Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Grace of God means this, too!

The obvious dimension
What is grace? One of the definitions of grace is that when we received something by grace, it meant that we receive that something without us meriting it. For example, salvation is by grace (Eph 2:8), meaning we receive it without us doing anything to merit it or we do not work for it; we just receive it as a gift from God.

My grace is sufficient for you
The dimension of grace in the 1st paragraph above is absolutely correct, but yet because of exposure of erroneous teaching of a Christian’s life following born-again is to just bask in grace, the dimension of grace (G5485) as a goodwill, loving-kindness and favor of God to influence upon us, having turned to Christ, to increase our knowledge, affection and faith in God, and to exercise the Christian virtues, has increasingly being overlooked.

Yes, I am referring to the dimension of grace as in, “My grace is sufficient for you”, as found in 2 Cor 12:9, on the Apostle Paul’s affliction of thorn in the flesh.

7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me (2 Cor 12:7-9).

Two dimensions of grace
I believe it is appropriate for us to look at grace in 2 dimensions, one being salvation grace {grace to enter into salvation}, and the other post-salvation grace {grace after born-again}. As salvation grace, it all culminates in the greatest gift of being born-again, by water and by the Spirit (born-again) {John 3:5}.

Post-salvation grace is not exactly this!
But what do you understand by the post-salvation grace? Is it, now that we are children of God, being born-again of the Spirit, we just get any kind of gifts we want from God? In other words, what is our mindset supposed to be; that we have arrived, therefore, there is nothing for us to do or learn or to grow, but only to bask in grace all our lives? If your theology of the entire salvation is such, then, post-salvation grace to you would be God’s meeting your expectations, whatever, they might be. If you are sick, God should just heal you; if you want to be materially and financially rich, God should oblige you, too; if you want to be highly looked-up by men, God should arrange for that; if you just want to bask in the sun whole year round and do nothing, God would be more than happy to see to it; if you want a gorgeous mate, the Lord should immediately arrange for you, that too; everything should be “smooth and swell” for you. When it is all like that, the grace of God is sufficient for you? What is “My grace is sufficient for you”, trying to paint? No more suffering, no more pain, no more trials, no more afflictions, no more mishaps, no more calamities, no more disasters, no more temptations, no more troubles, and no more trying? If it is not along such lines that post-salvation grace of God be interpreted, how should it be interpreted?

It is in the definition
If one looks at the Greek word for grace (G5485), “charis”, this meaning is given:

“goodwill, loving-kindness, favor of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them {souls} to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them {souls} in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them {souls} to the exercise of the Christian virtues”

We can see that God does not cease to render grace upon salvation. Yes, initially it would lead to one turning to Jesus, enter into salvation, but God does not consider the “job” as finished, see what it says, “{afterward} to keep, to strengthen, to increase the person in the faith, in knowledge (of God and His ways), in affection (in love), and to move the person to live out the Christian virtues.

Purpose of post-salvation grace
In other words, we do not reach “arrived state” on salvation, rather we embark on a journey of growth in knowledge, affection and faith in God, and live out our Christian virtues, and the grace of post-salvation is rendered to help us to achieve that outcome of growth in a Christian life. Therefore, while post-salvation grace has everything to do with the continuing salvation journey, it pointed NOT of God’s “smoothing and swelling” a believer’s life. God’s desire is that every believer overcomes until the end and receives the crown of life.

Although Rev 3:21 was referring to the Laodicea church, it carried the intent and purpose of Jesus, “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.” This means that we are to imitate Jesus, follow after His footsteps, and that will be that we are to live a life with the spirit to overcome all the time, for that was what Jesus did (as a man, on earth, then), continued to overcome, and did not sin. In other words, believers are to be over-comers, and stay as over-comers until the end (death or Jesus’ 2nd coming). The exhortation is perseverance.

In 2 Cor 4:8-9, we read this:

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

The Apostle Paul was saying that the scenario of 2 Cor 4:8-9, that we are hard pressed on every side, perplexed, persecuted, even struck down, are very real. Yet as gospel bearers, and having entered into salvation with the Holy Spirit indwelling our body, we are to shine for God, to live out the Christian virtues {1 Cor 6:19-20 said our bodies are not our own anymore. We belong to God who purchased us with the blood of His Son, Jesus}. Paul said we have the ministry of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 3:8), and with that we are able to show the all surpassing power of God working in and through our life. We are not to lose heart; by the grace of God, in the form of goodwill, loving-kindness and favor, even when we are hard pressed on every side, we are not crushed; perplexed, we are not in despair; persecuted, we are not abandoned; struck down, we are not destroyed.

In 2 Cor 12:7-9, we read of the Apostle Paul’s affliction, thorn in the flesh. It does not matter, what interpretation you give to “thorn” in that text (in v7), still it was something that greatly affected Paul; it tormented Paul (v7). God was not removing the “thorn” despite 3 times Paul pleaded with God. Paul was obviously an elect, but still in this instance, God did not “heal” him {“heal”, if you believe he was diseased, “set him free”, if you believe the “thorn” was a person, or a bondage, etc}. God just insisted that His grace was sufficient for him, Paul. It meant that God would be there with Paul as he continued in his affliction; God did not see it as necessary to remove the affliction from Paul.

Proper mindset
A couple of questions surface from here: Is it not right for me to pray for my affliction be removed? Yes, it is right for one to pray for one’s affliction to be removed. The Apostle Paul did that, in fact, 3 times. Even someone like Moses, pleaded many times with God, for something he felt difficult to accept, but that is another story (Those who wish, they can read my separate article of “Do you know why Moses did not enter the Promised Land?”). Whatever your affliction, be it sickness, loss of job or inability to find a job, marital woes, heartaches and headaches with your children, etc, etc, you can always pray to God. I always tell people to continue to pray to God and to seek prayers from others for healing of their sickness, especially, chronic and terminal illnesses. I tell people, that my prayers did not result in God’s healing them, does not necessarily mean God will not heal them when another offers prayers for them. You should continue to pray and seek prayers unless God tells you specifically not to seek removal regarding your affliction, like He did with Paul or how He answered Moses, concerning he, Moses, was not to enter the Promised Land, despite he having led the Israelites for 40 years.

But I prayed and prayed, and sought prayers over and over again, but still my affliction was not removed, does it mean that God has decided not to remove the affliction, and if so, what must I do? Of course, firstly, we have to check the reasonableness of our terming of something as an affliction. For example, if you own and live in a public housing flat in Singapore, and you prayed and prayed for you to own and live in a private condominium, and you term your “not owning and living in a private property” as an “affliction”, when more than 85% of the citizens are staying in public housing, you have better re-assess your priorities, before God (although I am not saying that one cannot live in a private condominium). But if indeed, you are in affliction (e.g. people with chronic or terminal illnesses are in affliction), and your affliction is not removed over “extended time”, it is not unreasonable to wonder what is happening. If you TRULY hear from God, then, it is easier, you just have to accept it, or if you still want to, you can do what King Hezekiah did – bargain with God some more (2 Kings 20:1-6). But if it is silent for you, meaning you do not hear, my suggestion is that you continue to seek the removal of the affliction by God (please note that on-going medical treatment etc, etc are NOT excluded), AND understand that, in your affliction, He is with you, AND His grace is sufficient for you, which means that you may continue to be hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed, because He is there bearing you up.

Is there nothing I can do at all? I suggest what one can do is to attract the grace of God, and for understanding of this, one can read “The key – we can attract the grace of God” from my separate article – “Hold on, for the grace of God

Apart from compassion, there is still grace
What I am trying to get at, here, in this article, is that, apart from compassion, there is still the grace of God. If God has not compassion for your situation, and remove not your affliction, or remove not your affliction YET, there is still His grace which He will continue to extend to you in your struggle. Just like for Apostle Paul, God may be saying to you, for the time being, His grace is sufficient for you. I believe, the Apostle Paul, in 1 Cor 13:12-13, was saying that, despite the Kingdom of Heaven living is NOT fully reflected in earthly setting (only a reflection, meaning there are still aberrations; olden days’ mirror not as clear as that used currently {Paul’s analogy of “as reflection in mirror”}), still 3 things we need to hold fast in our Kingdom living on earth. They are that we are to hold fast to faith, hope and love; they are keys to our Christian living, and they are the keys for attracting the grace of God, in my understanding. So, even as we continue in life’s afflictions (we persist), we are to live out our lives, attracting the grace of God which will see us through.

Even though God will have mercy on whom He have mercy, and He will have compassion on whom He has compassion (Rom 9:15-16), we can always look to His grace and attract it by living in faith, hope and love.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions – Lord, may this article help your children to see your post-salvation grace as more, of you, helping us, in our trials and afflictions of life, rather than as you, blessing us, that we may just bask in grace or just live out a “smooth and swell” life, for our transformation did NOT complete upon our being born-again. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Anyone in OT ever righteous since Jesus was not yet manifest then?

In Romans 3:10-12, we read these written by the Apostle Paul concerning the subject of righteousness.

10As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one (Rom 3:10-12, KJV).

10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one;
11 there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Rom 3:10-12, NIV)

The Greek word used for “righteous” here was “dikaios” (G1342). In context, the closest meaning to be assigned for G1342 should be this: “(state) of him whose way of thinking, feeling, and acting is wholly conformed to the will of God, and who therefore needs no rectification in the heart or life”.

In other words, Paul was saying that since The Fall of Man, there was no one, not even one, righteous. Only the first man, Adam, before The Fall was righteous. After The Fall, (apart from Jesus) there was no one, meaning not even the (Jew) patriarchs, if this Romans 3:10 is to hold true.

One might think that such a belief came into the picture only in New Testament (NT) time. But it is not true; these verses of Paul could actually be traced back to the Old Testament (OT); they came from Ps 14:1-3, Ps 53:1-3 and Eccl 7:20. Particularly, v10 came from Eccl 7:20 which read, in KJV as follows:

For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not (Eccl 7:20, KJV).

The Hebrew word used in Eccl 7:20 for “just” was “tsaddiyq” (H6662), the same word used for “righteous” in OT Genesis 7:1 when Noah was mentioned as being righteous, and was also the same word used Gen 6:9 where Noah was labeled as being a “just” man:

And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation (Gen 7:1, KJV).
These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God (Gen 6:9, KJV).

The meaning of righteous or just, for the case of Noah, has to be of the same class as that of righteous, as mentioned by Paul, for when Noah was being labeled as righteous, this was spoken of that time:

And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Gen 6:5, KJV).

The situation was so bad then, like what it was depicted in Romans 3:11-12, they understood not God, sought not God, turned away, altogether worthless, doing nothing good, and God had to bring on The Flood to wipe them out.

But we have stated “righteous”, like in Rom 3:10, was referring to the state of him whose way of thinking, feeling, and acting, is wholly conformed to the will of God {which is NEVER evil or wicked}, and who therefore needs no rectification in the heart or life, how do we reconcile the truth of Rom 3:10 that none (since The Fall of Man) is righteous, and Noah (subsequent to The Fall) being labeled as righteous. In fact, there are other characters in OT in the like of Noah; for example, before Noah, there was Enoch who walked with God and was “translated” (did not die!). Also, righteousness was said to be counted to Abraham on various occasions. So, the question is, was there or was there not anyone, ever righteous (apart from pre-Fall Adam and Jesus)?

The gospel as I was led to understand and still understand so, till today, is that Rom 3:10, and as well as Rom 3:23’s “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” were verses telling on our belief that everyone is born a sinner. In fact, it is unmistakable that the Apostle Paul believed such, for these words of Paul clearly indicated so:

12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned— 13 for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.(Rom 5:12-14). 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive (1 Cor 15:21-22).

As far as OT support is concerned, this verse of King David stood up:

Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me (Ps 51:5).

Some speculate that David was saying that his mother did something wrong and conceived him, but I personally think that such speculation is not warranted. Rather, it could very well be that David had had revelation of such (that everyone was born a sinner), from God. I am one of those who believe that David had had revelation from the LORD concerning the Lord, Jesus, who, relative to his (David’s) time, would be coming to deliver him (David) OUT of death, for he (David) too was a sinner (born a sinner). For an understanding of this, you can read my separate article – Psalm 16 – David’s confession of faith.

My belief was and is that, through that first sin (Original Sin) committed by Adam, Man lost the righteousness (Original Righteousness) God created him with. Man’s state of righteousness with God was lost at that Fall; everyone after that, is unrighteous, even at birth.

If we are talking about such a concept of righteousness, how come such men as Enoch and Noah can be said to be righteous?

One possibility is this: That in OT time, without Jesus being manifest (the Law and Prophets only testified {Rom 3:21}), the consequence of the Original Sin, the damned STATUS of Man, was relegated by God to one side, awaiting its cure, so to speak. It is not that God did not have a plan to address the unrighteous STATE of Man, for upon the happening of The Fall, God spoke concerning the son of woman (referring to Jesus) crushing the head of the Serpent (Satan) {Gen 3:15}; it was just that, it was to be in the future relative to that time (after The Fall). In His grace, love and mercy, God continued to have Man populate the land, and He continued to deal with Man, despite there was an “offence” (even a “legal” offence that had yet to be satisfied) against His holiness. My view is that the “standard” of righteousness expected of the OT people in earthly life, in that interim period, taking into account of The Fall (fallen nature of Man) was different from that before The Fall (and from that, after the 1st coming of Jesus), but it was nevertheless God’s standard, and it was possibly the highest possible for the fallen condition of Man. My view is anchored upon the understanding that God does not expect the impossible from Man, His creation whom He knows the limit. Is there support for such an understanding you may ask? Yes, 1 Cor 10:13; although it does not exactly say such, it nevertheless is picturing to us that God does not exact what is not possible from us, although of course, we are responsible for the exercise of our free-will:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Cor 10:13).

Also, through the mouth of His prophet, Ezekiel, in Eze 18, God spoke about who He would regard as righteous, in those days (Eze 18:5-9).

5 "Suppose there is a righteous man
who does what is just and right.
6 He does not eat at the mountain shrines
or look to the idols of the house of Israel.
He does not defile his neighbor's wife
or lie with a woman during her period.
7 He does not oppress anyone,
but returns what he took in pledge for a loan.
He does not commit robbery
but gives his food to the hungry
and provides clothing for the naked.
8 He does not lend at usury
or take excessive interest.
He withholds his hand from doing wrong
and judges fairly between man and man.
9 He follows my decrees
and faithfully keeps my laws.
That man is righteous;
he will surely live,
declares the Sovereign LORD. (Eze 18:5-9)

Notice that verse 9b said this: That man is righteous; he will surely live, declares the Sovereign LORD.

So, in the OT, when God said or announced that someone was righteous, that righteousness was the righteousness He had set and expected; and so, He could say or declare someone as having reached that, albeit it was not to the level of the Original Righteousness before The Fall, for it would have been impossible to achieve, given the fallen-ness of Man and world; and of course, it was also not to the level of righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ, for in OT, Jesus had not manifest. The Apostle Paul put it very nicely as:

For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, … (Romans 1:17). But NOW a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify (Romans 3:21). {Phil 3:7-9 also by Paul, also indicated so}.

This is the revelation that my study and meditation thereof, have enabled me to receive on this subject, and if you can accept this viewpoint, it will adjust your lenses of righteousness accordingly, when you read the OT, relative to your more firmly established understanding of the subject, from the NT. The study of the relevant Hebrew and Greek words in this case, though helps, does not fully address the issue. There are really levels and dimensions of righteousness revealed in Scripture, in OT and in NT. For example, some of us, because of the constant hearing of “overly grace” messages, think that there was no such thing or acceptable notion of righteousness by law. There is no justification by law (Acts 13:39), but there was righteousness by law in OT. Deu 6:25 clearly said that.

And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the LORD our God, as he hath commanded us (Deu 6:25, KJV).

The passage from Ezekiel 18, Eze 18:5-9 {we have seen above}, is another support for that.

The wording of Paul {“righteousness, apart from law, has now been made known”} in Romans 3:21 (given above) was his acknowledgement of there was a dimension of righteousness by law. Even Jesus recognized that there is righteousness by law:

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 15:17-20).

In the passage above, Jesus recognized there is a level of righteousness by law, but He, in verse 20, emphatically stated that we need a righteousness that surpasses that which can come from the law, to enter the kingdom of heaven or God. This higher righteousness, not possible to the OT people, but is possible to us to have, through faith in Christ Jesus (If you can believe, when Jesus was in Sheol (=Hades) {upon his crucifixion}, dead OT people, generally, decided on whether or not, they would believe in Jesus, the Messiah. Jesus did go to Sheol {but NOT to HELL}). Over-shadowed by grace, although we tended not to talk about righteousness in terms of righteousness by law, there is still a dimension of righteousness that has to do with faith in God’s Word (which, is His laws; God’s words are laws, men!).

So, we come back to the issue of us reading that OT persons being labeled as righteous. The correct way to view the matter is that while OT people did not have the righteousness {righteous state} of Christ Jesus, if they were nevertheless found by God to be of the way of thinking, feeling, and acting in conformity to His will, then {which took into account the fallen nature of men} and therefore, not needing rectification in the heart or life, they could be said by God to be righteous. After all, righteousness is about being right with God, in agreement with Him and flowing with Him; the more righteous we are, implied the more in-sync, we are with God in rightness, in thoughts, in timing, and in actions. Do not get me wrong; I am not saying that God just ignored the consequence of the Original Sin, but that, for the OT people, He had relegated it to one side, awaiting its cure which was and is found only in Christ Jesus’ death and resurrection. I believe Jesus after His death, in the 3 days before His resurrection, went to Sheol, even to the people before The Flood, in Sheol, and preached to them (1 Peter 3:18-20a).

Faith ties in nicely, too, with righteousness, for when we know about God and know God more (principally through His Word), our faith grow stronger and stronger. And when we act on our faith, we believe what we are doing coincides with God’s heart and desire, and God is going to count to us righteousness (being right with Him) {Therefore, is there not, a dimension of righteousness through acting according to His Word (which is in fact His laws)?}. In OT, faith might not be in Jesus Christ, but if it was faith in God, it counted too, for then Jesus Christ was not manifest. That must be so, for Scripture said that Abraham’s faith in God was counted to him as righteousness. It might not be God rendering a man as righteous, in STATE, and therefore, OT “justification” might not be the same as that in NT, nevertheless, righteousness counted by God were ACTS of righteousness pointing to the righteousness of the person in question.

Today, under NT era, God still counts to a believer, ACTS of righteousness, for his righteous deeds, although the NT terminology of rendering ACTS as FRUIT is preferred by many, because of Jesus’ parable involving a good TREE producing good FRUIT, and good FRUIT ought to come from a good TREE {if bad FRUIT, TREE cannot be good}. To me, it is the same; for act or fruit, it is the outworking from, and the pointing to, a STATE; and for the NT believer, that is the Jesus imputed righteous STATE which he MUST INTERNALISE AS HIS OWN.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions – I believe there is the imputed righteousness of Jesus for the NT believer, and there is still the requirement for him to live his life out in righteousness, producing fruit of righteousness by his active righteousness. What do you think?

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Psalm 143 – David’s refusal to despair

The way to read this article is that the BLUE underlined texts are the verses of the Bible (NIV84, unless otherwise stated). The black texts following the Bible verses (and enclosed by square brackets) are my commentaries. At the end of these Bible texts and commentaries, I have inserted a section on "Points to take note/What we have learnt/can learn".

Psalm 143

A psalm of David.

1 O LORD, hear my prayer,
listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness
come to my relief. [David petitioned God to hear his prayer, to listen to his cry for mercy. David asked God to come to his relief, in His faithfulness and righteousness.]
2 Do not bring your servant into judgment,
for no one living is righteous before you. [David was pleading to God not to judge him or to put off judging him, for no one living is righteous before God; no matter how righteous David might be. In humility, he appealed to God.

As a side, now is it in OT time, none was righteous because of the damnation from the consequence of the Original Sin, that David said what he said, or is it  even in NT time, this is still valid, that none is (actively) righteous all the time, and so, we too, should be pleading to God as David did? My inclination is that despite we as believers have the imputed righteousness from our entry into salvation, we can be unrighteous (in the active sense), and God is at liberty to judge (NOT necessarily condemned us to Hell) henceforth or mark us for judgment at a later date; Hebrews 10:26-29 reads, " 26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?"]

3 The enemy pursues me,
he crushes me to the ground;
he makes me dwell in darkness
like those long dead. [David was petitioning God because his enemy was pursuing him, they crushed him to the ground; they made him dwell in darkness like those long dead {last bit, was probably referring to his having to be on the run, a fugitive, not able to remain in touch with those who knew him}.

This verse can also be interpreted as David's enemy was causing David to go into an oppressed and depressed state.]
4 So my spirit grows faint within me;
my heart within me is dismayed. [Because of his enemies {probably strong ones} were against him, David said to God that his spirit grew faint within him, and he was disheartened {but not in despair}.

David acknowledged that the attacks of the enemy had affected him.  Such is the positive and first thing to do, if we want to stand prevailing.  From it we know that we need help, and help from God.]
5 I remember the days of long ago;
I meditate on all your works
and consider what your hands have done. [In order not to be in despair, David remembered the former days where he had witnessed or knew God‘s faithfulness and righteousness at work. David meditated on God’s works and considered what God had done, in the past. Recounting the past faithfulness of God is a good way to “keep one’s head above the water”.]
6 I spread out my hands to you;
my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. [David told God his soul thirsted for Him like a parched land, even as he spread out his hands to God. David expressed that he needed God badly.]
7 Answer me quickly, O LORD;
my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me
or I will be like those who go down to the pit. [David pleaded for God to answer him quickly, saying that his spirit was failing. He beseeched God not to hide His face from him or he would be like those who go down the pit, for he was growing weaker and weaker.

Now, the picture painted can be that David was expressing that it was possible that he might die if God did NOT answer him quickly, or it could be that he was expressing if God did NOT answer him quickly, he might go into depression; pit being the metaphor for "in depression".]
8 Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul. [Perhaps, it was night time at that moment, and David asked that God not to delay, but to let him have His word of His unfailing love by the morning {or it was just simply an expression for an answer was needed without delay}, for his trust was in God. David asked God to show him the way he should go, for, to God, David was entrusting his soul.]
9 Rescue me from my enemies, O LORD,
for I hide myself in you. [What David was saying was that he regarded the LORD as his refuge. He might not run into any fortress, he believed he was already hiding in the LORD, and so, he asked of the LORD to protect him from his enemies.]
10 Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
lead me on level ground. [David asked God to teach him to do His will, for to David, the LORD was his God, one who could NOT be wrong, only right, only good. To David, such one’s will, he would do. David trusted God to lead him on level ground, meaning David trusted if he followed the ways and will of God, he would NOT be overwhelmed.

Level ground was to paint the picture of the setting where one does NOT get hit repeatedly so much so that one would get overwhelmed.  On "level ground", sometimes, one can still trip and fall, but it would NOT be as frequent and overwhelming as one on "terraneous ground" (undulating, rocky ground).  A believer's life is NOT expected to be trouble-free.]
11 For your name’s sake, O LORD, preserve my life;
in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble. [Because David’s declaration that the righteous LORD was his God, David was indicating it would not reflect well on the name of the LORD should his life be lost or that he would be "paralyzed" (as would be the case if he went down the pit of depression). Concerned with the name of the LORD, David called for the LORD to preserve his life, and to come to bring him out of trouble, in His righteousness. 

The life, Jesus came to give for a believer, is that of abundant life (John 10:10); not a paralyzed life or a utterly defeated life; people in depression often live that way - defeated and paralyzed.]
12 In your unfailing love, silence my enemies;
destroy all my foes,
for I am your servant. [David appealed to God’s unfailing love, calling for God to come to silence his enemies; to destroy all his foes. David said he was appealing on the ground that he was the LORD’s servant.

David could have appealed on other grounds, but he chose to appeal on the ground that he was the LORD's servant; pointing to his humility.]

What we should have learnt:

This psalm spoke about David’s refusal to be abandoned to despair. Clearly, Scripture did not promise a “smooth and swell” life for a believer. Instead, we read of believers being still in the world {Jesus, when praying, said that He was NOT asking the Father to take His disciples out of the world (John 17:15)}, although not of the world, and the need for us to persevere. For example, the Apostle Paul even wrote like this:

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed (2 Cor 4:8-9).

The sooner we realize this, the better; and we have better get to know how we are to deal with challenges, the fallen world throws at us, saints. Jesus said this (John 16:33) - "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."   

King David of the OT, had his fair share of challenges, and here, in this psalm, I believe, David was quite desperate, yet he refused to despair, and had sought the LORD for help. Psalm 143 was David’s petitioning for God’s help in his dire straits (great distress). Some believed that this psalm spoke of the time King David had to run from his own son, Absalom who usurped his throne, but whether it was precisely that occasion or not, is not crucial. These are some of the things we can learn from David’s petition:

1. The most basic way to petition to God is to pray (v1). We must pray, we cannot say, “God can see, and God knows, if He wants, He will do something; if nothing is already happening, it is because He does not want to do anything!” Scripture exhorts us to ask, so we ask; to pray, so we pray; and we are not to be a smart aleck, and refuse to do so. King Ahaz of Judah, for example, was stubborn and refused to ask when the LORD told him to ask {for a sign} (Isaiah 7:10-13). It is not that we get everything we ask for, but indeed, we have to ask; the Apostle James said in James 4:2 that we do not have, because we do not ask.

As a side, now, faithfulness of God does NOT equate God MUST, regardless.  If it were God MUST, really there was no need for David or anyone to pray or do anything.

2. Ask according to who God is, and according to His ways (v1). For example, one cannot ask God to do an unrighteous thing; for example, to help you to win the heart of someone’s wife. Ps 89:14 is a scripture I meditate often, and it says, “Justice and righteousness are the foundation of your {His} throne; love and faithfulness go before you {Him}”. So, we can ask God to come to our relief, in His justice, righteousness, unfailing love and faithfulness, and of course, in His mercy. We cannot ask God to act opposite to who He is and His ways, He will NOT do it.

Does God NOT love us; and so, answer all our prayers according to what we have asked?  No, and it is because His love is first of all, love unto righteousness ('ahab love'). For better understanding of this love, read my separate article - 'ahab love - Love unto righteousness.

3. Come in humility before God (v2). We, ourselves, need to live a righteous life (active righteousness), and not just rely on the imputed righteous of Jesus. If we live UNrighteous lives while insisting we are righteous, relying solely on the imputed righteousness of Christ, we are really profaning the righteousness of God. Apart from some blunders he did (like his affair with Bathsheba), David endeavored to live honorably and righteously, especially with regard to his dealings with King Saul who plotted repeatedly to kill him. Of course, we must always repent of our sinful ways.

When you are sincerely serving the Lord, you can even ask on the ground of being His servant (v12). We are all servants (prima facie) of the Lord, but do you serve the Lord? In my view, David could have asked on other grounds, stronger grounds, yet he asked on a lesser ground of being God's servant ("I am your servant" is a lesser ground), for he was humble.  David chose the weakest of the "links of entitlement" [ground of being a child, is a stronger link (of entitlement), which David did NOT invoke).

4. All children of God (I use "children", instead of "servants", because some of us do NOT seem to serve, even when we are children of God) ought to know they have a Father God whom they can call out to, when they are in distress (v3-4). Call out to God, instead of falling into despair. David, in this psalm, was doing precisely that.

We should note that David acknowledged that the attacks of the enemy had affected him.  Such is the positive and first thing to do, if we want to stand prevailing.  From it we know that we need help, and help from God.

Do not be nonchalant about the attacks of the enemy and their impact on you; do NOT be ignorant or be proud; they do NOT help.  Don't get yourself into situation of "too much have hit you", that you toppled into despair; realize it earlier and seek God's help humbly, earlier, than later.

5. To avoid sinking into despair, remember the former days, recount the past faithfulness of God (v5). For those, whose walk with the Lord is still short and without much personal testimonies to fall back on, fellowship with other believers would be beneficial, as testimonies of others, too, can encourage us.

6. Express frankly your dire straits, your distress (v6-7). David said his soul thirsted for God (one can die of thirst! – need God badly), and his spirit was failing; and he asked God to answer him quickly.

7. Express your trust in the Lord, that He is your refuge and your shield (v8-9). I say “express”, for you can only honestly say something {express} when it is truly so, in your heart and beliefs. Our trust, hope and faith in God, of course, do take time to grow; and trials and grief do come so that our faith may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed (1 Pet 1:6-7).

8. Express your love for God’s will and His ways, and that you want to walk and DO WALK in His righteousness {we, at least must try; do not listen to teachings which say that we should effort NOT} (v10-11). Only when you do walk in His righteousness, can you say, “For your name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life”.

9. Of course, do not forget to tell God what you want Him to do for you (v12). In David’s context, he needed his enemies silenced, he needed his foes destroyed; and David asked God for that. It is not that God must do what you want, but again, do not listen to teachings which tell you that you cannot tell God what He can do for you; God is not that insecure or think that you could influence his righteousness or judgment. Jesus, Himself, in His earthly ministry, on several occasions (Matt 20:32, Mark 10:36, Mark 10:51, Luke 18:41) asked, “What do you want me to do for you?”

Anthony Chia, high.expressions – Indeed, no children of God should need to despair. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he {God} who promised is faithful (Heb 10:23)

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Did God say we are not to judge?

A controversial topic?
Today, we are going to dwell at some length a controversial topic found at many places in the Bible, in various “shades”. In this article, I will be touching on some of the dimensions of the topic, but I believe it is still not the exhaustive exposition of the entire topic. I have been “chewing” on this topic for some time now; and as it is controversial, the views expressed here are my sole responsibility and does not necessarily reflect the positions of my church or any Christian affiliations that I belong to. Wherever possible, I have supported my viewpoints from the Scripture.

Jesus’ words
The starting text is taken from Matt 7:1-5:

1"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. (Matt 7:1-5)

The Greek word (G2919) for “judge” here, is the word, “krinō”. There is another Greek word (G350), “anakrino”, the meanings of which coincide with certain meanings of “krino”; more specifically, it pertains to judgment between/among men. In terms of perspective, if we were to view “krino” as a set of meanings, “anakrino” is a sub-set of krino, much like the Hebrew words for “gods”, H430 (elohiym) and H426 (elahh). So as to illustrate, and for information (those wanting the full exposition of what was meant by Ps 82:6 and John 10:34 of “Ye are gods”, should read my separate article of “Ye are NOT gods”), H430 is the set which contains “god” as in God of Israel, “gods” as in deities, and gods generally, AND “gods” as rulers, judges and magistrates, whereas H426 is the sub-set, strictly having the meaning of “gods” as in deities or gods generally.

The use of krino and anakrino is best analysed by looking at how they were used by the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor 4:3-5 which I have put down, further down, in this article, but without exposition, for the exposition would take another article.

We will concentrate on the word, “krino” in this article, touching on some of the shades of its meanings. There are 2 major sub-sets of meanings which I would like to mention, one being the judging between/among men (which is the similar to the meanings of “anakrino”), and the judging, of the nature like that done by God on Judgment Day. The former (judging between/among men) is this:

a) to pronounce an opinion concerning right and wrong
- to be judged, i.e. summoned to trial that one's case may be examined and judgment passed upon it

b) to pronounce judgment, to subject to censure
- of those who act the part of judges or arbiters in matters of common life, or pass judgment on the deeds and words of others

The latter (judging like that of God on Judgment Day) is this: to separate, to pick out, to select, to choose, and to put asunder of. In common Lexicon, this sub-set of meaning is listed as the first and foremost meaning for the word, “krino”.

Therefore, at times, the word, judge, “krino” was referring to the latter meaning, but at others, the former meaning. But it is possible, even though we are to judge in the former manner, we have a tendency into the latter. There is only one who judges according to the latter meaning, and he is none other than Jesus Christ. In a sense, none of us, men, are to judge in the latter meaning, at least not currently. In the future, some of us would, when we judge angels and even the world with Jesus Christ (1 Cor 6:2-3). Although one can, at times, say that, when Scripture indicated that we are not to judge (krino), it was asking that we do not judge in the latter manner, but to regard all instances as such, would be inappropriate. As an example, if we look at Matt 7:1 and Luke 6:37a, we will find, it will lead to an illogical position:

"Do not judge {krino}, or you too will be judged {krino}.(Matt 7:1). “Do not judge {krino}, and you will not be judged {krino) (Luke 6:37a).

If we do not judge in the latter meaning above (“play God”, as some may say it), it means we will not be judged by God? It cannot be, all of us will be judged (krino) by God, regardless.

In my view, therefore, while we bear in mind we are not to try {not that we really could} to judge in the latter meaning above, the word “judge” (krino) can be considered with the usual meaning that we commonly know and use: to judge should include the examination of a case, and the passing of opinion (judgment) thereof; it may include the giving out of the penalty, which we commonly take it under a separate word, sentencing. I do not think judging in Scripture excludes sentencing. It can include the sentencing element as well. Of course, often times, in our daily lives, we exclude the sentencing part, in our discernments or judgments; we only needed to come to a conclusion of whether something is right or wrong (usually with the intention of whether or not, we are to do a thing).

Discernment and sound judgment
This brings me to another word, discernment. What is discernment? I read this in Proverbs 3:21 –“My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight;”

From here, and from my research from dictionaries, I conclude that discernment and judgment are quite separate. You can have a judgment without discernment, but you need discernment for a sound judgment. In this manner, as a noun, we can understand that discernment is the acuteness of understanding and judgment, or the keenness of understanding, perception or insight. As a verb or action word, it is the act or process of exercising the keenness of insight or acuteness of understanding. Because discernment includes acuteness, being penetrating, and shrewdness, SOUND judgment and discernment are quite synonymous, but NOT MERE judgment and discernment.

In the, when explaining what discernment included, acuteness, being penetrating and shrewdness are given these meanings: "ACUTE, PENETRATING, SHREWD imply a keenness of understanding, perception, or insight. ACUTE suggests particularly a clearness of perception and a realization of related meanings. PENETRATING adds the idea of depth of perception and a realization of implications. SHREWD adds the idea of knowing how to apply practically. Because discernment includes acuteness, being penetrating, and shrewdness, SOUND judgment and discernment are quite synonymous, but NOT MERE judgment and discernment."

And there is the thing called wisdom
Of course, the highest level word is the word, “wisdom”. We read in 1 Kings 3:11-12 of what King Solomon asked of God, and how God was pleased to give:

11 So God said to him {Solomon}, "Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. 13 Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both riches and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. (1 Kings 3:11-13)

When you have wisdom, you will exercise discernment, and you will arrive at sound judgment.

No, I do not think God was saying do not judge at all
Clearly, just from the above, one must see that it cannot be that God implied that we are not to judge at all. The very giving of wisdom is so that one can exercise discernment. And the purposes of exercising discernments include arriving to a sound judgment. You may think that I quoted King Solomon, and therefore, we, commoners, are being excluded, but you can read in James 1:5 that the Apostle James said that those (we) who lacked wisdom, they (we) are to ask from God, and God will give it to ALL generously, without finding fault.

Furthermore, God is never abhorring sound judgments. Proverbs 3:21, in fact, exhorts us to preserve sound judgment …., do not let them out of your sight. “Do not let them out of your sight” does not mean you are to make sure a certain sentencing is being carried out. It means you are always to be arriving at a SOUND judgment (which means that you are always to exercise discernment). If you are to be always arriving at a sound judgment, it implies that you are always to be judging (and always to be exercising discernment). If you do not judge, there will be no judgment, and there would not be any sound judgment, will there? In fact, no judgment often is judgment, and often, poor judgment, because there was no exercise of discernment – because you just left a matter be.

People’s New Testament’s commentary
The Bible commentators for the People’s New Testament, although in less encompassing manner, nevertheless are pointing to Jesus’ words being not targeted at forbiddance of judgments. These are written of these Matthews verses:

(1) He {Jesus} does not prohibit the civil judgment of the courts upon evil doers, for this is approved throughout the whole Bible.

(2) He does not prohibit the judgment of the church, through its officers, upon those who walk disorderly, for both he {Jesus} and the apostles have enjoined this.

(3) He does not forbid those private judgments that we are compelled to form the wrong-doers, for he himself tell us that we are to judge men by their fruits. (See Mt 7:15-20.) {the passage talked about recognition, rather than judgment but if one argues that one exercises judgment in recognition, then it is also judgment at work. But my own belief is that beyond recognition, we got to be careful about judging people’s fruitfulness based on circumstances known to us. You will understand my reservation, later in the article}

The Apostle Paul also did not bar all judgments
The Apostle Paul distinguished between what should be and what should not be judged, and how we are to judge, rather than giving a blanket disapproval of all judgments. A sample of verses of Paul will serve to illustrate this, but to go in-depth, would require separate articles:

What business is it of mine {Apostle Paul} to judge {krino} those outside the church? Are you not to judge {krino} those inside? (1 Cor 5:12)

Do you not know that the saints {believers} will judge {krino} the world? And if you are to judge {krino} the world, are you not competent to judge {kritērion, similar in meaning to krino, preside over} trivial cases? (1 Cor 6:2)

Do you not know that we will judge {krino} angels? How much more the things of this life! (1 Cor 6:3)

But if we judged {diakrino: self-examine and contend with} ourselves, we would not come under judgment {krino}. (1 Cor 11:31)

When we are judged {krino} by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world (1 Cor 11:32)

I care very little if I am judged {anakrino} by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge {anakrino} myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges {anakrino} me. Therefore judge {krino} nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God (1 Cor 4:3-5).

Some other teachings by the Apostle Paul have been covered in this article itself, including Romans 2:4 and Romans 14:4 (see section on “How to judge”).

So what did Jesus mean to say?
So, what exactly was Jesus trying to say with those words in Matt 7:1-5; to judge, or not to judge, or what? This is what I believe Jesus was trying to say: The overall spirit of this teaching of Jesus is that one should not be self-righteous. More particularly, one should not be self-righteous when judging.

Judging must be done based on the righteousness of God, no matter how obscurely it may appear to some (and that was why Solomon asked for discernment for justice administration, we need godly wisdom to administer justice in manner pleasing to God. And God said if we do not have it, ask and He will give it {James 1:5}.)

Simple definition of SELF-righteousness is this: being confident of one's own righteousness, esp. when smugly (contentedly confident of one's ability, superiority, or correctness; complacently) moralistic and intolerant of the opinions and behavior of others.

It is best not to look at Matt 7:1-2 in isolation; if you must do so, in my opinion, one should regard it as an expression of a truth by Jesus. And that truth, in my view, is: God does judge us on how we judge; in the same manner we judge others, we will be judged, and with the measure we use, it will be measured back to us.

It is when one looks at Matt 7:1-5 in totality that one can come to the conclusion that Jesus was warning about judging based on self-righteousness. It is precisely because we have to judge that Jesus said to check ourselves first before we try to examine another. Jesus was saying self-righteous people are complacent; in terms of the metaphor used, they pay no attention to the plank in their own eyes, yet they look at the speck in another brother’s eyes. So, Jesus said not to be a hypocrite, do not be complacent; remove first the plank from our own eyes before we try to remove the speck from a brother’s eyes. In other words, judge ourselves first, before we judge others. Indeed we need to judge ourselves so that we would not come under judgment (1 Cor 1:31, even though this passage is on self-examination on taking Holy Communion, it is applicable nevertheless {The Apostle Paul did say, he did not even judge himself, but that was because he was living his life according to the Spirit; he was led by the Spirit. To judge himself was to judge the Spirit, that he would not do, but even then, he advised against being presumptuous}.)

How to judge
Of course, righteousness of God is a big phrase. Practically, what are we to do or not to do, in judging? Below are some of my views:

1. Do not be rash. Avoid judging without full examination of charges. Exercise discernment (Proverbs 3:21), bearing in mind that discernment is the process of arriving at a sound judgment.

2. We should not judge by mere appearance (John 7:24).

3. Be merciful. Judgment should be tempered with mercy (James 2:13)

4. Avoid a spirit of fault-finding or censorious judgments. Remember for the measure you use, it will be measured back to you (Matt 7:2). You may not have many faults in a particular area, but that does not mean that you do not have any in some other areas. What are censorious judgments? In, censorious means severely critical; faultfinding; carping {fussy or petulant (impatient irritation) faultfinding; querulous (full of complaints)}

5. You may need to abstain if you have a vested interest. Your judgment might be biased or you may, in fact, find yourself being a hypocrite.

6. Do not think more highly of yourself than you should. Do not be caught in blind leading the blind (Luke 6:39-40, concerning this same topic; also Romans 12:3)

7. Avoid condemnation (Luke 6:37). Condemnation actually is a very strong word. Legalistically used, it means damnation to death, especially in olden usage. It also means unfit, undeserving, incorrigible, beyond reform, hopeless, incurable. Even God rarely condemned, please do not do that as far as possible. Judgment does not necessarily mean no sentencing, but avoid condemnation.

8. As far as it is up to you, forgive (Luke 6:37c). Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matt 18:23-35) illustrated un-forgiveness can be equated to wickedness, and are abhorred by God, and God’s wrath can even be meted out currently (in present life).

9. Embrace the spirit of giving (Luke 6:38). God is a “G”, G for Giver. Satan is also a “G”, G for Glutton. Choose, be a son of God or son of perdition.

10. Do not frame an innocent. This is unjust judgment. This is wickedness; abhorred by God. Those who practice wickedness can even face God’s wrath being meted out currently (in present life).

11. Desire and learn the ways of God. “….. but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). If we want to judge based on God’s righteousness, we must desire and learn the ways of God.

12. Ask God for wisdom (James 1:5 - If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.).

13. Follow the Royal Law – Love your neighbor as yourself (James 2:8). Also, do not do unto others, what you do not want others to do unto you. Rather do unto others, what you would like others to do unto you (Matt 7:12)

14. Be involved when you should (but try not to be a busybody). The way I crafted the preceding phrase is done intentionally, although Matt 7:1 or the parallel verse in Luke, Luke 6:37a perhaps, was tilted more to a call to be a less of a busybody. The reason for the emphasis for the front portion is because of the increasing complacency of Christians despite increasing depravity of society. Proverbs 3:21 has to be emphasized more. If Christians couldn’t care less, and refuse to do their part by the exercising of sound judgments to influence society, society will be overtaken by values contrary to the righteousness of God. If we all abdicate, guess who will be judging?

Concerning the parallel verse in Luke, Luke 6:37, especially the first part, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged”, I believe we should not take it to mean if we do not judge at all (which is impossible), we will not be judged. If for nothing else, you will be judged by God as a useless fool because you have not used any of the faculties He has given you as a man. I believe people should interpret it like how I said of Matt 7:1-2. At most, taken alone, I can accept that if something is not our fight (not everything is our fight, and I do not think God holds us to everything that happens or does not happen in this world), we should leave it, not judge it, i.e. do not be a busybody and get yourself into a situation that at the end of the day, you need to face God’s judgment on you, concerning the matter. But remember what I said about Christians being complacent. I believe for many of us, we have to watch that (complacency) more. For those still not convinced, there is such a thing as a sin of omission as opposed to the familiar, sin of commission.

15. Refrain, when it comes to service for God. The Apostle Paul pointed out that in the area of the quantity and quality of services we do in serving God, or the extensiveness of one’s contribution thereof, or even, whether we are really designated by God to serve in certain areas, we should exercise restraint in judgments. Paul spoke that God is the master and because we, the servants, are doing his biddings, only He has the full pictures of what He wants us, individually, to do, whether we fall short of His expectations or not. It is not so easy for outsiders to judge and it is best we do not judge although people in leadership positions inevitably have to assess the performances of the people under their charge, like in the church settings, of the Senior Pastor having to assess the performances of the people working in the church. In Romans 14:4, we read this:

Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. (Romans 14:4).

Even in the church setting, ultimately the Big Boss is not the senior pastor but God.

16. Concerning disputable matters. In disputable matters, the position tends to be closer to that for service for God; we should try to refrain from judging. I advise putting our position across if it does not lead to quarreling (the Apostle Paul advised against quarrelling), but I would not be hung-up that the person must accept my views. In disputable matters, even if we think we are right, we should try to see it in the manner said by the Apostle Paul, accept him whose faith is weak; we were once there, too! Also, some matters are peripherals, like matters of eating and drinking, per se. I also believe that sometimes, one may not agree with a point of view now, in the future, through the conviction of the Holy Spirit, as the person grows in the Lord, he may change his viewpoint. In such a situation, adopt the same attitude as that called for concerning looking at the services of servants of God, who are we to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. If his master allows him to stand, who are we to question that?

So, in a matter that strictly does not involve or implicate others (it would be different if it harms or stumbles another), all we can do is to instruct, gently wherever possible, and if that person does not want to listen, especially if he is an adult, we should let it go. If you still feel you want to do something, intercede for him (on your own, not with him, perhaps). It is not our fight; to his master he stands or falls. If he stands because his Lord makes him stand, who are we to judge?

17. Concerning false teaching. While at times, it is not clear-cut whether or not, a particular teaching is erroneous, meaning it can be a disputable matter that should be handled as said above, but at other times, if the teaching is concerning core theology of the faith and is heretic or apostate, we are to speak against such teaching. It is just not right in such a scenario to hide under “Do not judge”. The Apostle Paul did, although the word, “judge” was not used, exhort believers to “judge” if particular teaching was true (Acts 17:11, in praise of the Bereans). It is first of all, for our own good, and secondly, we should not let wolves in sheepskin to come into the pen and stumble others; though of course, we are to correct gently if possible, without quarrel. False teachings are going to be thing to be contended with (2 Tim 4:3), but Scripture did not exhort us to do nothing.

18. Respect God’s richness of kindness, tolerance, and patience. God’s long-suffering is intended that people are given time and opportunities to repent. We ourselves are included, meaning if we had not seen the wrath of God meted out against us, it does not mean that we are necessarily above others, and that we can judge others in self-righteousness (Romans 2:4)

19. Remember, ultimately God is the Judge, and the final verdict belongs to God, and everything is final only on Judgment Day, or when God said it is final.

As a conclusion, I believe God did not say we are not to judge at all. But we are NOT to judge in self-righteousness. We are to judge ourselves first before we judge others. In matter of strictly between the master (the Lord), and the servant, i.e. in connection with matter of services for God or disputable matters, it is best not to be too judgmental.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions – Lord, I have a long way to go. You know I am not trying to judge but to gently instruct; may I always remember that teachers of the Word (not that I can regard myself as a teacher) are judged more strictly according to your Word in James 3:1. Forgive me, Lord where I have over-stepped the line, and may you lead me in this area.

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