ROMANS 14:1-23 Living Sacrifices Don’t Divide Over Debatable Things

 

Paul now turns to an issue in the church that was causing problems in the church of his day. The way Paul addresses the problem establishes a principle that is timeless and applicable for us today in the church.

 

Don’t Dispute Over Debatable Things

 

Romans 14:1 – “Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things.”  [1]

Paul instructs believers to “receive one who is weak in the faith.” What does Paul mean by “one who is weak in the faith”? Since Romans 12-16 is the practical application of Romans 1-11, and since the pinnacle of Paul’s teaching in this first section is that “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1; see also Galatians 3:1-3), it would appear from this opening verse and its context that “one who is weak in the faith,” is ONE WHO BELIEVES AND IS SAVED (according to Romans 10:8-10) BUT DOES NOT YET FULLY GRASP THAT THERE IS NO CONDEMNATION FOR BELIEVERS AND THAT THEIR RIGHTEOUSNESS IS NOT BASED ON WHAT THEY DO BUT ON WHAT JESUS HAS ALREADY DONE. The one who is weak in faith is the one who lives by religious rules and regulations, by dos and don’ts, thinking they can add to their righteousness.  

Believers in a church are always going to have varying degrees of spiritual maturity and be at different stages in their spiritual growth. A key evidence of those who are weak in faith is disputing over non-essentials of the faith. Those who show grace, understanding and loving sacrifice of their Christian liberty for the sake of the weaker brethren, evidence spiritual maturity.

The word “doubtful” here refers to things which are debatable or for the most part a matter of personal opinion or conviction (Strong’s #1261 – DIALOGISMOS - dialogismov" -  dee-al-og-is-mos´) which refers to that which is up for discussion, or (internal) consideration, or (external) debate; that which is up for dispute, doubtful (-ing), imagination, reasoning, thought.” [2] What are some things which are debatable which do not effect one’s salvation and that Christians can agree to disagree on and still remain in fellowship with one another?

 

Debatable Things

There are things which solid Christians can disagree on or have differing opinions on and still remain in fellowship with one another. There are things which can be left up to personal opinion and which are not essential to one’s salvation. The rule in such areas is those things the Bible states are nonessential are nonessential.

Some things which are debatable and not essential to salvation are mode of dress, food preferences and worship days as well as type of worship whether formal or informal or in between. There are two portions of Scripture (in addition to our immediate section in Romans 14) which give us counsel in this regard and they are:

  • 1 Corinthians 10:23-33 – “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.24 Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market, asking no questions for conscience’ sake;26 for “the earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness.”27 If any of those who do not believe invites you to dinner, and you desire to go, eat whatever is set before you, asking no question for conscience’ sake.28 But if anyone says to you, “This was offered to idols,” do not eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for conscience’ sake; for “the earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness.”29 “Conscience,” I say, not your own, but that of the other. For why is my liberty judged by another man’s conscience?30 But if I partake with thanks, why am I evil spoken of for the food over which I give thanks?31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.32 Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God,33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.”   [3]

Here Paul says that we should restrict our liberty for the sake of another person’s conscience. In the above passage Paul addresses an issue in the early church having to do with eating meat that had been used in sacrifices to idols. Some viewed eating such meat as partaking in the idolatry. Others, who disregarded the reality of the idols knowing that they were mere inanimate objects, felt free to eat the meat on the basis that it was ultimately form the Lord. The former would be viewed as the weaker spiritual person because they limited their liberty. The latter was the stronger spiritual person because they saw the deeper truth and reality of the situation. But as stated in Romans 14, the stronger person should limit their liberty for the sake of the weaker person and do everything in a way that brings glory to God.

In Paul’s letter to the Colossians he is inspired to state:

  • Colossians 2:8-23 – “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. 11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths,17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.18 Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations—21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,”22 which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men?23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.”   [4]

In this passage Paul is addressing those who would try to make Christianity a form of religion rather than a spiritual relationship with God. He warns against being cheated of the substance of a saving relationship with Jesus (2:8). Religion is judged at the cross as inadequate to save but only useful in showing us our sinfulness (2:14). Ritual meals, festival days and Sabbath issues are only a shadow of a typological reference to Jesus (e.g. the Passover Lamb being a type of Jesus the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world). Paul says religious rituals lead to “false humility” and away form our relationship with Jesus (2:18). “Regulations” refer to perishable things, and may have an appearance of being wise spiritually, but really are of no worth in spiritual life or fighting, “against the indulgence of the flesh.”

These two passages warn against getting bogged down on the non-essentials, which tend to be external in nature. The important and essential things are those things, which affect the heart and mind of people. Nonessentials can become essential when they impact the hearts and minds of people by getting one’s focus off of their relationship with Jesus and onto religious externals. .

Non-Debatable Things

The clear truths of Scripture which pertain to the gospel of salvation by grace through faith alone in Christ alone are non-debatable and essential to the faith. That which the Bible states are essential to the faith, are essential and non-debatable. Paul speaks of things that are anathema or accursed which are alternative gospels, another Jesus, or another Spirit (2 Corinthians 11:3-4; Galatians 1:6-10). The inerrancy of Scripture is an important truth that should be non-debatable because if the authority of Scripture is undermined then everything else, every truth based on Scripture is up for grabs and personal opinion and chaos is the result. Those things which pertain to the nature of God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and the nature of the gospel (i.e. salvation is by grace through faith alone in Christ alone) are non-debatable.

Is It Ever Right to Divide?

Is it ever right to divide from people? The Bible clearly teaches that true believers are to separate themselves from those who teach heresy. Heresy is literally a “half-truth” and is dangerous because it gives the false impression of being fully truthful or right but does not save a soul. Heresy undermines and opposes the  doctrines of the Bible which are essential for salvation. Orthodoxy teaches the essential doctrines of the Bible.

But we need to ask another question,  “Who is it that causes division?” Division is not caused by the one used by God to expose it; division is caused by the one used by the devil to teach heresy. And make no mistake about it, the Bible teaches that true believers are to definitely divide from those who teach heresy.

The Bible clearly teaches that true believers are to divide from heresy and unite in Christ and His Biblically revealed truth. We see this in the following statement inspired by God through Paul in the last chapter of Romans where it is stated:

  • Romans 16:17 – “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.”  [5]

The word “doctrine” is translated from the Greek term DIDACHE (Strong’s # 1322 - didachv didacheµ, did-akh-ay´) which refers to “instruction (the act or the matter); doctrine, that which has been taught.” [6] DIDACHE is a derivative of DIDASKO (Strong’s # 1321 - didavskw didaskoµ, did-as´-ko) which “teach” and is also rooted in the word DAO (davw daoµ) which means “to learn.” [7]

Doctrine is essential because it is one of the four primary things the church is to be devoted to. In Acts it states that the early church was devoted to or “contniued steadfastly in”  four things:

  • Acts 2:42 – “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”  [8]

The first thing mentioned here is “doctrine”  (the three others are fellowship, worship – i.e. “breaking bread”, and prayer). Doctrine is of primary import to the church, to all believers. Doctrine refers to what the Bible teaches, what God has revealed about Himself and His truth and all believers need to know doctrine. Consequently, doctrine, right doctrine is indispensable to salvation.

It is with this in mind that the Bible instructs believers to divide from those who do not hold to sound or true doctrine. In John’s second epistle he is inspired to write:

  • 2 John 9-11 – “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him;11 for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.”  [9]

Paul instructed his young pastors about the importance of right doctrine when he was inspired by God to write:

  • 1 Timothy 1:3 – “As I urged you when I went into Macedonia—remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine,”  [10]
  • Titus 1:10-11 – “For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision,11 whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain.”  [11]
  • Titus 3:10-11 – “Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition,11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.”  [12]

Do Know Doctrine

Some believers shy away from the word “doctrine” thinking it to be dry and stuffy and for those of intellectual ilk. But doctrine is not something a true believer can simply see as optional or something they can pass by and do without. Doctrine is essential to our faith in that it helps us to know Who and what we believe and God wants us to know that. In Hebrews it states:

 

  • Hebrews 5:9-14 – “And having been perfected, He [i.e. Jesus] became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him,10 called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek,”11 of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”  [13]

If you are going to mature in your faith, you must know doctrine.

You Must Expose and Divide From False Doctrine

Whether or not the believer divides from those who teach false doctrine is not optional. The Bible commands believers to divide from those who teach false doctrine. This is the substance of what we mentioned earlier from Romans 16 where it states:

  • Romans 16:17 – “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.”  [14]

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, (a church he warned would be attacked by heretical false teachers – see Acts 20:17-36) he states:

  • Ephesians 5:8-16 – “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light9 (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth),10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.13 But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light.14 Therefore He says: 1 “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.”15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise,16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”  [15]

To be ready and unashamed according to these verses means we should know right Biblical doctrine and be ready to expose those who twist Biblical doctrine or false doctrine. There is no option here; this is a responsibility of the believer.

Do Know What You SHOULD Be Willing to Divide Over

In his book Orthodoxy and Heresy, Robert M. Bowman Jr. mentions “Nine Enemies of Truth” and it is these that we should expose and be willing to divide over. These nine enemies of truth are:

  1. False gospels (2 Corinthians 11:4; Galatians 1:6-9).
  2. False doctrines (Romans 16:17; 1 Timothy 1:3).
  3. False Miracles (Matthew 24:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:9).
  4. False gods (Deuteronomy 13:2-3; 2 Thessalonians 2:4).
  5. False christs (Matthew 24:24; 2 Corinthians 11:4).
  6. False spirits (2 Corinthians 11:4; 1 John 4:1-2).
  7. False prophets (Matthew 24:24; 2 Peter 2:1).
  8. False apostles (2 Corinthians 11:13; Revelation 2:2).
  9. False teachers (1 Timothy 1:7; 2 Peter 2:1).

These are the agents that teach false unbiblical doctrine and should be exposed and divided from by true believers.

But Paul in Romans makes a distinction and tells us that there are certain “weaker” believers who hold to non-essential beliefs that we should not divide from but really we should teach and try to edify in the faith and bring them on to maturity. But until they do mature, we are not to divide form them. And this is not to imply that we will ever be able to agree on everything. We must agree on all essentials of the faith, but sometimes we must agree to disagree on the nonessentials.

Don’t Despise Those Who Are Weaker in Faith

Romans 14:2-4 – “For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables.3 Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him.4 Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.”   [16]

The word “despise” means to look down upon someone as a nobody or worthless (Strong’s # 1848 – EXUTHENEO – ejxouqenevw -  ex-oo-then-eh´-o; contemptible, despise, least esteemed, set at nought.[17]). We shouldn’t undervalue brethren because of their stand on certain nonessential issues.

Paul uses the example of what a person eats. Some people of his day and in our day too, refrain from eating meat and live on vegetarian diets. Neither preference group should look down upon the other for God is able to “make him stand,” God is able to build persons from each group in to strong believers.

The problem of eating meat in the early church was rooted in a particular practice of that day. Pagan temples that had animal sacrifices performed on their religious rites would take leftover meat and allow it to be sold in the marketplace. Christians and Jews alike were used to the law prohibiting the eating of meat sacrificed to idols (Daniel 1:8). Some abided by this law while others felt freed to eat meat offered to idols that were really no gods at all (Isaiah 37:18; Psalm 115).

Paul characterizes the weaker faith as the one with the greater restrictions. Those who despise or discriminate against those who are a little different than they are immature in their faith.

Personal Convictions

Romans 14:5 – “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.”   [18]

The believer’s walk with the Lord is personal, and therefore each should seek out their own personal convictions before God. The words, “fully convinced” are translated from the Greek term PLAYROPHORHEO (Strong’s # 4135 – plhroforevw - play-rof-or-eh´-o) meaning, “to carry out fully (in evidence), i.e. completely assure (or convince), entirely accomplish; most surely believe, fully know (persuade), make full proof of.[19] On the nonessentials of the faith, believers are to arrive at their own personal convictions, which may differ at times with those around them. When there are differences, grace and love is to be extended to all.

Each One is Answerable To God

Romans 14:6- “He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks.”  [20]

Paul wants believers to understand that they don’t have to go around like police playing God, checking on those around them to see if they’re doing the right thing. God is able to oversee His children and His children are ultimately answerable to Him. 

Let Jesus be Lord

Romans 14:7-9 – “For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself.8 For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.9 For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.”  [21]

Paul now sets down a magnificent principle of the lordship of Jesus. Believers are answerable and submitted to Jesus as their Lord. We are not the lord to others, Jesus is. If anything, we should urge others to go to Jesus to determine the right and wrong of things that are debatable. These verse do not mean we can retreat into our own private interpretations of Jesus and what we do, quite to the contrary, we need to view others in light of the fact that Jesus died for them to save them and nothing we do should hinder Christ’s work in them. We are to submit to the lordship of Jesus even if it means we are to limit our liberty. Our freedom is not the primary issue, Christ’s lordship and His direction in our lives is. The lordship of Christ in us trumps our supposed liberty in Him. There are times when Jesus will command us to limit our liberty for the sake of those weaker in faith and we must submit to that direction from Jesus.

God is the Judge

Romans 14:10-12 – “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.11 For it is written: 1 “As I live, says the Lord, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.”12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.”  [22]

The word “judge” in Romans 14:10 is translated from the Greek term KRINO (Strong’s #2919) meaning, “to try, condemn, punish: avenge, conclude, condemn, damn, decree, determine . . . judge, . . .” [23] The grammatical form of the Greek term KRINO in this verse is such that it means to continually judge and condemn (Present/Active/Indicative). Paul points out that we aren’t to judge others but we are to be mindful that God alone is the Judge of people. Rather our concern and focus should be to not do things, which would cause spiritually weaker persons to stumble in their walk with Jesus.

 

God is the Judge and He will judge humanity at some point. God does everything possible to get through to humanity, to reveal Himself to us, to offer salvation to the lost who have rebelled against Him. God is patient and He has a plan of redemption. But He is also a righteous Judge who will not be mocked (Galatians 6:7). God is just and true and He will not allow sin and injustice to continue forever. A time is coming when God will carry out His just and righteous judgment upon sinful mankind. God waits patiently for every possible opportunity to be given to lost humanity, but a time will come when God will say, “Enough!” This is the testimony of the Scripture in such passages as follows:

 

  • Ecclesiastes 3:17 – “I said in my heart, “God shall judge the righteous and the wicked, For there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.”   [24]

For those who have put their faith in God, the coming judgment of God is something to look forward to and rejoice over as the following scripture states:

  • Psalm 98:8-9 – “Let the rivers clap their hands; Let the hills be joyful together before the Lord,9 For He is coming to judge the earth. With righteousness He shall judge the world, And the peoples with equity.”  [25]

But for those who have lived lives without God, who haven’t cared about their spiritual state, who have disregarded God, the coming judgment of God is something that should cause serious concern, fear and trembling:

  • Isaiah 2:12-21 – “For the day of the Lord of hosts Shall come upon everything proud and lofty, Upon everything lifted up—And it shall be brought low—13 Upon all the cedars of Lebanon that are high and lifted up, And upon all the oaks of Bashan;14 Upon all the high mountains, And upon all the hills that are lifted up;15 Upon every high tower, And upon every fortified wall;16 Upon all the ships of Tarshish, And upon all the beautiful sloops.17 The loftiness of man shall be bowed down, And the haughtiness of men shall be brought low; The Lord alone will be exalted in that day,18 But the idols He shall utterly abolish.19 They shall go into the holes of the rocks, And into the caves of the earth, From the terror of the Lord And the glory of His majesty, When He arises to shake the earth mightily.20 In that day a man will cast away his idols of silver And his idols of gold, Which they made, each for himself to worship, To the moles and bats,21 To go into the clefts of the rocks, And into the crags of the rugged rocks, From the terror of the Lord And the glory of His majesty, When He arises to shake the earth mightily.”  [26]
  • Joel 3:12-14 - “Let the nations be wakened, and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; For there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations.13 Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, go down; For the winepress is full, The vats overflow—For their wickedness is great.”14 Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.”  [27]

The Bible tells us clearly that God will not be mocked and one day GOD WILL JUDGE all things. That revelation should move us to set our priorities rightly and serve the Lord.  Paul and Peter, apostles of God, were inspired to write it this way:

  • Galatians 6:7-9 – “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”  [28] (See also 1 Peter 1:17-21)

But how will God judge? On what basis will He make a just determination of heaven or hell for people?

God Will Judge Through Christ

 

It is true that Jesus came to earth not to judge but to save (John 3:17; 12:47). He first came to offer mercy and salvation. But the next time Jesus comes to earth He will assume the role of righteous Judge (at His 2nd Coming). The instrument of God’s judgment is Jesus Christ. God has committed all judgment to Jesus. God the Father will judge the world, but He will do so through Jesus. Some have strayed to a depiction of Jesus as some soft-spoken, blindly tolerant, Millard Milquetoast. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is Jesus Christ who will stand as the Judge over humanity. There are numerous passages in the Bible which tell us this, here are a few:

 

  • John 5:22-23 - “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son,23 “that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”  [29]
  • 2 Timothy 4:1 – “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:”  [30]

The Judgments Revealed by God

The Bible speaks of many judgments but the following judgments are given particular significance.

The Immediate, Individual or Initial Judgment of the Dead.

The Bible tells us that each person experiences an immediate, individual, and initial judgment at the point of death. We see this in the following verse:

  • Hebrews 9:27 – “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,”  [31]

When a person dies they are immediately judged as to their standing before the Lord on the basis of the Gospel. There are no second chances. There is no Scriptural basis for the doctrine of purgatory where those who die in their sin spend an allotted time in purgatory to pay for their own sins as well as to be helped by the prayers of those living who were left behind. When the person dies they are taken to be either in the presence of Jesus or to a place of torment separate from the Lord. To understand this we need to look at some of the background of the abode of the dead.

Since the cross of Christ, believers who die go immediately to be in the presence of the Lord because their sins have been judged and forgiven on the cross of Christ. Unbelievers, who die, go to Hades, a place of torment where they will await the final Great White throne Judgment. To understand this we need to take into account where the dead went prior to the cross.

In Luke 16 Jesus taught on the destination of the dead. In the Old Testament the destination of the dead was referred to as Sheol (also “the grave,” “the pit,” hell” - Numbers 16:30; Deuteronomy 32:22; Psalm 6:5; 9:7; 16:10; 18:5). In the New Testament this place is referred to as “Hades.” The term “Hades” likely is derived from the Greek term HADO that means “all-receiving.” Therefore, Hades is an abode that receives all of the dead. (“The word is used four times in the Gospels, and always by the Lord:  Matthew 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23).”[32] 

Jesus taught on this abode and shed light on it by depicting a place with two compartments, one for the righteous dead and one for the unrighteous dead. Before Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection those who died were initially judged and sent to one or the other of these two compartments (Luke 16:19-31). Now before Jesus actually went to the cross the penalty for sin had not actually been paid. In the Old Testament we see that God’s standard of righteousness was faith (Genesis 156; Romans 4; Galatians 3:6-9). But as we continue on in Scripture we find that though the saints before the cross were “accounted righteous” by faith, sin still had to be atoned for, the penalty had to be paid. How could God account righteous by faith those before the cross? What would God do about the sin problem?

Because Jesus had yet to make His sacrifice on the cross to pay the penalty for sin, God in forbearance, passed over these sins until Jesus’ cross-work was completed. The book of Romans refers to this:

  • Romans 3:24-26 – “being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”  [33]

You see, God knew the outcome of the cross before it occurred in history. On the basis of His foreknowledge He passed over the sins committed before the cross knowing that they would be dealt with on the cross at a later time in history. When God foreknows something, you can count on it! The Bible is very clear on the fact that God’s plan of redemption on the cross with His Son was known by Him before the foundations of the world (Luke 22:20-22; Acts 2:22-24; 3:18; 1 Peter 1:17-21; Revelation 13:8). Therefore, before Christ actually went to the cross to make substitutionary atonement for the sins of the world, the people accounted righteous because of their faith in the Old Testament, needed to remain in Abraham’s Bosom until Jesus’ cross-work was completed. Those who died in their sin went to the compartment of torment in Hades. After Jesus work on the cross was completed and He was raised from the dead, the Bible tells us that Jesus went to the compartment of Abraham’s Bosom and released those held there and led them to heaven (Ephesians 4:8-10).

When Jesus descended to Hades at this point He preached the gospel of His grace to all in this abode, but He only freed those who had been accounted righteous previously because of their faith (compare 1 Peter 3:18-20; Jude 6). Since the cross, the believer who dies goes immediately into the presence of the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:4-8). What a glorious blessing and comfort it is to know where you’re going once you die! The Bible tells us that the believer can approach death and eternity with assurance because of the witness of the Holy Spirit in their hearts.

The Bible speaks of the certain assurance given by God to the believer that they are His and that they have eternal life (Philippians 1:6; 1 John 34:24; 5:13).

It is very important to know with certainty where you stand with the Lord. If you are uncertain of where you would go if you were to die, then chances are the Spirit is not residing within you. You can know for sure your eternal destiny and such understanding and assurance is worth seeking out. Are you saved? Have you been born again of the Spirit? Do you know you have eternal life in Christ, now? (See our previous discussion in Romans at verses 1:16-17; 3:23; 6:23; 5:1,8; 10:8-13,17; 8:1,9,16).

The blessed assurance that you belong to Jesus is a tremendous hope of the saved. The person who is saved and assured of their salvation is prepared to die in peace. That is not the case for those who die in their sin. The person who dies in their sins today continues on to be placed in the torment of Hades. Those who die in their sin have only torment, eternal torment, to look forward to. The population of Hades has continued to rise as people continue to die in their sin even to this present day.  Is your afterlife address “Heaven” or “Hades”?

The Judgment of the sin of believers on the cross of Jesus Christ.  

On the cross of Christ the just penalty for sin was meted out in the sacrifice of Jesus. This is why Jesus said:

  • John 12:31-32 - “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.32 “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.”  [34]

Because of Jesus work on the cross those who put their faith in Him are forgiven their sins on the basis that Jesus has paid the just penalty sin incurred. Therefore, we see the testimony of the Bible which states in this regard:

  • John 5:24 - “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”  [35]
  • 2 Corinthians 5:21 – “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  [36]
  • Galatians 3:11-13 – “But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.”12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.”13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”),”  [37] (See also Romans 8:1; Hebrews 9:26-28; 10:10,14-17; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18).

The self-judgment of believers.

Paul wrote that believers should judge themselves as to their standing with God (1 Corinthians 11:31; Galatians 6:4). As we assess ourselves (with the insight of the Holy Spirit helping us) we keep on track before God.

The judgment of the works of believers by Jesus.

The Bible says that while the sin of believers is judged on the cross of Christ, Jesus will assess the quality of the works of believers at His judgment seat (2 Corinthians 5:10). While the believer has no fear of losing their salvation at this judgment, Jesus will give out rewards based on the works of the believer during their lives (Romans 14:10; 1 Corinthians 3:11-15; Matthew 12:36; Galatians 6:7; Colossians 3:24-25). This judgment will occur subsequent to the Rapture of the Church by Jesus before the Tribulation as shown in the following verses (2 timothy 4:8; Revelation 22:12).  

The judgment by Jesus of Israel and the Gentiles at His Second Coming.

 

When Jesus comes after the Tribulation He will judge the world. He will judge the Gentile nations (Matthew 25:32f.) and Israel (Ezekiel 20:37-38).

 

The Final Great White Throne Judgment.

 

Immediately before the Great White Throne judgments occurs, at the end of the Millennium, Satan and his cohorts will be judged and thrown into the “lake of fire and brimstone” (Jude 6; Revelation 20:10). Then the Great White Throne judgment will take place. Those who have died in their sin will be raised from their dead state and those who continue in sin, all of these will have final judgment pronounced on them and be cast into eternal punishment. This is depicted in the last part of Revelation, which states:

 

  • Revelation 20:11-15 – “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”  [38]

Judgment and the Rapture

 

There is added significance to this judgment because it tells us that as far as believers are concerned, God in Christ has dealt with their sin problem. Believers are not destined to the wrath of God that He will pour out on sinners. We see this in the following verses:

  • Romans 5:9 – “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.”  [39]
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:9 – “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,”  [40]

Because the period of Tribulation is a time of God’s outpoured wrath on a Christ-rejecting world (Revelation 6:17; 11:18; 16:1), believers will be removed from the world before this period of outpoured wrath. Believers are saved from wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:10). It would be unjust of God to pour out His wrath on believers as well as unbelievers (compare Genesis 18: 23-33). Hence, the Bible tells us that God will remove believers from the world before He begins to pour out His wrath on a Christ-rejecting world (Luke 21:36; Revelation 3:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

Is It Ever Right To Judge?

Romans 14:13 – “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.”  [41]

Paul tells us in this verse that we shouldn’t judge each other. But is it ever right to judge people?  In the opening verses of Matthew 7  Jesus tells the disciples to “Judge not.”  Does this mean we should never judge? When we look further in Matthew 7 we see that later Jesus speaks of not giving what is holy to dogs or casting your pearls before pigs (7:6), of entering by the narrow gate (7:13-14), bewaring of false prophets (7:15-20), that not everyone who calls Him Lord is will enter the Kingdom of heaven (7:21-23), and He speaks of two builders, one who is wise and one who is not wise. All of these teachings seem to require some sort of judgment on our part. Is there a contradiction here? There are no contradictions in this chapter but what there is, is a right and wrong way to judge, a proper and improper heart attitude in judging. Let’s pause a moment from our Romans passage and see what Jesus says about this extremely important area.

 

Wrong Judgment - Don’t Play God!

 

  • Matthew 7:1 - “Judge not, that you be not judged.”  [42]

The prohibition of Jesus being made here is that we should not judge to condemn. This is because only God has the authority to judge a person to condemn them. The Bible tells us:

 

  • Psalm 75:7 – “But God is the Judge: He puts down one, And exalts another.”  [43]
  • Psalm 96:10,13 – “Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns; The world also is firmly established, It shall not be moved; He shall judge the peoples righteously.” . . . 13 For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He shall judge the world with righteousness, And the peoples with His truth.”  [44]
  • John 5:22,30 - “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, . . . 30 “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.”  [45]
  • Acts 10:42 - “And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He [i.e. Jesus] who was ordained by God  to be Judge of the living and the dead.”  [46]

Wrong judging is when we condemn or assume a position over a person that is only rightfully God’s. In James letter he states this clearly saying:

  • James 4:11-12 – “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.12 There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?”  [47]

There is only one “Lawgiver,” and that is God. Only He who gave the Law is justified in judging in regards to the law and the consequences for breaking the law. Only the Lawgiver can condemn someone for breaking the law.

When we begin to judge people in a condemnatory way, we overstep our bounds and put ourselves in the place that rightfully only belongs to God. When we judge others to condemn them, we in effect are trying to usurp the throne of God and as a result are headed for being judged by the Judge ourselves.

Only God Can Judge Because Only God Can Judge The Heart

Why doesn’t God want us to “judge” people in this way? Because only God can judge the heart. The Bible tells us that God judges the heart of people: 

  • Romans 2:16 – “in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.”  [48]
  • Hebrews 4:13 – “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”  [49]

Where are these “secrets,” and that which is “hidden”? The secrets and hidden things Jesus refers to here are in the heart of people. God has the capacity to search the hearts and motives of people, we do not.

Read what the Bible says about God’s ability to judge the heart:

  • Psalm 7:9 – “Oh, let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end, But establish the just; For the righteous God tests the hearts and minds.”  [50]
  • Proverbs 15:11 – “Hell and Destruction are before the Lord; So how much more the hearts of the sons of men.”  [51]

When Samuel was looking for a replacement for king Saul the Lord gave him some counsel that we need to be mindful of here. God said to Samuel:

  • 1 Samuel 16:7 – “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  [52]

When David was giving his final instructions to his son Solomon he told him:

  • 1 Chronicles 28:9 - “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever.”  [53]

When Solomon was praying at the dedication of the Temple he said:

  • 1 Kings 8:39 - “then hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and act, and give to everyone according to all his ways, whose heart You know (for You alone know the hearts of all the sons of men),”  [54]

God alone can search a person’s heart, we cannot. This wisdom is presented in Proverbs:

  • Proverbs 16:2 – “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the spirits.”  [55]

Jeremiah echoes this truth when he is inspired to write:

  • Jeremiah 17:9-10 - “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?10 I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.”  [56]

When we try to judge to condemn a person we do so with inadequate information. Right judgment requires the capacity to get to the heart of the matter and only God can do that. Therefore, we are not to judge condemningly the intents or motives of a person’s heart. We are not to write people off or cut them out of favor. That is improper judgment for the disciple or any person and forbidden by Jesus.

Pastor Chuck Smith makes the following comment on this area:

      “There are certain things that I cannot judge that I am often prone to want to judge and that is, I cannot judge a person’s heart, I cannot judge their motives. I am not to be hypercritical and condemning. And that is a judgment that we are often guilty of. “Did you see the way he looked? You know he’s up to no good.” “Well, how do you know that?” And, “He only did that because…,” as though we know what’s in his heart, as though we know the motive.

      If we hear of someone who has sinned and we hear that they have repented of that sin, and we say, Oh, I don’t believe he really has repented. Wait a minute, how do you know? You see, that is a judgment that I am not allowed--to judge a man’s heart, to judge a man’s motive, and yet, we are prone to do that. It may be that he hasn’t truly repented; it may be that he has. But if a brother repents or declares, “I repent, forgive me,” then it is my obligation to forgive. Whether or not it is a true repentance in his heart or not, I don’t know. But I am to forgive. I’m not to judge what is going on in his heart.

      I can judge by the fruits of a person’s life. I can observe their life and the things that they are doing. And if the things that they are doing are contrary to the plain, clear teaching of the scripture, I can judge by what I see going on in their lives. What I can’t judge is what I can’t see and that is what is going on in their heart.

      Now many times, we are in a position where a person has asked for forgiveness, has declared their repentance, and I am not certain whether or not they have truly, fully repented; but because I can’t judge that, I have to accept them, I have to receive them. And I have learned through the years that not all who say I repent have truly repented. And I have been burned by forgiving those who said that they had repented. And I, no doubt, will be burned again. But I would rather, if I err, err on the side of mercy and grace and forgiveness than err on the side of wrong judgment. If I err on the side of grace and mercy, God’s going to forgive me. If I err on the side of judgment, then I’m going to have to answer to God because that is a sin. So judge not, that is, in a hypercritical condemning way as though I know the heart and the motive of that person.”  [57]

 

There is a judgment that is inappropriate and that is to judge a person’s heart to condemn them. 

Right Judgment  - We Are To Judge Rightly

  • Matthew 7:2 - “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”  [58]

While we are not to judge in a condemnatory way, there is a judgment that we are to do. But that judgment needs to be right because the judgment we use will be the same judgment that we are judged by. What is the right way to judge? Right judgment consists of the following eight characteristics:

    1. First, right judgment starts with SELF-EXAMINATION.
    2. Second, right judgment is necessary for IDENTIFICATION.
    3. Third, right judgment PRAYERFULLY depends on DIVINE REVELATION.
    4. Fourth, right judgment always looks to RESTORATION.
    5. Fifth, right judgment is based on TRUTH WITHOUT EXCEPTION.
    6. Sixth, right judgment is based on FRUIT INSPECTION.
    7. Seventh, right judgment is based on TRUE CONVERSION.
    8. Eighth, right judgment is based on the FIRM FOUNDATION OF JESUS AND HIS WORD.

Let’s look at these eight characteristics of right judgment more closely.

First, Right Judgment Starts With SELF-EXAMINATION

  • Matthew 7:3-5 - “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?4 “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye?5 “Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  [59]

You are not qualified or justified in assessing the problems of others until you have first done some self-examination. The “speck” Jesus speaks of here refers to a piece of sawdust and the “plank” refers to a cross beam in a building. He is of course speaking metaphorically. Before we look to point out the faults in others, we need to examine our own walk with the Lord.

When a woman caught in adultery was brought before Jesus, He knew that the law stipulated that such a one should be stoned, but what did He say?

  • John 8:7-9 – “So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”8 And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.9 Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.”  [60]

Perhaps the accusers left one by one because they knew they were guilty of the same or worse crimes. One by one the Spirit convicted them of their sin and hypocrisy and their authority to judge was removed. If a person runs to judgment prematurely, they may suffer the same embarrassing fate of those who brought this woman before Jesus.

The apostle Paul was accused and condemned often by Judaizers and religious Pharisees. Paul spoke of the responsibilities to expose false teaching in the power of the Spirit (see the letter to the Galatians). But lest the people overstep their bounds in judging false teaching, he said that self-examination was necessary to keep one from stumbling into pride. The apostle Paul wrote about this first step when he said:

  • Galatians 6:3-4 – “For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.”  [61]

People tend to exalt themselves above others by pointing out faults and using them as a stepping-stone to a sense of superiority. Such is the height of proud conduct. In Proverbs it states:

 

  • Proverbs 26:12 – “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”  [62]

Self-examination keeps us humble and is the first step in right judgment.

 

Second, Right Judgment is Necessary For IDENTIFICATION of Falsehoods and Fakery

 

  • Matthew 7:6 - “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.”  [63]

While some err on the side of wrong judgment, others err on the side of not making judgments at all. Here Jesus is saying it is necessary to judge rightly. Right judgment serves a purpose. Right judgment identifies falsehoods and fakery. Jesus will go into this in greater detail further on into the chapter but suffice it to say that the Bible is filled with exhortations to discern and guard against false teaching and false teachers. Such Bible verses would include:

  • Acts 20:28-31 - “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.29 “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.30 “Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.31 “Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.”  [64]
  • Ephesians 5:5-17 – “For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.7 Therefore do not be partakers with them. 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light9 (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth),10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.13 But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light.14 Therefore He says: 1 “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.”15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise,16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”  [65]
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:21 – “Test all things; hold fast what is good.” [66]
  • 1 Timothy 4:1-2 – “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons,2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron,”  [67]
  • Jude 3-4 – “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.”  [68]

These are only a small sampling of verses that could be cited which exhort the disciple to “expose” falsehoods and fakery and “contend earnestly for the faith.” Judgment is necessary to preserve the doctrinal purity of the church as well as to protect the flock of God from those who would prey on the sheep.

Third, Right Judgment PRAYERFULLY Depends on DIVINE REVELATION

  • Matthew 7:7-11 - “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.8 “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.9 “Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?10 “Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent?11 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”  [69]

These verses are often lifted out of their context and used in various ways, but it is important to note that based on the context, these verses refer primarily to the promise that God will divinely reveal the path of right judgment. How do we know how to judge? We know how to judge by God’s guidance and divine revelation. And all we need to do to secure direction is to seek God prayerfully.  But more generally, unless we depend on God in faith through prayer, we can never hope to have the discernment or power to rightly judge. If we are to apply what Jesus is teaching here, we need to, “ask, . . . seek, . . . knock, . . .” and He promises that if we do, we will receive, find and have opened to us that which is needed to rightly judge.

As we pray and depend upon God we are also guided into all truth by the Spirit and the most tangible and reliable source of truth in matters of right judgment is God’s word.  “Divine revelation,” refers to a dependence upon the word of God. Peter pointed this out to his readership when he was inspired to wrote:

  • 2 Peter 3:1-3,14-18 – “Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder),2 that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior,3 knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, . . . 14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless;15 and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you,16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.17 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked;18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.”  [70]

Right judgment is based on God’s divine revelation in His word as it is communicated by His Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 2:10-16; 2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16-17). Judgment is right and authoritative only to the extent and degree to which it depends upon God’s divine revelation in His word.

Fourth, Right Judgment Always Looks to RESTORATION

  • Matthew 7:12 -  “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”  [71]

It’s interesting how we are so often so hard on the sins we see in others while those same sins are so common in ourselves. Jesus exhorts disciples to aim at restoration. Disciples are to be agents of grace. Wrong condemnatory judgment seeks to cut off and outcast forever. Right judgment is always open to repentance and restoration.

The apostle Paul was inspired to write:

  • Galatians 6:1 – “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.”  [72]

On one occasion the apostle Paul advised those in the Corinthian church to expel a person claiming to be a Christian and involved in immoral activity. Paul was inspired to write:

  • 1 Corinthians 5:1-2,11 – “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife!2 And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. . . . 11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.”  [73]

This may at first seem harsh, but we have to see the desired end. When we get to Paul’s second epistle to the Corinthians we see that Paul wastes no time in his second letter urging the church to restore the repentant person. Paul writes:

  • 2 Corinthians 2:6-11 – “This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man,7 so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow.8 Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him.9 For to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things.10 Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ,11 lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.”  [74]

Right judgment aims at restoration, it is gracious and grace offering.

Fifth, Right Judgment Is Based On The TRUTH WITHOUT EXCEPTION

  • Matthew 7:13-14 - “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.14 “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” [75]

While we are to judge in grace, we are never to interpret that to mean we bend or ignore the truth. We are never to compromise God’s truth for the sake of restoration or conciliation. Any restoration that is based on a compromise of God’s truth is false and futile, it will not last. We see this in our day with the Evangelicals and Catholics Together movement underway today. There are those who would dismiss or disregard doctrinal truths in order to “unite” the church. But this is the biggest of mistakes. Jesus alluded to such a trend when He spoke of a mustard seed growing into a huge tree where many birds could nest in it (Matthew 13:31-32). What escapes some people in their reading of this parable of Jesus is that mustard seeds don’t normally grow into trees, they grow into bushes. What Jesus is referring to here is abnormal growth, growth of the church where “birds,” (always a type of evil entity) flock and nest there. The church will abnormally grow at some point. Perhaps this abnormal growth will occur as the truth of the gospel is compromised for the sake of unification. That is the worst of judgment!

The philosophy of this world is broadening by the day under the proclamation of toleration. Those who follow Jesus by the divinely inspired word of God will increasingly be accused of being “narrow.” So be it! That is the command of Jesus, and that is the path we must follow. Therefore, it is important to understand that right judgment is based on God’s truth without exception. Where do we find this truth of God?

Truth for Right Judgment is Found in The Word of God

The Bible, the God–breathed, Spirit-breathed, inspired word of God tells us that God’s word is our standard of truth:

  • Psalm 119:142-160 – “Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, And Your law is truth.143 Trouble and anguish have overtaken me, Yet Your commandments are my delights.144 The righteousness of Your testimonies is everlasting; Give me understanding, and I shall live.145 I cry out with my whole heart; Hear me, O Lord! I will keep Your statutes.146 I cry out to You; Save me, and I will keep Your testimonies.147 I rise before the dawning of the morning, And cry for help; I hope in Your word.148 My eyes are awake through the night watches, That I may meditate on Your word.149 Hear my voice according to Your lovingkindness; O Lord, revive me according to Your justice.150 They draw near who follow after wickedness; They are far from Your law.151 You are near, O Lord, And all Your commandments are truth.152 Concerning Your testimonies, I have known of old that You have founded them forever.153 Consider my affliction and deliver me, For I do not forget Your law.154 Plead my cause and redeem me; Revive me according to Your word.155 Salvation is far from the wicked, For they do not seek Your statutes.156 Great are Your tender mercies, O Lord; Revive me according to Your judgments.157 Many are my persecutors and my enemies, Yet I do not turn from Your testimonies.158 I see the treacherous, and am disgusted, Because they do not keep Your word.159 Consider how I love Your precepts; Revive me, O Lord, according to Your lovingkindness.160 The entirety of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.”  [76]
  • John 17:17,19 - “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.19 “And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.”  [77]

God’s word is our standard of truth and as we in faith, by the enabling of the Spirit apply God’s word of truth to our lives it sanctifies or cleanses us from that which would hinder God’s use of us in His redemptive plan.

Jesus, the way, the truth, and the life.

In the gospel of John Jesus makes a statement about truth, which is:

  • John 14:6 – “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  [78]

What does this statement by Jesus mean? This is an  “I am” statement of Jesus, (by using the phrase “I am” Jesus is associating Himself with the most holy name of God, “I am” which is the way God told Moses He wanted to be referred to in Exodus 3:13-14. By using this name in regards to Himself Jesus was identifying Himself as God). This statement is understood to mean that Jesus is the exclusive way to heaven, the destination and crux of all truth, and the only One who can give life. In regards to truth, Jesus is the final destination to which God’s truth points.

If you want to know the “truth” about life and the universes, the truth about meaning, Jesus is the end and conclusion of such truth. If you follow the truth God has revealed, it will end at the feet of Jesus. This is why Jesus told His disciples:

  • John 8:31-32 – “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.32 “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  [79]

All true judgment is based on and follows the truth of Jesus. When a judgment is made as to God’s truth, the question that is of paramount importance is, “What does this say about Jesus? Where do these people stand on Jesus? Do they agree with what God’s word says about Jesus?” Jesus is the bottom line, the end-all of all God ordained truth.

Jesus is “the truth” That Must Not Be Compromised.

In the book of Acts Peter and John went up to the temple to pray and came across a man who was lame from birth. All the people probably knew him there, as he was a regular who begged for alms. When the man asked Peter and John for a donation, the two apostles looked at him and in the name of Jesus were used by God to heal the man (Acts 3:1-26). Now when the Jewish religious leaders heard the stir that this miracle and the apostle’s teaching of Christ had created, they took the two apostles into custody (Acts 4:1-4). The next day Peter and John were brought before the Sanhedrin for judgment. What Peter and John say to the assembly reveals the fact that true judgment is based on the truth in Christ without exception. In Acts it states:

  • Acts 4:5-12 – “And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes,6 as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem.7 And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?”8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel:9 “If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well,10 “let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole.11 “This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’12 “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”[80]

Peter and John were unwilling to compromise the truth found in Jesus Christ in the face of judgment. What God had done through the name of Jesus was undeniable and left the religious leaders helpless.

Why is Jesus the ONLY Way, The Only Truth? 

Why is Jesus the only way? Isn’t God being narrow minded by saying that salvation is exclusively in Jesus? Simply put, God has ordained that there is only one way to salvation and eternal life so that there could be no mistaking the right path. God’s singular and simple solitary way in Jesus Christ is unmistakable, unless one chooses to rebel against it. God did not make many ways that could be confused with the right way; He made one clear, concise and gracious way to join Him in heaven. God doesn’t want anyone to get lost on the way to heaven so He makes the map crystal clear. Anyone who takes another route than Jesus does so because of his or her conscious decision to rebel against God’s truth in Christ, not because the truth was not clearly presented by God to humankind.

The clearest evidence that salvation is only in Jesus and His atoning sacrifice on the cross is the account of Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46). In this passage of scripture we are told that Jesus prayed, “let this cup pass from Me,” three times (Matthew 26:39,42,44). Each time the Father was silent confirming the absolute necessity of Jesus going to the cross. It is undeniable that the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross was the will of the Father. It is also undeniable that if there was another way to save the world that certainly God the Father would have used it to spare the life of the only begotten Son of God. This is truth and there is no exception to this truth.

Bible teacher Jon Courson makes the following comment on these verses:

“If, indeed, there are many paths to God, and many routes to eternal life, then the sacrifice that God made in becoming a man - Slaughtered before the foundation of the world,  Plunging into hell, Suffering in ways we will never comprehend, - was all unnecessary, and God was a fool. If you say, ‘Well let’s be open-minded about the way to heaven, ‘you discount the provision of what God did on your behalf. Mohammed didn’t die for you. Buddha wouldn’t die for you. Only Jesus gave everything to save you from your sins. Mohammed came on the scene and said, ‘Do not look at me. My teachings are my essence.’ Buddha never claimed to be anything of a godly man at all. In fact, his religion or philosophy is basically atheistic. Hinduism is pantheistic. Jesus alone says, ‘It’s Me. I am the Way.’

 

“You will hear over and over again that, ‘Spirituality is a journey up a holy mountain, and no matter which route you take, when you get to the top you will find God. So just wander wherever you feel inclined and embrace the other pilgrims on their paths. Don’t try and convert them, for every route leads to the top of the mount and they will find God just as you will.’

 

“Bunk. The analogy is all wrong. You see, it is not any mountain upon which God sits and man meanders. It is [a mountain with]  a sheer face, a stone where there are no hand-holds, and no toe-holds, a rock which is insurmountable and unclimbable.

 

God is holy, folks. He is not some sort of portly gentleman sitting on top of a hill saying, ‘Any Buddha or guru that can find me is wonderful.’ Rather He is high and holy on the top of a sheer face, and, although man is sinful, God in His love reaches down to him. It is not man meandering up to God. It is God reaching down to man saying, ‘I will elevate you and save you if you grab hold of Me through the Person of Jesus Christ.’”[81]

 

Right judgment does not ignore or bend the truth that there is only one way to heaven and that is through faith alone in Christ alone by God’s grace alone. Right judgment adheres to the truth. The truth of God is revealed in His word and needs to become a part of our lives. We need to worship the Lord in truth; we need to minister to the Lord because of His eternal truth, no matter the cost.

 

Sixth, Right Judgment is Based On FRUIT INSPECTION

 

  • Matthew 7:15-20 - “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.16 “You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?17 “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.18 “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.20 “Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”  [82]

While we cannot know the thoughts and intents, the motives of people’s hearts, we can inspect the fruit they bear, we can observe their actions, the lives they live. Jesus likens false prophets to “ravenous wolves.” He says, “you will know them by their fruit,” or what they produce. When a person looks like a sheep but growls like a wolf, snarls like a wolf, has fur like a wolf, and you catch them eating sheep like a wolf, understand, that’s not a sheep, that’s a wolf! Jesus compares false teachers with ravenous wolves because they are devouring, they feed on the flock of God for their own selfish desires.

Jesus uses the metaphor of “fruit” to explain how false prophets are discoverable. Let’s look at the significance of this metaphor.

Fruit – A Sign of Life

First, we need to understand that a dead tree produces no fruit at all. People can talk all they want about what they are and what they believe, but if there is no spiritual fruit born in their lives, they are spiritually dead. There are some who are satisfied to live like “good” people with no apparent care for spiritual things. These are like dead trees that will eventually cast into the fire of the Lord. Jesus said:

  • John 15:6 -  “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.”  [83]

But there are those who disguise themselves as religious people; they are hypocrites who present themselves as great “spiritual” giants but who are in reality, looking to fleece the flock of God for their own benefit. The proof of the identity of a person is in the fruit they bear (see John 15:1-8,16). Fruit is a sign of life, of God working in a life. Therefore, the person who “abides” or trusts in Jesus, who has a saving living personal relationship with Him, that person will produce fruit. But what is the fruit that Jesus is referring to, what does it look like?

The Fourfold Fruit of a Disciple

The Bible uses “fruit” to describe four things that a healthy child of God produces if God is at work in them and they have truly experienced spiritual life.

First, the fruit of repentance, measurable life change. Earlier in the gospel of Matthew John the Baptist spoke of the fruit of repentance when he said:

  • Matthew 3:8-10 - “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance,9 “and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.10 “And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”  [84]

The fruit of repentance is measurable change. John the Baptist warned the religious leaders who came out to check out his ministry he told them that relying on the national identity would not save them. They needed to show true change in their lives, not just say the right words or look religious. The fruit of repentance is sincere change that indicates a true heart change has taken place on the inside of a person. Today we would say, “don’t think that by simply reciting a prayer or coming forth at a crusade or standing in a church that you are saved; there needs to be tangible evidence of a change in a person’s life. You can’t accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior and remain the same. Repentance means change and without repentance, there can be no salvation.

Second, the fruit of evangelism, sharing your faith with others. In Proverbs it states:

  • Proverbs 11:30 – “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, And he who wins souls is wise.”  [85]

If God has gotten through to a person and that person understands the reality of the need to choose between heaven and hell, between salvation, and sin, between Satan and a Savior Jesus Christ. When a person understands what’s on the line and that an eternal destiny depends upon such a decision, that person will bear the fruit of desiring to share their faith. When a person experiences the joy of a personal saving relationship with Almighty God in Christ, that person will want to share what they have found with others. Those who experience newness of life in Christ naturally have a desire to share that new life with others who are dead in their sin (Romans 6).

Third, the fruit of the Spirit, love. When a person accepts Christ as Lord and Savior the Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit comes into that person’s heart and begins a transformation process. We saw this earlier in our study of Romans when Paul was inspired to write:

  • Romans 8:9-11 – “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”  [86] (See also 1 Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 5:18; Titus 3:4-6)

The indwelling of the Spirit results in an ongoing work of the Spirit in the life of the believer as attested to by the following verses:

  • Galatians 5:16,25 – “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. . . . 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”  [87]

The primary evidence or fruit of this regenerative work of the Spirit in a person, is love. The nature of this love is described in the following verses:

  • Galatians 5:22-23 – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”  [88]

That the fruit of the Spirit is primarily love and not the entire list given above is evidenced by the fact that Paul is inspired to write “fruit” in the singular (KARPOS – Strong’s # 2590 – nominative/singular/masculine). Therefore it is likely that the primary fruit or evidence of the presence and work of the Spirit in a person’s life is “love” (AGAPE – Strong’s # 25), a selfless, self-sacrificing and giving love that is characterized by “joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” A true disciple will have the love of God working in and through them.

Fourth, the fruit of spiritual growth, a progressing, maturing faith in God. We see this in the following verses:

  • Philippians 1:9-11 – “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment,10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ,11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”  [89]

Paul speaks of a love that “may abound more and more in knowledge and discernment,” and then associates such spiritual growth with “the fruits of righteousness.” Jesus wants us to grow in our faith; He wants us to bear the fruit of spiritual growth.

These are the four basic fruit of true disciples, of true children of God. But there is fruit produce born by false brethren and false prophets as well. This is what we turn to now.

The Fruit of False Prophets

There are two pieces of fruit that the false prophet bears. This is also produced in the heart of the religious pharisaical person who is more a fake than a truly faithful child of God.

 

First, false prophets bear the bad fruit of drawing people to themselves. False prophets draw attention to themselves; they subtly make themselves the center of attention. When Paul gave his farewell to the Ephesians he warned them by saying:

  • Acts 20:29-30 - “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.30 “Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.”  [90]

When people draw people to themselves, a right judgment needs to be made and such people need to be exposed for what they are, ravenous religious Pharisees!

Second, false prophets bear the bad fruit of looking to profit from the flock of God. The second characteristic of false prophets is that they fleece the flock. In Peter’s second epistle he writes the following about false teachers:

  • 2 Peter 2:1-3 – “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.3 By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.”  [91]

Not only do false prophets deny Jesus, they usually are focused on money; the almighty dollar is the bottom line, (and if it isn’t money the prophet is focused on then it is usually power, influence or being the center of attention). Jehovah’s Witnesses plug their magazines and materials when they come to your door. Moonies or those from the Unification Church, stand on street corners selling roses or candy to support their cultic church. And this is the practice of so many of the cults.

 

God is not poor. He is not hurting for money or income. But to listen to some of those who beg for money to support their ministry would have you believe otherwise. We need to understand and keep in mind that where God guides God provides. Any ministry that is supported and directed by God will not die unless God wants it to die. God’s ministers do not have to go begging for support. If God is in something there will be support to make it happen. Begging for money misrepresents God as needy and poor. This is borderline blasphemy and it happens all to often even in the true church of God!  It is only false teachers who look to manipulate and fleece the flock of God, in such cases there needs to be judgment and the false needs to be exposed. Because of this many churches have decided to demonstrate the provision of God by not taking an offering in their services but simply having a tithe and offering box in the church and trust in the Lord to put it on the hearts of the people to give.

 

Right judgment is based on fruit inspection and is essential to the health of the body of Christ. One bad apple if thrown into a basket with good apples, will lead to the rotting of the entire basket of apples. In the same way, it only takes one false teacher or false prophet to divide, distract and divert attention from God and to destroy the body of Christ. It is extremely important to be a fruit inspector. But there is another related area that is also important and it is to this area that we turn now.

               

Seventh, Right Judgment is Based on TRUE CONVERSION

  • Matthew 7:21-23 - “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.22 “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”  [92]

These statements of Jesus follow on the heels of His instruction regarding false prophets. What Jesus says is true of false prophets is also true of false brethren who follow in the footsteps of false teachers. There are people who say, “Lord, Lord,” and who will not enter the kingdom of heaven. There are those who say religious sounding words, but who are not truly converted to Christ or saved. Who are these people?

In What Cases Can Someone say, “Lord, Lord,” and Not Enter the Kingdom of Heaven?

Think of it, there are those who address God as, “Lord, Lord,” and may even use the name of Jesus, but who will not enter the kingdom of heaven. How can this be? In these three verses are five cases in which people can address God as, “Lord, Lord,” and not be saved, not “enter the kingdom of heaven.” These verses are critically important to our eternal destiny. A good teacher not only informs but also warns. Jesus is our supreme example in this. He has informed the disciples about their need to exceed religious pharisaism and now warns them about what the consequence will be should they or anyone else settle for a religious pursuit of God.  What are the five cases in which someone can use the words, “Lord, Lord,” in regards to God and still not enter heaven? Let’s see.

Case #1 – Those Who Disregard God’s True Revelation of Himself Will Not Enter Heaven

Jesus states, ““Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven,” (7:21a). There are those who address God as, “Lord, Lord,” but don’t get through to Him because their view of God is inadequate.  The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to humankind and if humankind is to approach God, he or she must do so on the basis of Who God has revealed Himself to be in His word. The God of the Bible is Triune; God is one substance consisting of three distinct Persons (The Father, The Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit) who are coeternal, coequal, and co-powerful. God ceases to be God if any of the three Persons are removed from the Trinity.  

Case #2 – Those Who Disregard God’s Will, Will Not Enter Heaven

Jesus identified those who would enter the kingdom of heaven by saying they were, “he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” (7:21b). What is implied therefore is that those who do not do God’s will, will not enter heaven. Those who try to enter heaven on their own terms rather than by God’s terms, will not enter heaven. This would include those who simply put on a religious façade to mask a life lived according to the person’s own will and selfish desires. These are the people in whom no real life-changing work of God has taken place.

The KJV Bible Commentary makes the following comment on this verse:

“ Not everyone professing Christ is genuinely saved. Even the outward verbal acknowledgment of His lordship is in itself not enough to save the unbeliever apart from true repentance and faith. A genuinely saved person is one that doeth the will of my Father, the Greek present tense meaning that he is continually living in obedience to the will of God as the normal course of his life. He may fail at times, but his general course of consistency is to obey the will of the Father. It is tragic to note that many will proclaim in that day, Lord, Lord and yet will be lost.” [93] (Emphasis added.)

Doing God’s will or obeying Him, is an important indicator of spiritual life.  Jesus taught His disciples:

  • John 14:21 -  “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”  [94]

Love is evidenced by obedience. This was mentioned above in our discussion of false prophets who show no fruit of repentance in their lives, no measurable change or evidence of a new birth in their lives. Obedience and saving faith go hand in hand. If you are saved and have put your faith in Jesus, then that faith working in and through you will lead you to desire and do the will of God. This is not works-righteousness. Rather, it is God working in and through a person for His good pleasure. As Paul was inspired to write:

  • Philippians 2:13 – “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”  [95]

We are not saved by works, but the faith that saves works! James was inspired to write in this regard:

  • James 2:17-20 – “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?”  [96]

Even demons assent to the existence of God, yet they tremble! We need to understand, saving faith is not mere assent, it is heart and life-impacting trust. WHAT COUNTS IS REAL SERVICE, NOT LIP-SERVICE. Those who pay God lip-service without real service will be in for a sad realization of their spiritual poverty on judgment day.

Case #3 – Those Who Rely On Their Own Works and Disregard the Sufficiency of Christ’s Work, Will Not Enter Heaven

Jesus went on to say, “Many will say to Me in that day, (7:22a). Notice first that Jesus says, “many.” Therefore, what follows is a serious and common falsehood with those who seek to be right before God. Disciple, take this to heart, don’t get caught up in it.

Jesus continues, “‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ (7:22b). Those who depend on their works to make them righteous before God will fall short of God’s requirement to enter heaven.  Not only this, but those who depend on their works to make them righteous before God, in effect, disregard the sufficiency of Christ’s work on the cross. If you view Christ’s work on the cross as sufficient for salvation, then you won’t want to add anything to it. The concept of purgatory where sin has to be expiated, is first not supportable by Scripture, and more importantly, an affront to the atonement of Christ and the sufficiency thereof to cleans from sin.

The Bible says the righteousness of man is like a filthy rag to God (Isaiah 64:6). As we saw earlier in our study of Romans Paul quotes the Old Testament very clearly to make clear that no one can do anything in and of themselves to make themselves righteous before God (Romans 3:10-18, 23).

There is no way a person will be able to come before God and justify him or her self. On our own, we are no better than a filthy rag before God. If you are trying to justify yourself before God by your own works or accomplishments, you will fall far short of your objective.

If we can’t be justified before God or righteous before Him because of anything we do, then how can we become and then live righteously before God? In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians he writes that, “we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) 

Notice what that verse says, we become righteous “in Him.” This verse is the fulfillment of what God inspired the prophet Isaiah to write in the Old Testament when he wrote: “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10).

We are righteous only by wrapping the robe of His righteousness around us. The only way we can be righteous before our Holy God, is to wrap ourselves up in the righteousness of Christ. In other words, we cover ourselves with Christ; we rely on Him and His cross-work entirely to make us righteous (Romans 5:1; 13:14).

When God looks at us, all we want Him to see is Jesus covering us with His righteousness. Any righteous standing we have before God is because of what Jesus has done, not because of anything we must do.

How do we “put on the Lord Jesus Christ”? By faith! We trust in Christ and that trust relies entirely upon what He has done on the cross to make us righteous before God. When we put our faith in Jesus, we are trusting in Him and His work on the cross to be totally sufficient to meet all the requirements of our Holy Heavenly Father in terms of paying the penalty for our sin.

Does this mean we can go out and sin without impunity? No, because if we have been saved and truly been made righteous in Christ, we won’t want to sin. Sin is what put our blessed Savior on the cross. He died that we might be freed from sin’s shackles (Romans 6). But those who rely on their own inadequate works to justify themselves before God will fall far short of what God requires to cross over the chasm that leads from death to life in Christ.

The standard of righteousness to enter heaven is Jesus. If you want to make it to heaven in your own strength, you will have to be as righteous as Jesus. No person is able to do that. And no lesser standard is acceptable to our Holy God in heaven. The Spirit convict s the world of this truth and anyone who disregards the sufficiency of Christ’s cross alone as the means of salvation, will find that they are barred from entrance to heaven (John 16:8-11).

Once you have put your faith in Jesus Christ and received His gift of justification and forgiveness for your sins, you don’t have to add anything to that work of Jesus Christ. In fact, the Bible tells us that we are given a completely fresh start (2 Corinthians 5:17). Someone had coined a definition of justification as meaning we are put in a position before God just-as-if-I-had-never-sinned. The Bible teaches that the sacrificial substitutionary atonement of Jesus is totally sufficient to cleanse a person from  ALL their sin (Colossians 2:13-14; 1 John 1:7,9).

You can’t add to the work of Christ, now or after you die, it is finished (John 19:30). To live in this life with the fear of purgatory hanging over your head is not what the gospel is all about. To live in this life with the false hope that pretty much everyone will get into heaven but some will spend more time in purgatory than others, is a fatal flaw in one’s belief that could have eternal consequences. No, the atonement of Christ on the cross is totally sufficient to deal with ALL our sins.

If we aren’t going to be any more or less righteous because of our good works, then why do anything, why serve or minister? We serve because we are compelled by His love, not because we add to our righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

Don’t serve because you think it will get you into a better standing with God or make Him love you more. God couldn’t love you more; He loved and loves you so much that He sent His Son to die on the cross for you (Romans 5:8). But we are to serve and give and minister because of what He has done, out of loving appreciation for God. That is why we serve and work and give ourselves for God.

God desires so much for His people than mere religion. He wants us to personally relate to Him.

Case #4 – Those Who Disregard The Need For a Personal Relationship With God in Christ, Will Not Enter Heaven

Those who do not “know” Jesus, will not enter His kingdom. Jesus states this clearly when He says, “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me” (7:23a). There are those who are satisfied to entrust their eternal destiny to a pat set of religious rituals that they can do conveniently in a short amount of time and then move on to do their own thing. There are those who scoff at the idea of having a “personal” relationship with God. Such people however, will find themselves separated from heaven because Jesus will tell them, “I never knew you.” This brings us to a truth of central import. 

It’s Not What You Know as Much As It is Who You Know That Determines True Conversion.

It is possible for a person to say all the right things, such as “Lord, Lord” and yet not give their hearts to Jesus. It’s possible that a person knows all the doctrines and has them all down pat, and still not be saved! Head knowledge without heart decision does not save. This is true because, knowledge about God can be like any other knowledge and tend to puff a person up. Paul was inspired to write:

  • 1 Corinthians 8:1b – “We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.”  [97]

It is possible to put your faith in your knowledge, to become all puffed up with what you know and completely miss out on the Person  that knowledge is pointing you to know. It is possible to say all the right things and still not be saved! To be truly saved you have to give God your heart.

Those who confess, “Lord, Lord,” and have not entered into a personal saving relationship with Jesus by faith in the true gospel, are unknown by Jesus. It is possible to have a religious way of relating to God where you repeat liturgy established by tradition, where you repeat all the right words but have not experienced the personal saving relationship with Jesus. You have to give your heart to God and personally invite Him in to take up residence within you.

The apostle Paul at the end of his life wrote in his last letter to Timothy the following words:

  • 2 Timothy 1:12 – “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.”  [98]

Paul was a very well educated and studied individual (see Philippians 3), but in his final words he did not rely on his academic achievements or the accumulated knowledge about Jesus for his salvation, he relied on his personal relationship with Jesus for his salvation. Does Jesus know you? Do you know Him? Your salvation hangs in the balance according to the answer to those questions.

Case #5 – Those Whose Lives Deny the Life-changing Reality of the Gospel Will Not Enter Heaven

Jesus concludes, “depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (7:23b).  Notice, Jesus did not say, “depart from Me, you who ever commit a sin!” Jesus is not talking about sinless perfection here. Even after the believer is saved they will sin because of their humanness and fallen state. Only Jesus is sinless. In John’s first epistle he is inspired to write:

  • 1 John 1:6-10 – “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”  [99]

These verses should make it clear that to claim sinless perfection at any point in one’s walk with the Lord is to be self-deceived and to call God a liar. Christians, disciples do sin. John calls this, “sin not leading to death.”

Sin Not Leading To Death

Later in John’s first epistle he speaks of a sin that doesn’t lead to death. He writes:

  • 1 John 5:16-17 – “If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that.17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.”  [100]

There are sins which the believer struggles with for a time before they gain victory over them. This is not due to a lack of power on God’s part, but more on a lack of the believer appropriating God’s power and applying it to their lives. There is never a valid excuse for entering into sin. God has promised to give us a way of escape so that we can resist and stand up under the temptation as Paul states to the Corinthians:

  • 1 Corinthians 10:13 – “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”  [101]

However, the truth and balanced view of reality is that believers do sin on occasion. Those sins which the believer enters into because of occasional weakness or their flesh, if confessed, do not lead to eternal death. There will be a negative spiritual consequence as there always is with sin, but if the sinner repents, God will forgive and cleanse and the believer can get on with their walk with the Lord.

The Dark Truth About Practicing Sin

Jesus did not say if anyone ever sinned they would not enter heaven. But He did say those who “practice lawlessness,” would not enter heaven. There is a vast difference between those who “practice” sin and those who fall into an occasional sin. No self-proclaimed Christian who practices, or lives in sin, will enter heaven. This is because no true believer will want to continue on in his or her sin. A true and authentically saved believer does not continue in their life of sin. Salvation is from sin and therefore no one who genuinely accepts Christ as Savior will want to continue on in sin. This is what John writes in his first epistle:

  • 1 John 3:7-9 – “Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.8 He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.9 Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.”  [102]

Upon first glance it may appear to the reader that John is saying that anyone who is “born of God” never sins. But this would be a misinterpretation of the text. To grasp the sense of what John is saying you have to take in to account the tense of the words  in the original Greek language. The tense of  the word “sin” in the phrase, “he cannot sin,” is a present tense which implies a continuous action. In other words John is speaking about a lifestyle, or ongoing living in sin. A truly converted person will not live on in sin, they may struggle at times, but they won’t live on in sin as they were before they professed their salvation in Christ. Indeed John says they “cannot,” which means to do so invalidates their profession. Living a lifestyle that contradicts God and His word is mutually exclusive from being truly converted and saved from your sin.

Therefore, when Jesus is saying that those who “practice lawlessness,” should “depart from Me,” and will not enter heaven, He is speaking about those who make false professions of faith for whatever reason. The religious seek fire insurance from eternal fire by doing just enough to save them from the flames. Some profess Christ to please others. Any profession of faith in Christ, any acceptance of Christ as Savior which is not sincerely focused on being reconciled to God and being forgiven for sin, any profession that is made without a desire to leave one’s life of sin, is inadequate.

A Religious Show Doesn’t Impress God

Notice too that some of those who did not know Jesus were involved in religious activity. They “prophesied” and “cast out demons,” and “did many wonders” all in Jesus’ name. But the bottom line is that Jesus didn’t know them and they apparently did not know Jesus. You see they may have been claiming the name of Jesus and doing a lot of religious stuff without knowing the Lord. But was what they were doing in accordance with “the will of My Father”? (7:21). Were they just doing a lot of religious stuff to draw attention to themselves like the religious Pharisees? God is not impressed with religious activity, or religious showiness. Remember how Jesus opened chapter six:

  • Matthew 6:1 - “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.”  [103]

Religious Pharisees look very religious on the surface, but inside they are dirty vessels and like tombs with dead bones in them (Matthew 23:23-36). Right judgment is based on obedience to the word of God and true confession from the heart. Right judgment should be done to the extent that such a condition can be judged from the fruit born.

What is True Conversion?

What is “True Conversion”? True conversion is a work God does in the heart of a person when that person by faith turns from their sin to put their faith in Christ and receive from God forgiveness for their sins and the indwelling, new life giving Holy Spirit into their lives.  

True conversion, (salvation)  is a matter of the heart. Paul was inspired to write:

  • Romans 10:8-10 – “But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach):9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”  [104]

Right judgment is based on a true conversion. A true conversion is one that is from the heart. We’re back to the central issue of the Sermon on the Mount, the heart. True disciples are those who have given God their heart, they have invited God to rule in their hearts, they exceed the outward religious way of Pharisees (Matthew 5:20). It’s all a matter of the heart. It’s not what you know but Who you know that counts.

Eighth, Right Judgment is Based on the FIRM FOUNDATION of Jesus and His Word

  • Matthew 7:24-27 - “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:25 “and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand:27 “and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”   [105]

Again we see Jesus connecting what precedes to what follows with the word, “therefore.” What is “therefore” there for? Jesus has spoken of a narrow gate (7:13-14), that lets us into His yard. Make sure you enter His domain by going through His prescribed “narrow gate,” otherwise you may find yourself lost in someone else’s yard and if you try to hop the fence into Jesus’ yard, you’ll be a trespasser (John 10:1-10).  He then speaks of fruitfulness (7:15-20), and building on the firm foundation of His word (7:24-27). The foundation is the most important part of any structure. You want to make sure your foundational footing is solid, or when the inevitable storms of life come, you’ll be blown away. The only way you can have a firm and reliable foundation for your life is to build on the rock of Jesus Christ according to the word of God.

What is the foundation of our spiritual life? Jesus is the rock foundation, the solid and reliable foundation of spiritual life. The apostle Paul referred to Jesus as this rock when he was inspired to quote from the Old Testament (Psalm 118:22) and write:

  • Romans 9:33 – “As it is written: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”  [106]

Later in his letter to the Corinthians he speaks of the preservation of God’s people by God in the wilderness and points to Jesus “the rock” as the one who sustained them:

  • 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 – “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea,2 all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,3 all ate the same spiritual food,4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.”  [107]

Indeed the Bible teaches that no other foundation is acceptable for spiritual life other than the foundation of Jesus Christ. Paul again writes to Corinthians:

  • 1 Corinthians 3:9-11 – “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it.11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”  [108]

If Jesus is the only reliable and acceptable foundation that meets God’s holy building code, then how do we have that foundation laid for us and then build upon it?

Laying the Foundation of Christ With True Conversion By The True Gospel

In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus has just taught that not everyone who calls Him, “Lord, Lord,” will enter heaven. Why is that? Because God has clearly and simply revealed a narrow, unmistakable way to eternal life and those who disregard it do so to their own peril (Matthew 7:13-14). Those who address Jesus as “lord, Lord,” and who will not be received into heaven are those who have sought to build on a foundation other than Jesus Christ. In other words, those who seek to gain access to heaven by a false gospel will not enter heaven. The true Biblical gospel is the means God has provided to lay the foundation of Jesus Christ in life. How important is this?

 The apostle Paul was inspired to write to the Galatians:

  • Galatians 1:6-9 – “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel,7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.”  [109]

It is extremely important, absolutely essential that a person knows the true biblical gospel if they are to be saved. What is the gospel?

The True Gospel

What is the gospel? According to the New Testament the gospel is laid out for us in the following passage: 

  • 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 – “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand,2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,”  [110] (See also Ephesians 2:1-10)

The gospel (or good news) is that sinners hopelessly lost in their sin, (because in their own strength and effort they are unable to pay off their debt of sin in a way acceptable to God – Romans 3:23) can be saved from the death penalty that sin entails (Romans 6:23), by receiving by faith, the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross and that Jesus was raised form the dead which verifies that His atoning death on the cross was acceptable to God. Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for the sins of every person every created. He died in our place on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:14-21).

It is by faith that the work of Christ on the cross is put to our account (John 1:12; 3:16; Galatians 2:16). No effort or “work” of ours can secure God’s forgiveness for our debt of sin. God simply makes the provision of Jesus Christ available for us to receive by faith. God’s act of providing salvation through the work of His Son Jesus Christ is called an act of grace. Grace is unmerited or undeserved favor and that is exactly what God has provided for us in His Son Jesus Christ. This is expressed in the following verses:

We receive Jesus and what He has done for us on the cross, by faith, that is what saves us. Faith is simply a trusting reliance, a dependence on Jesus. Someone has aptly defined saving faith in the following acronym.  Saving faith is, Forsaking-All- I-Trust-Him.

“Faith” Alone Does Not Save Us, ONLY Faith Alone  In Jesus Saves

We are not saved by “faith.” In today’s worldview faith itself is idolized. In the media faith in it’s most generic sense is presented as the key to spiritual life. But we need to recognize, it is not simply “faith” that saves us, it is faith in Jesus Christ that saves a person. The object of your faith is as important as your faith. There are many sincere and faithful Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Mary worshipers, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, et.al. who have plenty of faith, but because they do not put their faith in the Biblical Jesus, their faith will not gain them entrance into heaven. This is made abundantly clear in the following verses:

  • John 3:36 -  “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”  [111]
  • Acts 4:12 – ““Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”  [112]
  • Romans 5:1 – “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,”  [113]

Jesus Christ is the only acceptable object of our faith and the only One who can save us from our sin.

What Makes a False Gospel False?

The reason a “gospel” is false is because they have a faulty view of salvation. False gospels are false because their plan of salvation is based on the works of people not the grace of God. Any so-called “gospel” that does not depend on faith alone in Christ alone by God’s grace alone, is a false gospel. The reason for this is that since all human efforts to atone for or deal with sin are futile and fall short of what God finds acceptable, then any and all “gospels” that rely on human efforts or works are futile and fall short. Such false “gospels” are really no gospel at all for they fall short of saving a person from their sins, they are not only false by they are futile and doomed to failure.

Here is where the religious Pharisaism comes in and all who would try to gain access to heaven based on their own works or efforts. Salvation is not based on the works of people, but on the work of Jesus Christ. When a person comes to see that they are sinners and admit it, when they agree that Jesus is the only way to solve their sin problem, and they accept by faith the free gift of salvation by faith in Christ, then and only then will they be able to advance and ultimately enter heaven.

You Cannot Be Saved By Your Works

That salvation is based on the work of Christ and God’s grace (gift) and not a person’s works or efforts is seen clearly stated in the Bible (Titus 3:3-7). But, for instance, Mormons say salvation is based on the works of faithfulness to Mormon leaders, Mormon baptism, tithing, etc. The works of baptism as a Jehovah’s Witness and door-to-door witnessing saves Jehovah’s Witnesses. And there are others who rely on there own ability to “keep the Ten commandments,” or “be a good person,” “do good deeds.” But no work is adequate to justify a person before God other than the work of Jesus Christ on the cross and that can only be received by faith it cannot be worked for.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that a person can call out ,”Lord, Lord,” all they want, but if they are doing so on their own terms, and not by,” the will of My Father,” or on God’s terms, then they will not enter heaven no matter what they say or do. When we come to God we come on His terms as prescribed in His revelation the Bible and the gospel of Jesus Christ which it reveals. No other way is acceptable, no other way is true. That is the bottom line. 

Building On The Firm Foundation Of Jesus Christ

Jesus said, ““Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock” (7:24). To build on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ, (once that foundation has been laid by accepting the gospel of Jesus Christ by faith) the disciple must rely on the Spirit by faith to have God implement His word in their life.  To grow and build on the spiritual bedrock of Jesus, you seek to apply God’s word to your life in the power of the Holy Spirit (Colossians 2:6-10; 1 Peter 2:4-5).

The Bible is the word of God. In an earlier part of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said came  to “fulfill,” “the Law and the Prophets,” He came to fulfill the word of God (Matthew 5:17-19). He said that the key to greatness in His kingdom was, “whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” In the passage we are considering now Jesus says, “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24). If you want to build on the rock of Jesus, you have to hear and do His word. Later in Matthew Jesus states the eternal nature of His word when He states, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.”  (Matthew 24:35). In light of these statements by Jesus, it is clear that to build on the rock of Jesus is to build by His book.

Where Do You Stand?

Are you standing on the rock of Jesus Christ, building on the firm foundation of Jesus? In Matthew 7 Jesus is explaining the distinction between those who simply pay lip-service to Him as opposed to those who do His word from the heart. Those who take His word to heart build their spiritual lives on a solid foundation. Those who merely play with His word and put on a show will be blown away in the stormy end. The former group are said to be wise, the later, foolish. Which are you? Wise or foolish? What is the true judgment concerning you? Listen to the some of the last words spoken by the apostle Paul in this regard:

  • 2 Timothy 2:19-21 – “Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor.21 Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.”  [114]

Disciple, how are you building?[115]

Is True Judgment Important To You?

 

You may be thinking that all this talk of true judgment is just asking for pain, it’s bound to ruffle some feathers and cause some disruption to your life. But read this paragraph by C.S. Lewis, in his book entitled Mere Christianity:

“When I was a child I often had a toothache. And I knew that if I went to my mother, she would give me something that would deaden the pain for that night and let me go to sleep. But I did not go to my mother, at least not until the pain became unbearably bad. And the reason I did not go was this: I did not doubt she would give me the aspirin, but I knew she would also do something else. I knew she would take me to the dentist the next morning. I could not get what I wanted out of her without getting something more, which I did not want. I wanted immediate relief from the pain, but I could not get it without having my teeth set permanently right. And I know those dentists! I knew they started fiddling about with all sorts of other teeth, which had not yet begun to ache. They would not let sleeping dogs lie.”

 

You or someone else may be living in a state of pain, but you have decided that the pain is bearable, for the moment. There may be an area of your life which you haven’t turned over to Jesus for true judgment. You know, you’ve been putting off addressing the situation much the same as a person puts off going to the dentist. But sooner or later, that pain is going to become a full-blown cavity and if you let it go, you’re headed for root canal! You may even have to lose that tooth. And if you continue in that pattern you may end up losing all your teeth and have to settle for dentures! Your natural smile will be gone. It would be much wiser to bring God’s true judgment to bear on the pain and deal with the problem before it becomes much worse. The reward of applying true judgment to areas of life is freedom from the guilt and sin that ungodly ways lead to. Maybe you’ve been fooling yourself about where you stand with Christ. Maybe you’ve been living a lie. Maybe you’ve been bearing bad fruit but in a state of denial. Maybe you’ve not been bearing fruit at all but have been rationalizing it all away. Are you judging rightly? Have you been pointing out the speck in the eye of someone else when you have a cross beam of your own in sight? Have you entered Christ’s narrow gate? What kind of fruit are you bearing? Is what you say in line with what you do? Are you following Jesus from the heart? How are you building friend, how are you building? All of these questions are of critical and immediate importance for us all. But there is an additional reason why true and right judgment is important.

True Judgment is Important in the End Times

True judgment is especially important for those of us living in the End Times, (and I believe we are all living in the end times right now). This chapter on true judgment (chapter 7) is critically important. Why is the judgment spoken of in Matthew 7 so important? Read what Paul writes in his last letter to Timothy:

  • 2 Timothy 3:1-17 – “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good,4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts,7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.8 Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith;9 but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was. 10 But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance,11 persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me.12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them,15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  [116]

Paul’s inspired words inform us of the characteristics of people in the “last days.” People will put themselves first; they will love themselves and money and boast proudly about their monetary gains (2 Timothy 3:2). They will be characterized by a lack of love and self-exaltation, but worst of all, they will have “a form of godliness” that is impotent and a poor imitation of the real thing. In other words, there will be a great hoard of religious pharisaism in the world (3:5). Those who want to live as godly disciples will be persecuted (3:12). There will be “evil men and imposters” who will only get worse; hypocrisy will be on the rise (3:13). But Paul exhorts Timothy and all true disciples to continue in and rely on God’s inspired word, His God-breathed word that comes from His heart to ours by the Spirit. The word of God is what we need and what needs to be applied to life, that is God’s call to the true disciple (3:14-16). In reality, life and all that is in it needs to be rightly judged, scrutinized through the lens of God’s word of truth and Jesus who is “the truth.”

 

Lovingly Sacrifice Your Liberty For the Weaker Person

Romans 14:14-16 – “I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.15 Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died.16 Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil;”  [117]

Getting back to our study of Romans, Paul shares his own conviction before God that nothing, that is, no food is unclean in and of itself. But he recognizes that those who are weaker in faith may see some things as unclean. Paul instructs the mature believer to be willing to sacrifice their liberty for the sake of the person of weaker faith because it isn’t worth destroying one for whom Christ died, for the sake of exerting a Christian liberty. We should never risk division in the church over nonessential issues. Nonessential issues are worth letting go for the greater value of the faith of the one whom Christ died for.

Have Proper Priorities

Romans 14:17-21 – “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.18 For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men.19 Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense.21 It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.”   [118]

Paul calls believers to straighten out their priorities. The citizens of the kingdom of God should focus on “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,”  not “eating and drinking.” The kingdom of God is present where Christ rules as Lord in a heart (Luke 17:20-21). It is entered into by faith in Christ by repentance(Matthew 3:2), by being born again of the Spirit  (John 3:1-8). The gospel or good news of the kingdom is that sinners doomed to hell and under the power of Satan can be forgiven of their sin and freed from the bondage of the devil through faith in Christ (Matthew 24:14). It is a kingdom based on the word of God (Matthew 13:19). The kingdom of God should be put first as a priority in our lives (Matthew 6:33),it should be prayed for (Matthew 6:10),  shared with others (Acts 8:12), worked for (Colossians 4:11) and if necessary suffered for (Acts 14:22). The kingdom of God culminates in the literal and outward millennial reign of Christ on earth for a thousand years that leads into eternity (Revelation 20). That is the kingdom of God established in the Holy Spirit. That is our priority.

Those who sacrifice their liberty for the sake of the person with weaker faith are approved by people as well as God (14:18). The priority should be to pursue peace and the edification of those around you. Don’t let yourself be drawn into disputes over petty things that lead to the destruction of God’s work in another person. Nothing is good if it means that Gods’ work in another person is hindered.

Private Practices

Romans 14:22-23 – “Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.”  [119]

While the mature believer should restrain their liberty in the presence of the person with weaker faith, there is nothing wrong with living by your convictions before God in private. This is not hypocrisy; this is loving and spiritually mature behavior. The standard which determines whether of not a believer should do something is whether or not it is “from faith,” or whether of not a person can do it with a clear conscience before the Lord.

Conclusion

When Paul was inspired to write to the Corinthians he addressed them as a carnal fleshly group of believers who were divided by factions and disputes (1 Corinthians 3). Later on in his first epistle to this church he was inspired to lay out the spiritually mature principle of operation amongst believers that we’ve already discussed (1 Corinthians 10:23-33). Later in this epistle Paul is inspired to spell out the most excellent way and the greatest indication of spiritual maturity, Christ-like love. He was inspired to write:

  • 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 – “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part.10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”  [120]

This is the bottom line in relating to believers of varying spiritual development, love them. And as Paul said in Romans 13:

  • Romans 13:10 – “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”   [121]

 

 

 

 



[1]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[2]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[3]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[4]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[5]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[6]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[7]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[8]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[9]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[10]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[11]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[12]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[13]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[14]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[15]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[16]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[17]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[18]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[19]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[20]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[21]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[22]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[23]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[24]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[25]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[26]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[27]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[28]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[29]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[30]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[31]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[32]W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[33]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[34]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[35]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[36]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[37]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[38]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[39]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[40]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[41]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[42]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[43]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[44]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[45]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[46]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[47]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[48]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[49]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[50]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[51]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[52]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[53]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[54]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[55]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[56]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[57] Chuck Smith, Word For Today audiotape #8006 (P.O. box 8000, Costa Mesa, CA)

[58]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[59]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[60]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[61]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[62]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[63]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[64]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[65]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[66]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[67]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[68]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[69]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[70]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[71]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[72]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[73]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[74]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[75]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[76]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[77]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[78]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[79]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[80]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[81] Jon Courson in Tree of Life Bible Commentary - Matthew 1-13, p. 162-163

[82]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[83]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[84]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[85]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[86]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[87]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[88]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[89]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[90]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[91]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[92]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[93]Jerry Falwell, executive editor; Edward E. Hinson and Michael Kroll Woodrow, general editors, KJV Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1994.

[94]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[95]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[96]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[97]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[98]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[99]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[100]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[101]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[102]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[103]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[104]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[105]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[106]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[107]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[108]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[109]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[110]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[111]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[112]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[113]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[114]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[115] For an in debt study on how to build your spiritual life see How Firm Is Your Foundation? and Building On A Firm Foundation, two studies by this author. God to: http://www.calvarychapel.org./hope/study.html.

[116]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[117]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[118]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[119]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[120]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[121]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.