Thursday, December 25, 2014
Liberty Or Love
Therefore, Paul's exhortation in I Corinthians 8 may seem to be most irrelevant for us today.
However, this chapter contains certain principles about spiritual liberty that are important for us to know and that will be a tremendous blessing to us.
I Corinthians 8:1-13.
Paul presented a different kind of thinking than most people are prepared for.
Even today the issue in Christianity often seems to be legalism versus freedom in the grace of God.
Freedom can be misunderstood by those who have been delivered from legalism.
Legalistic teaching dictates what a believer can do and what he cannot do.
But when the revelation of grace comes to a believer, the prohibitions are suddenly removed and are no longer an issue of sin.
Then he feels free to take certain liberties.
Paul wrote in Titus 1:15: To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.
The impure look upon everything differently than do the pure.
Former legalistic teaching often dictated a certain manner of dress.
The young people of this generation have no idea how many sermons were preached condemning bobbed hair and short dresses, particularly in the twenties.
When a woman was converted to Christ, she was required to "clip the stitch and let down the hem."
Only then was she considered truly converted.
When the grace of God is preached, styles of dress are not an issue.
In warm weather many Christians wear very little, thinking that in the free grace of God it does not matter.
Actually, many problems can come from dressing in that manner.
In her will to be free, a girl may decide to dress in a provocative manner, thus turning some weak brother to lustful thoughts and becoming the occasion of a great deal of condemnation within him.
Then she cannot justify herself by saying," Well, that's his problem.
My liberty is one thing, and it is up to him to look out for himself."
They recognized that by sinning against your brother and wounding his conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.
Anyone who becomes a part of the restoration of the New Testament Church, and desires to walk with God as a son of God, must realize that his personal liberty is not to be the issue.
It is true that Romans 8:21 speaks of the glorious liberty of the sons of God, but those who walk in that liberty must understand that they are bound by a law of love from which there will never be any liberation.
After the Lord has liberated us from all other legalism, then the law of love binds us, and we recognize that the Christ in our brother must not be offended.
In I Corinthians 8 Paul was talking about one or more individuals who perhaps had some very serious problems.
Behind the heathen temple where animals were sacrificed to an idol, there was a little concession.
Here people could buy meat for a low price, or eat a meal that had been prepared by the temple attendants.
They cooked the meat from the sacrifices, adding a few spices.
Sometimes the Christians who did not have much money came here to get a good meal or to buy some meat.
These Christians looked upon themselves as free and not under the law.
But when a brother came along who had formerly worshiped in that idol's temple, and he saw the Christians eating the meat of the sacrifices, it was a big occasion of stumbling for him.
God had delivered him from the power of the demons that were associated with that idol; and when he saw the freedom of these Christians, he stumbled.
For that reason Paul wrote, " If food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, that I might not cause my brother to stumble."
On the other hand, there is also a danger of insisting on extreme conformity, in which you do certain things because everyone else expects it of you.
Some people will try to make you measure up to their standards.
At times you must absolutely go against their demands, because they are trying to lay down rules that are a stumbling block to the whole issue of liberty in Christ.
Many Christians will be offended because God's present moving in the earth is non-denominational.
In reality, denominationalism is not even scriptural; it is antiscriptural.
There are many areas that are open issues on which Christians must take their stand in the Lord.
When you come into a walk with God, you are delivered from Babylonian denominations.
So if someone is offended when you criticize Babylon, you can not allow that to become an issue.
In the matters of food and dress and similar issues, you should have freedom and liberty.
Yet you should not demand conformity, but rather have a compassion for your weak brother, so that you do not cause him to stumble in his weakness.
Many illustrations could be given of areas where liberty can be taken too far.
One man may insist on his freedom to drink wine.
His brother, who has been delivered by God from alcoholism, may associate drinking with devil power.
Be careful with your liberty.
Do not offend your brother for whom Christ died.
Realize that the law of love supersedes your liberty.
If you come from a background of legalism, you may need to assert yourself to break through the chains that have been lad upon you.
But realize, also, that after you have broken through, you no longer have a point to prove.
Therefore, back off and be considerate.
Have enough love in your spirit to appreciate the freedom you have in the grace of God, but realize that with this freedom one rule governs your heart- and that is love.
Do not make an issue of your liberty when that liberty is definitely going to wound Christ.
Christ is identifying Himself thoroughly and completely with each one in the Body of Christ.
Therefore if you offend a brother, you sin against Christ because Christ is in him.
Regardless of how foolish he may be, Christ is in that brother to such an extent that everything you do to him as a human being you are doing to Christ.
Paul wrote in I Corinthians 6:5:
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?
Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot?
May it never be!
Christ today is not one individual.
As the body is not one member, but many members, so also is Christ ( I Corinthians 12:12 ).
He shed His blood to redeem you from your sins, in order that as He comes forth in your life, you can be thoroughly and completely in Him, a living part of Himself.
Jesus did not shed his blood to save you as an individual.
He came to save you from your individuality.
He shed His precious blood to release you from your sins as an individual, to release you from your individuality, and to bring you into absolute oneness with Himself.
The first thing He had to do was to pay the price and get rid of all the debt that was against you, and then to swallow you up in Himself.
Every day that you live, you become a little bit less of a human being, and a little more of Christ than you were the day before.
When a brother first accepts Jesus Christ, he may have many strange ideas, but you still must see the Christ coming forth in him.
Regardless of how inadequate, immature, and undeveloped that person is, he is a member of Christ; and what you do to him, you are doing to Christ.
That man must also be convinced that what He does to himself, he is doing to christ.
During a time of discouragement, he may go out and get drunk.
This means the he got Christ drunk.
Perhaps you object to that kind of thinking.
Do you prefer Paul's way of expressing it?
He said, " If you have sexual intercourse with a harlot, you are bringing Christ into an adulterous, fornicating situation."
What you do to the body, the temple of the Holy Spirit where Christ dwells, you are doing to Christ.
There will have to be a new respect and reverence for the Christ who dwells within us.
We shall come to know one another not after the flesh, bt as fellow members of Christ.
God's end - time move is more than restoration of the New Testament Church in a many membered body.
Only to see individuals move in a ministry was never God's plan, but rather to see the Body of Christ come together, to see the Son of God manifested in many sons.
It is not the manifestation of you as a son, but the manifestation of Christ, the pattern Son, in you.
Every member in the Body will conform to Him.
Every member will take on the same life and the same being, the same nature and the same oneness.
Ask God to give you a Kingdom conscience so great, that although you would give your life for the liberty that is yours in Christ, you would also relinquish, as Paul did, great segments of your liberty so that you never offend Christ in a brother.
To the Jews Paul was like a Jew; to the slaves he was like a slave; to the free he was like a free man; to the Gentiles he could talk like a Gentile.
What was his key?
He said, " I have become all things to all men" ( I Corinthians 9:19-22 ).
He was not saying, "I am a man of a thousand faces."
Rather, he was saying, "I conform myself as a man who shall be restrained.
The Christ within me can relate to the Christ in my brother, even though that brother is warped in his concepts, and his background leads him in another direction completely."
When your relationship with your brother is right, then your liberty is not threatened.
Do not make an issue out of the liberties you have which your brother does not have.
Realize that Christ died for him.
Come to the place where you love Christ so much that yo will not be an offense to your brother.
The issue is never liberty; the issue is love.