Looking Deeper Into Christian Liberty

What does the Bible say about Facebook, Twitter and social networks? Nothing? That’s right. Facebook and Twitter are not in the Bible. But there is a very clear teaching in scripture that helps us to evaluate issues that are not explicitly commanded or condemned in the Bible. This teaching is called Christial liberty. 

In my blog post yesterday I referenced “matters of conscience” quite a bit. Christian liberty and matters of conscience are very similar and they represent a vital doctrine that helps us evaluate our participation in social networks. It is the basic theological platform that allows us to use Facebook or Twitter. 

The core passages on Christian liberty are found in 1 Corinthians 8-10 and Romans 14-15. Here Paul explains his freedom and self-imposed limits. There were Christians and nonchristians that were strugling with food offered to idols, holidays, marriage, and the cerimonial aspects of the jewish law. Paul explained at length how to evaluate these types of issues. So if you want to study Christian liberty, that is where you need to start. 

A few years ago my Dad preached a sermon that framed the whole topic well. He provided an instrument called The Six Freedom Principles that helped clearify the biblical teaching on Christian Liberty. Much of the teaching is based on the key passages out of 1 Corinthians and Romans. Here is the basic outline from his message.  

Freedom Principle #1: I have the freedom and right to do whatever is not forbidden explicitly in Scripture. I have the responsibility to take a stand for the freedom I have in Christ. My choice is between God and me. (Galatians 5:1, Romans 14:23, 1 Corinthians 10:29)

What is Christian Freedom? 

Christian freedom is the ability to move without constraint, pursuing and achieving the desires of our hearts, within the boundaries provided by the scriptures.

What does it mean to violate one’s conscience?

If you participate in an activity that your conscience is telling you is wrong, that is sin. (Romans 14:23)

If you know you should do something and don’t do it, that’s sin. (James 4:17)

So, avoid things that your conscience is prompting you as wrong and do what you know is right.

Freedom Principle #2: I have a responsibility to limit my freedom in Christ for the sake of other believers who may be caused to stumble. The word “stumble” has the idea of falling into sin themselves, not just being bothered. (1 Corinthians 8)

Freedom Principle #3: I have a responsibility to limit my freedom for the sake of non-believers because winning them to Christ is the most important issue. (1 Corinthians 10:23-33)

Freedom Principle #4: I must limit my freedom when it indulges my sinful nature. (1 Corinthians 6:12, Galatians 5:13, Proverbs 4:23)

Freedom Principle #5: I need to be careful about imposing my personal convictions on someone else, thus erring by judging others. (Romans 14:1-8, 1 Corinthians 4:5, Matthew 7:2)

Freedom Principle #6: I must submit myself to those whom God has placed as authorities in my life, recognizing that leaders (ie: parents, pastors, government) have an obligation to encourage people to live Godly lives, warn them about the dangers of life choices, and impose limitations when necessary. (Romans 13:5)

I have used this teaching a number of times since I first heard it in 2009. Most recently I taught a class at School of Worship based on the same outline. 

In closing, I wanted to add one more quote from The Great Doctrines of the Bible. The author provides a more condensed version of the same thing. 

Believers have liberty in Christ, Gal. 5:1. This is limited by personal conviction, Rom. 14:5; by warnings against self indulgence, Gal. 5:13; by enslaving habits, 1 Cor. 6:12; and by anything which does not edify, 1 Cor. 10:23; which is hypocritical, 1 Pet. 2:16; or which tends to harm the weak, 1 Cor. 8:9. Three principles govern conduct.

1. Effect upon self. Conduct must be pure rather than lustful, 1 Tim. 5:22; 1 Pet. 2:11. It must not defile, 1 Cor. 3:17; Tit. 1:15 , or result in self condemnation, Rom. 14:22. It is always to be in the category of good works, Tit. 3:8 , rather than in the category of sin, Rom. 6:13.

2. Effect upon others, Rom. 14:7. It is to be a good example, 1 Tim. 4:12; worthy of our calling, Eph. 4:1; honest, 2 Cor. 8:21; free from the appearance of evil, 1 Thess. 5:22; helpful rather than offensive to a neighbor, Rom. 15:2; l Cor. 10:32; not a cause of stumbling, Rom. 14:13. It must honor parents, Col. 3:20; and government, Tit. 3:1; while it may not be an unequal yoke, 2 Cor. 6:14.

3. Relationship to God. Everything is to be done in the name of the Lord, 1 Tim. 6:1; as unto Him, Col. 3:23; and for His glory, 1 Cor. 10:31. It is to be worthy of God and His kingdom, 1 Thess. 2:12; 2 Thess. 1:5. (Evans, W., & Coder, S. M. (1998). The great doctrines of the Bible (Enl. ed.) (282–283). Chicago: Moody Press.)