The early church, asked many of the same questions as we do today – what is Christian freedom? And although some of the cultural issues may be different the same essential question is relevant to us today. Could I, Would I, Should I? What can I do, what will I do, and what should I do as a Christian in different situations and circumstances? Christian freedom is important as it is reflected in our conduct, so what does Scripture say about the believers’ freedom?
1 Corinthians 10: 23
There were problems in the church at Corinth in respect of Christian conduct. They had many of the same problems that the church is experiencing today. A few of the issues that they were dealing with were disagreements, divisiveness, jealousy, lawsuits, marital problems, sexual immorality, and the misuse of spiritual gifts. Sadly familiar…
The apostle Paul had received reports about the condition of the church and what was happening in Corinth. He writes to the church to address some of the problems, and begins by quoting some of the things he’d heard that they were saying:
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive.”1 Corinthians 10:23 NIV
Straight away Paul challenges some of their misconceptions regarding their freedom in Christ. By Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are set free from fear, the guilt of sin, and condemnation. Through Jesus’ victory, we are set free to live life to the full, with love, joy, and peace from being reconciled to God.
But that freedom, if not used wisely, may not always benefit us and consequently the body of believers, and our witness to non-believers.
All Things Are Lawful For Me
All things are lawful for me was a slogan that the Corinthians had adopted to justify their behavior. They were proud of their knowledge and their grasp of theology – but their wisdom was worldly and not godly.
Scripture always has to be taken in context and viewed as a whole. The foundation of our faith is God’s love, and love is the basis of all Christian ethics. Remember that in this first letter to the Corinthian church we also have the most beautiful, and most challenging, description of love!
Related Resource: Free Download Love is… 1 Corinthians 13 – 10 Day Bible Reading Plan
“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.”1 Corinthians 6:12 NKJV
There is a very real danger that those things that we freely choose to indulge in can start to take control of us! We see this so often today, where addiction to harmful and destructive habits is destroying lives.
What Is The Meaning of 1 Corinthians 10:23
The Corinthian church was in a city surrounded by paganism, and in reality, demons are the object of idol worship. Many of the Corinthian Christians had come out of that background of idol worship, where they had been held by fear. Now they were enjoying their newfound freedom in Christ.
But they were forgetting that their own personal freedom was not the only consideration. Paul comes straight to the point in verse twenty-four by reminding them not to just think about themselves but to think about the good of others. The freedom that has been won for us by Jesus, was won at great personal cost!
“No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.”1 Corinthians 10:24
The Believers Freedom
Could I, Would I, Should I? This is a popular phrase and easy to remember and maybe a helpful prompt when we are faced with so many ‘good’ choices. There are more freedoms, as in more personal choice, and opportunities available to us now than ever before.
As believers in Christ Jesus, we have freedom from fear and condemnation. But also, responsibility and accountability, to use our God-given gifts, of talent, time, and even any monetary treasure, to build those things that have eternal value.
Is sometimes the first question we ask and examines our capability. Could I do this and is it something that I could do well? There are many things that we could choose to do, but there will be specific things that God has called us to do.
We need to remember then, that when God prompts us to do something we do not have to rely on our own capability. Scripture teaches us that God doesn’t look at outward appearances but at our hearts, and our commitment to Him.
This question challenges our willingness. Are we willing, even with doubts and fears of our own capability, to respond to the Holy Spirit’s prompting with obedience? God does not look for the most highly skilled, or capable person, He looks for the willing, the one who will say, ‘Yes, Lord, here am I.’
This question is about obligation, or correctness, and brings us back to the question, what is Christian freedom? What constrains us or binds us as Christians is love. And some of you may remember singing a chorus ‘Bind us together Lord, bind us together, with cords that cannot be broken, bind us together with love!’
When Jesus was challenged and asked, what is the greatest commandment this was His response:
“Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”Matthew 22:37-39
The answer to any question that begins with should I do this is easy. Remember, we are not talking about God’s moral law here, which gives us clear guidelines on what is required of us. This is about personal choices, which impact our own life, the lives of others within the Christian community, and our witness to non-believers. Will, what I do reflect the love of God and bring glory, and honor, to His name? Will, what I do be motivated by love, and done lovingly, and what will be the impact on others?
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”1 Corinthians 10:31
What is Christian Freedom?
In Scripture there is clear guidance on God’s moral law of what is good and right for us. But as Christians we will face controversial issues which are matters for our own conscience. Depending on our culture, and time, those issues will shift and change. But in these ‘grey areas’ of personal choice, what may be a simple decision for one, can be a stumbling block for someone else.
God’s kingdom is contrary to the kingdoms of this world. The Corinthians had absorbed the worldly wisdom of their culture. They thought that everything was permissible for them, but they were challenged to look deeper into the truth of the gospel.
We also need to be on our guard from imitating the principles of our world which are contrary to Scripture. Jesus overturned many of our value structures – He taught that whoever wants to be first, must be willing to be last and servant of all!
Maybe then the answer to the question what is Christian freedom, can be defined as the freedom that Jesus demonstrated for us – the freedom to serve one another in love. It is not always easy, and at times costly to follow Jesus, but that is our place of true freedom!
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”Galatians 5:13
Related Post: How To Walk in Love