Saturday, February 6, 2010

#18) Legalism vs. License

Last week I spoke on our insensitivity to the commands of God. We get the scare of a lifetime when caught by a cop but do not even so much as bat an eye when we know full and well we are already caught by God. The Bible has many examples of God punishing violators of His commands with the punishment of death yet even this does not make us blink. While God has His standards and His commands, we can be thankful that we also share in His love. It is His love that provides a certain sense of liberty.

Ask congregation if they believe Christ has set them free.

John 8:36
So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

Christ has set us free. How do we know? It is because Scripture says so.

John 14:6a
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life;

John 8:32
and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.

All men desire freedom. Dating back to the days of slavery, freedom has been something that is deeply sought after. In a Christian sense, there is only one way to that freedom and that is the Son, the Truth. Christ is the Truth and all who know the Truth will be free.

This freedom covers a few basic areas. The first we will touch on is the area of freedom from sin. Before Christ, we were all slaves to sin. We were all victims to the bondage of sin. We were bound by the chains of sin.

John 8:34
Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.

What is a slave? A slave is one who is bound to obey the will of his master. He has no say in and of himself. He simply follows orders. He is owned by his master. John not only says we get caught up in sin but goes so far as to say we were slaves to sin. In fact, he says if anybody commits a sin at all, he is a slave to sin.

Romans 3:23
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Ask congregation to raise their hand if they have never sinned.

Not a single one of us can raise our hand. We are all guilty of sin. It is just in our nature to fall. There is only one man in history to have ever lived a sinless life and that is our Savior, Jesus Christ. According to John, which really means according to God as it is His written word, even one sin makes us a slave to sin. Not only are we a slave to sin but we have no desire to turn from it.

John 3:20
For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.

John 8:44a
You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father

Slaves to sin are at war with God and serve Satan willingly. Slaves to sin hate God and want to do the desires of Satan. Satan does not set us free. He is the one who keeps his slaves bound. It is only through the Son that one can be set free and as we already covered…

John 8:36
So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

Galatians 5:1
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

It is in Christ alone that we finally have our freedom.

Romans 8:2
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

Ask congregation what is meant by “law of the Spirit of life.”

Romans 3:27-28
Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.

Ask congregation what is meant by “law of sin and of death.”

Romans 7:12-13
So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.

We can see the Law is not to blame. The Law simply pointed out our sin. If there is no Law, one can never be guilty. The law of God is referred to as the law of sin and death because man is sinful and it points out exactly that. It is Christ who gives us freedom from the Old Testament law and gives us hope in faith.

Romans 6:14
For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace.

2 Corinthians 3:17
Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

The commands of God are not merely suggestions. They are commands from Almighty God and they are to be followed. There are some religions out there who claim that if you follow these commands, you will go to Heaven. In fact, many claim that just by being a “good” person, you will go to Heaven. A common theme in my lessons recently has been salvation in Christ alone. Even though God has commands that are to be followed, they will not save.

Acts 15:1 & 10-11
Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved."……… "Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are."

Even if it were possible to follow all the commands of God, we would still be in the same predicament we were in before we came to know Christ; slaves to sin. However, in Christ we have a sense of freedom. We have a sense of liberty.

1 John 2:1
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;

Commands are to be followed but when we fail, we can rest assured that we have an Advocate with the Father. Christ steps in the place of any judgment that would have come to us and allows us to remain in the Father. In fact, Christ is the One who secures our place with the Father and ensures we will never lose it. It is because we are not under the law of the Spirit of life that we have liberty. We are free to enjoy the things of life without fear of judgment.

On the other hand, liberty is not the same as license. While not being bound to the law, we still have obligations. For instance, we are not to be a stumbling block to others.

1 Corinthians 8:7-13
However not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol's temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols? For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.

This was written during a time when sacrifices to idols was common practice. The meat being sacrificed to idols was perfectly fine meat. In fact, it was some of the best meat because the pagans wanted to give their gods the best. Just as in Elijah’s day, not a thing happened with the meat offered to idols.

1 Kings 18:21-27
Elijah came near to all the people and said, "How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him." But the people did not answer him a word. Then Elijah said to the people, "I alone am left a prophet of the LORD, but Baal's prophets are 450 men. "Now let them give us two oxen; and let them choose one ox for themselves and cut it up, and place it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other ox and lay it on the wood, and I will not put a fire under it. "Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD, and the God who answers by fire, He is God." And all the people said, "That is a good idea." So Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, "Choose one ox for yourselves and prepare it first for you are many, and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it." Then they took the ox which was given them and they prepared it and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon saying, "O Baal, answer us." But there was no voice and no one answered. And they leaped about the altar which they made. It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, "Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened."

Elijah’s was a funny man. Elijah was completely bashing their false god by going so far as to say he might be currently occupied. The Hebrew word used for occupied is siyg which implies a private place. In other words, Elijah was saying Baal might not be answering because he is using the bathroom. He was not surprised that nothing happened with the offered ox. In the same way, in 1 Corinthians, Paul was pointing out that there is nothing wrong with the meat offered up to idols. It was some of the best stuff out there and after the sacrifices, it was put up for sale in the markets. Newer Christians who were weak in their faith would turn away from this meat because of the negative connotation it held. Stronger Christians knew this was some of the best stuff and had no fear in purchasing it because of their liberty in Christ. Technically speaking, they had every right to eat that meat. It had no power as it was offered up to nothing. That was all the false gods amounted to; absolute nothingness. The meat was as good as any. However, this was becoming a problem. The liberty of the stronger Christians was becoming a stumbling block to the faith of the weaker Christians. It was going against their very conscience.

John MacArthur uses a great analogy to explain the difference between the liberty of a mature Christian and the restrictions of an immature Christian.

John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary on 1 Corinthians
A small child is not allowed to play with sharp tools, to go into the street, or to go where there are dangerous machines or electrical appliances. The restrictions are gradually removed as he grows older and learns for himself what is dangerous and what is not. God confines His spiritual children by conscience. As they grow in knowledge and maturity the limits of conscience are expanded. We should never expand our actions and habits before our conscience permits it. And we should never encourage, either directly or indirectly, anyone else to do that.

Not only are we to not be a stumbling block to others but we are also not to try to be our own version of James Bond. He had a license to kill. We do not have a license to sin.

Romans 6:1-2a
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be!

Romans 6:15
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!

Galatians 5:13
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

1 Peter 2:16
Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.

We are never to use liberty as license. There is a fine line that must be followed. We are to follow the commands of God while also honoring our liberty in Christ. To neglect God’s commands is to act as if He does not matter. To neglect our liberty in Christ is to act as if Christ is not all sufficient regarding our salvation. Both Paul and James give very good instruction on how to walk that fine line comfortably.

Galatians 5:16
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.

James 1:25
But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.

Love God. Worship God. Obey God. Have liberty in Christ but never abuse it to the point of using it as license. The law of liberty does not give us liberty to sin at will. It gives us liberty to obey a God that we were incapable of obeying while in a state of hatred towards Him. Walk in the Spirit, become an effectual doer of the Word, and take comfort in the Advocacy of Christ in our eternal reconciliation to the Father.

No comments:

Post a Comment