Christian Liberty

Christians with hearts aflame for God come in all shapes, sizes, and practices of liberties.

The doctrine of Christian liberty can be abused by careless Christians who misunderstand and/or misuse the doctrine. Paul comes to the rescue here. Note his words in Galatians 5:13: “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Peter agrees: “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God” (1 Peter 2:16). Areas of Christian liberty are not an excuse for sin.

 

In the middle ages, as the church in Rome became more and more corrupt, certain doctrines that were promulgated by the church became suspect. One was the church’s insistence on the dual authority of the church and the Word. Of course, when it appeared that the church and the Word were in conflict, the church in Rome emerged (in its own thinking) as primary. As the self-designated, sole authoritative interpreter of the Word, Rome had the final say in all things biblical.

This self-designated authority was one of the chief targets of the Reformers, and their critique was encapsulated in the phrase sola Scriptura—Scripture alone. By this teaching, the Reformers argued that Rome is fallible, whereas the Word of God is not. Thus, when the two are in conflict, the individual Christian is bound by the Word of God to stand against Rome. The conscience of the believer is to be bound solely by God’s Word and no other.

This was clearly demonstrated in the response of Martin Luther when he stood before the Diet of Worms in 1521 and stated:

Unless I am convinced by Scripture and by plain reason and not by Popes and councils who have so often contradicted themselves, my conscience is captive to the Word of God. To go against conscience is neither right nor safe. I cannot and I will not recant.

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