Freedom in Christ

Text — Acts 15:1-35; Romans 14:1,15:3


  1. Introduction
    1. We have been looking at stories that shaped our theology. We’ve been looking at freedom.
      1. From the Exodus we saw that God created us to be free.
      2. From the story of Samuel and Israel choosing a king we learned that we are free to choose, but we live with the consequences. Furthermore, the amount of freedom any people enjoy is directly proportional to their virtue and knowledge.
    2. I want to do one last lesson on freedom, this is peculiar to Christianity. It’s labeled Freedom in Christ.
      1. I feel it necessary to discuss this subject because many of us were raised in old-line holiness, fundamental Baptist, or conservative Pentecostal churches which had very strict rules about dress, adornment, entertainment, church attendance, and other stuff.
      2. Why this is so important many of us were taught that to violate these “standards” was sin and would plunge us into hell.
      3. As I matured and could understand the Bible better I realize that these were, in fact, personal convictions being taught as God’s commandments.
    3. Paul spent a great deal of time in his epistles explaining freedom in Christ. The theology began with a controversy that arose after the church realized that God was reaching out to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. In fact, the decisions of the Jerusalem Council are what kept Christianity from becoming just another Jewish sect.
  2. The Story – The Jerusalem Council
    1. Verses 1-2, “Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: ‘Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.’” This brought Paul and Barnabus into sharp dispute and debate with them.
    2. Paul and Barnabus along with others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. As they traveled they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made the brothers very glad
    3. At Jerusalem they were welcomed. They reported everything God had done through them
    4. Pharisee stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.”
    5. After much discussion Peter addressed them,
      1. God chose me to speak to the Gentiles first
      2. “God accepted they by giving them the Holy Spirit just like us. He made no distinction between us.
      3. Why do you want to try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear?
      4. We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
    6. Assembly listened in silence as Paul and Barnabus told about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them.
    7. When they finished James spoke up:
      1. “Brothers, listen to me. Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself. The words of the prophets are in agreement with this as it is written:
        “ ‘After this I will return
        and rebuild David’s fallen tent.
        Its ruins I will rebuild,
        and I will restore it,
        that the remnant of men may seek the Lord,
        and all the Gentiles who bear my name,
        says the Lord, who does theses things’
        that have been known for ages.
      2. It is my judgment that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them.
    8. So they wrote the following letter
    9. The people read it and were glad.
  3. The Theology of Freedom in Christ
    1. All are saved by grace through faith alone.
    2. The Jewish dietary laws and other lifestyle requirements were shadows of the substance given by God to lead us to Christ. Once we have the substance the shadow is unnecessary.
    3. Our freedom is within the commands of God. There is a distinction between commands and personal convictions
      1. Commands are universally binding on all people at all times.
      2. Personal convictions arise out of wisdom and are personally binding.
  4. Paul’s teaching in Romans
    1. Verses 1-3 Accept him whose faith is weak without passing judgment on disputable matters
      1. Stronger brother
      2. Weaker brother
      3. Those who indulge must not look down on those who abstain
      4. Those who abstain must not judge those who indulge.
    2. Verses 5-12 Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind
    3. Verses 13-18 Do not put a stumbling block or obstacle in any brother’s way
    4. Verses 19-21 Make every effort to do what leads to peace
      1. Pharisee
  5. Categories of Differing Brothers
  6. (Decision Making and the Will of God, Friesen & Maxon; p.417)
    Weaker Brother Stronger Brother Pharisee
    He differs from my opinion at times He differs from my opinion at times He differs from my opinion at times
    He is not fully convinced He is fully convinced He is fully convinced
    He is sincere He is convinced and humble He is convinced and proud
    He needs teaching and is open to it He has been taught, but is open to correction He has been taught, but is not open to correction
    He is surprised  at my use of freedom He accepts me with my differing opinion He judges or rejects me for my differing conviction
    He does not think he can teach me He is willing to discuss why he differs He seeks to make me conform to his viewpoint
    He is influenced by my example He is not improperly influenced by my example He is not influenced by my example
    I cause him to stumble into sin I cannot cause him to stumble into sin His pride will cause him to stumble
    He is caused to sin by my wrong use of freedom He is not caused to sin by my use of freedom He becomes upset by my use of freedom
    When I cause him to stumble it is “an offense given Since he does not stumble there is no offense at all When he stumbles over my freedom it is “an offense taken.”
    1. Verse 22a Whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God.
    2. Verse 22b Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves.
  7. Summary
    1. Galations 5:1
      It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
    2. Galations 5:13
      You, my brothers were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh;