The Law of Liberty

by Mike Ratliff

15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. (Titus 1:15 ESV)

I am constantly amazed at the diversity I witness in the believers who interact with this ministry. This, of course, displays Christ’s power to bring together in unity dissimilar people from every place on this planet and from all walks of life. Part of our sanctification is dealing with our unredeemed flesh. God uses it to humble as well as teach us to fight the good fight. We will never be totally sinless as long as we have our flesh within us. Our enemy also works within our flesh to create division in an effort to split what God has unified. Much of the attack from him and his minions will be to foment conflict between mature believers and those who are not so mature. Also, he is always working in a effort to create self-confidence and self-righteousness in believers. He knows that when believers fall into that trap they are working from a base of pride rather than humility.

1 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. (Romans 14:1-4 ESV)

The Greek word translated as “welcome” in v1 is also translated as “receive” in other translations. It refers to personal and willing acceptance of another. Christians are not to be divided into cliques and small groups that discriminate against other Christians who may not be as mature as them. The command in v1 is to receive or welcome the immature believer, and do not participate in or start disputes or quarrels. What would immature and mature believers quarrel about? In this section of his epistle to the Romans, Paul is addressing a possible conflict that could arise about dietary rules within the body of Christ. Many of the first Century Christians were Jews and, for the most part, maintained their Jewishness by keeping the dietary Laws as well as the Jewish Religious feasts and festivals. On the other hand, many of the more mature Jewish Christians saw that much of the Church was made up of Gentiles and that God had declared clean what had been formerly unclean. In vv2-4 we have Paul’s instruction on dealing with this within the body made up of both the mature and immature Gentile and Jewish Christians. What is his instruction? The mature are not to condemn or belittle the immature simply because they still maintained their dietary restrictions. Why? God has welcomed them all. Paul closes this passage by saying that all believers are before their Lord where they either stand or fall according to His judgment, not the people’s. God will enable the weak to stand so we must not pass judgment on them. If they are His then they are in His hands.

5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written,
“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall confess to God.”
12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. (Romans 14:5-13 ESV)

Again, Paul contrasts the weak Jewish believer with those who are not bound to keep the Jewish festivals and feasts and dietary laws. He is discussing believers here. So, those who are passed all of that should not look down on those who aren’t. In v7 we see the key to this. The focus of our Christian faith should never be on self. All we do should be done in light of and to please our Sovereign Lord. All in Christ are His. He died on the cross to free His people from sin, but also to enslave them to Himself. Yes, that’s right. All in Christ are His servants. He is our Sovereign Lord. He is ruling and reigning right now in Heaven. Those who have preceded us there are under His rule just as we are here. In v10 we have a rhetorical question by Paul that should make us stop and consider what we are doing with our words, even if well-intentioned. Are we passing judgment on our brothers and sisters in Christ who may not be as mature as us?

God gave each of us a conscience. Are we heeding it? All of us will stand before our Lord and give an account. The Lord will judge our decisions that we have made. That includes those we made against what our conscience was telling us. Our Lord’s verdict will be final. Paul’s exhortation here is that we should immediately quit passing judgment on other believers based upon our conception of their immaturity. We must not pile on a level of spiritual maturity on those who are not there yet. That is a stumbling block for them. Those who are more mature got there by fighting battles and suffering and repenting and obeying their Lord. Why not let the less mature find their way to maturity according to God’s plan for them?

This is in no way is talking about dealing with false teachers and preachers and others who proclaim to be Christian, but who are anything but. No, we must confront them speaking the truth from the Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit. However, we must not overburden the less mature Christians all around us with heavy burdens of spiritual responsibility that they are not prepared to bear. Self-righteousness is an ugly thing. We must forsake it. We must not put heavy burdens on those who are not prepared to bear them. As a teacher I tend to lay things out there on a level that, if I am not careful, may look like only those who attain to that are genuine, etc. God forbid that we do this. We must always point those we disciple to the truth and the right way to go, but never belittle them if they aren’t there yet. Look at our Saviour’s patience with His disciples. He often had to rebuke them, but He always loved them and taught them as much as they could bear. The unity of the brethren will only be enhanced if we are careful in this area.

Powered by Qumana

28 thoughts on “The Law of Liberty

  1. Mike,

    Lovely post there. It is a tight rope we walk: we must uphold God’s standard, yet give room for each individual to grow in grace. This is one of the paradoxes of our faith.

    Thanks for the reminder!

  2. We all had to start somewhere huh? Everyone is on a different ‘level’ so to speak. I can remember when the Lord first got me started, then the gradual growing process, and just how He does it all is amazing. We still are growing and will until we go to be with Him. To look back and see how far He has brought us is one way to make us want to grow that much more. It is exciting to us when He grows us up and shows us things we didn’t see before! We never get tired of learning. We have a hunger for Him. So when we meet someone who isn’t as far as we are, or someone who is farther than we are, it is exciting to us either way. He is our favorite subject to talk about :)

  3. I see me as an immature Christian trying to make up for all the time I wasted. I see me as trying to get it right but not sure unless someone tells me. He is my favorite subject also and nobody in my life let’s me talk about Him . They think I’m obsessed. I am. I don’t want to make a mistake but of course I do, and back down I go into the pit of despair. It is a vicious cycle isn’t it? You all are light years ahead of me but thank you for letting me participate anyway.

  4. As a teacher I tend to lay things out there on a level that, if I am not careful, may look like only those who attain to that are genuine, etc.

    This is often easier said that done, Mike. And before we go any further I’d like to state that I am guilty of this charge.

    That being said, since we’re human we all have pet peeves of various sorts, and one of mine is seeing Christians who are fervently ———– (fill in the blank with Calvinist, Arminian, dispy, amil, pre-mil, pre-wrath, post-wrath, cessastionalist, charismatic, ad exhaustem, ad nauseum) striking their most humble pose and feigning anguish as they dismiss the opposing viewpoint as “spiritually immature”, or “lacking in understanding”. It would be downright funny if it weren’t so maddening.

    The Neo-Catholics do it: “Oh yes, I used to be a Protestant until I experienced the beauty of the Mass and the magnificence of the liturgy, and finally swam the Tiber. Now I’m home in Rome”

    The Emergents do it: “Oh dude, I used to go to a seeker sensitive church, I was brought up SBC ya know, but man, God, man He like, POW! BANG! bro, yeah! He really pulled me outta that %$#&. I’m down with the spiritualism now bro, it’s all good. Jesus is my homeboy.”

    The Calvinists do it: “Oh sure, I used to believe Jesus died for everyone, I even used to wear a Jesus Loves You t-shirt when I went shopping. I’m so glad the Lord opened my eyes. I burned that shirt; I’m so ashamed to ever have worn such a heretical article of clothing and to have actually believed Jesus loves everyone! I’m so glad the Lord saved me out of my apostate Arminian background!”

    The Arminians do it: “You’re saved by faith alone brother and don’t ever let anyone tell you any different! Anyone who says a true Christian must bear fruit is a liar and is adding human works to the free gift of the grace of God! Wouldn’t you like to invite Jesus into your heart right now? What do you have to lose? Come on and join us and stay away from those heretical Calvinists!”

    And so on and so forth.

    Please understand I’m not suggesting tearing down denominational walls or making light of the very serious doctrinal differences reflected in the above “tongue in cheek” scenarios. My point is simply that we all want to think that what we believe is “right”. I mean, after all only an insane person wouldn’t.

    Fact is our presuppositions and worldviews color how we process all our information and even Bible believing, spirit filled, godly, born-again, honest to goodness Christians can and do disagree on a whole host of peripheral articles.

    A common quote is “unity in essentials, liberty in non-essentials, and charity in both.” Sometimes I wonder if during our ardent efforts to be “right” if maybe we don’t too often forget our first love.

  5. WWJWMTD – What would Jesus want me to do.
    This area of our Christian walk gets so misunderstood. We should constantly allowing the Spirit to address things in our lives.

    Now after you quit smoking, drinking, and cursing some believers stop there when in actuallity the sins of the flesh are easier than the sins of the Spirit. Unbelievers can give those fleshly habits up, but they can never clean the inside. They are dead.

    When I was first saved I would take my Bible out of the box, open it to the words in red, and smoke a cigarette while I read. Now some believers would have chewed me up and spit me out, but I was a babe.

    The issue today is that so called preachers are teaching that these things are all right now. While they promise you liberty they lead you into bondage

    I would be interested to hear from others some of the things they did while they were still immature. Don’t worry, we won’t post you former sins!

  6. Deb,

    We are all at different places in our journeys. None of us are “there.” When we think we have it all figured out then we are being set up for a huge fall. The fact that you feel the way you do means you are in better shape than most. :-)

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  7. Coram Deo,

    “A common quote is “unity in essentials, liberty in non-essentials, and charity in both.” Sometimes I wonder if during our ardent efforts to be “right” if maybe we don’t too often forget our first love.”

    We are always in danger of that if we become to focused on this life here and off of what awaits us. We must seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness. If we are in cat fights with people over stuff in these discussions that matter very little in the eternal then we make a huge error because we have lost our first love and are, instead, pushing something else.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratiff

  8. Rick,

    Do you mean like the other day? :-)

    For many years after God saved me I struggled big time with frustration over not being able to stop sinning. I resent people getting away with stuff. Fortunatly, God has calmed me down a great deal about this, but back in the mid-1980’s I was a baby Christian and I tried to be a good Christian by will power. No one told me different. Failure after failure. That is not a period I like to remember.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  9. Mike,
    Mike,
    Everything changed for me when I found out we were saved, by Grace, in faith. Not of our own doing as it is a gift of God. When you realize the magnitude of Him choosing us for no reason other than His mercy, that just changes everything I once thought. That changed me.

  10. No, Mike, today I don’t have my Bible in a box, I read even the words in black, and I’ve cut way back on the smoking. A burnt sacrifice, you know.

  11. Rick,

    I was talking about myself. :-)

    We are living sacrifices, but until we see that we will be very frustrated believers.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  12. I hear that God will remove that desire to smoke but I really haven’t quite let Him yet. Now I just burn about 20 sacrifices a day. lol

  13. Great exposition, Mike!
    I’ve “sent a page” to some friends…hope you don’t mind.
    This is useful for our Christian Homeschool Group, as we deal with members from denominations that see things differently than our statement of faith.

  14. That would be great to only have the problems we are discussing. I have a really huge one and don’t know what to do about it. I don’t want to end up wrong trying to right something I did.

  15. Deborah,
    That’s funny :-)! Seriously, I have a real problem with getting to where ever I am going and getting there on time. Most of the time I’m between 5-10 minutes late. My mom literally got to the hospital and was done 15 minutes later. I have been rushing to where I was going my whole life. I never had a problem with it until this year. I am really convicted and try over and over and fail. I know it sounds silly but I really DO grieve over speeding and being late. Please pray for my deliverance and submission to the law of the land. :-(

  16. Rachel,
    Set your clocks ahead then forget you did it. :)
    Set the alarm on your cell phone so you know its time to go. :)
    Get a few tickets, pay huge fines, lose your drivers license for a season. Then go on high risk insurance. :)
    Okay, I will pray.

  17. Mike,
    I did see my former self in it. Which really wasn’t a good thing. Pride does come before the fall doesn’t it. In my case a big huge splat! :)

  18. An Old Testament man is driving a car on a highway. He sees the outward signs that say 60 mile per hour. That is the law and he must obey it.

    A New Testament driver is driving a car on a highway. There are no signs, no law whatsoever. He speeds up and as he goes over 60 miles an hour he hears a voice inside him say, “You are going to fast, it is not good for you to go this far”.

    The man says to the voice, “But I do not see any signs and there is no law about speeding”.

    The voice says, “yes, that is true, you can go faster if YOU desire, but I desire for you to slow down. Do you love me, then obey me”.

    The man remembers something, “The love of Christ constrains me”. He slows back down.

    Liberty from the law, but liberty in the Spirit. Same result, different paths. One is carved in stone, the other is spoken on the fleshy tables of our hearts. How great is our God!

  19. Rachel,
    I too became convicted over speeding this past year! I thought to myself, “Why do I assume speeding is ok?” God has helped me to conquer this area most of the time but I’m certainly not perfect in it! Some of Deborah’s suggestions are good. The one about moving your clock ahead of time and FORGETTING that you did it is key. My sister moved her clock up and now she always says, “But that clock is 15 minutes fast so we have time.” LOL! She isn’t helping herself at all except in her math skills! :)

Comments are closed.