32. Three Laws for Effective Living
Purpose: The purpose of this session is to teach various biblical laws that should affect the behavior of a Christian when the behavior is not clearly taught in Scripture.
1. The disciple will experience freedom in Christ in his daily walk.
2. The disciple will learn the difference between a legalist and a weaker brother.
3. The disciple will learn to keep to the main issues when dealing with someone who does not know the Lord.
For the love of Christ controls us, since we have concluded this, that Christ died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15
1. Mutual sharing and prayer.
2. Discuss the session materials.
4. Sharing of memory verse.
5. Discussion of any new terms.
The Lord obviously knew (He is omniscient) there would be situations throughout time that direct statements in Scripture would not cover. Because of this, He gave certain principles in His Word that would govern such situations. These are basically stated as "laws" and they govern all situations we might be confronted with in time—all situations that are ambiguous and not covered by direct statements of Scripture. Among these are the following three "laws”:
The Law of Liberty, Galatians 5:1,13.
The "law of liberty" is the Scriptural principle that I am not to be governed by external law of any kind, but by an inner law of freedom that comes from Christ and the Holy Spirit Who indwells me, Romans 8:11. It states basically that in all areas of behavior, I have the privilege of doing things that are not specifically forbidden, if they do not fulfill the desires of the flesh. A further condition for the exercise of liberty is found in...
The Law of Love, Romans 14:14-23.
The "law of love" is an extension of the practice of the "law of liberty.” This law says that my practice of liberty should not be such that would cause my "weaker brother" (one who doesn't understand liberty) to be grieved or to stumble. A further statement is to the end that my behavior should not "destroy" the work of God. These are harsh statements concerning what happens to the weaker brother. To stumble means to "fall flat on one's face,” usually with the idea of not walking again. There is another consideration which is necessary and equally important. One cannot allow his life to become "other-directed,” which is very unhealthy spiritually and psychologically. There are people everywhere who are against just about everything. Even the eating of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, because "the seed is mixed,” and this is "forbidden in the Old Testament.” The reality is simply this. I will have difficulty with a psychological variable related to health if I carry this law to the extreme and do nothing that a believer anywhere has a conscience against. There is, on the other hand, a need to model liberty in order that the "weaker brother" who doesn't understand liberty may grow.
The Law of Priorities, 1 Corinthians 10:23-33.
This is a law which says simply that I need to keep the issues clear. In the instance mentioned in 1 Corinthians, eating meat offered to idols was the consideration. If a heathen invites you to dinner and offers you filet mignon that has been offered to an idol, in the idol's temple, go ahead and eat it. Don't make an issue out of something that is not the chief issue with an unbeliever. Christ is the supreme issue in the life of an unbeliever—not abortion, liquor, or the day on which one worships, etc. Keep the issues clear. If the heathen creates an issue, however, then you must deal with it. How would he do this? Simply if he would say, "Dear Christian friend, I have served you with meat offered to a heathen god. Are you going to eat it?" Then you can deal with the issue of the heathen god, moving the conversation to the chief issue which is one’s relationship to Jesus Christ.
The purpose of this session and worksheet is to help you develop some ideas concerning principles that govern behavior that may be "doubtful.” The Scripture does not cover explicitly every problem that occurs throughout all time. But it does through principles and implications. There is no behavior known to man to which the Scripture does not apply in one way or another. This is basically seen in the discussion of three laws that will be elaborated in this worksheet. Read Galatians 5, Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 10:23-33 carefully.
The Law of Liberty
One basic result of the new birth that I have experienced relates to a new freedom I have found through Christ. This is a freedom from external laws that would govern me. Galatians 5:1 tells me that I am to ________ ________ ___________. What does this mean to you?
What function did the law serve for those who were in Old Testament times? Galatians 3:23-24.
There are two words that can be translated “teacher” in the Greek language. The first of these is pedagogues. The second is didaskolos. An understanding of these two words is necessary in understanding the whole impact of the truth taught in this passage. The paidagogas was something of a tutor. In the Greek culture, he was given charge of the children and was responsible for their being in school. He saw that they were dressed, had clean ears, and if they hesitated to go to school, he would prod them in order to get them there. But once they were in school, they were under the supervision of the didaskolos. Perhaps it is becoming more clear now. The law was our paidagogas to bring us to Christ, our didaskolos. It was never intended to be our way of life, which is inward rather than external.
What is the implication of Galatians 3:25?
The thought of these passages is that I am no longer under an external _______ or form of control. If control is no longer from without it must be from ____________, and this control is brought about through the ______________, Galatians 5:25. Therefore, the law of liberty is a law that says I have the right to do whatever is not forbidden explicitly in Scripture.
Surely the reality of _____________________ in my life does not encourage me now to sin more freely, Romans 6:1. Rather, grace teaches me?Titus 2:11-12.
Grace rightfully leads me to a more holy life. The law of liberty does not give me license to sin. The exercise of this law says I can make judgments concerning choices of behavior that are not explicitly forbidden in Scripture. But there are some governing principles regarding these choices. One of these is found in Galatians 5:13.
The second principle is found in Romans 14. As you read this chapter, what term is used to describe one who doesn't understand liberty? __________. What kinds of "doubtful behavior" were problems in the day Paul wrote these words, Romans 14:2,5?
What should we keep in mind concerning judging one another, Romans 14:7, 10, 12?
What could be "doubtful behaviors" today?
Still another governing principle that concerns the law of liberty is found in Romans 14:13. What is this?
What meaning do you attach to the word "stumble?"
What problems are initiated by true exercise of the law of liberty?
The Law of Love
The law of love is one that restricts the exercise of the law of liberty. This law basically tells us to think carefully about "how" we exercise the law of liberty. We need to be careful and not cause a _____________ brother to ____________ , Romans 14:2,13.
Remember that the weaker brother is one who doesn't understand ________________. The meaning of the word "stumble" is to fall flat on one's face—to be scandalized. What are some descriptions of one who stumbles? What do they do? What are stumbling behaviors? List behaviors. See Romans 14:3, 15, 21.
The word "stumble" carries the idea of not getting up again. This certainly is stronger than having someone look at us and judge us for something that is perfectly legitimate and Scriptural, or even to be mildly offended. This practice of judging others is typical of immaturity and leads to sin. I need to be concerned that I do not set up a weak brother to sin, but there is also a need to help the weak believer learn how to be mature and live according to the law of liberty. I am never to exercise the law of liberty at the expense of the fragile understandings of the "weak" brother, if it will seriously damage his faith. I should certainly be willing to give up the good for the better, looking carefully at anything that would hinder, block or slow down my effectiveness for Christ.
Another important consideration in the law of love is where it leaves me in the world of mental health. Am I "inner-directed" or "other-directed?" Most experts agree that to allow my life to be controlled by the expectations of others is unhealthy and impedes my functioning in the world. It sets me up for anger, feelings of futility and uselessness, and it most assuredly affects my growth as a person and a child of God. To allow my life, and my practice of liberty to be subjected totally to the whims of an immature "weaker brother" can be devastating upon my own life and ministry. Inner-directedness, on the other hand, is what my life in the Spirit should be. This includes the proper exercise of the law of love.
The Law of Priorities of The Gospel
This is a law that relates to my interpersonal relationships with the world. By the "world" is meant the world of non-Christians or unbelievers. I am to be in the world and it is important for me to relate to those who do not know the Savior, not only because they are people of worth, but because they are people who need to know the Savior. This is a law that says, "Keep the issues always clear!" And the issue for every unbeliever is only JESUS CHRIST and relationship with Him!
What was the issue in 1 Corinthians 10:23-33?
Look at the passage and try to discover for yourself the proper concepts taught in this passage, with the information you already have in the preceding paragraph. Write them in your own words:
Many years ago as a young pastor, I was faced with a situation that seriously challenged the exercise of the law of priorities. A member of my church had a neighbor who was involved in terrible conflict with his wife, and he asked me if I would call on them and "straighten them out.” That is a terrible thing to ask a pastor to do. Particularly when the couple are not only non-members of one's church, but when there was no invitation or request on the part of the people who were involved. I have since learned that there is nothing more volatile than to stick my nose into someone's personal business, but nevertheless, I did.
My knock on their door was responded to by the husband, who happened to be of the Jewish faith. He was overjoyed to see me and to think that I would be concerned enough about them as persons to pay a personal visit. He said, "Oh pastor, come in and let me give you a glass of wine." Now understand that I was pastor of the First Baptist Church of Hoffman Heights in Aurora, Colorado, and wine had never passed my lips in my entire 33 years. But I had recently become acquainted with this principle and knew that I had to accept the token of friendship offered by this unbeliever, or stand the chance of making an issue out of something that was truly not an issue. Pictures flashed before my eyes. This man would say to the member that asked me to visit, "Your pastor came by last night and we sat down and drank a glass of wine and had such a good talk," and I would immediately lose my job. Fortunately for me, his kids got into a horrible fight and he forgot about the wine. But to make an issue out of that wine would be a violation of the law of priority.
What are some examples from contemporary life that would be covered by these principles, i.e., what are some of the things we might create as issues with unbelievers, when they are no issue at all?
It is clear that sin is an issue, but it is not “the” issue with unbelievers. I need to always keep the issues clear.
A Very Special Problem—Legalism
One of the blights of the church and Christian world today is legalism. Legalism is a sometimes subtle action which adds to Scripture the thinking of men concerning behavior that supposedly is acceptable to God. There are those who do not understand liberty and are “weaker brethren,” and continue in their legalistic practices. Perhaps illustrating some situations which are legalistic, but not necessarily bad (indeed they are sometimes helpful) would aid understanding. They become legalistic when we make them biblical injunctions. In this session, I will suggest the practice of liberty in the presence of legalism even though it causes the legalist to judge me.
Legalism is making interpretations as “if from Scripture” things that simply are not in the Scriptures, and treating them as if they had equal value and importance in the Christian life. Some of the Jewish laws relating to the Sabbath were legalistic and certainly absurd. Certain laws relating to eating were legalistic. Many of these practices are carried on today in Israel by the orthodox Jew. Christians develop legalistic doctrines and practices as well.
We can bring to mind things we have in Christianity today. A strict early morning devotional time when we meet the Lord is sometimes applied to all Christians as if it were the stated will of God, and one is in fault if he does not meet this requirement. This is legalistic. Research done by Craig Ellison demonstrates that in-depth Bible study done periodically does far more for a Christian and his well-being than daily devotions. This does not mean that meeting the Lord daily in the morning is not good. Rather, that it must not be legislated or forced upon another as a written standard from God.
Drinking an occasional glass of red wine is good for the heart. Yet some who are legalistic would judge one who does this and call him a “wine-bibber.” The Scriptures certainly do not teach that. It will be interesting to see if our Lord was an abstainer, though He made water into the best wine at Cana.
We have scores of things we try to push on people that are in essence legalistic. These are things that usually relate to written policies that become sacred, as if they were the Scriptures. They are simply the laws of “the Medes and the Persians.”
What is the responsibility of the Christian who practices liberty when there is a legalist present who passes judgment upon him? Remember, the “law of love” relates primarily to the “weaker brother” who is usually immature and doesn't understand liberty. In the Galatians account, Paul rebuked Peter (Galatians 2:11-14) when he withdrew from eating with the Gentiles because the Jews had arrived. Paul told him to be consistent in his actions and eat with Gentiles even if Jews were present. This should be an encouragement to us in calling for our exercise of liberty as a model for the weaker brother and others. Modeling is a very effective way of teaching. This is one way a weaker brother can learn to practice the glorious liberty he has in Christ. Christians put scores of things on each other that are simply pure legalism. We must be sure our application of principle does not take on the air of absolute authority.
Situations That Relate to Today’s Discussion of Legalism
At the end of each illustration, chose all possibilities from this list that deals with the particular situations. Discuss your choices with your discipler.
a. The Law of Liberty
b. The Law of Love
c. The Law of Priorities
1.Pastor Joe has a couple call him and ask for an appointment to try to work out problems they encounter during their relationship at home. The pastor agrees to see people for counseling and an appointment is given to them. During the first session, he discovers that the couple is not married...each having divorced a previous spouse. The pastor is faced with a dilemma because they are obviously living in a conjugal relationship as spouses. He also learns that neither is a Christian. Their relationship is sinful and runs crosscurrent to the beliefs of the pastor. What should the pastor do? Can you identify which of the above laws relates to the situation?
2. Jim and Lucy are Christians and members of a strong Bible-based church. They are celebrating their fifteenth wedding anniversary and include in the dinner arrangement a dessert drink that contains some alcohol. They are observed by another couple who are quick to judge them. When they return to their car to drive home, someone (perhaps the couple who saw them) wrote “wing-bibber” on a piece of paper and put it under the windshield wiper of their auto. No other word was given as to who was the author of the critique. Analyze and state which laws are violated in this scene.
3. Peter and Pam are senior leaders in their church. One day they observe their pastor and wife attending the local movie theater. They call the pastor and admonish him and his wife to set a better example. Analyze and state which of the above laws are applicable.
4. Mrs. Smith is the local leader of an organization favoring women’s right to make choices concerning abortion (a planned parenthood association). One day she invites Mrs. Jones to lunch to get acquainted. Mrs. Jones is a Christian. Mrs. Smith is member of the local Bahai faith. Should Mrs. Jones try to convince Mrs. Smith that she is on the wrong side of the abortion issue? State the laws that govern this situation.
5. Bill is a brand new Christian. He is a recovering alcoholic. Ned is a member of the church they attend and knows of Bill’s problem. They go to lunch together and Ned orders a beer with his lunch. Bill orders a beer also. He is confused inasmuch as he has considered beer one of his chief problems but now feels it may be all right after all. This situation at lunch has caused Bill to lapse into his old habit and he is once again held in its vice-like grip. Who has violated what law?
6.Mary is homecoming queen at the senior festivities of her school. She is a Christian. Because there is some dancing, and she will be involved in this dancing, she is considering taking part. Some of her friends from church are there also, and are confused about her taking part in the dancing festivities and have strong feelings against it. What laws apply for Mary?
Questions for Review and Discussion
1. What is the chief issue for any unbeliever?
2. What is the biggest problem in maintaining balance between the laws of
liberty and the practice of the law of love?
3. React to this statement. "Christ Jesus has made me free. Now I can do anything I wish!"
4. How should I practice liberty in the relationships I have with "weaker
5. Give a description of a "weaker brother.”
6. Jim is a Christian from a very rigid and legalistic background. He believes that going to a movie is a sin and a poor witness. You desire to attend a movie and find it has a P.G. rating. Jim is your friend and knows you are going to attend and is ready to judge you. What should you do?
Summary and Key Concepts
This is a summary related to the three laws for effective living. Look this over and be sure you have included in your discussion the following important ideas.
These are laws that have to do with behaviors that are not clearly outlined in Scripture. Many of the things we include in the category of liberty are in gray areas because of cultural conditioning and the lack of a clear statement concerning that behavior.
The law of liberty gives me the right to choose my behavior in areas not clearly defined by the Word of God. I am released to be "inner-directed" by the Holy Spirit rather than by an external law. Two qualifying conditions are involved in the exercise of this law. The first is that whatever I choose to do is not to be for the fulfillment of the "lusts of the flesh.” I am not to serve the "old man.” The second is that my behavior is not to cause a weaker brother to stumble or "fall flat on his face.” It is important to note at this point that I am to model liberty for the weaker brother, but I am not to model it at the expense of his turning away from Christ and finding his faith destroyed.
The law of love is a law that takes the weaker brother into consideration when I practice liberty. Remember that a "weaker brother" is any brother who doesn't understand liberty. It matters not whether he is a new Christian. If my behavior destroys him, I have not walked in love. But, as we noted in the previous paragraph, it is important that I practice liberty for weaker brothers and teach them to walk fully in the liberty with which they have been set free.
While the first two laws relate to believers, the last one—the law of priorities—is related to unbelievers. This is simply the principle that says that I must keep the issues clear before the unbeliever in the world. I am to "eat meat offered to idols" if he sets it before me. I should ask no questions. There are other things in contemporary society that are like the issue of meat. I am to keep issues clear at all times.
It is important to emphasize that this does not give me the right to sin in a situation involving an unbeliever. It is never right to do wrong in order to get a chance to do right. But issues may rise that are really not chief issues with those who do not know Christ. I am to keep issues clear. There is no issue as significant as the issue of salvation, as far as the unsaved is concerned.
I need to model liberty but not to destroy a "weaker brother" by my practice of liberty, or use liberty to fulfill the desires of the flesh. And always keep the issues clear with one who doesn't know Christ.
The Law of Liberty refers to me and the new place of privilege and freedom I have in Christ.
The Law of Love refers to the weaker brother and how I practice liberty in his presence.
The Law of Priorities refers to the unbelievers and helps me keep the issue with them clear.
Related Topics: Discipleship