

This then is the culmination of the concept of Christian liberty, and the truth concerning what we can do, cannot do, and more importantly what we should do or should not do.

We are admonished to eagerly work for harmony and the building up of each other, which is the foundation of a Body working together as detailed in Romans 12. We cannot edify one another, work together for the good of God’s purposes when we are quarreling about things that have no bearing on the truth of the Gospel; that of salvation by grace through faith and the glory of a Christ sacrificed on our behalf and raised again into eternal life.

Personal convictions on what is right, or wrong, are simply that: personal convictions. We must endeavor not to lead another brother (or sister) to participate in that which they feel is wrong, nor should we offend those brethren by subjecting them to our participating in those things.

Let me reiterate verse 21:

Rom 14:21 The right thing is to eat no meat or drink no wine [at all], or [do anything else] if it makes your brother stumble or hurts his conscience or offends or weakens him.

Certainly Paul refers specifically to eating and drinking in this verse, as the contention regarding the consumption of ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ foods was the specific quarrel he was addressing. However, that does not deter from the fact that Paul is clear in the concept he was presenting as a much broader concern. It is the right thing to not do something if it makes your brother stumble, if it causes him offense, or if it weakens his faith. That applies to everything in our lives be it eating pork, drinking wine, smoking, cussing, et al.

Some have taken the concepts in this chapter, particularly the first half, and have flipped the meaning in order to fly in the face of the sensibilities of other Christians and the spiritual leadership of their particular congregation. Basically they use this chapter to tell other Christians to ‘talk to the hand’ when they are approached regarding their behavior and their conformity to the ways of the world. This is simply wrong.

Indeed scripture does confirm that we have freedom in our lives that we have no condemnation, as adopted heirs to the glory of God, and Paul confirms this freedom in this chapter. However, this is not the intent of this writing by Paul. He was not telling us “Hey, as Christians we are basically free to do what we want the way we want so take your complaints and shove them.”

What he was telling us is; yes, we are free in Christ. Yes I view certain things as acceptable and I am free to participate in them, however, I understand that my participation in those things causes you offense, injures you in your faith, and subsequently I will abstain from those things in the spirit of love and unity. If I place my personal convictions of freedom over my concerns for your spiritual welfare, then I am not walking in love as commanded by Christ Jesus.

Comments»

1. Allison - May 4, 2011

JP, I love your blog. I stumbled upon it when I was searching for a biblical stance on christians using profanity. I recently met some Christians who used profanity, in a joking manner/context… and I was shocked. It hurt even more knowing that they were in leader positions (youth & children ministers) of their churches. Thank you for guiding me in the Way of the Spirit in this issue. I was wondering if you could do a blog post specifically on drinking/alcohol and Christian Liberty? This is a dividing issue in my own family, and among many other Christians as well. I look forward to reading more of your blog. Thanks for your biblical insight on some of this difficult topics!

2. Analysis of my Statement of Faith, Christian Liberty, and Treatise on Faith… « JP's Mind - September 22, 2012

[…] have begun working on an analysis of my posted Statement of Faith, the series on Christian Liberty, and my Treatise on Faith. I was reading through these pages (you can find them at the top of this […]


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