Summary: The Lord intends us to enjoy fellowship together that has the intimacy of a family, the interdependence of a body and an acceptance of one another, despite our differences. Such fellowship may really grow, if we understand crucial Biblical principles.
FREEDOM IN OUR FELLOWSHIP - PART 3 OF 5
A. ENJOY FELLOWSHIP
We have seen that the Lord intends for us to enjoy fellowship together in His church, which has:
1) The intimacy of a family
2) The interdependence of a body
3) An acceptance of one another despite our differences
B. FELLOWSHIP SHOULD GROW
This type of fellowship may really grow, it may really succeed in a local congregation, but it’s important to understand certain principles regarding fellowship:
1) The proper use of our freedom in Christ is one such concept, because -
2) Failure to understand the nature and proper application of liberty has broken the fellowship of many churches
In this, the third in our series, we’ll look at the nature of our freedom in Christ and how it affects our fellowship with one another.
2. THE NATURE OF OUR FREEDOM IN CHRIST
Let’s begin by defining the nature of freedom in Christ:
A. WE ENJOY FREEDOM IN CHRIST
1) Jesus offers freedom to all His disciples (we need to respond) - John 8:31,32,36
2) Paul taught that Christ has made us free and that we should be careful to stand fast in this liberty - Gal 5:1
3) James refers to the ‘perfect law of liberty’ - James 1:25
B. THE NATURE OF THIS FREEDOM
1) So, does this mean we are totally free from any sort of obligation? That is:
a. Are we free to ‘do our own thing’ or “It’s my life and I’ll live it how I want.”
b. Do we have responsibilities to no one?
c. Are we free from having to be concerned about others?
… of course not.
2) We should be careful to understand the context of freedom in Christ. What is it all about?
a. Jesus was promising freedom from Sin - John 8:34-36
b. Paul referred to freedom from basic elements of the old Law, warning against returning to that Law - Gal 4:3-5,8-11
c. The ‘perfect law of liberty’ is a blessing only to those who are “doers of the word” - James 1:21-25
3) The truth of the matter is that we have been set free in order that we might serve.
a. Being set free from the slavery of Sin, we can be servants – actually ‘douloi’ - of righteousness - Rom 6:12-16 …, which means …
b. We are now free to serve one another through love
As Paul reveals in Gal 5:13-15, there is a very real danger of abusing our liberty to provide an opportunity for the flesh. Christ died to give us freedom from Sin, not to give us freedom to Sin. Freed from Sin, we need to be careful how we use this freedom, especially in our fellowship with one another.
3. HOW DOES THIS FREEDOM RELATE TO FELLOWSHIP
A. THE CHURCH AT CORINTH: A CASE IN POINT
1) The situation:
a. Brethren were claiming to have true knowledge about eating meat sacrificed to idols - 1 Cor 8:1-6
b. By their example and influence, they were encouraging others to violate their conscience - 1 Cor 8:7
c. Those who so violated their weak consciences (i.e. were persuaded to do what they believed was wrong) were sinning - Rom 14:23
2) But even if there was true liberty in Christ to eat such things, Paul counselled against it. Why?
Because it was a stumbling block to those weak in faith and this abuse of knowledge and liberty was causing brethren to Sin, which in itself is a Sin against Christ - 1 Cor 8:9-12
3) Paul provides himself as an example of the proper use of freedom:
a. He is willing to go to extremes in service to his weak brother - 1 Cor 8:13
b. Though an apostle, enjoying freedom in Christ, he is willing to place limitations on his freedom, in order to save others - 1 Cor 9:19-23
4) He concludes his treatment on this subject with a command for us to follow his example - 1 Cor 10:31-11:1
B. PAUL GAVE SIMILAR COUNSEL TO THE CHURCH IN ROME
1) The strong in faith are to be considerate of those weak in faith - Rom 14:1,13
2) Even if it means giving up things that are right within themselves - Rom 14:14-23
3) The strong in faith must bear with the beliefs of the weak; seek to encourage, correct and build them up – all of which follows the example of Christ Himself – Rom 15:13
C. IMAGINE THE FELLOWSHIP WHERE THESE PRINCIPLES ARE FOLLOWED
1) Rather than just trying to please ourselves, there would be serious efforts to build up one another.
a. We would not just think of the value of assembling for our own personal benefit – remember this action is required, but focus on its purpose.