SPIRITUAL NOURISHMENT FOR TODAY (October 28, 2013)
“For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!” Galatians 5:13-15
“I HAVE THE RIGHT TO DO ANYTHING,” YOU SAY — BUT NOT EVERYTHING IS BENEFICIAL. “I HAVE THE RIGHT TO DO ANYTHING” — BUT NOT EVERYTHING IS CONSTRUCTIVE” 1 Corinthians 10:23 (NIV).
Many Christians have fallen short of the Christian standard because of the notion of freedom in Christ. Many who do not understand and are not seeking to understand have misinterpreted the freedom of the Christian to mean that they can do whatever they want or wish to do at any particular time because they are no longer under the law.
This is a misconception of what Scripture teaches, because our freedom in Christ does not mean we can live like the devil. The Scripture makes it clear and I have been repeating throughout the studies in Galatians that we have been saved unto good works. This means that even after being saved by grace through faith in Christ, we are still expected to live lives that will bring glory to God and build other believers up. Paul sensed that the Galatian church could misunderstand him and do what some of the Corinthians did when they thought that they had the right to do anything. Paul admonished the Galatians that even in their freedom in Christ, they still had limitations. They still had a command to obey.
Paul warned them that even though it is true that they were free, they were not to use their freedom to indulge the sinful nature. That means they should not take advantage of their freedom to sin. But rather, they should use their freedom to serve one another in love. Here one can indirectly see that Paul was warning the believers against compromise and unwarranted use of their freedom. He rather exhorted them to serve each other in love. This is something which is common among believers of today.
We should remember that the slogan of the Corinthians that they were free to do anything was not based on scripture. It was a slogan among unbelievers who wanted to do whatever they wanted without thinking of the rights and freedoms of others. It is the same situation the world is facing now because of fundamental freedoms and human rights. That is why Paul told them ‘not everything’ is beneficial or constructive. Some of the things we can use our freedoms for are very destructive and damaging to our beings as well as our relationship with God and mankind.
Here Paul was focusing on mutual love among the believers. What he wanted to implore them to do was that they should be mindful of others when exercising their freedoms in order not to cause others to stumble. This is a piece of advice to all of us. How do you use your freedom in Christ? Yes you have the freedom to dress anyhow, sing or play any music or say anything you want as far as you are freed in Christ. But do you check whatever you do is in line with God’s word? Do you ensure that whatever you do does not affect a brother or a sister negatively? We should not forget what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. This should be our guiding principle as Christians in spite of all the freedom we have in Christ.
Paul buttressed the point he was making in verse 14 by reminding the Galatians, and by extension all believers, that even though we have freedom in Christ, our freedom is not an unlimited one. We are still obliged to obey God’s command, the command to love our neighbors. The law he pointed out was from Leviticus 19:18 which is, loving our neighbors as our selves. He used this because he was talking about mutual love among the brethren. It is not different from what Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy about loving God and our neighbor.
Paul was by this saying that even though the Law is not the means of our salvation, we have a duty to love our neighbors as our selves. And as we all we know, if you love your neighbor, you won’t steal from him/her, kill him/her, commit adultery with his/her wife or husband. You can apply it to the rest of the Law, especially the Decalogue (Ten Commandments). By this Paul is saying that our liberty in Christ is not unlimited freedom by which we can do anything we like, rather, it is a freedom which is expressed through love for others. He warned that if we use our freedom to keep biting and devouring one another, we shall soon destroy our selves.
I do not know the extent to which you have been using your freedom in Christ. I do not know how much of your freedom in Christ is demonstrated through love for other believers with the intention of building them up. But I want us to remember that our freedom in Christ is not the kind of freedom that Satan has given his followers. Jesus set us free from sin, Satan, bondage of the law and death. Therefore our liberty in Christ is a limited freedom.
Our freedom in Christ is not the kind of freedom to indulge in sinful desires, rather to bring glory to God in whatever we do. Frankly speaking, a Christian who indulges in sin because of his freedom is not a Christian because anyone who sins is a slave to sin. That is why we cannot dress anyhow as believers. That is why we cannot drink alcohol and get drunk and misbehave as Christians. That is why we cannot indulge in sexual sins and still call ourselves Christians. You can complete the list for us people of God. It is my prayer that we will understand what it really means to be free in Christ and live as true children of God who have indeed been set free by the son (John 8:36).
THE WORD OF THE LORD!
Pastor Nana Kobina Baisie
Teacher/Pastor at Nadrim Mission International School, Busan, Korea.