Christian Liberty

On August 1, 1838 the little island of Jamaica abolished slavery. The historical account of the event reveals that the day before their liberation a large company of former slaves gathered by the seashore to observe the solemn occasion. If you had been there that evening you would have seen a large mahogany coffin sitting beside a deep hole in the beach. All evening long the soon-to-be emancipated slaves placed symbols of their enslavement into the casket—there were leg-irons, chains, whips and padlocks. A few minutes before midnight the box was lowered into the hole in the beach, and as the sand covered the coffin all joined their voices in one accord to sing:

Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below,
Praise Him above ye heavenly host,
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

They were free at last! In similar fashion, Christ’s death freed us from the bondage of our sins. He stepped into the slave market of sin and purchased us with His precious blood. Christ freed us from sin and death. He freed us from the power of Satan, and, wonder of wonders, he even saved us from ourselves. Christ’s finished work is what has made our liberty in Him a reality.


“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the Body of Christ?” (I Cor. 10:16).

In the narrative before us the Apostle Paul is going to methodically walk us through the subject of Christian liberty. The apostle begins by emphasizing our oneness in Christ. We are members one of another and we must never lose sight of this wonderful truth. Those who have placed their faith in Christ’s finished work, that He died for their sins, was buried, and rose again, are members of the one true Church, which is the Body of Christ. We must, therefore, before God, hold other members of His Body in the highest esteem, even though we may not always agree with one another on this side of glory.

The cup of blessing: Carefully note the order of the elements in this chapter—the “cup” first and the “bread” second. Normally we begin with the bread followed by the cup as outlined in I Corinthians 11:23-26. But the order here is reversed, and for good reason. Paul is going to deal with relationships in this section as he develops the theme of our liberty in Christ.

It has been said that there must first be a vertical relationship between God and the sinner, which is established through faith in the blood of Christ, before it can extend horizontally to touch the lives of those around us. The cup of blessing not only reminds us of our relationship with Christ, but also the oneness we enjoy with other members of the Body of Christ because of His once-for-all sacrifice. This is why when we are introduced to another believer for the first time it seems as though we’ve known them for years.

The Bread: “The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the Body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one Body: for we are all partakers of that one bread” (I Cor. 10:16,17).

In the Old Testament, God gave the seven Levitical feasts to Israel. Fifty days after the feast of Firstfruits the priest was to take two loaves of bread, place them side by side, and wave them before the Lord (Lev. 23:16,17). According to prophecy, one loaf represented the 10 northern tribes, while the other loaf signified the two southern tribes. This looked forward to the day when the divided kingdom would be reunited and Israel restored to her former glory.

We witness a partial fulfillment of this type when Peter stood up on the day of Pentecost (50th) and said: “Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem” (two southern tribes) followed by, “Ye men of Israel, [ten northern tribes] hear these words.” The two loaves are then united in the apostle’s statement: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:14,22,36). Israel is represented in prophecy as two loaves.

Interestingly, when we turn to Paul’s epistles we note an important dispensational distinction. “For we being many are one bread, and one Body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.” Today believers are called “one loaf” or “one Body.” You see, we lose our identity in Christ. We are a new creation, there is no Jew or Gentile, bond or free, male or female; we are all one in Him. As members of His Body we have all been made to drink into one Spirit, by whom we are indwelt and have received life and life more abundantly (I Cor. 12:13).


“Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils” (I Cor. 10:18-21).

In these passages Paul makes reference to three tables: The Lord’s table, Israel’s table, and the table of devils.

When we gather at the Lord’s table it is to commune with Him. What we call the Lord’s Supper is actually a memorial service. For example, in the middle of most town squares it is not uncommon to see a bronze statue of a soldier standing beside a piece of artillery. It was purposely placed there to bring to mind those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country to preserve our freedom. In like manner, when we hold that little piece of bread in our hand at a communion service, it is a reminder that Christ’s body was broken for us. When we partake of the cup it is in remembrance that Christ shed His precious blood that we might enjoy a knowledge of sins forgiven. Every time we observe this memorial it is an act of worship, which shows forth “the Lord’s death till He come” (I Cor. 11:26).

In time past, Israel’s sacrifices were made to the living God; this, too, was an act of worship. Every sacrifice typified some aspect of the once-for-all sacrifice that was yet to be offered. At Israel’s table those who offered the sacrifices also partook of them, which was ordained of God.

Paul also speaks of a third table—the table of devils. When the unbeliever offered a sacrifice to idols they were sacrificing to devils, not to God. Unbeknown to them they were worshiping devils. An idol is nothing in this world—they have eyes, but they can’t see; they have ears, but they cannot hear. But Paul is careful to expose the evil influences behind the idol. While the cup of the Lord is full of realities and truth, the cup of devils is full of vanities and false religions. Here are a few examples:

Islam teaches: “humans are basically good, but fallible and need guidance. The balance between good and bad deeds determines eternal destiny in paradise or hell.”

Christian Science teaches concerning Christ’s death: “One sacrifice, however great, is not sufficient to pay the debt of sin.”

Modernism teaches that every man must atone for his sin, and they add: “the gospel of gore (referring to the blood of Christ) is outworn.”

Separation is a theme that is woven throughout the Scriptures. You will recall when old King Nebuchadnezzar erected an idol to himself, a blatant act of self-deification, he required that all bow and worship him when the musical instruments played. Those who failed to do so would be cast into the burning fiery furnace, which by no means was an idle threat. Even though Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego served in the king’s court, they lived separated lives unto God and refused to obey the king’s commandment. They remained standing when everyone else lay prostrate on the ground. When they were hauled before the king by their jealous enemies they gave this memorable response:

“O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (Dan. 3:16-18).

Paul wanted those at Corinth who were still dabbling in idol worship to separate themselves from this evil practice because it was affecting their testimony for Christ. The apostle was not advocating isolation, but separation from the world. As the old saying goes, “you want the boat in the water, but not the water in the boat.” Sadly, today the Church has been so influenced by the world that it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell the two apart. Living a separated life more clearly defines who we are as ambassadors of Christ. Remember our three Hebrew friends; they stood out among their countrymen who compromised their convictions on the altar of conformity.

The following is an excerpt of a letter we received from a young prisoner which vividly demonstrates how others are drawn to those who live a separated life for the Lord.

“I am speaking on behalf of myself and my cousin who is only 14 years old—I am 19 years old. We both are locked up in a big prison, in a small town, on big charges. We both came from a nice family and a loving church, but we strayed. We watched a young man [from our local assembly] who carried himself in a well-behaved manner and we asked, how can we be like that in a place like this…? Well, we are both asking that you keep us in your prayers and if it isn’t a problem, could you send us some reading materials…to help our spiritual growth? Thank you!”


“All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not” (I Cor. 10:23).

Paul says, “All things are lawful,” that is, permissible, under grace, but all things are not expedient or profitable; all things are lawful but not all things edify or build up. Having separated us from false religions, the apostle now touches on our liberty in Christ, which has been purchased for us at a great price. We should be ever mindful what our Savior endured to deliver us from the slave market of sin. Death by crucifixion is one of the most inhumane forms of death that mankind has ever devised. Even the hard-hearted Roman soldiers often pitied those who suffered this cruel means of ending a life.

Liberty is like fire. It can be used for good such as cooking, heating or a romantic candlelight dinner. But it can also be destructive. Fire that is out of control all too often takes lives and destroys everything in its path. We are not to use our liberty for an occasion to the flesh or to further our cause. Paul says: “Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth” (vs. 24). That is, we are to be looking out for the welfare of other believers. Liberty is considerate! It’s tolerant! It accepts others where they are in their spiritual life without being judgmental.

“Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake. For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof” (I Cor. 10:25,26).

Before we continue, it will be necessary to define the terms “shambles” and “conscience.” The term shambles was usually used of the slaughterhouse, but recent archeological digs have discovered that the slaughterhouse and meat market were often one and the same. Modern day excavations of Pompeii, the city frozen in time due to a volcanic eruption, also substantiate this finding.

Conscience is a warning system that God has placed within each of us to differentiate between right and wrong. We might liken it to the long striped gates at a railroad crossing. When a train is approaching the gates come down, lights begin to flash and in some cases bells ring. The flashing lights and gates are warning you that danger is approaching—beware! However, the warning system does not have the ability to make you stop; that’s a matter of the will. You must apply the brakes to stay out of harm’s way; those who fail to do so proceed at their own peril. In similar fashion, the conscience doesn’t have the power to keep you from doing something wrong; it can only warn you of the danger.

In regard to meats offered to idols, Paul essentially says to the mature believer—don’t ask questions for conscience sake. It’s a non-issue; therefore don’t trouble your conscience or the conscience of others who never entertained the thought. After all, an idol is nothing in the world anyway. Furthermore, the “earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof,” which in this context implies there are no dietary restrictions today, so all foods can be received with thanksgiving. Liberty says it’s okay to eat!

“If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake” (vs. 27).

But what if an unbeliever invites us over to dinner, Paul, what should we do in this case? Once again, the mature believer understands that an idol is nothing; therefore, don’t ask the unsaved if the meal he is serving was offered to an idol. Since your host hasn’t raised the issue, there’s no need to ask. Once again, liberty says it’s okay to eat!

“But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that showed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof. Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other” (I Cor. 10:28,29).

Next the apostle turns his attention to the weaker brother in the faith. If a weaker brother is sitting across the table from you and someone comments that the meat about to be served had been offered to an idol, Paul says—don’t eat it! If you partake of the sacrifice in front of the weaker brother, he will think you are compromising, simply because he hasn’t yet come to a full appreciation of his liberty in Christ. Note the apostle states a second time, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,” to make it perfectly clear the earth belongs to the Lord, not the false gods. However, with this said, these false gods would be honored in the mind of the weaker brother if the stronger brother eats in his presence. You see, we have liberty to not exercise our liberty, so as not to offend a brother in Christ who may not be as far along as we are in the faith. Essentially, meat was not as much the issue as love. Love will not partake out of concern for the weaker brother’s conscience.

“For why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience? For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks? Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (I Cor. 10:29-31).

Why was Paul judged? Why was he “evil spoken of?” He had given thanks to the Lord. After all, this is the age of grace—he had liberty to partake if he so desired! Paul could have demanded his rights, but he chose rather to allow grace to control his actions. You see, the apostle understood we are to glorify God in everything we do. Of course, this would be impossible to accomplish if he caused a weaker brother to stumble; consequently, it was best for him to abstain from eating all meats offered to idols if it caused an offense. And he was willing to do so! Thus the apostle concludes: “Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God” (I Cor. 10:32).


“Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations” (Rom. 14:1).

Here we learn that we are to receive the weaker brother with a cordial welcome, not with a spirit of critical analysis or an attitude of superiority. There are many questionable areas in the Christian life where there is no specific command in the Word of God to guide us. Today a believer may choose to be a vegetarian because he is of the opinion that red meat could harm his body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Another brother in Christ may not share this view, believing this type of protein, within moderation, is necessary to maintain sound physical health, which would also glorify God. Who’s right? Grace says there is liberty to do either!

Several years ago I came across the following list of questionable areas in the Christian life. I’ve taken the liberty to add a few things to it from my denominational days:

1. Working in the yard on Sunday afternoon

2. Shopping on Sunday after church

3. Wearing certain clothing

4. Watching television

5. Listening to secular music

6. Dining at a restaurant where alcohol is served

7. Having a glass of wine for dinner

8. Wearing jewelry

9. Not having a quiet time everyday

10. Going to the movies

We must remember that these are questionable things. Some would call them gray areas. This could be grounds for excommunication in certain denominational churches if you are guilty of one or more of these infractions. These types of assemblies have an unwritten code of ethics (their’s) you must follow or run the risk of being given the cold shoulder or worse.

If you were to ask six believers to list 10 things they deem to be unacceptable Christian conduct, not directly addressed in the Word of God, I think you will find each list would differ dramatically. What one believer may find acceptable another may find unacceptable, which is fine, as long as they don’t impose their convictions on another brother in Christ. Liberty says we are to respect one another’s convictions even though they may not be the same as our own.

Sadly, many believers establish these unspoken rules to measure whether or not others are spiritual. But spirituality is not trying to conform to someone’s list of do’s and don’ts. This is nothing more than a form of carnality! The spiritually-minded man is a man who desires to conform his life to the image of Christ. He always has a balance in the Christian life because his attitude and responses are always in line with the Word of God. Having a Christ-like spirit, he walks in lowliness of mind and consistently esteems others better than himself. He values his liberty in Christ, yet is very careful never to misuse it.

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Berean Searchlight – August 2006

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Part 12: Spiritual Revival


These lines are written at a critical time in the world’s history, when much is being said and written about revival. Many Christians are praying for revival; popular evangelists are doing their best to bring it about; leading periodicals, secular as well as religious, and even the daily newspapers, are discussing it, generally using such phraseology as “a revival of religion,” “a revival of religious feeling” or “a revival of religious faith.” Whatever the human failures involved, every true believer will thank God for the measure in which men are awakening to the need of supernatural aid in solving the grave problems that confront our generation.


But precisely what is true spiritual revival? This question is not too simple to ask while there are those who call almost any series of religious meetings a revival, while others confuse revival with the waves of religious feeling which sweep over the masses periodically and still others suppose that a revival is an ingathering of souls.

Actually a revival is simply a restoration to vigorous health. It relates to the living, not to the dead. The dead cannot be revived, but we do administer food and medicine to those who are faint or ill, in order to restore them to vigorous health. Thus spiritual revival is the restoration of ailing Christians to vigorous spiritual health.

A series of meetings may be used of God to produce a spiritual revival among His people, and such a revival often results in an ingathering of souls, but neither the series of meetings nor the ingathering of souls is in itself the revival. The revival is the spiritual restoration of believers.


With individual believers, as with the Church at large, the need for spiritual revival is frequently not recognized until exceedingly low levels of spirituality1 have been reached. Actually, however, the need is almost continuous.

Physically most of us need to be revived at least three times a day. Hunger and weakness soon overtake us and we feel the need of food to renew our strength. Spiritually it is not less so, for “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). Sad to say, however, we are by nature prone to neglect our spiritual welfare and lapse into carelessness and sin, so that repeatedly the need for spiritual revival and restoration becomes acute.


Many feel that lack of prayer, failure to live separated lives, indifference toward the lost, etc., are the real causes of spiritual decline. These, however, are the effects, not the causes. The cause of spiritual decline today is always our departure from the Word of God in general and from the Word of God to us in particular. There lies the root of our spiritual ills, though comparatively few as yet recognize or acknowledge it.

With Israel it was departure from Moses’ law that constantly got her into trouble; with us it has been the departure from Pauline truth, for, remember, as surely as the dispensation of the law was committed to Moses, so surely was the dispensation of grace committed to Paul (Eph. 3:1-3) and those who have lapsed or backslidden, from his day until ours, have done so through departing from the truths committed to him for us.

In Paul’s epistles we find both the evidence and the tendency on the part of believers to depart from the path of blessing, and God’s diagnosis of the particular cause of the trouble. In every case the cause is rebellion against the apostle’s God-given authority and departure from his God-given message and program.

It was only a few short years after Paul had been sent forth with “the gospel of the grace of God” that the revolt against his authority began. The Galatians rebelled, followed the Judaizers and fell into the bondage of legalism. In his letter to them Paul takes almost two whole chapters to prove again his authority as “the apostle of the Gentiles,” calling upon them to examine thoroughly the certificate of his apostleship and warning them of the dangers of departing from his God-given message.

Dumbfounded at their sudden declension, he exclaims:

“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel” (Gal. 1:6).

And he adds:

“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Ver. 8).

Challenging them as to the result of their rebellion, he asks:

“Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me” (Gal. 4:15).

“But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another” (Gal. 5:15).

Mark well: the Galatian believers had lost their blessedness because of their departure from God’s appointed messenger and God’s appointed message to them.

Twice the apostle charges the Galatians with disobedience (Gal. 3:1; 5:7). But why? They had sought to obey more than Paul had commanded them. They were prepared to submit to circumcision in addition to the program he had, by revelation, outlined for them. And they had Scripture for their position too. Yes, but not Scripture rightly divided. Their return to Moses and the law was a repudiation of the further revelation given through Paul: “the preaching of the cross,” which was even then bringing the Mosaic dispensation to a close. Even the apostles and elders of the Jerusalem church had recognized the Gentiles’ freedom from the law and had “written and concluded that they observe no such thing” (Acts 21:25). Thus obedience to the law now became disobedience to the truth and cost the Galatians their blessedness, bringing them into a state where they bit and devoured one another.

The Corinthians also rebelled and started rival sects among themselves, as though it were a question of who was right: Paul, Apollos, Cephas or Christ. Thus departing from the glorious revelation committed to Paul, the Corinthians fell into many other grievous errors and sins. The apostle therefore challenged them too as to his spiritual authority and warned them of the dangers of their heresy.

In Asia Minor, where the apostle had labored for “the space of two years,” the issue was again Paul and his message. In his second letter to Timothy the apostle had to write:

“This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me…” (II Tim. 1:15).

This does not mean that all the saved in the province of Asia—and there were many—were now lost, or even that they did not genuinely love the Lord. It means simply that they had turned against Paul as the one to whom had been committed the new dispensation, “the dispensation of the grace of God.”

These are but a few examples. The sacred record contains many more examples of spiritual declension since the raising up of Paul, and always the declension was brought about by a departure from one or more of the particular truths revealed through him: the truth of the “one body” and the sympathy for one another which this implies, or the truth of the “one baptism” with its death to the flesh and its identification with Christ in the heavenlies, or, perhaps, the truth of our standing in grace, with the resultant life lived for God out of sheer gratitude.


When we recognize the fact that the old Adamic nature is still with us, it is easy to see why the most godly among us need spiritual revival almost constantly, for by that very nature we are ever prone to depart from the blessed teachings of the Pauline epistles.

This is why Paul wrote, by the Spirit, to Timothy and to us:

“Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus” (II Tim. 1:13).

The Word of God, then, is of supreme importance to the spiritual well-being of every believer; not merely as a collection of beautiful and heart-warming thoughts, but as the revelation of God’s program for the ages, and especially for us today, to be studied, understood and obeyed. As food and medicine must be wisely administered to the weak and ill, so must the Word be “rightly divided” to provide the necessary benefit to those who need spiritual restoration.

How may we enjoy true spiritual revival? Can it be gained by more prayer or self-denial or confession of sin? No, these again are the products, the results of true spiritual revival, which begins with God, not with man. In spiritual revival as in regeneration, the Spirit uses the Word. There is the food and the medicine which God has given to restore us to vigorous spiritual health.

Perhaps the reader will recall the record of the revival under Ezra; how the Book was recovered for the people and how Ezra and his helpers “read…distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading” (Neh. 8:8). What a spiritual awakening resulted! How the people wept (Neh. 8:9) and rejoiced (Neh. 8:9-11) “because they had understood the words that were declared unto them”! (Neh. 8:12).

The understanding of God’s Word always revives His people spiritually. Hear the two at Emmaus from whom our Lord had just departed:

“Did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32).

And if this was true in other dispensations it is particularly so in this present dispensation of grace, when the glorious secret of God’s purpose and grace has been revealed. Little wonder Paul prays so earnestly for the Colossians and for us all:

“…that ye might be filled with the knowledge of His will [purpose] in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;

“That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:9,10).

Little wonder he reminded them of his warnings and teachings, of his labor and strife and conflict (Col. 1:28,29):

“That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement [Gr., thorough knowledge] of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;

“In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:2,3).

If indeed we would be spiritually revived and enjoy vigorous spiritual health; if indeed it is our desire to walk worthy of the Lord, to be fruitful in every good work, to increase in the knowledge of God, then we should be satisfied with nothing short of a clear understanding of “His will” and a thorough knowledge of “the mystery” as it is presented to us in the epistles of Paul. And as we grasp the vital and wonderful truths associated with “the mystery” the whole Word of God will prove the richer and more nourishing to us spiritually.

In these days of spiritual declension may God give us an appetite for the Word! May it be our deep desire to know God’s Word so that we may obey it, for there is probably no joy like that which comes to the believer from the knowledge that he is in the will of God.


  1. We do not say morality, for believers who are scrupulously conscientious about moral matters and even about their duties as Christians, may still be far from spiritual.

You can receive More Minutes With the Bible every week in your email inbox. This list features longer articles, including both original content and articles that have appeared in the Berean Searchlight.