by Sam Nadler
Chuck Colson wrote, “Our founders tied freedom, the highest political goal, to moral truth.” As believers in Yeshua, we have the ultimate freedom. We’ve been set free from sin’s bondage and condemnation. We’ve been freed from religious legalism. What are we to do with this liberty?
Liberty does not mean we can sin without guilt, nor are we are free to do whatever we want without regard for God and others. Sin is both lawlessness toward God and lovelessness toward man. How then are we to use our liberty? To enjoy what Benjamin Franklin called “the right to do what is right?” By applying three principles found in 1 Corinthians 8-10. Though these may appear to limit liberty, in fact they help us appreciate the importance of “faith working through love.”
Do not Stumble Others!
”… take care that your liberty does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak“ (I Cor. 8:8-10).
We enjoy our liberty as long as it does not stumble “the weak,” meaning believers who have not yet come to realize “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). We are not to use our liberty to eat or drink “whatever we want.” We must consider whether a weaker believer might be stumbled into sin over it. Messiah died for this person. Therefore our duty is to care for them. Paul concludes, “We are to do nothing causing another believer to stumble and sin.” This is how we love others as ourselves (Lev 18:19).
Mature believers, use your liberty to edify the least of the brethren. Look for opportunities to build up and encourage all, especially those weakened or easily stumbled.
Everyone’s a slave (of Messiah)!
We enjoy our liberty as long as it does not hinder the Good News from reaching those without Messiah. Though Paul had the right to be paid for his ministry, he chose not to exercise this liberty, so as not to hinder the Good News (9:1-18). But he goes further and says:
For though I am free .from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews .. . I have become all things to all men, so that I might by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the Good News, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it (1 Corinthians 9:19-20, 22-23).
Paul was Jewish. He recognized the need to be sensitive to the varying inflections of Jewish communities. Therefore, whatever community he was in, Jewish or gentile, love limited his liberty. Nothing would hinder or distract him from reaching out with the Good News. Let us do likewise and allow nothing in our liberty to hinder the communication of the Good News, especially to those outside the faith.
Opponents of the Good News sometimes use this passage to portray Paul as deceptive. As someone who simply fashioned his faith into whatever a group wanted to hear. In reality, however, his message never changed. The love of God entered our world and made atonement in Messiah Yeshua. Anyone who repents and trusts in Messiah will be saved! Paul sacrificed personal preferences which included cultural expression. Sacrificing these things made Paul a partaker in the Good News (1 Cor. 9:23). To accomplish our salvation, God Himself made the ultimate transformation. He came in the flesh, suffered horriby, nailed to a cross and died….not His personal preference.
Remember the Good News is “to the Jew first.” (Romans 1:16-17) Are we – and our congregations – presenting the Good News in such a way so as not to hinder the message from making sense to the Jewish people (Rom 1: 16)? Though this is the thrust of our ministry, God grants this calling to all! Sadly, our nation and even faith communities have presented a message which has freely ripped from its Jewish context. It has been taught down through the centuries as history proves. Contrary to this abuse of liberty, all redeemed Gentiles are called to make Israel jealous (Rom. 11: 11). Let us press on to the mark. Use our freedom so the Good News may be a truly seen as the revelation of the Jewish Messiah and Savior of the world.
Sanctify the Name!
We enjoy our liberty being careful not dishonor the Lord. In the wilderness, my people believed we were so secure in our calling as Israel, we could arrogantly sin and God would have to bless us anyway (1 Cor. 10:1-5). We were dead wrong (10:5-14)! In Messiah, therefore, we are not to do anything that even appears to bring dishonor to the name of Yeshua. “Unless we think we are stronger than the Lord” (10:22). If you are mature, use your liberty to exalt the Lord. Look for opportunities to praise Him, delight in Him, and bring honor to His Name.
Our people have been confused by overreaches in liberty. Viewed through a “Gentile lens,” faith in Messiah appears as worship of a non-Jewish god. Therefore, it appears as idolatry and dishonor of the One True God. Our liberty in Messiah is given to us for the benefit of others. Remember the words of Paul, “by laboring you ought to support the weak. Remember the words of the Lord Yeshua, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
On this July 4th, even as many pray “God bless America,” may we use our liberty to bless God and sanctify His Name!