Summary: Luther gave 2 statements about Christian Freedom: "A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to everyone." St. Paul tells us what Christian Freedom really means.

Epiphany 4

I Corinthians 8:1-13

In just one word, what is the reason that thousands of our young men and women are being deployed half-way around the world to Iraq? Well, if you had to boil it down to just one word, that reason would be: freedom. Freedom for the Iraqi people from the dictator that’s been ruling over them for years. Freedom for the Middle East from one less volatile person to worry about. Freedom for our country from one less terrorist to be concerned about. We Americans are all about freedom.

And freedom is exactly what our text is about this morning. Jesus died to make us free. But what does that word mean: freedom? I didn’t look this up in Webster’s, but my definition of freedom would be: not having to answer to anyone. Being perfectly independent in all of your decisions. Not having anyone tell you what to think or do. Now, if that’s our definition of freedom, aren’t we somewhat limiting freedom by attaching the word “Christian” to it? I mean, total freedom would mean that you have no rules to govern you. But add the word “Christian” in front of freedom, aren’t we restricting freedom somewhat? Doesn’t “Christian Freedom” mean that we are no longer totally free, but we are ruled by the principles of Christ? And is that really freedom anymore?

You might have looked already at the theme and parts of this sermon in the bulletin. And I have to admit that I was not so clever to come up with that division on my own. Those are Martin Luther’s thoughts when he summed up what Christian Freedom was. Let me give you the full quote from Doctor Luther. In a treatise written on September 6th, 1520, Luther gave these two statements about Christian Freedom: 1. A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. 2. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to everyone. It sure seems to mean that those statements are complete opposites of each other. On one hand, Luther is saying that we Christians are not answerable to anyone! And that’s exactly what we Americans would call Freedom! But then in the next breath he adds that we are everyone’s servant, everyone’s slave. And it appears that all our freedom is instantly taken away with that remark. Well, this morning, we are going to dig into the Doctrine of Christian Freedom as we study the 8th Chapter of Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthian congregation.

Part I

But before we get into I Corinthians, I want to tell you about another story from the Bible that I think has a lot to say about Freedom. The Parable of the Prodigal Son. Remember the son in that story? All he wanted was to be free! It wasn’t enough for him that he was given half of his father’s wealth. As soon as he got that load of money, he had to get out of the house. He had to be free. Because he couldn’t very well go out on Friday night and have a wild time and have to look at his heartbroken father in the morning. That would have cramped his freedom. And so he left. He indulged every desire that he had. He was, you might say, perfectly free. And where did this life of uninhibited freedom get him? The Prodigal Son lowered himself to the point where the pods that the pigs were eating were looking pretty tasty to him. The son’s “freedom” left him longing to be a servant in his dad’s house. That was the only way that he thought he could put his life back together.

When we talk about Christian Freedom the first thing we have to remember is the freedom that Jesus has given us from our sins. And a lot of people don’t see that as freedom. They look at Christianity as the 10 Commandments: rules that you follow, laws that take away a person’s freedom. And don’t we feel that way sometimes? I mean, just imagine that you were perfectly free to do anything that you wanted. You could see any movie that you felt like. You could go to any website on the internet. No form of this world’s entertainment would be off-limits to you. You would have no rules in your life. You would be free, but would you be happy? No. Filling ourselves up with the pig pods of this world only leads to guilt, depression, anger. And isn’t that the whole reason that Jesus died on the cross? So that we would be free from that guilt, free from the punishment that a sinful life deserves. Oh, when we talk about freedom in Christ, it sure is not a limiting thing, it’s a liberating thing!

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