More on Christian Liberty

I was just reviewing Romans 14 with my Bible study group, it was evident that the point Paul is making is that while we as Christians have the liberty to eat/drink whatever we want, we should curb that liberty for the sake of the weaker brother. The weaker brother, in Rom 14, is a Jew who thinks eating pork, or foods sacrificed to idols is improper because of the Jewish law. 

Therefore, as stronger believers, it was imperative for the Gentiles not to look down on their fellow believers for their choice to honor God by not partaking. Likewise, in 1 Corinthians, Paul encourages believers not to worry about foods sacrificed to idols, but, if a fellow believer is troubled by it, to abstain in their presence. So the basic theme of Paul’s writing in these instances is that the one stronger in the faith in regards to liberty, should voluntarily, and out of love, abstain in those instances. 

Paul, however, has a completely different message regarding those who TEACH abstinence of foods and beverages God has made holy. Paul does not tell Christians to lovingly put up with or curb freedoms for those who mishandle the Word so as to teach holiness comes through abstinence, rather he calls such the “teachings of demons” and says those who follow them are “depart[ing] from the faith”. In Col 2 Paul exhorts: “Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism…” and says “These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.”

Paul’s point cannot be clearer. In regards to fellow believers who are troubled by the holiness of specific foods, drinks, and activities not expressly forbidden by Scripture, those who are stronger in the faith are to lovingly forego their own liberty. Paul’s writing, however, went to the entire church, weak as well as strong. They all read what he wrote and must recognize that indeed God made these things for us to enjoy, and that the weaker position is not one intended for believers to remain in, but to grow in strength in the faith. 

But in regards to teachers who use their stature and pulpits as a means by which to teach and enforce abstinence from foods God intended as a blessing to believers, Paul did not preach patience and compassion, but scorn and separation. For those who teach that the discussion of, use of, celebration of foods and beverages God gave us as a blessing to enjoy are somehow detrimental to the faith or the witness of Christians, for those who teach ahistorically that the wine in scripture was “watered down” or less potent of that today, for those who teach that the expression and celebration of our liberty from the bondage of man made rules and regulations is somehow evil in itself, Paul doesn’t tell us to lovingly endure, or even put up with it for a moment.

Paul in fact tells Timothy to not mince words: “If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus…

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