What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
This scripture clearly defines an area in which we have a responsibility to judge: To choose life we must judge between alternatives. Most of the judging we are permitted—indeed required—to do involves judging for ourselves which way we should go. But our area of responsibility for judging immediately narrows once we move beyond judging ourselves.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Judging Our Brothers
Evidently, Amos' teaching was effective because the people responded - at least it caused a reaction. He was a good strategist; he preached at the shrines where the people were. His influence radiated out as the word spread that a prophet from Judah was proclaiming doom for the nation. The people listened and spoke to each other about his preaching. When Amos accused the religious leaders of Israel of failing to teach God's way of life, Amaziah, a high religious official of the shrine in Bethel, felt he needed to respond.
As we see in Amos' case, a person can obey God and still receive public persecution. God will not protect us from all persecution, partly because it affords an opportunity to witness for and glorify Him. Amos' answer to Amaziah's charges makes this witness and enables him to prophesy further. Additionally, his response instructs us regarding the nature and function of a prophet.
This also shows a clear example of the biblical use of a plumb line, a building tool used to determine if an object is upright (verses 7-9). Does God hold the plumb line against Amaziah or Amos? Actually, He judges both. Amaziah represents the false religions, and Amos represents the true religion. The content of their conversation reveals how God would judge them. Primarily, though, God was evaluating Amos.
We need to apply the plumb line to ourselves. Are we taking the grace of God for granted? Could God be angry with some of us in His true church? Revelation 3:14-22 shows that the Laodiceans are sincere when they assert that they are spiritually complete, but God is ready to vomit them out! Obviously, the Laodiceans are not judging themselves against God's plumb line, or they would have known they were out of alignment with His will.
Because they feel so secure in their own spirituality, they probably think it incredible that God would single them out for punishment. It is clear, however, that God punishes those who forsake their part of the covenant with Him. Revelation 12:17 shows that, on the other hand, Satan persecutes those who keep the commandments of God and live godly lives.
God's religion is more than keeping the basic Ten Commandments. The Pharisees kept them, but our righteousness has to exceed theirs (Matthew 5:20). One difference between Christ and the Pharisees was that Christ's righteousness was positive while the Pharisees' was negative. Though both kept the commandments, the sincere Pharisee was righteous by avoiding sin, but Christ was righteous by always doing good as well.
The problem of the Laodicean is selfishness, self-concern. His opposite, the Philadelphian (which means "brotherly love"), is commended by God for his obedience and for doing good. His religion is outward in practice because he has prepared himself to give and serve through his relationship with God. The Laodicean is too busy gathering his wealth and indulging himself to give much thought to his fellow man.
Like the Laodiceans, the ancient Israelites concentrated on self-advantage, self-pleasing, and covetousness. This resulted in their being very hard on the needy and the poor. They ignored doing good works and serving their brothers. Amaziah apparently felt he needed to speak out and defend "that old-time religion."
John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)
Even our Lord and Master Jesus Christ would not go beyond the area of His authority that God had specifically given Him. He was supposed to live His life a certain way, as a man like us, to preach the gospel and found the church, and then to give his life in sacrifice as our Redeemer. But within all these responsibilities, within his sphere of influence, he had not been given at that time the responsibility or the authority to be a judge or an arbitrator in matters such as these.
Therefore, He refused to go beyond the powers and the authority that He had been given.
Had He done this, He would have taken someone else's job. He would have been meddling in the affairs of, say, a justice of the peace, an elder at the gate, or some other person who had been legally entrusted with the job to arbitrate or judge matters such as inheritances. Jesus had no purpose, no right, to put his finger in that pie because God had not given Him that as part of His sphere of influence.
We are told in other places that He has been given the responsibility and authority to be Judge of all. We must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. But when did that appointment take place? It occurred once He was received up into heaven. It began at that point, legally, because He had qualified to be our Judge. That, however, was after the scene in Luke 12, and it will come into its fullness in the judgment. He is judging us right now; judgment is now on the house of God (I Peter 4:17). But in Luke 12, He had not been given the responsibility to judge. So if He had stepped outside of His given responsibility and authority, He would have been guilty of sin, taking another's responsibility, meddling.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
What's So Bad About Busybodies?
We can often see our faults more clearly in other people, yet we usually fail to apply them to ourselves. Because our reaction is so often to criticize negatively, we usually do not see that we are guilty of the same things. If we find a certain type of behavior especially irritating in others, we may have the same problem!
To illustrate this blindness to our own sins, recall David's sin, recorded for all the world to see in II Samuel 12:1-5, when God sent Nathan to show David his sin with Bathsheba. Nathan told of a case in which a rich man who owned many sheep had stolen a poor man's pet lamb and killed it to eat for dinner. King David was outraged that anyone would be so greedy and selfish, so he pronounced the death penalty on this man. Then Nathan quietly pointed out that David had done the exact same thing when he stole Uriah's wife and sent Uriah to his death.
David was a man who, when he recognized his sin, would deeply repent. So how far his heart fell at that time, we can only imagine. He must have been devastated.
What angers us about others in God's church? Consider this carefully, since in the answer may be a clue to our secret sins. "For you who judge practice the same things."
Martin G. Collins
The Law's Purpose and Intent
The very fact that we are sinning human beings under judgment disqualifies us from judging. Our manner of life in the past has so perverted our judgment that we are incapable of judging with the fairness of God. Our judgment is too subjective to be fair, too influenced by our own experiences to consider all the nuances of another's life to judge without prejudice. Not until after we have lived a life of overcoming and are rid of this body and mind of flesh will we be in a position to judge the lives of others.
Since we are obviously empowered to judge between right and wrong and commanded to choose the right even when evaluating the conduct of others, the judging that God forbids is the passing of judgment against another. In other words, God forbids the handing down of a sentence. It is one thing to call a spade a spade and decide that such an act is evil, but to condemn the person as evil, implying incorrigibility, is stepping into the minefield.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Judging Our Brothers
1 Corinthians 4:1-5
Paul, embroiled in a situation where he was being judged for the way he conducted his affairs as God's apostle, gives some excellent advice. Passing judgment on someone based on our narrow perspective and subjectivity is an exercise in futility and vain, with nothing of spiritual value to be gained from it. That is why God does not want us doing it. Its prime motivator is to elevate (cf. verse 6) or justify the self.
Paul did not even pass judgment on himself! He certainly examined himself because he wrote to this same church, "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Prove yourselves" (II Corinthians 13:5). Then why did he say he did not judge himself? Because we all are saved by grace through faith. We certainly are not saved by our own favorable judgment of our conduct. Though he could find nothing wrong with his conduct in this situation, he still would not step into Christ's area of authority as Judge. Even his blamelessness did not justify him.
Many things we judge in others are trivial and sometimes extremely "picky." Many situations do not involve sin at all but simply different ways of doing things. We tend to pounce on situations or characteristics that will hardly mean a thing a year from now—and certainly will matter nothing in a thousand years. There may be nothing wrong with pointing them out to someone concerned, but why focus on them to the point we pass judgment on the person?
John W. Ritenbaugh
Judging Our Brothers
1 Corinthians 5:12-13
The apostle John writes, "He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked" (I John 2:6). Just as Jesus Christ refrained from judging the world until the proper time, so also the brethren of God's church must not render judgments on men until God's appointed time.
When is this appointed time? The same as Christ's time to judge! Daniel writes, "[The false church persecutes the saints] till that the Ancient of Days hath come, and judgment is given to the saints of the Most High, and the time hath come. . ." (Daniel 7:22, Young's Literal Translation). This squares perfectly with Revelation 5:10: "And [You] have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth." When our Savior returns and grants us jurisdiction over the world, we will judge it!
In obedience to Christ, the saints must restrain themselves from passing judgment on the world until the time set by God. The saints have no authority or power at this time to sit in judgment over others' lives. But when the time is right, they will judge.
Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? (I Corinthians 6:2-3)
Paul castigates the Corinthians for taking each other to court for matters they should be learning how to judge and resolve among themselves. Yes, he says, we should be learning to judge now because we will one day make far greater judgments, but we have no power to do so now: "For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside [the church]? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges" (I Corinthians 5:12-13).
The future kings and priests of God must learn judgment in their own lives and inside the body of the church. Paul writes, "For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged [by God]" (I Corinthians 11:31). God is judging those in His church today: "For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God" (I Peter 4:17). He is also teaching us how to judge: "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment" (John 7:24; see Matthew 7:1-5). But He has given us no permission or commission to judge the world—those who are outside the church—at this time. That time will come soon enough if we learn to judge ourselves now.
Therefore, we should leave the matter of judging people for their crimes in the hands of the world's governments. God has allowed men to set up various governing bodies, and they have jurisdiction for now (Romans 13:1-4). Though we live in the world, we are not of it (John 17:11, 16), so we should not become involved in its judgments.
God commands His church to stay separate from the world: "Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord" (II Corinthians 6:17). Like dedicated soldiers during wartime, we have no time and it is not our place to become entangled in the affairs of civilian life (II Timothy 2:4). Like representatives of a heavenly government (II Corinthians 5:20), we have no business involving ourselves in matters of a foreign state, though we live here and enjoy its benefits.
Our commission is to pursue perfection in the sight of God during the short span of years allotted to us (Matthew 5:48; II Corinthians 7:1). We should be busy striving toward becoming "a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13). Christ, when He walked this earth, leaving us an example, did not judge the world. Neither should we.
Why Should Christians Refuse Jury Duty?
1 Corinthians 11:23-29
I Corinthians 11:17-34 encapsulates the solution to a tragic story of gluttony, drunkenness, class distinction, and party spirit—all within the framework of the "love feasts" of a Christian congregation! Why were some guilty of these sins? Because, despite being converted, some of them neither loved God nor their brethren, which a reading of the entire epistle reveals.
To what does Paul refer them to correct their abominable behavior? To the Passover service and Christ's death! Christ's death is the supreme example of unselfish and sacrificial service in behalf of the undeserving guilty. It is the highest, most brilliant example of love.
Out of a beneficent good will, the Father and the Son freely gave of themselves for the sake of our well-being. For those of us still in the flesh, this beneficent goodwill results in our forgiveness, forging a foundation from which the same approach to life can begin to be exercised. When we can properly judge ourselves in terms of what we are in relation to Their freely given sacrifices, it frees us, not only to conduct life as They do, but eventually to receive everlasting life too.
Job confesses in Job 42:5-6, "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." Though Job was among the most upright of men, all his life he had held a wrong evaluation of himself in relation to God and other men. Yet when God allowed him to "see" himself, as He did the apostle Paul in Romans 7, Job was devastated, his vanity crushed, and he repented. Now, he was truly prepared to begin to love.
"Do this in remembrance of Me" has a couple of alternative renderings that may help us understand more clearly. It can be rendered more literally, "Do this for the remembering of Me," or "Do this in case you forget." God does not want us to let this sacrifice get very far from our minds. It is not that He wants maudlin sentimentality from us. Instead, He wants to remind us that it represents the measure of His love for us as well as of our worth to Him, that we always bear a right sense of obligation, not as an overbearing burden, but a wondering awe that He would pay so much for something so utterly defiled.
We are admonished to remember not merely the personality Jesus, but the whole package: His connection to the Old Testament Passover; His life of sacrificial service; His violent, bloody death for the remission of the sins of mankind; the sacrificial connection to the New Covenant; and who He was, our sinless Creator! This act becomes the foundation of all loving relationships possible to us with God and His Family because it provides us reason to hope that our lives are not spent in vain. In addition, it motivates us to do what we failed to do that put us into debt in the first place—to love.
Paul admonishes in verse 29, "For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body." To eat the bread or drink the wine in an unworthy manner is to treat His sacrifice with casual, disrespectful ingratitude—a better translation might be "without due appreciation, especially as shown by one's life." It means that the person who does this is not showing much love in his life because he is barely aware of his sins and the enormous cost of forgiveness.
Such a person is not really free to love because he is still wrapped up in himself. When we take Passover, let us strive to remember that our fellowship at that special time is with Him. The others there to participate in the service are at that time only incidental to our relationship with Christ. The focus is on Christ and our unpayable debt and subsequent obligation.
John W. Ritenbaugh
An Unpayable Debt and Obligation
2 Corinthians 13:5
We understand that we are to examine ourselves in the weeks preceding Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. Sometimes, however, we miss the purpose for the examination. Consider these two scriptures in relation to self-examination:
» Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Prove yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. (II Corinthians 13:5)
» For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. (II Corinthians 10:12)
If we are not careful in this, we can easily fall into two snares, both of which center on the self.
The most obvious one, expressed in II Corinthians 10:12, is that we will judge ourselves in light of other people. This fatal trap deceitfully provides us with self-justification for the way we are. The result is that we will not change or grow because we will be judging according to our own standards—and why change perfection? Self-examination by our own code produces self-righteousness.
The other dangerous snare occurs when our self-examination is so rigorous that we become very depressed and feel salvation is impossible. This is just as utterly self-indulgent as the other! This "woe is me" approach is a not-too-subtle blast against God's judgment and grace for calling us and making things so difficult for us!
Anyone who compares himself to others is not exhibiting faith in God. He is telling God that His Son's life means little to him. Likewise, anyone who feels so morose with guilt that he threatens not to take the Passover is not exhibiting faith in God. He is telling God that He is unable to forgive that much.
At Passover, our focus should be on the payment for sin through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. God in His grace is willing to forgive our transgressions on the basis of Christ's death. During Unleavened Bread, the focus shifts to overcoming sin and coming out of this world through God's power, which is also part of His grace. At Passover, it is the grace of God to justify us through Christ's blood. At Unleavened Bread, it is the grace of God to sanctify us as we move toward His Kingdom and glorification.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Christ, Our Passover
For years, I read these scriptures, and I always thought, "I'm not starting forest fires with my words. I'm not viciously devouring people like a roaring beast. I can take this in stride and not worry so much about examining this. After all, these examples are for the extremes: the Adolf Hitlers, the serial criminal minds, the hardened and bitter sinners who retreat from humanity. This isn't me!"
God sometimes focuses our minds on the things we are guilty of by allowing us to experience the same behaviors from others. David did not see himself as he was behaving and affecting others until Nathan described to him another man's behavior (II Samuel 12:1-4). David was so outraged by the man's gross actions and attitude that he, as king, declared the death penalty on him (verses 5-6). Had this been an actual individual, chances are David would have pursued the matter to see the man brought to justice! However, the man he judged as worthy of death was none other than himself (verse 7).
We experience similar lessons. We are at times brought into the company of people who are offensive to us, whose behavior hurts us, and whose words can cut us and wound us, because something in the experience will teach us what we need to learn. God is allowing us to experience ourselves.
We chuckle at times, observing how someone known for gossiping will howl in dismay when he is gossiped about, or how a person often critical of others is intolerant of criticism directed toward himself. We say about teasing, "Don't give it unless you can take it!" Similarly, we enjoy people who are warm and friendly, and we feel warm and friendly when we are around them. Happy people tend to attract other happy people, while bitter or angry people often find another unhappy person with whom they can share their complaints.
A deeper principle can be employed here: If we look at others' behaviors, we can learn to see ourselves. Job's friends had this opportunity. They saw Job going through his calamities, how miserable he was, and in their care for him, they did their best to find his fault and help him solve his dilemma. In the end, God simply dismissed these three friends and all their long-winded speeches because they failed to recognize the very thing God gave them opportunity to see: They failed to see themselves in Job.
Job was not singled out for this experience because he was Job. He represents mankind, blinded by himself and unable to see the reality of God. Even today, many centuries later, we examine the life and thoughts of Job in an effort to see ourselves in his shoes; we try to learn from his experience by exposing the same faults within us. This aids us by allowing us both to see what we might miss and to change what is incompatible with our Creator.
How often do these opportunities emerge for us to see ourselves in the actions of others? In the past decade, we have had many opportunities to witness the effects of deceitful men upon trusting and unsuspecting people. We have seen people shift allegiances and loyalties but deny doing so by their words. We have seen couples speak words of lifelong devotion only to cast them aside for a new attraction. We have seen friends and family who expressed the deepest of commitments to one another both deny those relationships and turn against one another. We have seen hearts broken by sarcasm and neglect. We have seen the crushing effects of criticism upon those needing reassurance and encouragement.
Most of us do not escape life without being deeply touched by such actions from others. But how incredibly sobering it is to see ourselves in these actions of others, to realize that we are guilty of the very things that may have hurt us deeply! We, too, are responsible for spreading the flames of a fire that devours and destroys all in its path. The evil of our tongues is as limitless as the evil James describes.
A sharp tongue is a weapon, no less as effective as a pointed spear or a sword honed to a razor's edge. A sharp tongue has no place among the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). It does not express love, spread joy or promote peace. It shows no patience, kindness or goodness in its words. It betrays faithfulness and gentleness, and most of all, it shows no measure of self-control.
My sharp tongue has been a contradiction to the convictions I have expressed nearly all my life. I never saw it until I had to come face to face with the jabs, slices, and pricks of other sharp tongues, and to feel the fires they started within me. I would beg the Father for understanding, of why such communication should exist and why I should receive it with such bitterness—until I finally saw, as David did, that I am the guilty one.
Are You Sharp-Tongued? (Part One)
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