Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Christian and His Liberty: Christian Liberty and Conscience (Part III)

One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.” (Romans 14:5-6)

A Jewish Christian may not have liberty in his conscience to travel on the Sabbath day, while another may see it all as the Lord's will. The issue is not whether or not a Christian ritualistically observes the holy days of the Old Testament, but how he considers God in making such choices. God wants each person to live his life in a way that brings glory to God in all that is done (I Corinthians 10:31). If a believer takes his journey on the Jewish Sabbath for the purposes of fulfilling God's will for his life, let him do so with joy and thankfulness toward God. If another believer chooses to remain immobile on the Jewish Sabbath out of respect for Old Testament observance, let him do so with joy in thankfulness toward God. Each man's spirit must be in submission to God. Each man must be doing all things for God's glory.

It must be noted that a believer's conscience must be considered when it comes to their daily walk in sanctification; however, when it comes to matters of salvation through faith in Christ, no room exists for debate or difference of opinion. When battling the false teachers which plagued the churches of Galatia, Paul said concerning them, “To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you (Galatians 2:5).” These false teachers were not trying to serve God with a clear conscience; they were trying to mix lawkeeping with faith in Christ for salvation. They promoted the false belief that a man had to be circumcised and keep the law of Moses as well as believe in Christ for salvation; therefore, Paul dealt harshly with them. Theirs was not a matter of conscience, but rather a matter of motive.

Believers are often tempted to apply this subject of liberty to areas which are truly not a question of liberty at all, but rather questions of holiness. For example, the believer does not have liberty to dress as he chooses. He does not have liberty to entertain himself as he chooses, nor does he have liberty to listen to any style of music he should so choose. These things are issues of holiness, not liberty, and God has given clear principles to instruct His children in their dress, entertainment and music. These examples do not fully encompass all areas where Christian liberty is falsely applied; they simply represent some of the more typical areas of controversy. Pride and self-will can motivate the believer to falsely apply the principles of Christian liberty. Those who promote holy living are often labeled “legalists” when, in reality, all they desire is to be pleasing to God by being separate from the world and allowing the Spirit to control them. Legalism is the belief that salvation is gained and maintained by works as well as faith in Christ. A desire to be separate from the world in thought, action, and motive does not make one a legalist. The rebel falsely labels people with standards as “legalists” because he wants to remove himself from this commandment, “...Be ye holy; for I am holy (I Peter 1:16).”

This passage does not give a man the right to manipulate others simply because he himself is “weak” or “offended.” It is not good to be weak in the faith. It does happen, but it is not ideal. Therefore, the man who attempts to corral others into doing his will while using this “weak brother” principle is exerting his own self-desire while wrongfully applying Scripture. Such people should be dealt with as rebels. Also, this passage is not giving a man liberty to be a glutton or to abuse his body through the consumption of harmful foods or beverages. God's people are commanded to be temperate, and to care for their bodies, because the believer's body and spirit belong to Christ (I Corinthians 6:19-20).


The text forbids a judgmental attitude on either part. The one who eats meat or does not observe certain days is not to despise his brother who sees it differently. He is not to use his brother's weakness as an excuse to deprive him of godly fellowship. On the other hand, the one who sees sin in eating meat or failing to observe certain holy days is not to view the other as living in sin. He is not to force his conscience on others as though it were doctrine. Acceptance is not in the presence or absence of these things; it is in the believer's heart attitude toward God. Is he thankful toward God in the decisions which he has made? Is he sincere in his service toward God as he abstains or partakes of these two activities? Sincerity of service through a clear conscience is the main concern, not the food or the holy day. The Christian need not please any man, only God, and if his motives are not sincere, God can judge him as needed. The Lord has allowed such issues of personal preference to exist in order that the believer's charity and obedience might be tested. Also, such issues of personal liberty encourage an attitude of humility as each believer is reminded that no one man has all the answers. God has allowed certain struggles to exist for the purpose of encouraging humility, faith, and patience.

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