CHRISTIAN LIBERTY PART 5

CLARIFYING SOME COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT FREEDOM

PART III

4. JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE FREE TO DO SOMETHING DOESN’T AUTOMATICALLY MEAN YOU SHOULD DO IT.  You see, our natural minds tell us that if we’re free to do something, then we can do it and we wouldn’t be wrong for doing it.

But this just isn’t so! Not from a biblical perspective. FREEDOM, BRETHREN, DOESN’T AUTOMATICALLY ENTITLE YOU TO DO WHATEVER IT IS YOU’RE FREE TO DO.

  • Even though you’re free to do something, there are times when you shouldn’t do it.
  • There are times when it’s wrong or inappropriate for you to do it.
  • And there are times when it’s a sin for you to do what you’re free to do! There are two times in particular. We’ll look at the first one here and the second one in my next post.

A) DOING WHAT YOU’RE FREE TO DO IS WRONG WHEN YOU CAUSE OTHERS TO STUMBLE BY DOING IT.  Some believers don’t have the freedom, knowledge, or light that you have. They don’t see the Scriptures the way you see them. Consequently, they have different convictions about the freedom involved.

Now when you exercise your freedom in the sight of these believers and they take you to task, being offended by your conduct; then that’s the time when doing something that you’re free to do becomes wrong.

Romans 14:13-22 reads, Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.  (14)  I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.  (15)  For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.  (16)  So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil.  (17)  For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  (18)  Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.  (19)  So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.  (20)  Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats.  (21)  It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.  (22)  The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves.

1 Corinthians 8:4-13 similarly reads,  So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.”  (5)  For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”),  (6)  yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.  (7)  But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled.  (8)  But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.  (9)  Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.  (10)  For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols?  (11)  So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge.  (12)  When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.  (13)  Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.

1 Corinthians 8:4-13 echoes the same truth as Romans 14:13-22, with one exception. In Romans 14, the weak take offense at a free person’s exercise of liberty; they make a big stink about it. But in 1 Corinthians 8, they copy it in violation of their conscience. That is, they exercise a liberty that they don’t really have as yet.  Their conscience tells them it’s wrong. But they do it anyway because they see you doing it.

When we put these two passages of Scripture together we see that WHAT MAY BE ALRIGHT FOR YOU TO DO IN ONE INSTANCE (WHEN YOU’RE BY YOURSELF OR WITH LIKE-MINDED BELIEVERS) CAN BE WRONG FOR YOU TO DO IN ANOTHER INSTANCE (WHEN THERE ARE CONTRARILY-MINDED PEOPLE AROUND). It may be the same freedom and the same act (for example, you’re eating meat in both instances). But where, and when, you exercise your freedom makes all the difference in the world and it’s what determines whether you should exercise your freedom at any given moment.

Let’s look at the word embolden in verse 10 for a moment. The word comes from the Greek root word oikodoméo which means ‘edify’. In other words, when a weak brother or sister sees you doing something that you’re free to do, but they themselves don’t think they’re free to do it because their conscience is still unenlightened to the truth regarding this freedom; they’ll go ahead and do it, in violation of their conscience, because they see you doing it. They’re using you as a justification for their doing the same thing. Your example is edifying, building up, or strengthening them to do what you’re doing–even though their conscience is still unenlightened and therefore it’s telling them not to do what you’re doing.

Conscience isn’t enlightened by practice or by imitating the example of others: it’s enlightened only by the truth of God’s Word. It’s God’s truth that sets conscience free to do what it formerly forbade or prohibited (see John 8:32). If some believers don’t know the truth of God’s Word about a particular freedom and their unenlightened conscience forbids them from partaking of that freedom, when they disregard their conscience and do what they see you doing, they’re violating their conscience. And when they violate their conscience they sin.

Now we can argue that we weren’t meaning to set a bad example. We were merely doing something that we were free to do. Therefore, since we weren’t meaning to set an example for others to follow, we shouldn’t be held liable when other people copy what we do.

But that’s not how the Lord sees it. Your example, though unintended, was an occasion for the weak to sin. And when they sinned, you sinned too. Note verses 10-12, For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols?  (11)  So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge.  (12)  When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 

We can argue that it’s their fault. A person shouldn’t do anything in violation of their conscience. And that’s true! It’s their fault! But the Lord, brethren, holds you at fault too for setting the example by an indiscriminate exercise of your freedom. Your exercising your freedom publicly in the sight of the weak was the impetus for the weak to sin against their conscience. Therefore, their sin is also your sin.

Now get this. You’re doing something you’re perfectly free to do, that is, eat meat offered to idols! But doing it in the presence of the weak is sin! THERE ARE TIMES WHEN EXERCISING YOUR FREEDOM IS WRONG! IN GOD’S SIGHT, IT’S SIN! Said another way, THERE ARE TIMES WHEN IT’S SINFUL AND WRONG FOR YOU TO DO WHAT YOU’RE TRULY FREE TO DO!

The freedom to do something doesn’t automatically mean you should do it, nor does it automatically mean you would be right in doing it. The freedom itself isn’t what determines whether you should exercise it or not.

THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE TIME AND THE IMPACT THAT YOUR EXERCISE OF FREEDOM WOULD HAVE ON OTHERS IS WHAT DETERMINES WHETHER OR NOT YOU SHOULD EXERCISE YOUR FREEDOM AT ANY GIVEN MOMENT.

Brethren, don’t exercise your freedom in the presence of those who might object to it: you’d be wrong in God’s eyes for doing it.

Consider the people around you before you publicly engage in a freedom that you have. Be considerate of the brethren. And be sensitive with regard to their convictions and their present spiritual state or maturity.

When using your freedom is all that matters to you, when you don’t care about how other people would be affected by your exercise of freedom; you’re wrong as wrong can be.

You need to seriously consider camping out on Romans 14:13-22 and 1 Corinthians 8 until you get the message that the Lord is wanting you to get. What is it? THE WELL-BEING OF THE BRETHREN MATTER MORE TO GOD THAN YOUR FREEDOM TO DO A CERTAIN THING. THE WELL-BEING OF THE BRETHREN IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOUR FREEDOM. In the words of Paul, Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall, 1 Corinthians 8:13.

Coming Up On My Next Blog Post, Part 6. I’ll look at another instance where it’d be wrong for you to do what you’re truly free to do. Golly! These posts are really crucifying. But, then, freedom has never been cheap or free. Drop by and I’ll leave the light on for you.

4 Comments

  1. queenlorene said,

    February 15, 2013 at 9:18 PM

    I understand being sensitive to other’s feelings, but how does one even know if it is offensive? I drink red wine for its benefits with my inflammatory disease and I take multiple pain meds, some of which are regulated by the government. There are persons who are offended by any wine or drugs, but does that mean that I should allow them to victimize me? For that is sometime how I feel in relation to those persons who look for the bad instead of the good, and want to impose their beliefs on others. It’s a form of totalitarianism in the name of religious beliefs. They would do better to put themselves in my shoes.

    • gaylorddiaz said,

      February 18, 2013 at 11:22 AM

      Hi Lorene. The offense that the Scriptures speak of is not one that’s motivated by people’s criticism or objection of you based on their desire to control you and dictate what you can or cannot do. In a situation such as this (what I call legalism and you call totalitarianism) God would counsel us to stand fast on our liberty and not let ourself be brought under bondage to the laws and control of others (Galatians 5:1 with 2:4-5). In other words, go ahead and drink your wine or take your meds in the sight of legalists. Let them be offended if they so choose. Don’t refrain from your liberty for the sake of not offending a legalist. It’s not just a matter of liberty, but a matter of not being brought under bondage. As you know, Jesus knowingly and willfully offended the legalists of His day on many, many occasions. So it’s not wrong or a sin to exercise our liberty and thus offend a legalist.

      The offense that God’s concerned with in relation to our liberty has to do with weak believers. These are not legalistic believers. They are newly-saved, unenlightened, untaught Christians who don’t know any better or who don’t know about the freedoms they have in Christ. These are people who truly love and follow the Lord. And you mustn’t offend them by exercising your liberty when they’re around or within eyesight. This is God’s command to you: it has nothing to do with your being victimized by the weak. It has everything to do with your obeying God and not being an offense to an ignorant believer.

      We’re not omniscient. We lack the wisdom to know what will be offensive and what won’t. We’re not always gonna know who around us at any given moment is a legalist or a weak believer. We’re gonna mess up at times because we just don’t always know that a weak believer is around. What the Lord requires is sensitivity on our part. Look around before you publicly engage in a liberty and if you know or see anyone who’s weak, then, for their sake, refrain from exercising your liberty in their sight. If legalists are around, do what you’re free to do. If you don’t know if there are weak Christians around, then you’ll have to make the call on your own with God’s help. The principal obligation is don’t knowingly exercise your freedom and offend a weak Christian in his/her presence or sight. Hope this helps. Feel free to ask for additional insight or clarification.

      • queenlorene said,

        February 19, 2013 at 9:07 PM

        My husband said off the top of his head to look at the “Vigilant Citizen”–this site looks at symbols in music/TV/Buildings etc. Very interesting reading.

      • gaylorddiaz said,

        February 20, 2013 at 9:41 PM

        Thank you much. Went there & can tell it’s going to be a big help, so I added it to favorites.


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