The Christian’s Dependence and Independence

July 4, 2018

The composite character of the Christian community at Rome – the Jewish origin of many of its members on the one hand, and contact with heathenism on the other – had doubtless given rise to differences of opinion. Some there were who still retained their Jewish prejudices and ideas. They abstained from meats. They observed special days. They were inclined to judge harshly and even to look down upon those who did not think and act as they did (ver. 3). And, on the other hand, those who partook of all meats, and regarded all days as alike, were disposed to find fault with those who attached a religious significance to the partaking of food and the observing of days. The apostle here lays down some general principles which are of use in all such cases where differences of opinion arise about non-essentials. I. THE CHRISTIAN’S DEPENDENCE. “None of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living” (vers. 7-9). There is no such thing as absolute independence. The relation of each individual to Christ, dependence on him and responsibility to him, is here asserted. 1. We depend upon the Lord’s death. In the cross is our hope of forgiveness, pardon, cleansing. 2. We depend upon the Lord’s resurrection. In his resurrection is our hope and assurance of the life and immortality beyond. “Because I live, ye shall live also.” 3. We depend upon the Lord’s continual intercession. In his intercession is our hope and assurance of answered prayer. 4. We depend upon the Lord’s continued gifts to us. The Lord’s day; the Word of the Lord; the Lord’s house; the Lord’s Supper; – how much our spiritual life is dependent upon these precious blessings provided for us by our Lord and Master! “Whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.” 5. This dependence upon Christ brings with it corresponding obligations. “Ye are not your own, for ye are bedight with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:20). II. THE CHRISTIAN’S INDEPENDENCE. The independence of the Christian is the correlative of his dependence. He is dependent upon Christ, and therefore he is: 1. Independent of external circumstances. “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” And again, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.” Even death can bring no alarm to those who can say, “We are the Lord’s;” for Christ is the Conqueror of death. 2. Independent of human criticism. “Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him” (ver. 3); “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or faileth” (ver. 4); “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind” (ver. 5). Here the apostle asserts the great principle of liberty of conscience, and inculcates the great duty of charity and toleration. Alas! how often the principle and the duty have been forgotten in the Christian Church! Christian men have excommunicated one another and treated one another as enemies because they differed on some minor detail of doctrine, of government, or of worship.. Even the Protestant Churches, and Protestant Christians, one of whose distinctive principles is liberty of conscience, have sometimes failed to extend to others that toleration which they claim for themselves. “God alone is Lord of the conscience,” says the Westminster Confession of Faith, “and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men.” – C.H.I.

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