But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. (1 Corinthians 8:9).
Paul wrote to a church that was struggling to understand their freedom in Christ. The message is we aren’t only to love in word; we must also love in deed, and even more, we must be willing to lay aside our own liberties on occasion, in consideration of others in the pattern that Jesus showed. Our Christian walk is an ongoing battle between self-will and God’s will.
"Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;"
(Philippians 2: 12-15).
All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.
We are free from keeping the law. Christ finished the requirements of the Law and died in our place. As believers, we have been set free from it, but free to do what? Is a born-again Christian free to sin without repentance because the blood of Christ has paid the debt? “God forbid.” We were freed from the law in order to be full partakers in the family of God. Jesus said many times that “I and the Father are one.” Christ fully surrendered His will to that of the Father, because they were of the same mind, had the same purpose, and were united in love. Likewise, we have been redeemed and are part of the body of Christ, so we should share the same vision, purpose, and love. These two things are true at the same time: I have been set free, and I have passed from death to life. The new life we have in Christ comes with a desire to do the will of God. Because we are no longer blinded by sin, we see clearly the worthless and vain things that are in our lives that we’d be better off without. I am free, I no longer want to do those things that are not expedient, meaning things that take me away from God instead of helping me draw nearer to him.
Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. (2 Corinthians 3:17).
The Holy Spirit brings discernment into the life of a believer. He’ll guide us to those things that are helpful and needful in our walk with Christ. Far too many Christians tune out His voice with a multitude of distractions. It causes us to be unprofitable servants. Instead of growing in our understanding of what to pursue and what to abandon, we think about our own situations, rely on our own understanding, and allow empty pursuits to distract us from our relationship with God.
Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth.
That’s what God the Father did when He gave the world His Son. That’s what Jesus Christ did when He chose a Roman cross over the portals of glory. That is what we need to do, for love’s sake. Understanding the plan of God, we are to desire the good of others above our own. You’ll never give love, mercy, and grace and be poorer for it. It’s only when we surrender our rights and wills that God is able to break open the storehouse of blessings in our lives that He longs to share. Here begins the principle of love in action. We were created for good works, we have to work out our walk with God hand in hand with the Spirit of God, no one can force us to do what is right, it has to be the decision of a changed heart. It is the opposite of what we want to do in the flesh. We naturally seek our own, but our spirit will desire to try harder to be a blessing to others for Christ’s sake. That is the light that Jesus spoke of when He said that we would be a “shining city on a hill.” We are not to be conformed to this world, our citizenship has been transferred to another.
Whatsoever is sold in the shambles (meat market), that eat, asking no question for conscience sake: For the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof. If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake. But if any man say unto you, this is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof: Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man's conscience?
Paul writes similarly about this again in Romans chapter 14:1-3.
Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
Meat could be bought from the backdoor of pagan temples throughout the Roman Empire at a bargain. Obviously, it is disgusting that idols were being worshiped, and someone saved by the blood of Christ would want nothing to do with idols. Yet, as they witnessed and lived among their neighbors, it was necessary to understand that idols had no power whatsoever. If a believer ate the meat offered to idols, they were not guilty of any sin, as long as when they decided to do so, they did it with confidence in God and the fact that the foolish beliefs of unbelievers had absolutely no power or influence over them. If they ate in doubt of the power of God alone to save, or were in any way double-minded about whether or not Christ alone was the only way to Heaven, then it was a sin. “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.”
He certainly was not telling them to be dishonest or hypocritical. He was saying that what we choose to do should align with our goal to fulfill the will of God and should not be affected by the opinions or approval of others. Think before you act, not about whether or not you will get away with it, but about whether or not this will be good for building the kingdom of God. Work it out: know your own mind and listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Paul believed that as a mature Christian, you should be fully persuaded that an idol is nothing, but when witnessing to someone just starting out in their new walk with Jesus, eating the meat offered on pagan altars could be very confusing, even a place to stumble back into disbelief. You are to strengthen the weak, considering where they struggle. Sometimes, fulfilling the great commission requires denying yourself to help others.
Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin. (Romans 14:22-23).
So when should we boldly proclaim our liberty in Jesus, and when should we deny ourselves in order to help someone who is spiritually weaker? The question can be answered only on a case by case basis. It’s simple to know what to do if the goal of having the mind of Christ is more highly regarded by us than having our own way. What motivates you? Fulfilling your own desires or building the kingdom of God? Sometimes, we show love by setting boundaries and sometimes by crossing them. We are to love in action, considering the growth and maturity of others.
For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I- evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?
And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding? Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. (Matthew 15:16-18).
And Paul writes to Timothy, "For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer." (1 Timothy 4: 3-5). It is set apart in the giving of thanks.
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Give none offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
The church at Corinth fought the same battle that we fight in the church today. The children of God are forgiven of their sins and equally from being ruled by their flesh. If you find yourself asking, “Can I do this and still go to heaven?” or “Can I do what pleases me without consequences?” you are still thinking like the old man. You’ve been made new. Your motivations should be different now. The old dead mindset of an unbeliever is continually selfish. It is all about me. Paul is not promoting legalism or hypocrisy, He’s trying to change their vision. He is saying that whatever we do, whenever we do it, we should do it to the glory of God. Be aware of the fact that you have a relationship with your creator that is more precious than any earthly pursuit or pleasure you can imagine. I want to take as many people to Heaven as I possibly can, because that is the heart of God and because I have received so much from His hand that I would never be able to keep it all to myself.
Thank you for studying with us! God bless!