The Key to Christian Liberty and Unity: Romans 14-16-20
“16) Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; 17) for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18) For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19) So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. 20) Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense.” Romans‬ ‭14‬:‭16‬-‭20‬
So how does a discussion about Christian Liberty fit into a study of Zoe life and the ministry of the Holy Spirit? Am I chasing down a rabbit trail?
Let’s be honest, the whole subject of Christian liberty sounds great but embodies a recipe for conflict… and it often is with everyone focusing on their own rights. The end result is a very selfish world. The same is true for many churches… they are embroiled in conflict. So what is the solution?
The answer is the inner work of the Holy Spirit pouring out Agape love in the heart of every true believer. In the New Testament, Agape love is one of the key measuring sticks of a true believer. Romans 5:5 says; “5) “and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
When the Holy Spirit comes into a believer at the moment of salvation, so does His character. Foremost on the list of fruit of the Spirit is agape love. (See Galatians 5:22-23) You cannot be a Christian without the Holy Spirit being in your life. The Holy Spirit cannot be in your life without Agape love also being present… and at some point spilling over.
We can now understand the words of Jesus in John 13:34-35; “34) A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35) By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”” Jesus said Agape love is the distinguishing characteristic of His true disciples. ‭ The flesh cannot produce Agape love. The source is the inner Holy Spirit. A carnal Christian will give way to anger, unforgiveness, impatience, lusts, selfishness, pride and a host of other sins. When two or more natural or carnal people interact, there will always be potential for conflict. Why? The inner compass of the flesh always points to “self.”
The most important thing you can do for your marriage, family, church and community is trust in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and walk in the Spirit. That is the point at which agape love and new life start flowing from your innermost being. That is the point at which your focus switches from “self” to “others.” You cannot fake agape love for very long!
This is why I briefly introduced the subject of personal liberties in the previous section. The only way you can accept and celebrate the differences in others that are based in “non-moral” values is through Agape love. Keep in mind, “non-moral” means the actions, conduct, cultural expression or activity of others is not good or bad, right or wrong, or sinful in itself.
Agape love empowers me to accept both vegetarians and meat eaters. I can fellowship with both Sabbath keepers and Sunday worshippers. I can enjoy the company of those who enjoy a glass of wine with a meal and those who totally refrain from alcohol. I can sing and enjoy the old hymns of the faith and I can contemporary worship songs.
Even though they are very different in culture, style and form, I can celebrate Jesus with both Messianic Jews and the African, Indian, Asian, Hispanic and American church with equal enjoyment. I love both evangelicals and Charismatics. The common goal is not conformity, it is studying the Word and growing in Jesus.
Apart from agape love, you will be critical and judgmental rather than loving and accepting. You will have reason to divide rather than motivation to bond. You will build walls rather than bridges. You will focus on your personal liberties above biblical priorities and the spiritual growth and welfare of others.
Caution: I am not talking about compromising the gospel, watering down the Word of God, distorting biblical morals, embracing the world or drifting into apostasy. I am talking about getting along with other born-again believers who are different from you in non-moral area’s. I am talking about loving both vegans and meat eaters. I am talking about fellowshipping with Ford, Chevy, Dodge and Toyota owners equally.
Look again at the proposition of Paul in Romans 14:17; “17) for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” In the context of Romans 14-15, this verse encapsulates the key that weds Christian liberty and unity together within the kingdom of God. Talk about diversity… the early church was full of Jewish believers and very broad spectrum of Gentile culture.
Suddenly, the subject of walking in the Spirit became crucial. The early church understood that the ministry of the Holy Spirit pouring out Agape love was the glue that held the marriage, the family, the local church and the kingdom of God together.
It is essential that you and me not reject the Helper Jesus promised. (John 14:16-17) He is both the craftsman that shapes each living stone in the building and the mortar that holds it all together. (See 1 Peter 2:4-5) Jesus is busy building His church around the world today through the active ministry of the Holy Spirit. It is a very diverse church with a common focus on Jesus Christ.
You will remain blind to the amazing work of God in our world today if you reject or shun the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Tragically, you will also be part of the problem rather than part of the solution for spreading the gospel around the world in these end times if you are closed to the biblical ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global