It is incredibly important for Christians to understand the doctrine of Christian freedom. John Calvin said that if you don’t understand the doctrine of Christian freedom, it shows that you don’t understand the doctrine of justification either. For the doctrine of justification necessarily leads to the doctrine of Christian freedom.
Here is a great initial summary of what it means by Paul Helm, in The Callings: The Gospel in the World:
The Christian is not given a rule or regulation to cover every move he makes. Nor is he to want to have such a system of rules.
Rather, the detailed application of the law of Christ in his own life must be worked out in the light of the application of the general principles of the law of God to his detailed circumstance.
The Christian is called upon to exercise mature, and maturing, judgment. In similar circumstances to other Christians he may find himself differing as to what is the right thing for him to do, because, though similar, circumstances may nevertheless make important differences.
The Christian may consult others in forming his conclusions about what to do. He may make use of accumulated Christian wisdom, or indeed anything else which he finds of help, but in the last resort the decision to follow Christ in this particular way is his, and his alone. This is another aspect of Christian freedom, the freedom to assess and judge situations for oneself.
I believe that the doctrine of Christian freedom is being undermined today in some subtle ways. One reason is that it can seem “dangerous” to think that people are to make their own decisions. What about community? What about accountability?
Of course those things matter. But people are to be held accountable to what the Scriptures actually teach, and the community is to support people in doing what the Scriptures command. In areas where the Scriptures do not require one action or another, the individual is free and responsible to choose his or her own course of action.
If you don’t understand this doctrine you will be unable to fully mature as a Christian, your walk with God will be impoverished, and you will more easily become the victim of spiritual bullies who claim to have more authority than they really do.
I hope to blog more on this in the future so we can all have a very clear understanding of what Christian freedom really means, and stand clear of the subtle ways that it is often undermined today — even when (especially when!) they come cloaked in a guise of spirituality.