Soul Liberty

5 March 2023 AM – Romans 14:1-13 – Rom2023 – Scott Childs
Introduction: Since the time of Christ, many unbiblical churches have tried to force people to believe as they do by persecuting all who refuse. Those who use force to make people believe against their will do not believe in the soul liberty taught in the Bible.
            Soul liberty means that every person has the right to believe as he chooses, without harm or hindrance from anyone, so long as he does not interfere with the rights of others by doing so. However, God will hold him accountable for his choices. This is true for Christians and non-Christians alike.
            It is very common for the doctrinal statements of Independent Baptist Churches to list ungodly activities from which members are to abstain. Such lists enable a church to maintain harmony in areas they believe are biblically clear, while still allowing members soul liberty in unclear areas.
Transition: Romans 14:1-13, God instructs us about soul liberty. As we look at this “soul liberty” passage, we find three instructions for us today.
I.           We are to Accept One Another’s Soul Liberty (v.1-4)
Read again the “soul liberty” definition above.
A.        God wants us to accept the weaker brother.
1.          Romans 14:1 tells us to receive those weak in the faith.
a)         The phrase “weak in the faith” describes a Christian whose conscience is trouble by or who has doubts about biblically unclear issues.
b)         The word “receive” means to take them to ourselves, or to accept them.
2.          Romans 14:2 identifies one such issue – should a Christian eat all things or just herbs. The weaker brother limited his diet to vegetation. He may have feared to the O.T. Law meat restrictions against pork, skin fish, etc. (cf. Leviticus 11). Or, he may have had doubts about meat sacrificed to pagan idols (cf. 1 Corinthians 8-10). Bob Utley Neither choice was sinful for N.T. Christians, but this troubled some.
3.          The Bible guides us with principles as well as commands. For example, we find no command in the Bible that states, “Thou shalt not smoke cannabis”, but 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says that a Christian’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. The obvious principle is that anything that harms the body dishonours the Holy Spirit’s temple.
Many Christians try to use Romans 14 to excuse their choice of activities that do not pass God’s “prove all things” test in 1Th 5:21-22. However, if the Scripture addresses an activity with a command or principle, it is a clear issue. If the Bible says nothing about an issue, it is an unclear issue, left to one’s soul liberty. One example might be whether you have a Christmas tree or not.
4.          Paul exhorts in Ro 14:3 that the eater of all foods must not despise the vegetarian, and the vegetarian must not despise the eater of all. God has not forbidden either in the New Testament.
B.         God tells us to leave the judging up to Him (v.4)
1.          Christians are children of God, and God is their master.
2.          They will answer to God for their actions.
II.         We are to Practice Soul Liberty (v.5-9)
A.        Every person must be fully persuaded in his own mind.
1.          Paul introduced another liberty issue in verse 5-6, the issue of honouring one day above another.
a)         In the OT, God gave the Sabbaths (Saturday and other holy days) to the Jews. (Ezekiel 20:12) “Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD that sanctify them.”
b)         Christ, fulfilled the law and thus, these Sabbath days are not binding on a Christian. (Colossians 2:16-17) “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.”
c)         This still bothered some of the Jewish believers.
2.          Those who set aside Sabbaths and those who did not, both sought to please the Lord. Those who ate all foods and those who did not, both sought to please the Lord. On issues where there is no Bible command or principle violated, each Christian must do what he believes is right in his own conscience.
B.         Every Christian must seek to glorify the Lord (7-9).
1.          Read v.7. Paul is likely contrasting living to please self or dying to self to help others. David Guzik wisely comments, “We must understand that from beginning to end, our life is connected to other lives. Paul reminds the Roman Christians that ‘No man is an island.’”
2.          We ought to rule all that we do as Christians by the question, “Does this please Christ.” Life is not about pleasing self. It is about pleasing Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:31) “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”
3.          Christ died and rose again so that He could save us from our sinful self and be our Lord. He wants to be Lord of both the living and the dead.
III.       We are to Let God Judge Another’s Soul Liberty (v.10-13)
A.        Every Christian will stand before God’s judgment (v.10-12)
1.          It is not our job to judge another’s soul liberty. That is God’s job.
2.          The Judgement Seat is the Greek word Bema which describes a place of judgment. It often described the raised place of judgment at an athletic event.
3.          The judgment seat of Christ is a judgment for Christians only. It will be a time when Christ rewards or rebukes our Christian conduct. It has nothing to do with the Christian’s eternal destiny. That was settled when he trusted Christ for salvation. Note the sequence of events.
a)         Every knee will bow to Christ.
b)         Every tongue will confess to God.
c)         Every one of us will give account of himself to God. (2 Corinthians 5:10) “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”
B.         God will judge our soul liberty
1.          He will judge our practice of soul liberty.
a)         To prepare for the judgment seat of Christ, we must carefully use God’s proving test every time before we do something that may be questionable. (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22) “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil.”
b)         We must not do anything that fails the test of God’s Word.
c)         We must be prepared to answer to God for things that we believe pass the test.
d)         If we are in doubt, we should not do it.
2.          He will also judge our tolerance of another’s soul liberty. We must let God judge the soul liberty of other Christians. God is all-knowing and he makes no mistakes. We will answer to God if we judge them in error.
Conclusion: This passage does not give us the right to disobey God’s commands or principles. Instead, it reminds us to prove our choices very carefully. If we choose to do what God says is wrong, we will answer to God for it.
            On the other hand, the passage instructs us to accept one another’s soul liberty, practice soul liberty ourselves, and let God be the judge of another’s soul liberty choices.
            We need to ask God to give us a good attitude toward others when we disagree with their soul liberty choices. At the same time, let’s ask God to help us be wise and godly in our proving of questionable issues.
            In heaven, no one will look back on their earthly life and say, “I am sorry that I lived more godly than necessary”, but many may say, “I am sorry I did not live more godly than I did.”
Song: Have I Done My Best – 368