Robert Jeffress - The Other Side of Freedom - Part 1
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. After God led the Israelites out of Egypt, he established laws for their new nation to follow, but when Jesus came to earth, he offered a different code to live by. Today, I'm going to explain why Christians are no longer bound by the Old Testament laws. And I'll show you how living under the New Testament gives us freedom. My message is titled "The Other Side of Freedom," on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
In Bible study, we have what we call the law of proportion. The law of proportion basically says, you can tell how important a certain subject is in the Bible, by how much space is devoted to it. For example, take the book of Genesis. We know that Genesis has 50 chapters in it. Now, what do you think about when you think about the book of Genesis? Well, we think about the creation. We think about the Garden of Eden. We think about the fall of man. We think about the flood. We think about the beginning of nations and of languages. Those are the things we think about when we think about the book of Genesis. And yet the truth is, all of those events are compressed into 11 short chapters.
Instead, the bulk of Genesis, chapters 12 through chapter 50. The first 11 chapters are devoted to those momentous events, but chapters 12 through 50, 39 chapters are devoted just to four families, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, and how God worked through those families to accomplish his purpose. Clearly the emphasis in the book of Genesis is not on those big events. It is as if the writer of Genesis were saying, "By the way, this is how all of these things happened, but here's what's really important, how God fulfilled his plan of redemption through these four families". The law of proportion.
Now let's take the law of proportion and let's apply it to the book of 1 Corinthians, our subject of study on Sunday nights. How much space does God devote to various subjects in the book of 1 Corinthians? Well, he gives one chapter to divorce and remarriage. He gives two chapters to divisions in the church. He spends a chapter talking about eternal rewards. Two chapters talking about spiritual gift. He spends a chapter talking about the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. But you know what subject receives more space than any other subject in the book of 1 Corinthians? It received not one or two, but three entire chapters. It's the subject of whether or not to offer meat that had been sacrificed to idols. That receives more ink than any other topic.
Why is that? Why is that so important to the apostle Paul? Because the real subject is not meat, the subject is sacrifice. Am I willing to sacrifice my personal freedoms in whatever area they are? Am I willing to sacrifice those freedoms for a greater cause, the cause of Jesus Christ? And that's what we're going to continue to look at tonight, when we turn to 1 Corinthians chapter nine. Turn in your Bibles to 1 Corinthians chapter nine.
Now let me remind you, that in chapter eight, Paul introduces this topic. The topic of whether Christian should eat meat that had been offered to an idol. And what he says in chapter eight is this, "Yes, you've got the freedom to eat that meat. But if in eating that meat, you offend the new Christian, the weaker Christian, and cause him to violate his own conscience and eat the meat as well, it may cause him to stumble. It may remind him of his old way of life and cause him to go back into idolatry". Yes, you have freedom, but your freedom stops when it hurts another Christian, when it makes that other Christian stumble.
Now, you remember last time, I tried to apply that to some common situations in our day, the gray areas of Christian living that people debate about. What about playing the lottery? What about dancing? What about going to the movies? What about smoking cigarettes? But the one area that really applied, at least in our culture is this whole idea of drinking alcohol. What about drinking alcohol? And, you know, had a lot of people after the sermon the last time say, "Well pastor, that was a good message, but you left out a lot of things you should have said about alcohol. You should have said this and this and this and this. And you should have reminded people of this danger and this danger".
Well, the sermon wasn't about the pros and cons of alcohol. The sermon was about sacrificing my freedom for the cause of Christ. And the fact is, I've talked in the past about the dangers of alcohol. There are plenty of good reasons not to drink. The Bible warns against the dangers of strong drink. The Bible warns against having your mind controlled by anything other than the Spirit of God. I don't drink. I wish nobody drank. But nevertheless, that is a preference of mine. There is nothing inherently sinful about drinking. There is about getting drunk, but not about drinking. It is a real freedom we have in Christ. But even though you may have that freedom in Christ.
If your drinking alcohol causes a weaker Christian who may be an alcoholic by birth, or a weaker Christian who has just come out of an immoral lifestyle and he associates drinking with immorality. If seeing you drink, causes that weaker Christian to violate his conscience and drink, when he knows he shouldn't drink, you have sinned against that Christian. And more importantly, you have sinned against the body of Christ. Now that's the application in chapter eight. Now, why does Paul spend three entire chapters talking about this? Because Paul is a good teacher. He understands it's not enough just to tell people the truth. You need to illustrate the truth and you need to apply the truth. And that's what he does in chapters eight, nine, and 10. I want you to open it up for your Bibles, and above chapter eight, write the word, exhortation, exhortation. This is where Paul tells us what we should do.
In verse 13 of chapter eight, he says, "If eating meat is going to cause my brother to stumble, I shall not eat meat". That's the exhortation, limit your freedom for a bigger purpose. Then in chapter nine, he illustrates how he has done that in his own life. And then in chapter 10, he's going to apply this to the Corinthians. So when we get to chapter nine, we come to an illustration. Paul is going to illustrate how he had a particular right in one specific area of his life, and he sacrificed his freedom for a greater cause. Now let's see what that right is that Paul sacrificed. Look at chapter nine, beginning with verse one. Paul says, "Am I not free? What does he mean by that"? He said, "Of all people who should be free of legalistic teaching, is it not i"? Of all the people who shouldn't care about what you eat or drink, isn't it i? I'm the one who constantly says, "You are not under the law, you're under grace".
I wrote an entire letter, the letter to the Galatians to say, "You cannot mix the law and grace. Trying to live under the law and under grace is like trying to mix oil and water. It does not work". By the way, there are a lot of Christians who need to hear that truth today. Lot of Christians who, yeah, they live under grace, but they keep going back to the Old Testament and trying to find parts of the Old Testament they want to live under. Had somebody ask me recently, "Why do we have that St. Paul Cafe open on Sunday, serving meals on Sunday? We are violating the laws of the sabbath". Well, news flash, we're not under the laws of the sabbath, okay. Colossians 2:16-17, "Let no man be your judge as to what you eat or drink. Don't let no man be your judge about new moons or festivals or sabbaths". We're not under that stuff anymore.
You say, "Wait a minute, pastor, are you saying we're not under any of the Old Testament"? That's exactly what I'm saying. We're under zippo, notta, nothing in the Old Testament. People say, "Well, wait a minute, wait a minute. We're under some of the Old Testament law. We're under the moral law, just not the civil or the ceremonial law". Guess what? In Galatians 3:10, you don't get the freedom to choose which part of the law you're going to keep. The law itself says, "Cursed is the man who does not abide by all things written in the book". If you're going to live under the law, you have to live under all of it. Fact is, we don't live under any of the Old Testament law. Well pastor, are you saying we don't have any law we live under? I'm not saying that at all. We do have a law code we live under. It is the New Testament, the new covenant in Jesus' blood.
Now the new covenant that we live under, it incorporates part of the Old Testament, it discards other parts of the Old Testament, it intensifies part of the Old Testament, but we are not under the Old Testament, we're under the New Testament. I was thinking about a way to illustrate that to you. Yesterday, I was working on my income tax. Isn't that terrible to think about income tax every time, this time of the year, it rolls around. But I was working on my income tax and I thought, you know, the IRS says that I have to obey the regulations of the 2011 internal revenue code. I'm obligated to follow their code. But what if I said, "You know, there's some things I don't like in this 2011 code. I like the way deductions were treated in the 1987 version, better than I do the 2011 code. And so, I think in this area, I'm going to apply the 1987 code instead of going by the 2011 code".
Is IRS going to let me do that? No, they're not going to let me do it. The fact is the 2011 IRS code, it does retain a part of the 1987 code. There are some similarities. It discards other portions of it. It intensifies some of it. And there's some brand new things in the 2011 code that aren't in the 1987 code. It's the same way about the New Testament we live under. The New Testament retains some of the laws of the Old Testament. Don't murder, don't commit adultery. It discards other parts of it completely, like don't wear a piece of cloth that is made of two different fabrics. It intensifies some of the Old Testament. Moses said, "You shall not commit adultery". I say to you, "To even lust after a person is the same as committing adultery". And the New Testament includes some things the Old Testament never even thought of like, limiting your personal freedom for the sake of Christ.
The key is to live under the code which you're under. We are under the New Testament. Quit going back to the Old Testament to try to find out how to live. And that's what Paul said here. He said, "I am not under the Old Testament. I am free of all legalism". And then he says, "Am I not an apostle"? Not only do I have rights as a Christian, not to be under legalistic requirements about food or drink, I have special rights as an apostle. "Have I not seen the Lord Jesus"? See, that was the requirement to be an apostle. You had to personally see the Lord Jesus and be personally called by him as an apostle. Both things were true of Paul. He said, "Are you not my work in the Lord? You're the proof that I'm an apostle". In verse two he says, "You're my seal of my apostolic authority".
The fact that they had been won to Christ were the proof that Paul was truly an apostle. By the way, in Ephesians 1:13, Paul says, "You know what the seal is that authenticates that we are a child of God? It's the Holy Spirit living within us". That word seal refers to a mark of authenticity. It would be placed on a bag of grapes or dates to show that this stuff was legitimate, that was in the bag. The Bible says, "You and I have been sealed with the Holy Spirit of God". The fact that the Holy Spirit resides in us is proof that we belong to God. Now, because Paul was a Christian. But more importantly, because he was an apostle, he had certain freedoms, certain rights, and he's going to single out one right he had as an apostle to use as an illustration of sacrificing your freedom for a greater cause. Here's the right that Paul had, look at verse four. He states his right. "Do we not have a right to eat and drink"?
Now Paul's talking about more than just simply eating and drinking. What he's talking about is, do we not have the right to be paid for our ministry? Do we not have the right as ministers to receive money so that we can eat and drink. Now, I want to stop here and say, this message is going to be very uncomfortable for me to preach because Paul is going to talk about paying the preacher, okay? That's the right he's talking about. He said, "I am an apostle. I have a right to be paid".
Now, I don't want anybody to think I'm trying to send a cryptic message here to the deacons or the personnel committee saying "I want more money," okay, I promise. That is not the message here. Our church has a history of taking care of its pastor and its staff in a very generous way, and we're very grateful for that. But Paul is talking about his right to be paid as a minister to illustrate his point here. So he says in verse five, "Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Peter". And when he says, take along a believing wife, he's not just talking about, don't we have the right to marry, that was a given. What he's talking about is when we go on ministry trips, don't we have a right for the church to pay the expenses of taking our wives along with us.
And isn't it interesting that Paul says, "All of the apostles were married". He said, "I'm married". His wife was probably dead at this point in time. The other apostles were married. Even Peter, the lead apostle was married. We have the right to take along a believing wife. How do we know Peter was married? Well, Peter had a mother-in-law. Remember, Jesus healed the mother-in-law. If you've got a mother-in-law, guess what? You've got a wife, okay. It just works out that way. All this talk about pastors and those faiths that teach the pastor ought to be celibate. There's absolutely nothing in scripture that indicates that. All of the apostles had wives, including Peter. And Paul said, "We have the right for the church to pay for our wife to come with us".
This week, a friend of mine in Memphis called and asked if I'd come preach in his church one weekday night, this summer. And I said, "I'd be happy to". And he said, "We want you to bring Amy along. Would you? We want her to be able to enjoy coming up here as well". That is a gracious church that does that. And then look at verse six, "Or do only Barnabas and I not have a right to refrain from working"? One reason I love Paul is because of his sarcasm here. He says here, "Now, wait a minute, are Barnabas and i, are we the only ones who have to go out and get a secular job to support ourselves? No, we have the right as well to refrain from a secular job, so that we can give ourselves to the ministry. It is only right that we be compensated for our ministry".
Now, Paul illustrates his rights in seven different ways. He shows why it is right to pay the minister. He uses the example of the soldier in verse seven, "Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense"? How successful do you think our military would be in getting people to enlist for service, if they said, "Now, by the way, we're not going to pay you anything. And not only that, you have to buy your own bullets. You have to pay for your own gas if you're driving a tank. You have to buy your own airplane, if you're going to serve in the air force, but we would love to have you come and serve with us". I don't think you'd have many takers with that. No soldier serves at his own expense. Or look at verse seven again, "Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it"? He's using the illustration of a farmer.
Does a farmer who's raising grapes, go out and go to the produce section of the grocery store and buy grapes for himself? Of course not, he doesn't do that. He eats from his own vineyard. Or by the shepherd, again, verse seven, "Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock"? Paul says, "A shepherd doesn't go out and buy milk. He uses the milk from his own sheep". All of these illustrations are not just Paul's own ideas, they come right from the mosaic law. Look at verses eight and nine. Paul said, "I'm not speaking these things according to human judgment, am i? Or does not the law also say these things"?
And then he quotes from Deuteronomy 25. There's that book Deuteronomy again. We all need to start reading Deuteronomy. Paul says, "For it is written in the law of Moses 'you shall not muzzle the ox while he's threshing'". Have you ever heard that verse before? "Don't muzzle the ox while he's threshing". It's one of Paul's favorites. He used it in 1 Timothy 5:18, when he talks about paying the pastor, the minister. He said, "Don't muzzle the ox while he's threshing".
What is all that about? But the Egyptians had this custom that the Jews took for themselves, of taking these oxen to help them in the process of threshing wheat. And this is what they would do. They would take an oxen and they would tie a big stone to the oxen. And the ox would drag this stone around the threshing floor, and then they would throw out the wheat on the floor, the grain on the floor, and when this rock would go over it, it would crush the grain, separating the husk from the seed. And that's how they did the threshing process. So this ox is walking around, it is carrying this heavy stone. It's in the process, separating the seed from the husk, and Moses.
And Paul said, "Now in that process, you wouldn't think of putting a muzzle on the ox while he is working so hard. The oxen ought to be free to eat what they're producing. That's what he's talking about". He goes on to say, look at this. "God is not concerned about oxen, is he"? That's not saying God doesn't care about animals. God loves animals. The point is, the reason God's word says this is not for the sake of oxen, it's for the sake of us. Look at verse 10, "Or is he speaking all together for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops".
Now, every one of you listening to this message who has any role at all in supervising other employees needs to memorize and understand this verse. I want you to underline the word hope. If you have people that work under you, they need to have hope. What do they need to have hope in? They need to have the hope that they can better themselves, that they can earn more money than they're earning right now, if they work diligently. Nobody ever needs to feel like he is stuck in a position. He is stuck at a certain salary level. He needs to know that if he works hard, he is going to be able to share in the profits of that organization.
Had a guy in a church one time, very successful businessman, owned his own business. Making beaucoups of money, hand over fist. He said to me, he said, "You know, I'm making so much money right now. I'd love to give my employees a raise, but I can't afford to do that. We need to take that money and invest it in new equipment to make the company even more profitable". And then he would ask me from time to time, why I thought he was having morale problems among his employees, because he was violating scripture. He should have taken some of that profit. And given it as an incentive, a reward to his workers. The Bible says, "We need that hope". The worker needs that hope that he is going to be able to share in the profits.
And by the way, the same thing works to those in ministry as well. In a church I served one time, we were having our annual personnel meeting and we were reviewing all the salaries of the staff. And it seems like, I don't care what church it is, what personnel committee it is, there's always this one so-called expert on the committee who somehow works with personnel and so forth, and he thinks he's the expert.
So this particular guy spoke up. He said, "Now, pastor, before we look at these salaries, I want to propose that we appoint a subcommittee. And this subcommittee needs to do some study and they need to come up with salary ranges for each position. And there needs to be a cap for each position on our church staff. That once you reach this cap, you get no more money". I said, "Well, okay, that's fine. But before we do that, we need to do something else". He said, "What's that"?
I said, "Well, we first of all need to set an attendance cap for our church. We need to say, once we reach this level of attendance in our church, we're not going to allow anybody else to come into our church. We're going to turn them away at the front door. And not only that, we need to set some baptism caps. We need to say once we baptize this many people, we're not going to let people come down the aisle to be baptized any longer, because we've reached our quota for the year. And not only that, we need to set a budget cap. We need to say, once we receive this much money, we're not going to allow people to give any more money. In fact, we're going to turn it back to them if they try to give it. And then once we set those caps, let's set a salary cap for the staff". I never heard about salary caps once again, the whole time I was in that church. The idea is ridiculous.