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LIFE > Life in the World > Drinkers of Wine > Christian Freedom > Free in Christ


According to the New Testament, the believer’s freedom is total; he is absolutely free from the religious regulations and commandments of men. His life is not to be lived according to the rules and expectations of others; he is under no constraint to follow the guidelines established by those who would seek to control his life and fashion his behavior. Jesus did not submit to the Pharisees, so neither must the follower of Jesus be compelled to capitulate to the modern day Pharisees. Spirituality is not determined by religious consensus.

But the believer does have the responsibility to limit his freedom in regards to a weaker brother, the one who is immature in his knowledge and understanding of the Scriptural teaching concerning liberty. The weak brother is one who does not know, not one who knows and yet rejects Christian freedom because a certain practice contradicts his conception of separation.

The weak brother is ignorant, not legalistic.

The limitations called for in the New Testament are not to honor the legalism of a brother, but to consider the genuine concern of a new brother based upon his previous practices associated with worship and conduct, either in Judaism or paganism.

Four passages are significant: Romans 14; I Corinthians 8; 10:23-33; and Colossians 2:9-23.

According to Colossians, in Christ “dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (2:9); in other words, Christ “is the image of the invisible God” (1:15). To affirm Christ is to affirm God. To speak of Christ is to speak of Deity. The foundational truth is that Jesus is God, fully God, possessing all the attributes of God. And it is with Christ, who is God, that the believer is identified. Therefore, to be identified with Christ is to be identified with God and all that He is.

Because of this identification the believer is “complete in Him” (2:10). All that Christ is, the fullness of God, is applied to the believer. All that Christ, as God the Son, has done, His life and death, is imputed to the believer. This means that the person and work of Christ is given to the believer by God through grace; to be “in Christ,” therefore, is to be complete. It is to lack nothing. To in Christ is to be in God; it is to have all His perfection. The righteousness of the Son and the sufficiency of His sacrifice are imputed to the believer, who needs nothing else. What can the believer lack if he has all that God is and has done?

In light of whom Christ is and the believer’s identification with Him, which results in the believer being complete, Paul writes: “Therefore let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths” (Col. 2:16). The believer is not to subject himself to regulations which say: “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle” (v. 21), for these are “according to the commandments and doctrines of men” (v. 22). And these types of regulations “have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh” (v. 23). In other words, they camouflage the outside but in no way mortify the inside. And it is from the inside that the issues of life flow.

Outward appearances can be deceiving because they do not, or may not, reflect properly the unseen. Samuel learned this lesson at Jesse’s house. The believer’s adherence to the rules of men does not add to his standing before God; they do not make the believer better or more complete. They do not establish nor hasten his sanctification. Nothing that the believer does can add to or detract from what he has already in Christ. Obeying the rules of men does not make the believer more spiritual; disobeying them does not make him less spiritual.

Pious doctrines and commandments of men do not increase or enhance sanctification. Not only do they fail to hasten or enhance sanctification, they cannot. They have no external value. The believer is under no obligation to satisfy the expectations of false teachers. Their premise is wrong; it contradicts the finished work of the cross. An acceptance before God is granted, it is not gained. There will always be Pharisees.

In Romans 14:1-13 the law of Christian liberty is also firmly set forth. Paul is dealing with Jewish Christians and/or pagan converts who were not yet aware of the proper relationship of the Old, the way of Moses and the law, and the New, the way of Christ and the Spirit. And he is dealing with more knowledgeable believers who understand the sufficiency of Christ and practice the freedom they have in Him. The “one who is weak in the faith” (v. 1) is one who is concerned over what he eats and the days he observes (vs. 2, 5); he eats “only vegetables” (v. 2) and “esteems one day above another” (v. 5). The mature Christian “believes he may eat all things” (v. 2) and “esteems every day alike” (v. 5).

To both of these groups Paul gives instruction: “Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats” (v. 3). The mature believer is not over the weak Christian, nor is the weak over the strong. Each “shall give account of himself to God” (v. 12), “for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” (v. 10). Finally, Paul concludes: “Let us not judge one another anymore” (v. 15). Believers, weak or strong, are admonished to live in peace.

Christian freedom serves a purpose, and the purpose is not the indulgence of the believer’s Adamic nature. The one “in Christ” is not free to sin at will and satisfy the cravings of the flesh. In Romans 6:1 Paul asks the question: “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” in other words, do we sin more so we can get more grace? He answers in verse two: “Certainly not!” The experience of grace does not provide a permit to sin. Christian freedom frees the believer from man’s regulations but not from God’s Revelation. What then is the purpose of the freedom the followers of Christ have?

The believer’s liberty serves to promote discipline and control in his life. The use of wine is acceptable, but wine is not to be abused. Liberty is not a license to indulge. Wine is to be enjoyed as a gift from God, but drunkenness is condemned. The burden is on the believer. Liberty brings with it an obligation. The believer’s responsibility, as a result of his freedom, is to practice moderation and temperance. The love of Christ is to be greater than the love of sin. True Christian liberty promotes sanctification.

I hear many cry when there are deplorable excesses, “Would there were not wine!” Oh, folly! Oh, madness! Is it the wine that causes this abuse? No. it is the intemperance of those who take an evil delight in it. Cry rather: “Would to God there were no drunkenness, no luxury.” If you say, “Would there were no wine” because of the drunkards, then you must say, going on by degrees, “Would there were no steel” because of the murderers, “Would there were no night” because of the thieves, “Would there were no light” because of the informers, and “Would there no women” because of adultery.
John Chrysostom

Wine improves with age;
the older I get;
the better I like it!

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