Apostolic Identity & Holiness Standards -Part 3

apostolic: of or relating to the Apostles of Jesus Christ.  What did the Apostles teach and practice?

1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1 NLT - You say, “I am allowed to do anything”*—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial. 24 Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others. 25 So you may eat any meat that is sold in the marketplace without raising questions of conscience. 26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” 27 If someone who isn’t a believer asks you home for dinner, accept the invitation if you want to. Eat whatever is offered to you without raising questions of conscience. 28 (But suppose someone tells you, “This meat was offered to an idol.” Don’t eat it, out of consideration for the conscience of the one who told you. 29 It might not be a matter of conscience for you, but it is for the other person.) For why should my freedom be limited by what someone else thinks? 30 If I can thank God for the food and enjoy it, why should I be condemned for eating it? 31 So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Don’t give offense to Jews or Gentiles or the church of God. 33 I, too, try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved. 11:1 And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ. 

Though the topic of certain foods was one of the chief holiness standard issues disagreed upon in the early church, these principles for Christian living apply to us today.  The apostles’ teaching focused on love for one another in the church and doing what best fulfilled the Great Commission to make new disciples.  First, we see that not everything we are technically free to do is beneficial for us or for others.  It is the apostolic teaching to subject our freedoms to what is best for others.  Second, the balance is that our genuine Christian liberty is not to be limited by someone else’s stricter standards.  If our heart is pure before God, we should not be condemned for possessing freedoms that others may feel are wrong.  Third, though the gospel carries an offense with it by its very nature, Christians should strive to behave by this apostolic holiness standard: do not give offense to those inside or outside the Church.  The final apostolic identity standard is this: do what is best for others to be saved!  One’s personal convictions and outward standards must take effective evangelism into chief consideration.  The need for lost souls being saved is more important to God than our preferred standards and freedoms on debatable matters.  Unfortunately, we can be tempted to love our standards or our freedoms more than we do the people who need the gospel.

Romans 14:15-16 NLT - And if another believer is distressed by what you eat [or a similarly debatable behavior among Christians], you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died. 16 Then you will not be criticized for doing something you believe is good.  

Paul makes it clear that you should never misuse your Christian liberty in a way that overthrows the faith of those who feel the need for stricter standards.  You love them well by promoting faith and unity where possible, and respecting their convictions.  Likewise, you should never push people away from Jesus and His church by forcing your personal convictions upon them.  The Spirit of God is to grow us in holiness, and we are not called to distress our brothers and sisters or ruin others’ faith by how we handle our personal convictions.  One great expression of faith in God lies in the answer to this question:  Will you choose to be at peace in yourself (and with others) about the spiritual progress of your fellow Christians whose strictness or freedoms are different than your own, while sharing life-giving fellowship with them?