Freedom and Responsibility

And they supported me and did not even demand that my companion Titus be circumcised, though he was a Gentile.  Even that question came up only because of some so-called believers there—false ones, really¬¬—who were secretly brought in. They sneaked in to spy on us and take away the freedom we have in Christ Jesus. They wanted to enslave us and force us to follow their Jewish regulations. But we refused to give in to them for a single moment. We wanted to preserve the truth of the gospel message for you.”—Galatians 2:3-5 (NLT)

The apostle Paul would have been a great American. He loved freedom—he had a lot to say about it, but what’s surprising is that he called himself a doulos (Greek for slave) of Christ (Romans 1:1). The debate in Galatians chapter 2 centers around the question of what does someone have to do, or be, to follow God properly. When Paul wrote his letter, some Jewish Christians thought they needed to keep obeying and living by all the laws found in the Old Testament. These people believed that outsiders who wanted to follow God needed to follow the same rules and “look the same” as them. 

Paul wrote to the Ephesians that there wasn’t anything about them that caused God to save them (Ephesians 2:4-9). It wasn’t the good things they did, it also wasn’t because of the bad things they didn’t do. It was only because God is rich in mercy and grace that He chose to save them through their trust in the sacrificial, atoning work of Jesus. The debate of the first century is still one we discuss today. Culturally, we’re told not to judge people. We might have even told people to “not be so legalistic.” So what is a Christian allowed to do? Does God’s grace mean we won’t be punished? Can we live in immorality because God has saved and forgiven us anyway? 

Romans chapter 6 gives a very clear answer on immorality—it’s “no!” Christ paid our penalty and has declared us righteous, but the Bible is very clear that God wants us to be sanctified, and that is very closely tied to our sexuality and what we do with our bodies (1 Thessalonians 4:3). We should look at the example of the Israelites who had just escaped Egypt. God granted plenty of grace, protection, and provision as He led them out of Egypt, but when they sinned against Him, He didn’t tolerate it (1 Corinthians 10:1-11). Just as children grow toward the maturity, freedom, and fullness of adulthood through the discipline of their parents, God does the same with us because He loves us (Hebrews 12:5-11).

So, what is the freedom Christians can live in today? Can we miss a few weeks of church? Can we watch R-rated movies? Can disciples drink? How short of shorts can we wear? 

I encourage you to read and know your Bible very well, and to ask God how He would have you live your life in the freedom of living for Him.

DIG: Read Romans 6 and 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

DISCOVER: How does Scripture describe a Christian’s relation to sin and to righteousness? Who owns the Christian?

DO: Reflect on what it means to live as a slave of Christ.

About the Author

Justus Martin