When Christian liberty is taught, it has been my experience that it tends to focus on the two extremes: Legalism and Liberalism. The emphasis is placed on “those of you whose conscience are not bothered, don’t stumble your brother. And those of you whose conscience is convicted, don’t impose your own preferences on your brethren” with the emphasis heavier on the latter. *sigh* These are important aspects to the doctrine of Christian liberty, but I don’t believe they are the only reasons why Christian liberty is addressed by Paul.
I propose that there are two equally important lessons to be embraced and applied: The first being an emphasis on the fact that actions can neither earn or lose salvation.
“Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.” (1 Corinthians 8:8)
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Romans 2;8-9)
Since we have nothing of worth to repay God for our salvation and never could, the only thing we can do to show our gratitude is to obey Him out of love and a desire to honor Him. One of the ways we do this is the second lesson: dying to self by putting others before ourselves.
“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” Romans 12:10
“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3
The Christians world view, which should be shaped by God’s Word, is diametrically opposed to worldly philosophy. The world says to look out for yourself first. But the bible is clear in teaching that believers should be putting others before themselves. This is difficult, even for one who has the new nature of the second birth. The old nature rears its ugly head in the arena of Christian liberty when a believers thinks: “Hey! My conscience isn’t condemned. Scripture doesn’t forbid this! Those other believers need to relax and quit trying to control me!” That’s the old nature. That is what the world would give a hearty cheer to.
“And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.” (1 Corinthians 8:11-12)
The better way is to recognize that freedom wasn’t given to indulge yourself, but to be a reminder that you cannot earn your salvation by following rules. Also, to provide an opportunity for you to die to yourself, place others first, and strive to earn a crown that you will someday lay at His feet.
“Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” (1 Corinthians 9:25)
As Elizabeth, my sister in Christ says, “What a day that will be!”
Soli Deo Gloria!