15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! 16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? (Romans 6:15–16, NKJV)
Whatever our profession, we are “slaves” of the one we obey (v. 16). Being under grace does not sanction sin (v. 15). Liberty in Christ is not freedom to determine what is or is not sin. God’s word does that (1 Jno. 3:4). Freedom in Christ is not a cloak for wickedness (1 Pet. 2:16). Sons of light do not walk in the darkness of sin (Eph. 5:6-8). Our liberty in Christ is freedom from sin’s bondage and death (Rom. 6:6-7, 11, 18). Having been “set free from sin,” we have “become slaves of God” (Rom. 6:22). We volunteer to be slaves of sin or obedience. We chose to become slaves or righteousness when we obeyed the gospel from the heart (Rom. 6:17, 3-4). Now, our course of life is to present ourselves as slaves of obedience leading to righteousness (v. 16). Making conscious decisions to obey Christ protects us from sin’s death as it produces holiness (Rom. 6:19-22).
15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. (1 Peter 2:15–17, NKJV)
God’s word teaches Christians to identify and turn away from those who promote and practice sin at every season, including the “perilous times” in which we live (2 Tim. 3:1-5; Eph. 5:8-11). Today’s passage teaches us to do good when the “ignorance of foolish men” would otherwise incite us to be unruly, unrighteous, and ungodly. In context, that includes submitting to human ordinances (that do not force us to sin, 1 Pet. 2:13-14; Acts 5:29). Being free in Christ (free from sin and death) means we are now bondservants of God and not men (Rom. 6:4-11, 16-18; 1 Cor. 7:23). Our freedom in Christ is not our license to be wicked; it is our calling to be God’s slaves (v. 16). Therefore, when evil authorities do evil things, we are to bear the image of Christ and patiently accept suffering for what is good (1 Pet. 2:18-24). For our part, we must be respectful of everyone (including rulers over us), love all our brethren, and fear God (v. 17). By doing so we silence (muzzle, give no credence to) worldly ignorance by exposing its inept, mindless, and egotistical foolishness (v. 15; 1 Cor. 3:18-23). By doing so, with God’s help, you “overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21).
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18–19, NKJV)
We are bombarded with bad news every day. Threats, corruption, wars, diseases, intrigue, and death; these are the daily headlines. Today’s citation was first given by the prophet Isaiah (Isa. 61:1-2). Jesus read it in a synagogue in Nazareth and said, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk. 4:21). Jesus came announcing good news. He was anointed by God to preach the gospel and, by it, to proclaim the healing of hearts and liberty from sin’s captivity. His gospel assures the poor in spirit of the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:3). To blinded hearts, it gives sight (Jno. 9:35-41). His gospel proclaims freedom from sin’s oppression to all who believe and obey (Rom. 6:17-18). The gospel of Christ declares the presence of God’s favor and grace (“the acceptable year of the Lord”). God’s grace has appeared to everyone in Christ, offering forgiveness of sins and fellowship with the Almighty as it produces faith (Tit. 2:11-12; Rom. 10:17; Eph. 1:13). Do not be overwhelmed by all the bad news around us. Listen to the good news of Christ. It will save your soul and lift your heart heavenward every day.
1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. 2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. (Galatians 5:1–2, NKJV)
Sinners are freed from sin by Jesus Christ (John 8:36). Christ frees us from sin when we believe and obey His gospel from the heart (Rom. 6:17-18). However, freedom in Christ does not mean freedom from living by the very gospel pattern (“form of doctrine,” Rom. 6:17) that frees us from sin. Liberty in Christ is not carte blanche to decide what is truth for ourselves (truth is not self-defined). Liberty in Christ freed Jews and Gentiles from the “yoke of bondage” produced by trying to be “justified by law,” as illustrated by demanding the circumcision of the flesh for salvation (Gal. 5:3-4). The plan of salvation, what is moral, what is sound doctrine, true worship, and everything else that “accords with godliness” must harmonize with the revealed gospel of Christ (1 Tim. 6:3; 2 Tim. 1:13). We are free from sin in Christ to live by the light of His truth and have fellowship with God (1 Jno. 1:5-7). The liberty to which the gospel calls us is not “an opportunity for the flesh” (Gal. 5:13). Put plainly, liberty in Christ does not permit us to practice sin (see Gal. 5:16-26, where Paul explains this). Liberty in Christ compels us to live by “faith working through love” by “obeying the truth” of the gospel (Gal. 5:6-7; Jno. 8:31-32).
1 Then he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek. (Acts 16:1–3, NKJV)
Are we willing to follow the example of Timothy? Some debate whether Jews would consider Timothy to be Jewish or Gentile (New American Commentary: Acts, Polhill, 343). Regardless of that, as the uncircumcised son of a Jewish mother, Timothy’s gospel influence among Jews would be diminished if not nullified (v. 3). His circumcision was not compulsory; it was voluntary for the progress of the gospel. Paul did not want uncircumcised Timothy to be a potential barrier to the spread of the gospel and the salvation of souls. Neither did Timothy. His willingness to become “all things to all men” and be circumcised is an example of not becoming a stumbling block by refusing a personal right or liberty (1 Cor. 9:19-23). Timothy did not have to be circumcised to be saved (Acts 15). But, as a companion of Paul and Silas, it was expedient for him to do so. Are we willing to accept pain and forego our “rights” for the sake of the gospel? Or, are our personal liberties more precious to us than trying to save some? Timothy continues to be “an example to the believers” (1 Tim. 4:12).
31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. 1 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:31–11:1, NKJV)
With these summary remarks, Paul brings into focus his earlier statement, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being” (1 Cor. 10:23-24). We have the right to do many things, but given a certain set of circumstances, we are taught to forego our liberty for the sake of another’s conscience (1 Cor. 10:25-30). We cannot simply say, “I have the liberty, and therefore I will use my liberty regardless of how it affects others.” Or again, “I’m not going to be told what to do by someone else’s conscience.” These are the attitudes of a person who becomes a stumbling block to others (an “offense,” v. 32; 1 Cor. 8:9-13). Paul would seek the well-being of all men – even at the cost of foregoing his own liberty – so that he could help and not hinder their salvation (v. 31). This is what Jesus did when He sacrificed Himself, and Paul was imitating Him (v. 1; Rom. 15:2-3). Let us imitate Paul and seek the spiritual profit of others, and so imitate Christ, too.
“Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7, NKJV)
Disputes over personal liberties had strained relations between brethren in the church at Rome. The Holy Spirit guided Paul to write a lengthy explanation of the Lord’s will so they would “receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things” (Rom. 14:1). The weakness of which he speaks describes personal scruples of conscience over matters indifferent to God (Rom. 14:3, 5). Such differences are not to become wedges of disruption among the saints. Since God receives Christians who hold different consciences in matters He treats as indifferent (like dietary choices), so must we (Rom. 14:2-6, 7-13). Far from endorsing unity in moral and doctrinal diversity (as many assert by misusing this passage), the apostle advocates unity of diverse consciences over liberties approved by God. (Morality and doctrine are not issues of indifference to God; therefore, they do not fit here, Galatians 1:6-10; 2 John 9.) The critical condemnation of personal liberties must cease (Rom. 14:13)! We avoid being stumbling blocks and we exemplify Christ’s acceptance of us by receiving (welcoming) one another with our different conscientious scruples over (non-sinful) liberties. Christ’s unselfish sacrifice and God’s “patience and comfort” toward us are landmarks to imitate so we may be “like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus” (Rom. 15:1-3, 5). This glorifies God.
34 Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. 35 And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. 36 Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. (John 8:34–36, NKJV)
The Fourth of July. Across the land, parades, picnics and fireworks celebrate America’s Independence Day. How many will pause and ponder this paradox: While living in a free country, most are not free at all. By committing sin, millions and millions of Americans (and billions around the globe) are enslaved to sin (Jno. 8:34). Liberty from a tyrannical king’s domination is cherished and celebrated in America. Yet, sin’s tyranny over the soul is more brutal and more enduring than any oppression by an earthly dictator. Are you genuinely free today? The Son of God can free you from the bondage of your sin. How? Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jno. 8:31-32). The apostle added, “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17-18). Believe, obey, and abide in the word of Christ to be truly free (Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:37-42). Freedom from sin is a victory we celebrate every day (Rom. 6:14, 17, 22-23; 1 Cor. 15:57). (Revision of Sword Tips #802)
1 We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. 3 For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.” (Romans 15:1–3, NKJV)
The apostle teaches us to defer to the Christian who holds a conscientious doubt toward a personal scruple (a liberty that allowed by the Lord and that is non-sinful in nature, Romans 14:1-5). We are not to “destroy” a Christian for the sake of clinging to our personal preferences (liberties which, by definition, are pure, but not compulsory, Romans 14:20). We put a stumbling block before the weak (doubtful) brother when we will not forego our liberty to help him keep from violating his conscience (Romans 14:13, 15, 20, 22-23). When it comes to personal liberties we are not to please ourselves, but willingly decline to use our liberty to protect the doubtful (weak) brother. Jesus did not please Himself, but accepted our reproaches so we could be redeemed from sin. Similarly, we must not cling to non-sinful liberties when using them leads the weak (doubtful) Christian to violate his or her conscience (Romans 14:23; 1 Corinthians 8:7-13). We must think more of others than we do ourselves. That would solve many problems, wouldn’t it?