Exercising Christian Freedom

KEY VERSE: “Take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to them that are weak.” —I Corinthians 8:9

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: I Corinthians 8:1-13

IT SEEMS EVIDENT that liberty in Christ is something quite apart from the ordinary human concept of liberty. When Jesus said to those who believed on him, that they would know the truth and that the truth would make them free, they replied, “We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?” Jesus’ answer to this question was, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house forever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (John 8:32-36) The thought here is clear. Our liberty in Christ is freedom from control by the great taskmaster, Sin. This taskmaster is referred to in Romans 6:6,7 as the “body of sin” which is to be destroyed as a result of Christ’s crucifixion, and our crucifixion with Christ. Paul explains that being crucified with Christ means that we are “dead,” and those who are thus dead, he says, are “freed [Margin, ‘justified’] from sin.” In verse 12 Paul admonishes, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.”

To be free from the taskmaster, Sin, does not mean that sin has been destroyed in our mortal body. It simply means that we have been made free from the penalty of sin, which is death. It means that by divine grace we are not condemned because of our unwilling imperfections so long as we bend every effort to keep the body under and bring it into subjection to righteousness. We are not to continue willingly in sin “that grace [forgiveness for those sins] may abound.” (Rom. 6:1) Indeed, should we take this attitude of willfulness, grace through Christ would cease to abound. We have not been made free from the struggle against sin.

Jesus said that if we continue in his Word, we will be his disciples, will know the truth, and the truth shall make us free. The words of Jesus, his commandments which outline the will of God for his people, make up this perfect law, and it is obedience to this law which makes us free from the law of sin and death—hence it is the law of liberty. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.”—Rom. 8:1

Our text deals with an excellent example of self-sacrifice in the restraint of liberty. In this case the liberty referred to is freedom from the power of superstition, a freedom that is gained through knowledge—a knowledge that while there are many heathen gods to which idols are ascribed and worshiped, actually there is but the one true and living God. This being so, the offering of meat to a lifeless idol, which represents a nonexistent god, in no way affects the meat, so no harm, morally or otherwise, can come from eating such meat.

But Paul pointed out that the liberty of action resulting from knowledge should not be used if its use would cause a weaker brother to stumble. The lesson is that there are conditions under which it is best voluntarily to refrain from doing what would be the most pleasing to ourselves, even though it would be right, in order to be of more service to others. This simply means that the liberty of action which we attain through a knowledge of the truth should not be considered more important than the spiritual welfare of our brethren. We cannot insist on exercising our own liberty—regardless of the effect it may have upon others—and still be pleasing to the Lord.

Liberty in Christ is a freedom from the condemnation of sin based upon believing in Christ and obeying his commandments, of which love is the prime factor. Its emphasis is not on liberty of action. Indeed, the Christian’s personal liberties are often curtailed by the law of love, for it is a daily laying down and giving up, a continual foregoing of our own preferences so that others might be blessed. Those who have taken the Master’s yoke have no liberty to go in any direction other than the way in which he went, and the way in which he leads us.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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