Associate Editorial

The Righteous Judgment of God

Inherent in the idea of the word "judgment" is the concept of making a decision. People are constantly making decisions of one sort or another. We decide what to wear, what to eat, how best to make provisions for ourselves and our families. On the job, decisions must be made concerning the most efficient way to complete a task. We exercise this normal human function by using a process of judgment. We accumulate facts, analyze them, and then select which course to follow. It is a natural human event to judge.

As with so many natural human events, the Lord has regulated man's judgment processes. "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment" (John 7:24). Jesus did not here prohibit the exercise of this natural human task, but placed his demand for righteousness upon it. We could cite many examples of this same sort of regulation. Sexual relationships between men and women are not prohibited by God, but are regulated by the command of Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:27-32; Hebrews 13:4; 1 Corinthians 7:1-9). Business activities, even when they reap great wealth for those involved, are not prohibited, but are most certainly regulated (Luke 12:16-21; James 4:13-17; 1 Timothy 6:17-19).

The command of Jesus was to judge with "righteous judgment." That phrase appears in other places in the Testament, and is worthy of our consideration. At the conclusion of the first chapter of Romans, Paul addresses the behavior of those who "did not like to retain God in their knowledge" (Romans 1:28). Such behavior is abhorrent to God and an abomination. Of these people, Paul says, "who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death ..." (Romans 1:32). The righteous judgment of God can and must be known. The Gentiles of Paul's example knew the righteous judgment of God and knew that abominable people were worthy of death, but went on with their selfish behavior anyway. In the beginning of chapter 2, the righteous judgment of God is further applied to those who condone the evil ways of others and those who hypocritically pass unrighteous judgment on other people. In verse 2, Paul states the fact that the judgment of God is "according to truth." This is "righteous judgment."

The judgment addressed in John 7, where we began this study, is in the area of human relations. We must make decisions concerning the scope of our activities in regard to other people. We generally title a discussion of these sorts of issues as a discussion of "fellowship." What activities may we, according to the truth of the righteous judgment of God, participate? With whom, based on the same standard of judgment, can we walk and share our lives? 2 Corinthians 6:14 commands us "Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?" Here, not only is the activity of lawlessness condemned, but also our being unequally yoked with those who practice the lawlessness. The passage certainly regulates our human relationships.

Again relying on Paul, in 1 Corinthians 1:10 he says, "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and {that} there be no divisions among you, but {that} you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." I can think of no better way to express the concept of unity among brethren than this. Our unity begins with our heart. It begins in the mind. It is effected by the decisions we make based on the righteous standard of God's truth. Paul, by God's inspiring Spirit, did not plead for the impossible. He fully expected the Corinthian saints to put down their divisive attitudes and exercises and become united in the mind of Christ. "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" Philippians 2:3-5. We can develop for ourselves the mind of Christ. This text will lead us to the conclusion that the mind of Christ is the mind of obedience. "And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross" Philippians 2:8. If we put our mind to it, we can obey God. If we put our mind to it, we can be united.

Why is there so much division in the Lord's church today? The reason is simple. There is sin involved in not having the mind of Christ. We do not speak the same things. We are not perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. We have not humbled ourselves and become obedient to the Lord Jesus Christ in all that we do. In recent months, I have questioned the authority of the fellowship hall used by so many churches today. No appeal to the authority of God for such a practice has come forth. A whole lot of ugliness and unrighteous judgment has flowed into my office. That saddens me, since my only motive is the salvation of souls. There is no joy in exposing error. I have not, as one man called me to say, "set myself up as an authority" on this issue or any other. I appeal to the authority of God. Every local church in this world needs to step back and carefully and with much prayer analyze every facet of the work in which they are engaged. Such is a worthy study for all of us. Our goal should be for us to be able to say with all certainty that we can show, by the positive authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, that everything we do is approved before God, (2 Timothy 2:15). Such a study would also determine if we have any deficiencies in the areas of what we should be doing, but may not be doing. Let's search the scriptures to see if the things we are saying are so (Acts 17:11). Let's examine ourselves as to whether we are in the faith. Let us prove ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5).

The apostle Peter put it this way. "For the time {has come} for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if {it begins} with us first, what will {be} the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?" (1 Peter 4:17). Judgment, the righteous judgment of God, begins at home, in the house of God. How can we go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature when we are divided and in sin at home? How can we say to the denominationalists that they cause division by their innovations when we have done the same by introducing institutions and sinful practices into the Lord's body? How can we appeal to the sole authority of the word of God in the marriage relationship when we appeal to our feelings when it comes to the care of the fatherless and widows? Feelings and emotions are no standard at all. "If any man speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God!" (1 Peter 4:11).

E-mail Larry Fain

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