We have been studying the apostle Paul’s teaching regarding our liberties in Christ versus our responsibility to love the brothers. It’s interesting that I just said, “versus”, like the two were in conflict with each other. In fact, they are not in conflict. Just as we have been set free from the bondage to empty religious traditions, so we have been set free from bondage to selfishness. Our liberty in Christ has empowered us to love others and put them before ourselves. Therefore, whenever we have questions of what comes first; our personal liberties or our responsibility to love our brothers, we are free to choose love.
Now, Paul goes back into history to show how the children of Israel – freed from Egypt failed in practicing this principle and what happened to them as a result.
All of the Israelites who left Egypt had the same spiritual experiences. They all witnessed the miracles of the ten plagues of Egypt. They all were under the guidance of the cloud of glory. They all were delivered from practical slavery through the Red Sea experience. They were all fed by manna and their thirst was quenched through divine provision.
Yet, here is the scary part.
They were not changed by these experiences!
How could you go through what they went through; see the things they saw, and still not be transformed?
God’s ways at Mt. Sinai are troubling to them so they make a golden calf to be their god. It’s important to understand what happened here. They didn’t make a “new” god to serve, they recreated Yahweh into something more familiar to them – more controllable and less holy. When Aaron showed the calf to the people, he said to them, “Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord.” The word “Lord” Aaron used is the word “Yahweh”, the name that God had given to reveal Himself to Moses.
Most Christians today would never think of worshiping another god other than Yahweh but they don’t mind remaking Him and calling Him by the same name! Paul points out that God judged such actions and will do so now.
Failure to limit liberty can lead to excess which begets judgment.
After remaking Yahweh, the Israelites became involved in sexual sin. One of the first deviations of those who “change” God is into sexual sin.
Romans 1:21 – “Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness in the lust of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves…”
Many who profess Christianity are involved in sexual sin. This is because we have “changed” Yahweh into our own image. In Israel, twenty-three thousand died for this sin!
I wore my steel toed boots for this because it convicts me.
The Israelites forgot their history of how God had moved and what He had done. I don’t think they forgot – I think it never changed them!
So, they tempted God by saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” and complained about His way of doing things. Ouch!!!!
I’ve done that – God forgive me!!!!
The Lord judged those who did.
Verse 12: “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”
Paul warns that we can be deceived about our true spiritual status. We cannot use our liberty to change Yahweh. If we do, we are in idolatry!
Paul finished up this thought by going back to the former conversation about eating things sacrificed to idols.
An idol is nothing, neither does food commend us to God. But, if we are playing around with the things of Satan while we are serving God, then we are in idolatry and are in danger of provoking the Lord to jealousy.
So, remember – Some things may be lawful but they can lead to excesses and sin. Let each one seek his own satisfactions, but each should seek someone else’s well being. The glory of God and the salvation of others take preeminence over my liberties.
Here’s a few guidelines to take from this:
Spiritual freedoms bring with them increased responsibilities.
Spiritual access does not guarantee success.
What sins you “excuse” as freedom, your children will serve as slaves.