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.
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!
You ever watch those shows about these submarines that go down 2 and a half miles to the wreck of the Titanic? That’s one thing that I think I could never do. To be crammed into a machine not much bigger than a telephone booth with 2 other guys, 2 miles below the surface of the water, with the incredible pressure of that water just trying to squish the vessel. Well, let’s say that you were down there, and you just couldn’t take it anymore. You were going nuts, and you said, “I have to get out of here!” Opening the hatch would be about the stupidest thing you could do. Yeah, you might get out of the sub, but you’d be crushed by the water before you got the chance to drown. The apparent captivity of the submarine actually gives you freedom. That confinement preserves your life. And it’s the exact same thing when we talk about Christian living. Living the way that God wants you to might seem restricting, but it’s sure a lot better than the alternative.
You’re going to learn a new word this morning. Who here knows German? You’ll already know this word: Mitteldingen. Vat ist ein Mittelding? Mittelding, you can even hear it in English: Middle Thing. Ein Mittelding is the German word for adiaphora, something neither commanded nor forbidden by God. The picture is that there are things on this side that God commands that we do, and on this other side these are the things that God commands that we don’t do, and in the middle are the Mitteldingen, the things that God hasn’t given us a command about one way or the other. And when we talk about Christian Freedom, this is what we’re talking about. Christian Freedom presupposes that we already know about the Freedom from our sins that Jesus won for us on the cross. Christian Freedom is about how we live our lives now, knowing that we are free from sins and on our way to heaven.
The church in Corinth had a number of problems with these Mitteldingen. And as you look at our text, you get a sense of what one of the major problems was. Corinth was a pagan town. There were a lot of temples to false gods there. A lot of sacrifices were made to those gods. And very much like the Jews, many of the sacrifices were not total offerings given to the gods. By that I mean, let’s say that you were bringing a cow to sacrifice to Apollo. Maybe one third would be burned up on the altar, one third would be given to Apollo’s priests, and the other third would be given back to you, where you could sell it or have a feast with it. And the question in the Corinthian congregation was: what do we do about this meat that has been sacrifices to idols? Can we eat it? Should we eat it?