Summary: Exposition of 1 Corinthians 8 regarding three truths about Christian Liberty
Text: 1 Cor 8:1-13, Title: Is Freedom Really Free? Date/Place: NRBC, 5/1/11, AM
A. Opening illustration: Read an excerpt from the Georgia Driver’s Manual. Talk about whether or not we are really free. But for the sake of argument, let’s say we are. But there’s a cost if we want to exercise the freedom that we are granted to drive: you must get a license, and follow the traffic laws.
B. Background to passage: As you know the Corinthian church was a spiritual train wreck. Paul deal with many issues in the first five chapters that he as a pastor felt needed to be addressed. Then in chapters 6-10, he deals with questions they raised in their letter to him. They had asked him about lawsuits, sex, and marriage that he had addressed so far, and now he takes up the subject of Christian liberty and its use among believers. The specific issue at hand was eating food that had been offered to idols in those temples. But the principles apply to most, if not all, freedoms that we have as believers. This week he lets priorities of love toward other believers call for limitations on this liberty. Next couple of weeks; we will deal with the priority of evangelism and its impact on the limitation of freedom. But here there were believers who felt a liberty to go into the temples of idols and eat with their non-Christian friends’ food that had been offered to idols because idols were nothing. And they wanted to help set free their brethren who didn’t feel right about it, by encouraging them or taking them.
C. Main thought: three truths about Christian Liberty
A. Definition of CL
1. So what is CL? What do we mean when we say that the Christian is free? Loosely defined, and for our purposes today (for there is a more theological freedom from sin), it is the freedom to participate in activities that are not expressly forbidden by scripture. It deals with the “gray” areas of the Christian life (non-doctrinal issues). Most of these things we have principles that may help us discern (we will give you a list at the end), but we see differing levels of concern, conviction, and practice in these areas. Sometimes we feel that these things are not matters of liberty at all, in fact some of you may be offended at some of these things, but truth is there is not explicit prohibition in scripture. Things that might be included are: activities done on Sundays, tattoos, clothing and bathing suits, music, TV programs, foods and beverages that you consume in moderation, how many times you attend church meetings in week, Facebook, movies, hobbies, the kind of car you drive, etc.
2. John 8:32, 2 Cor 3:17, Gal 5:1, 1 Cor 6:12,
3. Illustration: Ronnie Owens’s dad would not put up hay on Sunday even though the rain was coming, because of what people might think. I know of a pastor who was tilling his garden one Sunday afternoon, and later that day he spoke with another pastor from another denomination who saw him doing that and asked about it,
4. We have a multitude of “rights” as a Christian, but not all have to be exercised. There are two normal ways that people tend to deal with these areas that we should avoid. One is legalism: the production of laws and rules that govern every aspect that is not covered by scripture. Everything is either black or white, no gray. Their intentions may be good, pursuing holiness, restraining the flesh, etc. They may desire to keep you from sins that they feel convicted over. The Pharisees were masters of legalism. But Paul says “the law kills, but the Spirit gives life.” So do we throw off all restraint and do whatever we want? I mean, Paul says, “all things are lawful for me?” This is the other error: license. We’re forgiven, so we can do what we want. Everything is white or gray, but mostly white. There are no commands in scripture that apply. As long as the conscience is free, do what you want. This is not a comprehensive teaching on Christian freedom, but suffice it to say that Christian freedom is never a freedom to sin. That there are restraints in the Christian life, and now the Restrainer lives within.
“The freedom that we have been given in Christ is a responsible freedom.” –Paige Patterson
B. Pitfalls of
1. The Corinthians here had probably written a letter, and the writers were part of the group that felt the liberty of conscience (that they weren’t doubtful, guilty, or confused about such actions) to eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols in the temples were the idols were worshipped. Paul was about to agree with their “knowledge” theologically, so he prefaced it with a warning of attitude: watch out for arrogance (v. 1). This “knowledge” made those Christians prideful and self-righteous. Another pitfall is the “millstone syndrome.” Jesus was clear about causing others to sin. Those in “the know” were trying to “help” the believers whose consciences were not able to deal with the cultic meals in the temple, by showing them the way, and therefore causing them to sin. This is very serious for two reasons: 1) the language used is “destroy” which means to be ruined, lost, or rendered useless. 2) Paul explains that the tripping up of believers by your liberty is a sin against Christ. And due to this seriousness, Jesus said that it would be better for you if you were drowned in the depths of the sea. Matthew 18:6