What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
We not only need to consider the poor and to consider what God is doing, but we need to consider those who are doing evil in society. The context here is during a time when the righteous have power to overthrow the wicked. A person is to use this process of sakal (considering) to come to a righteous judgment about evil doers.
The New King James Version could be right in translating, "The righteous God wisely considers the house of the wicked, overthrowing the wicked for their wickedness." However, most scholars think that it is not speaking about God here but righteous people.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
"If I Have Not Charity"
Basically, God says here, "Go to bat for the disadvantaged." However, He admonishes us to judge righteously.
We know that there are people in the world who, perhaps because they have too much time, money, or guilt on their hands, make it their duty to become advocates for various causes, often doing it without regard for the possible consequences. They may think they are supporting something that is good, but they sometimes never think through what their support might mean and what will result from it. If many of the causes out there were actually followed through to the end, we would be living in a socialist or communist state, and no one would like it. Nobody would be free.
Jesus says, "The poor you will always have with you." Because that is the case, the question then becomes, "How best can we help them?" Remember Martha and Mary and what Jesus had to say to Martha? "Martha, you are getting overwrought about all this. But Mary has chosen the better thing" (Luke 10:38-42 paraphrased). Jesus is teaching that there is a point at which service and good works become a distraction and a worry, crowding out the higher duties of listening to Him.
Thus, we need to remember that, even though we want to do good works, they will never save us. They are a fruit of righteousness. They are not the ultimate goal or the end. They just show that we have inculcated into us part of God's character, and the natural outgrowth of that is good works (see Ephesians 2:10).
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
"If I Have Not Charity"
The Pharisees made their first major error in this area of judgment. They had abandoned the proper yardstick for their basis of judgment. As Matthew 15:1-9 shows, they had developed their own traditions that transgressed the law of God (verse 3). Their worship had become vain - worthless - as they substituted the doctrines of men for the doctrines of God (verse 9).
The Pharisees had lost touch with God's instructions, His mind. They leaned on carnal reasoning, which always decided in their favor. Situation ethics ruled, rather than the precepts of God. They became very harsh in their dealings with the "little people," taking advantage of them simply because they could (Micah 2:1-2).
"A just weight and balance are the Lord's; all the weights in the bag are His work. It is an abomination for kings to commit wickedness, for a throne is established by righteousness" (Proverbs 16:11-12). Though the Pharisee's "additions" to the law seemed innocent enough at their inception, over time they became increasingly partial to those who made the additions. This destroyed godly standards, and wickedness reigned. Since the leaders' righteousness had been destroyed, their leadership was void of justice. Significantly, the Bible's final warning is not to add to or subtract from God's Word (Revelation 22:18-19), for our own judgments do not have the purity and objectivity of God's.
This problem never seems to go away. Christ excoriated the Pharisees for it. James addressed the church about it because some were showing partiality to the wealthy in the congregations (James 2:1-12). Decision-making, judging, discerning, and evaluating fruits often become subjective. We base them on how they may affect our own well-being rather than render them impartially and objectively in the light of God's Word purified seven times (Psalm 12:6). Is it any wonder God gives us an average of 70 years to learn to make right judgments?
The Weightier Matters (Part 2): Judgment
When we show pity, compassion, and kindness to those in difficult straits, we are practicing the merciful attitude that God expects each of His children to exhibit at all times. Of course, He does not want us to be so soft-hearted that we become an easy mark for those who would take advantage of us, but He does want us to develop a keen sense of discernment that realizes when mercy is a better option than the strict application of rules.
Undoubtedly, each of us would lend a helping hand to another who was in physical need, but there are other situations in which a physical need is not apparent that also require us to extend mercy. Particularly, we need to learn to employ mercy in our dealings with each other on a daily basis. To put it into today's language, everyone has bad-hair days, and on some days, even a normally lovable person can be very difficult to live with.
Age differences lend themselves to misunderstandings. We may still carry prejudices that rear their ugly heads from time to time, causing friction. Oftentimes, we just do not think before we speak. Mistakes made in the past can seem to hang over us like a cloud and never go away, and thus we do not feel forgiven, affecting our attitudes. And of course, we all have different backgrounds and came from situations in which we perhaps lived our lives in certain shameful ways. Each of these problems can ignite trouble with our closest family members and friends.
The problem that all of us face in making righteous judgments is that we cannot see into the other person's heart; we do not really know their intentions and attitudes. We have a hard enough time understanding ourselves, let alone someone else! In Jesus' comments about judgment in His Sermon on the Mount, He cautions us about being too critical: "And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:3). Therefore, if we have to make a judgment call, it is far better to lean toward patience, forbearance, and mercy.
So, when we find ourselves offended by anyone, rather than responding in kind, we should apply the principle of giving a soft answer (Proverbs 15:1), turning the other cheek (Matthew 5:39), and extending tender mercies (Colossians 3:12).
Satan would like us to hang on to evil thoughts about another, to hold a grudge against a brother, or to arrive at church with a resentful attitude toward a fellow Christian, but Jesus Christ wants us to remember Matthew 18:35: "So My heavenly Father will [pass judgment against] you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses." Just as He forgave each of us from the heart, He wants us to learn to forgive others in the same generous, merciful way.
In my forty-plus years in the church, I have made almost all of the mistakes a person can make with his mouth, and realizing this, I have truly appreciated those who have extended mercy and forgiveness to me. They have taught me a great lesson by their spiritual maturity: that I, too, had better extend mercy and kindness to others.
What does God require of us? He tells us plainly in Micah 6:8: "He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?"
John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Mercy: The Better Option
Condemnation would have meant the death penalty because "the wages of sin is death." Jesus provides us an example of righteous judgment under the terms of the New Covenant. First, let us consider who He is, so that we can see His authority. He is Immanuel—"God with us." If anybody understood the application and administration of the law of God for the church under the New Covenant, it was Jesus of Nazareth. In addition, He is not only Immanuel, He is also the Head of the church.
Why does He make this judgment? Under the terms of the New Covenant, the church is not a civil entity, meaning that it has no civil authority to carry out the death penalty. But does this mean that the law of God is done away? No. Romans 6:23 still says, "The wages of sin is death." Death for sin is merely delayed under the New Covenant. The sin and the death penalty are still there, but the church is in a peculiar position in relation to law. The law of God is not administered by the church as it was by Israel when they made the Old Covenant with God. Both covenants have the same laws, but different administrations.
Are adultery and lust (two sins involved in this episode) still sins under the New Covenant? Absolutely! So is the breaking of the other eight commandments. But the church, out of necessity, has to administer it differently. Forgiveness of this woman is implied, as Jesus, Immanuel, said that He did not condemn her. Even though it is not stated directly, He forgave her.
But did He say, "Go, and don't be concerned about committing adultery again"? Certainly not! As the Head of the church, He said, "Go, and don't break that law again!" He justified her in relation to this one law, and warned her, "Don't break it." His forgiveness did not do away with the law! It is ridiculous, on its face, to conclude that, when grace clears us and brings us into alignment with God and His laws, that it eliminates the law! Only when there is a clear statement or example in God's Word that a law has been put aside should we make such a determination.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Four)
Romans 1 provides a brief overview of the horrific effects of mankind turning its collective back on the Creator God. Verse 28 from the Revised English Bible reads, "Thus, because they have not seen fit to acknowledge God, he has given them up to their own depraved way of thinking [reprobate mind, King James Version] and this leads them to break all rules of conduct." The term "reprobate mind" indicates a mind devoid of proper judgment. When God's judgment against Adam and Eve went into effect, mankind's choices in daily life became based almost entirely upon human experience.
This passage shows specifically what happens when people leave the Source of true values out of their lives. They become like a pinball, wandering aimlessly and bouncing from one jolting experience to another. Perhaps humanity can be described as a bull in a china shop, breaking things at every turn and causing an incredible amount of destruction and pain without ever being able to compose itself to create a lasting, peaceful lifestyle. Put another way, people become like animals in a jungle, competing viciously to survive and to eat before they are eaten.
Paul exposes the consequences of a purely secular mind. When God is removed or removes Himself, mankind not only loses godliness, but also true humanity. This degeneration occurs because man is not seeking God. Christ, however, did not seek His own will: "And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him" (John 8:29). This is what made the difference between Christ and the rest of mankind, resulting in His judgment being completely unclouded.
This leaves us with the question, "How can a person discern truth in moral and spiritual areas if he already has the wrong source and is not consistently seeking the right One?" He cannot! John 7:15-17, 24 offers a biblical example of this truth:
And the Jews marveled, saying, "How does this Man know letters, having never studied?" Jesus answered them, and said, "My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. . . . Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment."
The people could not perceive their murderous intentions. It is hoped that this confrontation helps us see the vast gap in understanding between the people, whose main source for values was human experience, and Jesus, whose source was God. Those confronting Jesus did not realize that they were being misled by their idolatry, as Paul reveals in Romans 1.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Second Commandment
In verse 1, Paul says that anybody participating even in some of the more easily mastered practices of human nature is putting himself on dangerous spiritual quicksand. Today, in the wake of the breakup of the Worldwide Church of God, a common judgment is to call Herbert Armstrong into account yet say at the end, "But I loved him." Those who do this have overlooked how vulnerable and subject to God's judgment this makes them.
Verse 2 carries Paul's warning a step further by reminding us that God judges according to truth. Those who judge and act as Paul describes in verse 1 have precious little truth. However, this major element gives God the right to judge. He alone knows all the facts and can arrange them all in the light of perfect righteousness.
He reveals in verse 3 the weak position of those judging: They are guilty of committing the same sins, or ones just as bad, as those they are judging! Paul is saying that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones! In fact, their judgment of others may be one of those sins! In verse 4, he counsels them to lay aside their pride and concentrate on making the best use of God's patience by repenting of their sins.
In verse 5, the apostle plays on the word "riches" in the previous verse. Physical wealth is something one normally sets aside and treasures, but those who persist in evil works are "treasuring up" judgment for themselves! Verses 6 through 11 are a classic argument for the doing of good works after justification from the mind and pen of the very man most often accused of saying no works are necessary.
Within the context of the entire book, Paul is saying here that, while a person is justified by grace through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, establishing a relationship with God that because of sin never before existed, good works should result from justification. Good works are the concrete, open, and public expression of the reality of our relationship with God. They are its witness.
Just as surely as day follows night, if our faith truly is in God, the works that follow will be according to God's will. Living by God's will should be the natural consequence of faith in God. Though we are justified by faith, II Corinthians 5:10 spells out that we are judged according to our works. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." Is it not logical, then, for a person, knowing he will be judged according to his works, to want at least some clearly stated absolutes to show him what is expected of him rather than a fuzzy and vague statement about loving one another? Would not such a person want to know more specifically what constitutes love?
In Romans 2:7, Paul is not saying using one's faith will be easy, but that those who have that faith will use it to work. "Patient continuance" presupposes a measure of hardship, and "seek" implies pursuing something not yet attained. Together, they indicate a persistent quest of God's righteousness. In verse 10, the apostle uses the phrase "to everyone who works what is good." He does not define what "good" is at this point, but whatever it is, work is necessary to accomplish it. In verses 11-12, he reiterates that we will be judged, introducing a word that many seem to find so repulsive: law!
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Four): Obligation
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?
Justification is clearly an act of God's grace, because what we deserve from what we have earned—from what we have done, the conduct of our lives—is death. There is none righteous, no not one (Romans 3:10; Psalm 14:1). Since justification, then, cannot be claimed as a right because we have sinned, it must be received as a gift. That fact that it is given makes it an act of grace.
It is not our hanging on to Christ (that is, the keeping of the law) that saves us, but rather Christ hanging on to us. That is, it is not what we do, but it is what He does continuously as acts of grace that saves us, because we deserve death. If we can earn salvation through law-keeping, Paul is saying in verse 21, "then Christ died in vain." If we can earn salvation through law-keeping, then Christ's sinless life and agonizing death were not necessary, because we can do it ourselves.
Justification is not vindication or exoneration. Both of those words connote that a person was right all along, but the true facts were hidden from those who were doing the judging. In some cases with men, vindication is possible because people are judged unrighteously. Their judges are not using righteous judgment.
But God never judges unrighteously! He knows all the facts. He knows our heart. He knows everything about us in every situation that we have ever been in, so He cannot vindicate us because we are not clear of guilt. He cannot exonerate us because we are not innocent. Justification is more than that. It is setting us right or calling us righteous though righteousness does not exist in us.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Grace Upon Grace
In his epistle, the apostle James is combating the practice of showing favoritism toward the wealthy at the expense of poorer brethren. He asks in James 2:4, in doing so, "have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?" As converted children of God, we are supposed to be able to make righteous judgments through the gift of God's Spirit. However, when we show partiality or respect of persons, we have allowed evil thoughts to compromise our judgment.
The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary emphasizes that "the sin in question [respect of persons] is peculiarly inconsistent with His 'faith.'" Christ died for all, rich and poor alike, and His doctrine consistently stresses the spiritual equality of believers and unity in a brotherhood of believers. Thus, preferring one person over another because of wealth or status introduces an element of wickedness into Christian relations: division.
Matthew Henry agrees:
The apostle is here reproving a very corrupt practice. He shows how much mischief there is in the sin of prosôpolepsía—respect of persons, which seemed to be a very growing evil in the churches of Christ even in those early ages, and which, in these after-times, has sadly corrupted and divided Christian nations and societies.
. . . You who profess to believe the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, which the poorest Christian shall partake of equally with the rich, and to which all worldly glory is but vanity, you should not make men's outward and worldly advantages the measure of your respect. In professing the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, we should not show respect to men, so as to cloud or lessen the glory of our glorious Lord: how ever any may think of it, this is certainly a very heinous sin.
What about God's supposed favoritism for His chosen people? For many centuries, it seemed as if God was partial toward Israel in that only Israelites had an opportunity for salvation. From our perspective today, we know that He was working solely through Israel only for the time being, preparing a people for the coming of His Son in the flesh.
After Jesus' resurrection, God soon opened salvation to the Gentiles too, as related in the story of Cornelius in Acts 10. In verses 34-35 of this chapter, Peter draws a conclusion from his experiences with the vision of the animals let down in a sheet from heaven and with the conversion of the household of Cornelius: "In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him."
In Romans 2:11, speaking of the righteous judgment of God, Paul repeats this point: "For there is no partiality with God," a truth Paul understood from the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 10:17). To the Galatians, the apostle makes the spiritual equality of Christians even more specific: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28; see I Corinthians 12:13; Colossians 3:11).
It is clear that God is not a respecter of persons, giving everyone an equal opportunity for salvation and judging all by the same standards. And certainly, we should want to be like God, respecting every member of the church as an equal brother or sister in Christ.
English playwright George Bernard Shaw wrote, "We educate one another, and we cannot do this if half of us consider the other half not good enough to talk to." The church of God is an educational institution, and every member has a part to play in helping to build up others as they prepare for God's Kingdom. Eliminating biases and prejudices will go a long way toward bringing unity and growth to God's church.
The Sin of Partiality
1 Peter 2:21-23
In these verses, the apostle shows Christ's example, even when He had the love, wisdom and discernment to judge righteous judgment and correctly put His enemies in their place. So strong was Jesus' commitment to these principles that, even when His life was on the line, and His enemies reviled Him intensely, He did not respond in kind. He set us an example to do likewise.
Perhaps the key statement is He "committed Himself to Him who judges rightly." His response was an act of faith in God's awareness of His situation and God's perfect ability not merely to act but to act in exactly the right way for the good of all. The reality of God's sovereignty over His creation led to Jesus' minute-by-minute faithful submission.
If vengeance belongs to God, then men, especially those who have pledged their lives to be subject to His government, have no right to take it to themselves. Very frequently, it takes real strength of character, bolstered by faith, to help and serve someone who has directly tried to harm us. God's instructions to us are clear: "'Therefore if your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:20-21).
"Enemy" does not mean one we hate, but one who is bitter toward us. If we hate others, we are right back in the spirit of murder. Paul is stating a critical universal principle: Over time, kindness removes enmity, but seeking revenge increases it. Booker T. Washington said, "The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend."
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Commandment (Part One) (1997)
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