Insights #9 November 29, 2014
Fourth Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"One Lawgiver and Judge"
For the week of November 29, 2014
This week's discussion about law and judgment affords an opportunity to view this topic from the perspective of Christ and His righteousness.
To maintain clarity, we acknowledge that the Bible speaks to the matter of our judging from two viewpoints. James writes in chapter 4:12: "There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?"
James admonishes us not to judge our brother or sit in judgment against him (vs 11).
According to James, judgment is the Lord's work.
Yet Paul points to a time when "we shall judge angels" and the "saints will judge the world" 1 Cor. 6:3 and 1 Cor. 6:2.
Jesus said, "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment" John 7:24.
How can these perspectives be reconciled?
The words of Jesus in John 8:15, 16 give us a clue: "You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. And yet if I do judge, My judgment is true, for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me."
Jesus did not come to this world so much to make a pronouncement, or judgment against sin or sinners, as to reveal the true nature of sin, and the character of those who love it. He did this by living a life of self-sacrificing love and dying on the cross in shame and agony. And it is this standard of love that will judge the world, revealing the thoughts and intents of the heart of man, whether they be self-serving or self-giving.
The problem with us judging others, according to Jesus, is that we judge 'according to the flesh." And since the flesh is rotten and in the flesh dwells no good thing, we cannot possibly discern the thoughts and intents of the hearts of others except to project onto them the condition of our own evil hearts.
In his commentary on the Gospel of John, A.T. Jones elaborates on this text: "'Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment' John 7:24. One of the most remarkable things about Jesus was the way in which He distinguished between right and wrong. Puzzling questions were often brought to Him, but were always solved with such wisdom that those were dumbfounded. We need the same wisdom, for the traditions of men, false theories, and considerations of expediency have so confused the distinction between right and wrong in men's minds, that many honest believe wrong to be right and right to be wrong. What will clear the issues for us?
"The same state of things existed in Christ's day, but the prevailing mental confusion did not dim His judgment, for God Himself was His judgment. He did not judge according to appearances, for while this is all that humanity has to go by, appearances are often misleading. (John 5:30 quoted) Selfish interests always cloud the judgment, and bias the decision, but Christ was swayed by none of these. Because He sought only the will of God, and listened only to His voice, the Father was to Him for 'a spirit of judgment to him that sitteth in judgment.' ...
"God does everything in perfect righteousness because that is the law of His being, and that same law He puts into our hearts. It is perfectly natural for Him to do right, and it will be the same for those who let Him write His law in their hearts. They will judge righteous judgment, will speak words in season, and always do the right thing in the right way, because God's way is in their hearts. God Himself is their life. They, like Christ, do not need that any man teach them, for the covenant is, 'They shall teach no more his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord.' Jer. 31:34. This condition is not achieved by men's own worthinesss. It is a covenant that is established upon promises, made to sinners, and the Holy Ghost applies it to all whose sins are forgiven."
Those who experience the transformation of Christ's redeeming love in their hearts judge thus: "that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh" and we become "ambassadors for Christ," imploring all on Christ's behalf to "be reconciled to God" 2 Cor. 5:14-16, 20.
This is the faith of Jesus in action. Instead of slandering our brothers and sisters--judging them according to the flesh--we regard them as they are in Christ, redeemed, precious souls, bought with the priceless blood of Jesus. In matters of discernment, we rely on "the word of God" which is "living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" Heb. 4:12.