A Thought For Your Christian Journey:
Command vs Conviction
by Dr. Walter D. Huyck Jr.
One issue that every maturing Christian will eventually have
to deal with is the difference between command and conviction. Some, very
sincere, Christians never develop a working understanding of these issues and as
a result develop some spiritually unhealthy characteristics; such as legalism or
Many that fall into the legalistic camp have erroneously made
their personal convictions into the unwavering, and unchanging commands of God.
On the other hand those that often fall into the liberal camp have erred just as
gravely in the opposite direction. They have surrendered the clear commands of
God to the unstable realm of personal opinion.
The Commands of God
So, just what are the commands of God for Christians today?
Many would piously hold their Bibles in a raised hand and loudly proclaim, "this
is it!" And indeed it is, but perhaps not on the same level that they might be
insinuating. You see we all recognize that the Bible is God's Word, written to
reveal God to a fallen mankind. We also know that within God's Word there are
many commands. Where we possibly differ is where we identify which of these
commands pertain to us today. This difference can only be settled within the
pages of the Bible itself. We must look at the whole of God's Word to find the
God gave His commands in the Old Testament in three distinct
types of law. Most recognize these as the Moral Law, Civil Law, and Ceremonial
(Leviticus) Law. The Moral Law encompasses what we all know as the Ten
Commandments (Exo 20); it describes how we ought to conduct ourselves toward our
fellow man. The Civil Law is given throughout the book of numbers and was the
foundation for the laws that would develop the Jewish government. The Ceremonial
Law, given in the book of Leviticus, directed the Jewish Priesthood in the
execution of their religious practices.
The Old Testament Civil Law and Ceremonial Law were given to
the Jews. While the civil law would indeed provide a great foundation for any
society, the truth is that it ceased to be in force when Israel and Judah ceased
to be sovereign nations. The Ceremonial Law is obviously only good for the
religious practices of the Jews. It is important to note that the New Testament
doesn't reiterate any of these commands as laws in force for Christians.
However, the Moral Law is fully supported in the New
Testament. Jesus Himself reiterated each of the Ten Commandments, with the
exception of the one pertaining to the Sabbath. Where we consider the Sabbath we
find that Jesus fully supported the Sabbath in His life, but from the
perspective that it was made for man not man for it (Mark 2.27). Then we find
that Jesus added two New Commandments for Christians, that we love God and also
love one another (John 13.34).
Therefore, the Moral Law does apply to us as Christians while
the Civil and Ceremonial Laws do not. We also learn that the best way to fulfill
God's law is to simply love (Rom 13.10).
Conviction is not law
Standing in support of, and sometimes in contrast to, God's
commands are our convictions. Convictions are those standards that we adopt for
ourselves, whether by experience or tradition that help us to live in keeping
with those things that truly matter to us.
Convictions obviously change from person to person. Each
individual will develop and adopt their own convictions in keeping with their
experiences. Some will establish very strict and high standards while others
seem to live by apparently no standards at all, yet both hold their own personal
For Christians our convictions are those standards that help
us to be what we believe God wants us to be. Many of our convictions developed
to help insulate from sin, which almost always is the result of our own
weaknesses when enticed (James 1.14). We probably fell or nearly fell to some
temptation and then developed a conviction to help protect us from making that
The truth is that our convictions are very healthy for us,
spiritually speaking. However, our convictions can become detrimental to our
spiritual well being if we fail to properly understand them.
Convictions are expressly personal in nature. The mistake
that many well-intentioned Christians make is that they insist that everyone
else hold their convictions as though they were God's Word. Some even go as far
as refusing to have anything to do with people that will not hold to their
personal convictions. These people have elevated their personal opinions into
the realm of Scripture. By rejecting multitudes of sincere Christians they deny
themselves the benefit of their fellowship as well as their ability to influence
them in return.
For example: I have known of Churches that believed that
women ought never to wear pants, even if they were made expressly for women.
They felt that they could back up their belief with scripture, and went as far
as to put a placard on the front door of the church that said "Ladies if you are
wearing pants, please don't come in." Thus they turned away many new Christians
before they even had a chance to grow in Christ or to understand their
Now, some would accuse me of an ultra liberal attitude that
will accept every sin under the shadow of personal conviction. On the contrary,
there are very clear commands in God's Word and I would never excuse any clear
violation of them. However, I also recognize that their are the unchanging,
eternal, truth's revealed by God, and then there are also my convictions
concerning them. I can agree with my fellow Child of God concerning God's clear
commands, while holding differing opinions about how to keep them.
Christians must understand that there are distinct
differences between commands and convictions. While it is not wrong to share our
convictions with others, we do damage to others and ourselves when we strive to
force our convictions upon them. I have seen seasoned Christians literally drive
Babes in Christ (new Christians) from their church by their demanding
Therefore, I challenge you to carefully consider and compare
your convictions to God's Word, recognize the difference, then live and share
your faith in fellowship with God's people. Remember that God calls us to unity
not to division. Refuse to be divided over your personal convictions, but stand
immovable upon God's unchanging Word.
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