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Free to Do What?

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice
The Truth Network Radio
July 30, 2021 8:00 am

Free to Do What?

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice

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July 30, 2021 8:00 am

A church struggles to come to terms with what it means to serve the Lord. But it's not easy. All around are greedy and debauched people. Inevitably some of sinfulness has begun to infiltrate the church. Sound familiar? This scenario is not just our own; the early church of Corinth faced many of the same problems! Dr. Boice's study in 1 Corinthians reveals a striking similarity between own battles and the struggles the early church, here on The Bible Study Hour.

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Welcome to the Bible study our radio and Internet Ministry of the Alliance of confessing Evangelicals featuring the Bible teaching of Dr. James Boyce for more information please contact us by calling toll-free one 804 88 18 and now the alliance is pleased to present the Bible study our preparing you to think and act biblically whenever we talk about freedom or use the word freedom is obvious that we strike a responsive note in the human heart. Whether that word is our English word freedom are a German word fry height French leader time or word often used in African nations are little whatever the particular word may be idea of freedom is something that each member of the human race senses CR. She is destined for. We celebrate freedom nationally this country way observe the birthday of our national freedom on July 4 and Switzerland. August 1 is the day in France since 14 August, Bastille Day, and so on throughout the world. Any nation go through the course of history has come to the point where it has been able to declare itself free from whatever oppressive power may have been overwritten in the past remembers that day and it becomes a national holiday difficulty with freedom of courses that when we try to define it. We discovered it's not such an easy thing to do. Most people when they talk about freedom probably have in mind the ability to do anything we want to do, via freedom I should be able to do anything I want to do with in some area that's restricted so I can't do what I want to do in that area. At least I'm not free difficulty with that of course is that life is filled with things just like that by taken in the my had to sit down in the first seat of the third pew on the right-hand side of the church and somebody else say moment takes it into their head. Since the first seat of the third pew in the right hand side of the church one of us is not going to have freedom or that particular desire is concerned. If freedom means being prayer having the ability to do anything I want to go. When we begin to talk along those lines. People often say well, freedom gas, but always limited by the desire of the other person somebody said the freedom to swing by arm ends the point at which your nose begins.

But you see, if if that's the case when it makes nonsense of our definition because as soon as you begin to talk about restrictions. Restriction where your nose begins her a restriction where somebody else's desire overlaps with my desire, you no longer have freedom in that original sense of the word and even apart from other people. It's obviously don't have freedom.

Many of us would like to be free to be a lot smarter than we are just not some who engage in athletic events would like to have the freedom to do considerably better than they do what they just don't have that ability and so they don't have the freedom either if were going to talk about freedom in any meaningful sense at all in any spiritual sense, quite evidently got a have another definition of some years ago in one of the Philadelphia conferences on reformed theology Roger Nicole at the subject of freedom of law and in connection with that particular address this great theologian from Gordon Conwell divinity school define freedom in this way is the ability to attain our destiny or it's the ability to live up to that which God has created us to do about so you begin to think in those terms. You begin to think about in terms of any desire to may flip through our mind, but rather that which has already passed through the mind of God naturally concerns the desires of God, which concerns the law of God, which concerns the will of God. Roger: I particular address use say number of illustrations to show what happens when something that has been created for one purpose takes it upon himself to exercise supposed freedom in another area.

He said take the example of the locomotive of the train. He said, for the purpose of the illustration will allow the locomotive to speak, locomotive speaks and says, you know, I've been spending many years running down these tracks up and down the eastern seaboard between Boston and Washington DC as I do that I find my existence to be rather confining.

I pastor the same old cities. In fact I pastor the same old decrepit area of those cities and from time to time as I go through the countryside, I noticed beautiful meadow stretching out in the distance I want to be free and so the locomotive says well but I would really like to do is leave the tracks in Rome about the meadow as Roger Nicole explained using illustration what happens. Assuming the locomotive is able to do that is that C style freedom and instead you have a derailment that moment the locomotive ceases to have any motion at all. He was illustration of the fish that says well some people may think the waters delightful, at least in the middle of the summer when it's hot to go down the shore and swim about but after all, I spend all my life swimming around the water.

I see the same old things all the time from time to time, as I put my head out.

I notice there's another world versus land things to see on land.

Then there are other animals I'd like to come out of the water and be free to explore these things for myself as soon as the fish does that fish dots all had a number of other illustrations like that in his point was that as creatures made in the image of God and made for the purposes of God freedom is to be found fries not in doing whatever we may like to go, particularly in our sinful state because when we do that we produce it ourselves. Something that is similar to the derailment or the death of the fish, but rather our freedom is to be found in fulfilling the destiny for which God has created a switch as we say in the first question of the Westminster shorter catechism is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. I get that illustration of the passage which we come now because here is a place in Paul's letter to the Corinthians were he picks up this matter of doubtful things once again. Interesting that in this portion of the letter Paul comes back to the subject. More than once is already dealt with the essential question of this food that's been offered to idols in chapter 8, he dealt with it rather comprehensively. There and yet when we come to this latter portion of chapter 10, we find them picking up again. I suppose in one sense that's because so many of the problems we have as Christians are found in this area. There are certainly things the word of God that are explicit where word of God speaks clearly and the questionnaire is not what we should do. But whether were going to do it. We can never approach Christianity as if because we are set free in Christ were free to do absolutely anything at all. Anything that is contrary to the revealed law of God, the moral law of God is just intolerable.

In Christianity, and in the sight of God. We just can't do that we can't live in sin openly and willfully and call ourselves Christians. There are areas where we are legitimately confused and should get it again these problems come back to haunt us in the Christian life.

We think of one.

On our lives we sold them we say well there's something I have wrestled with and I am come out on the side and I decided that that's what I'm going to do and yet later on in our life circumstances change and because this is not an area that is spoken of clearly in the law of God, we find ourselves wondering if I was really right. And maybe because of the different circumstances we should approach it another way, and is perhaps because of that, I don't know but that may be one of the reasons it's perhaps because of that the Paul deals with this again and again I when we deal with these doubtful areas very clear to recognize that were not dealing with law.

As I said there are areas where we are dealing with law. I heard today of the man who is a professing Christian's living with a woman who is not married, and when he was confronted by this by one of the elders of the church replied by quoting first Corinthians 1023 everything is permissible is obviously not what the text is teaching that sort of thing is fornication.

It's condemned elsewhere in the word of God. It is inconsistent behavior for the Christian. As I say there are areas that are doubtful and when Paul begins to talk about these areas. She makes very clear that in these areas. We are not dealing with the revealed moral law of God go back to the 10 Commandments and say well here is a law that pertains to that particular situation, regardless of how I feel about it. Regardless of the circumstances because that law stands written in the word of God. That's the answer to my problem when I was doing when we deal in these areas, says Paul, we must not begin by setting down a list of moral standards, which are going to be required by Christians concerning the conduct of other Christians.

In all places. That's what he means when he says in verse 23 everything is permissible. This is not something that violates the moral law of God, the conscience of the individual must not be bound in this area. We solemnly talk about this matter food help all dealt with it.

He said it's a matter of indifference because what you eat is not what the files you it's what comes out of the heart of man is what the Lord Jesus Christ said in an idol is nothing and therefore when food is offered when idol and is offered for sale again this is just a matter of indifference so far as the life of a Christian is concerned, you can either you cannot eat it just doesn't matter.

Everything in this area is permissible.

Yet, as we saw.

He goes on to develop a second principle in the second principle begins to narrow it down a little bit. Also, as everything is permissible. That is everything that is not explicit in the law of God, but he says not everything is beneficial in seeking primarily about the individual himself when he says that many things you can do.

Paul says nothing in the word of God says you can put that doesn't mean that everything you can do is going to help you either physically or intellectually in your spiritual life.

I don't anything in the word of God. It sets a limit on how much you can eat a dinner but you know perfectly well that if you eaten eaten eat meat for dinner and you keep that up for very long and pretty soon you're going to destroy your health and the same thing is true in other areas. So Paul says while it is true as long as were dealing in this area that all things are permissible. Let's remember that not everything is going to benefit you.

So if you have that in mind, here is a point at which some of the option that you may have legally begin to narrow down. He says thirdly, and this is the same thing you said earlier in chapter 8 it repeats now in the 23rd verse first Corinthians 10. Everything is constructive and here he has in mind the other person everything is beneficial for me, not everything is constructive for the other person either very clear.

That's what he's talking about here because he follows it by saying nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others was 11 things I can do.does not condemn, and many of those things that God is not condemned not necessarily hurt me but says Paul sometimes some of those things which are otherwise free to do part, another person that point you have to say my around here for my here simply to indulge myself to do everything that's all right for me or am I here with a certain spiritual responsibility to those were my brothers and my sisters in the Lord. I don't think that means that an individual Christian has to be bound by every silly thing that might pass through some other Christians had a lot of silly things pass through Christians head down through the course of the centuries, and there a lot of silly Christians around today.

A woman from the West Coast who spent many years doing work with young people came east and in those days, she came east with some of the flamboyant habits that were more common in California are particular flamboyant say was to wear large hats and they were very large hats and very fancy hats and she did that because that's what she was used to, and she began to hear from Christians in the churches in which he was working but she was obviously very unspiritual dressing like that. Why does she have to dress so flamboyantly they say that's no way for the Christian address as he took at the heart you sent of this is skirting the ministry. Well I better stop worrying large hats, so she got rid of the large hats she told herself down a little bit a little while later on the rumors we had to get back to where they said what is shaft look so drab she be much more effective if she fancy yourself up a bit as you learn the things like that don't matter what you say not everything fits that category are things that you may be able to do which may not harm you, but may be very harmful in the life of someone else. Someone that God has put you in contact with or what is even more serious someone whom God is giving you a particular responsibility for things that parents ought not to do for the sake of their children things officers in the church ought not to do for the sake of those in the church, and so on and so Paul says when you talk about freedom to begin to understand it in spiritual terms, and you must recognize that our freedom while it is true freedom to function in these areas is restricted somewhat for the sake of our own well-being and also that of others that he said before interesting and I'm sure that very reason that he treats those points in a very summary fashion here in chapter 10 just didn't want to versus he picks up on what he said before and then rehearses because awning spells it out a little bit again in terms of food sacrificed idols. But then, having done that, at the very end of this chapter because his fourth and final principle which is a principal I suggested earlier when we were talking about chapter 8, which Paul did not develop in chapter 8 and hold still. Now that principal is found in verse 31 THROUGH all of these guidelines for the conduct of Christians in doubtful things, and as he gets to the end. He sums it up, saying so whether you eat, drink or whatever you do, and he would say. Also, whether you don't even don't drink or whatever you don't do it all for the glory of God. Then he ties it into what he said before because she says if you do that you're not going to cause anyone else to stumble, bring me back to the point of my introduction when I said what are we destined to do. We find our freedom in terms of our ability to do that which God is created at which God has created us to do is to glorify him and to enjoy him forever. So I freedom comes in the ultimate analysis fourth point at Ball State so brilliantly what ever you do make any difference what it is. Whatever you do, make sure you do it for the glory of God. But you do it for the glory of God that it follows is Westminster shorter catechism says that you will enjoy God in all the joys that he imparts to men and women. I suppose that point, there are people who would suppose that Paul makes an entire break and is not because in the 11th chapter which follows this. He begins to talk about the relationship of men to women within the church of Jesus Christ and also in marriage introduces a number of puzzling things and people would say well that's just something different entirely. I don't think it is. I think Paul will though he certainly responding to concerns that had been brought to him by the Christians in Corinth, is nevertheless linking these two is a saying that in the relationships of life in relationships, in particular between men and women in the church and in marriage. There are the same kinds of restrictions apply in this area of our freedom like this before God and in spiritual things men are created equal in all respects so that it is absolutely the case that no woman has to submit to any man but if within marriage. She becomes the wife of a certain land then there is an area of submission to which he willingly commits herself, which is, as Paul spells it out here, a reflection of that order we find in the universe. Paul is talking about here is spiritual order because in the third verse as he introduces the whole subject. He says I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, the head of the woman is the man in the head of Christ is God. In other words, Jesus the son is submitted in the economy of salvation to God the father, which is not making fun equal to the father.

Christian theology speaks of the Trinity in which each member of the Trinity is equal to the other entitled equal honor and will glory yet within the functioning of the Trinity. There is what theologians call a functional submission of Christ to the father and the Holy Spirit about the father and the son. Paul says within that analogy. There is something similar to relationship of men and women within the church of Jesus Christ. This is a puzzling section trials watch great Princeton theologian, the one that did the masterful three volume theology, and has what I consider today to be still the best commentary in first Corinthians comes to this point and says with unusual humility. This is certainly a puzzling matter upon which the theologians are not entirely agree. I don't think things have changed since that time. When Paul talks as he does in the first large paragraph of chapter 11 about women covering their head and if they fail to cover their head, especially in worship. They dishonor their head and so forth that is puzzling. And when he talks in the second paragraph of the link the women's hair, and the fact that it should belong in the men's hair should be short that is puzzling that I want you to notice the just in case. Those two items by themselves are not puzzling enough. The apostle Paul puts this into a context in which he says not as I speak these things.

I speak them to you as an apostle of Jesus Christ. Therefore, with divine authority and, therefore, whether you understand them or not there in the law of God something to be obeyed. Paul says, quite the contrary. Paul doesn't say I'm speaking these things to you by revelation, and you may not understand them, because certain things belong to us, but the hidden things to our God. And this is one of those hidden things on sale at all. Paul says in verse 14 doesn't even nature teach you that this is the way things are the big words you said you don't need an apostle don't need a preacher, and only the Bible, all you have to do is look around about you to see this is true as I say, of the first two are in puzzling enough that certainly increases with difficulty.

Let me explain what I think is going on here. When Paul talks about head coverings he's talking about a recognition of authority and when he talks about that being true in nature. I think he's clinging to something which in a strange way, we do recognize I realize as I say this their people would challenge the people would say well natural, perhaps, but not universally saw what is true for us in our culture might well be different somewhere else.

I recognize that is true. Many of the so-called differences between men and women that we say, perhaps, are natural or not necessarily natural but may very well be cultural, and therefore in many cases to be challenged. What Paul is saying here is that although there are cultural differences there are, nevertheless built in differences so that men are not women, and women are not man.

And that's a good thing because that's the way God made, and any reports of this matter. Here coverings which is puzzling and also the matter of hair. Now I don't know this is a full answer to this but I have this on my mind this week as I was puzzling over this matter covering your hair. Women generally don't cover their hair church anymore and I was just wondering if there's ever any situations in which this really is a self-evident.

Paul seems to indicate it is and then I was out as I say in the West Coast. First of all in San Francisco and then in Portland graduation and I was sitting there in the platform.

In the midst of the graduation. All of us in our academic regalia. All of the graduate sitting out there front of me graduation of Multnomah school of the Bible, and suddenly I noticed something which I had never noticed in this context before in any graduation ceremony.

Everybody comes in with her head covered wearing academic regalia in their academic caps tassels swinging in the breeze. And then there comes a point in the service says the graduation ceremony begins, somebody takes their position before the Pope puts and says let us pray. What happens when the words are spoken. All the man take off their hats. All the women he perhaps ought I don't know whether that's is 100% cultural it may well be what it is, in fact, that is the way we do it and it may, in a certain sense illustrate the kind of thing which Paul obviously observed a much greater extent than the culture of his day. He was saying that there is a certain sense in which intrinsically we recognize in different ways the authority to God is that over us within the church of Jesus Christ singling talks about is this matter of fairness to is been puzzling in this year's conference is on reformed theology.

RC Sproul was dealing with the differences between male and female, because we have been treating the subject of utopias and one of the things that is done in the classical utopias, especially those in modern times in which we see also widely spread in our culture is attempting to eliminate the differences between men and women and he came to this passage in the context of his exposition, he said, here is a case in which Paul says that it is a disgrace for a man's hair to be long and it is a disgrace for a woman's hair to be short and talk about that in terms of the struggle that many parents, especially in recent years have had with their children special of the boys get your hair cut. The father tells his son sons and I want to get my haircut why not because everyone's wearing a long, why should you have a badge of conformity. Well, I want to do. I don't care if his father get cut II had a cut two months ago and I don't get it done for another month. Get it cut so forth. These great battles of the length of hair children are really smart at that point reply when they are reminded by biblically oriented parents that the Bible says that a man's hair should be short children who are wise at that point. Reply and how short is short the point. RC Sproul makes an this particular study obvious point is that length and shortness are relative terms, say a man's hair should be short, the question is short in relationship to what relationship Abraham Lincoln's hair was pretty long relationship with the Beatles.

Their hair was long. Is that what the reference point of Scripture is when Paul speaks as he does in this passage. Obviously that's not the case when Paul says that a man's hair should be short be saying that it should be short in relationship to what the length of women's hair and what he says but a woman's hair should be long saying that a woman's hair should belong in relationship to want demands. There and then he made this point. He said you noticed that back in the 60s when the men were growing very long, sagging down their shoulders.

You notice he said what happened.

The women's hair. When Sarah got longer.

The men were going to grow their hair down to their shoulders. Women were going to grow their hair down their hips and he said to you. Notice what happened back in the decade before that when Audrey Hepburn was so popular is an actress and introduce the Audrey Hepburn look where hair was cropped real short of the head. What happened back then the style of men's Sarah Weltman's air got even shorter. That was the age of the crewcut for men. Again I say, I'm not sure that this is absolutely the final answer to what Paul is talking about in these verses, but in the sense in which he is appealing to nature does not.

The very nature of things teach you. I think this is someone on the track. Paul is saying is this are times in which culture people will try to deny distinctions that God has built into thing.

Try as they like our differences, they are from God because they are from God, and are therefore good.

Their differences but should be maintained. Nobody can say, on the basis of this well then we don't have any need for one another because Paul says no, no, quite the contrary is the case in the Lord.

He says woman is not independent of man or as man independent woman that he spells it out using little illustration again from nature. The way things happen as woman came from man, he is referring to the creation even being made from Adam, so also man is born of woman is referring to the natural process of birth saying you see again in the nature of things gone. The we does teach differences which have the reflection in the matter of authority within the church of Jesus Christ but nevertheless also teaches a mutual interdependence. What he saying there is equally important, namely that women need men and men. Women and it's a sad case of the falling away from what God intends. When a woman says well I have had it with man might say that quite justly, of course, been behaving the way they do. But I won't have anything to do with them anymore. That's an unfortunate thing and if a man says well I don't want anything to do with women. I'm just going to hang around with the boys.

That's an unfortunate thing to because God has made us in such a way that we need each other. I come back to this theme of freedom as I close and I ask, what does all of this have to do with freedom was simply this freedom. As I said at the beginning is the ability to live in a way that fulfills our destiny that for which God made us the problem you see is it in ourselves.

None of us have that ability problem, as it were sinners.

Sin keeps us from doing what we ought to do and which, apart from sin, we would be able to do so. That which within the sexes should be a matter of mutual harmony and beauty becomes what we call the Bible of the sexes that which, in the area of eating and drinking in dealing with doubtful things should be an area in which we are able willingly and joyously glorify God instead becomes an area in which Christians wrestle miserably with how much they can get away with without at some point perhaps somehow transgressing God's moral law. You say Jesus spoke of himself as the one who gives freedom is the freedom that comes in the gospel. I spoke of the word of God is that which gives freedom. He said the people of his day you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free truth of God is what we find in passages like this passage is the Telus will be free, not when we say to ourselves.

I must be able to do what I want to do and do it now, and at all time. Instead which we say I want above all things that have God glorified in my life is spring weather.

We confess that we are not above these problems, but we wrestle with them. Many times we wrestle with them daily. Confess the difficulty we have been working our way through and not only in glorifying you but even in wanting to glorify you and many of these areas. Forgive us for our sins set us free are the truth which we have in Christ, grant that we may be able to live by his grace to your glory or we prayed in his name you're listening to Bible study hours with the Bible teaching of Dr. James Boyce listener supported ministry of the alliance of confessing Evangelicals. The alliance exists to promote a biblical understanding and worldview. Drawing upon the insight and wisdom of reformed theologians from decades and even centuries gone by. We seek to provide Christian teaching that will equip believers to understand and meet the challenges and opportunities of our time and place. Alliance broadcasting includes the Bible study hour with Dr. James Boyce every last word with Bible teacher, Dr. Philip Reich, God's living word with pastor, the Rev. Richard Phillips and Dr. Barnhouse in the Bible featuring Donald Barnhouse. For more information on the alliance including a free introductory package for first-time callers or to make a contribution. Please call toll-free 1-800-488-1888. Again, that's 1-800-488-1888. You can also write the alliance at Box 2000, Philadelphia PA 19103 or you can visit us for Canadian gifts mail those 2237 Rouge Hills Dr., Scarborough, ON, and 1C2Y9 ask for your free resource catalog featuring books, audio commentaries, booklets, videos, and a wealth of other materials from outstanding reformed teachers and theologians. Thank you again for your continued support of this

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