18 For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men.
Verse 18 confirms verse 17.
“For” is literally in this. Those who live under the principle of grace and desist from flaunting it to immature Christians serve Christ.
he who serves Christ in these things
The area of serving Christ here is in the sphere of the mature giving deference to the immature. In addition, the immature serves Christ by not violating his conscience. This is how believers in the congregation are to resolve their differences.
is acceptable [pleasing] to God
Service to Christ by giving deference to immature believers pleases God.
and approved by men.
The word “approved” means to approve after close examination. Service to Christ is a norm for goodwill to men. Mature Christians will receive a positive response from the immature if they see the mature serving Christ above all. A mature believer who serves the Lord will stand the test of the scrutiny of legalism.
Proper understanding of grace produces right conduct.
The genuine Christian life originates from the grace principle, not legalism. After mature believers come to an understanding of the grace principle, they can serve Christ the right way. By making His will our own, we live as proper members of the kingdom.
Immature Christians will see the grace life in mature believers and approve that kind of living. They will see the virtue that grows out of their relation to God and His kingdom. Some Christians portray the idea that “I believe this and I don’t care what other people think.” Mature Christians do not take this view but give consideration to what immature believers are dealing with.
Legalism satisfies our pride. Rules can never give what life from God can provide. Christians who live by God’s protocol rather than man’s rules experience two outstanding results: (1) they please God and (2) men approve their way of life. This is to truly serve Christ. Legalism cannot produce these results. True spirituality does yield this kind of life. Psychology cannot produce this, nor does human effort of any kind.
Respect from men follows pleasing God. By aspiring to principles that transcend legalism and man-made rules, we live by what is most important to God and have the greatest impact on man. This is true kingdom living, a life of spiritual fellowship with God.
Religion without spirituality is a system of regulations. The human kingdom is horizontal, but the kingdom of God is vertical. God’s kingdom is from above and through His revelation; it is not sourced in the human mind. Thus, Christianity is internal, not external. The internal can be seen in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Joy is a by-product of something else. It is only when we live in the spiritual world of liberty and grace that we can experience true blessedness from God.
We can serve Christ in one of two ways—by legalism or by grace. The grace life stands in stark contrast to formal systems.