The Statutes of Liberty: Guidelines for Exercising Christian Liberty (Part 1)

Our church continued our series on Christian Ethics with the topic of Christian Liberty. This will probably be a three part series since there is a lot that I want to share. I will post the sermon when it is uploaded.

I. The Introduction to Christian Liberty

1. Understand the Definition of Liberty

“Practices not governed in Scripture by a moral absolute that either commands or forbids them. Such activities, scripturally speaking, are morally indifferent.”[1] This may include but is not restricted to drinking alcohol, smoking cigars/cigarettes, listening to secular music, dancing, getting tattoos,  watching TV/movies, eating fastfood/junkfood, homeschool vs. public school, clothes and attire, owning pets, owning guns, motorcycles, and having different hobbies.

2. Know That We Are Liberated People

Christians are defined as people of liberty (Gal 5:1). We have been freed from many different things. Freed from the tyranny of obtaining righteousness from good works. The bondage of sin. We should not put ourselves under a law of preferences that restrict us from living liberated lives.

3. Enjoy What God has Given

Before explaining the parameters for Christian liberty, we need to understand that God has given us good things to enjoy in this world (Ecc 2:24-25; 3:22; 5:18-19; 11:9-10). In Ecclesiastes, there are statements sprinkled throughout the book that expresses God’s desire for His people to enjoy good things. When given a Christmas gift, you are supposed to enjoy it. God gives labors, spoils, and our Christian Liberty as a gift for enjoyment.

4. Avoid the Extremes (Legalism and Libertinism)

When driving on a bridge, you want to avoid moving to either extreme. Going too far on both sides will cause you to fall, and the same is true for our Christian Liberty. There are two extremes to avoid: Legalism and Libertinism. Phil Johnson gives a clearer understanding of two aspects of legalism in the New Testament. Legalism is salvation through human achievement (Judaizers), or holding to unbiblical standards as a means of obtaining sanctification (Pharisees). Libertinism is a lifestyle or pattern of behavior characterized by self-indulgence and lack of restraint, a rejection of religious or other moral authority. Another synonym is Antinomianism. It is the belief that our liberty in Christ releases us from any and all obligation to the laws and commandments of God. This is the mindset that says, “Hey, I’m saved by grace and that means I can live however I want to. I can practice, partake of, and enjoy anything and everything because I’m saved by grace. I have the liberty to do so.”

Byron Yawn says, “The gospel makes both the moralists and libertines nervous. When you can offend both extremes you are probably are getting it right. Paul retreats to the gospel while the moralist retreats to rules. Paul retreats to the cross while the libertine retreats to his rights. To the moralist Paul’s ethic sounds irresponsible. To the libertine it sounds oppressive. But, Paul was happy to confront both. Such is the cross.”[2]

Our practice of Christian liberty must avoid these extremes. Holding others to liberties/preferences that are unscriptural is legalistic. Preventing people from practicing liberties that are fair game (in the name of “holiness) is legalistic. However, thinking that certain sins and unwise choices are your liberty is the other extreme of libertinism/antinomianism. Both must be avoided. We must find the true and correct path in the exercise of Christian freedom.

[1] John Feinberg, Ethics for a Brave New World, 52-53.

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