The Need for Balance in the Exercise of our Christian Liberty

We have looked at the first reason why accepting Jesus as Lord is integral to the Christian life—it connects us to him in a personal relationship.

Now I want to shift in the next few posts to a second reason—

Submission to Jesus as Lord provides us with an adequate motive for living.  

Romans 14:7-8

7 For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself.
8 For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord.

Life is more than living for one’s own self-satisfaction.  

It seems those at Rome who were strong in the faith had erred by making “the kingdom of God a matter of eating and drinking.” (Shogren, p. 240) They tended to eat and drink the dainties of Empire without regard for those who had scruples against doing so. This is contrary to Romans 14:17–

17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Roman feast

Roman scene above depicting a feast with beverages sweetened with “sugar of lead.” The ancient Romans used lead acetate—which they called sapa—to sweeten wine. The aristocratic segments of the population could consume as much as two liters a day (about three bottles’ worth, diluted 2:1 or 3:1 wine to  water ratio). The “sugar of lead” is thought by many to have slowly killed enough Roman elite to bring the Empire down. (See Rhodes below)

The brothers strong in their faith made their freedom to eat and drink all things their main ethical motivation. They were out for what they could get from Empire.

Certainly, Christian liberty is important!

The Westminster Confession of Faith [WCF] sums up Christian Liberty well in Chapter 20.2

God alone is Lord of the conscience and has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in anything, contrary to his Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship. (WCF, 1646)

That is the magna carta of Christian liberty. But is this the whole picture. Paul says in I Corinthians 10:23—

23 All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.

Creación_de_Adán_(Miguel_Ángel)

Creation of Adam by Michelangelo on the Sistine Chapel ceiling in Rome

Modern day exercise of Christian Liberty

I am sad to say most 21st century Christians use of alcohol is their main expression of Christian Liberty. Christian Liberty, in fact, is freedom from sin to serve Christ in all situations.

None of God’s creation is sinful in and of itself. Christians are not Platonists who conclude the material world is innately sinful. Alcohol in and of itself is not sinful. Its misuse in the form of drunkenness is sinful (Ephesians 5:18).

An Example from my Youth

My Great aunt was a “teetotaler.” God bless her heart! She did take Hadacol at one point in her life. She failed to realize it was 12% alcohol. That’s 24 proof. No wonder she felt good after taking a dose!

My Great uncle liked a drink at night “to steady his nerves,” so he kept a bottle of “Old Grand Dad” in the garage. (His nerves got a regular workout from my aunt.) He would always leave the car under a tree in the backyard until sundown. Then, he would say, “Well, I’d better put the car in the garage.” I often asked, “Do you want me to go with you?” He quickly added, “No. No! I’ve got it. You stay in here. I’ll be back in a minute.”

Only later did I realize, after finding his stash in the garage, what he was really up to on those nightly excursions. He kept the peace by hiding his use of alcohol. I like the fact that he didn’t permit my great aunt to dictate his use of things indifferent—alcohol. I also like the fact he didn’t flaunt his use in public. I never smelled alcohol on his breath.

Balance is key in the exercise of Christian Liberty! The point Paul is trying to get the stronger brothers to see is they have an obligation to live for Christ and not to live for their own self-satisfaction. Christian liberty is important. The area not legislated in Scripture is the area of our liberty! However, we are also evangelists and we will not be harmed by curbing our liberty in public to reach out to those who are lost and to edify our brothers in Christ who do not share our views of doubtful matters.

We live unto the Lord! In the Greek this indicates advantage. We do not live for our own advantage.

“No one of us lives to himself,” does not mean, “every man’s conduct affects others for better or worse, whether he will or not”; it means, “no Christian is his own end in life; what is always present to his mind, as the rule of his conduct, is the will and the interest of his Lord.” (See Nicoll below)

As the picture caption above indicates, Roman elites lived a hedonistic lifestyle. They sweetened wine with lead acetate. They did not know they were drinking themselves to death. To quote Billy Graham, “Their lifestyle spread itself out in judgment before them.” (See Graham below). God wants us to use the things he has given us for our and others’ good and His glory!

Prayer

O Lord, I am Yours—body and soul.
You created me for Yourself and
“My soul is restless until it find its rest in You.”
You created this world for my use.
I choose to use its gifts for Your glory and my good.
I want to build people up around me and
Not tear them down as I use your creation.
I want to give our Your Gospel to those I meet along my path.
Give me wisdom to use Your gifts as Your child.
In Jesus’s Name. Amen.

References

Graham, Billy. (1984). Approaching Hoofbeats: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Waco, TX: Word Books, Publishers.

Nicoll, W. R. (1956 reprint). The Expositor’s Greek Testament: Romans. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. Accessed 14 June 2018 from https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/romans-14.html

Rhodes, Jesse (2012). “Sugar of Lead: A Deadly Sweetener.” [Magazine Article]  Accessed 13 May 2018 from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/sugar-of-lead-a-deadly-sweetener-89984487/

Shogren, G. (2000). “Is the Kingdom of God about Eating and Drinking or Isn’t It?” (Romans 14:17). Novum Testamentum, 42(3), 238-256. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/1561137

© 2018 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

 

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