Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Judge Me!

Is it ever OK to judge someone else?
In today's "tolerant" society, people are quick to quote "don't judge lest you be judged."  You're not allowed to say "what you are doing is wrong" or "what you believe is wrong."  That level of cruel intolerance is, um, not tolerated.

Well, if you believe that you're wrong!

The passage (mis)quoted is from Matthew 7:1-5, quoted here in context:
Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite... (NASB)
Well, there you have it.  Case closed.  We have to be tolerant...  But wait, they leave off the rest of verse 5:
...first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
What Jesus was warning against was hypocritical judgement - where you are doing the very thing you accuse your brother of and pretending that you're some holier-than-thou goodie-two-shoes. In contrast, we are commanded to judge rightly:
Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment. (John 7:24)
But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves. (1 Corinthians 5:11-13)
There are things clearly called out in Scripture as sin:  lying, cheating, stealing, murder, anger, idolatry, angry outbursts, homosexuality, adultery, lust, revenge, etc.  People outside the Church have not signed up to follow Christ's commandments, but those inside the Church have.  So what does this righteous judgement look like?
Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2)
Judging another believer is not some mean-spirited, finger-pointing "gotcha" kind of activity.  It is supposed to be done in love and gentleness, with the sure knowledge that we are all struggle with sin.  The purpose is restoration and mutual support.  We need to work together, helping each other to live holy lives.  As it was once said, "Christianity is just one beggar telling another where to find bread."  "You who are spiritual" refers to those who are mature and growing in their faith.  Maturity is marked by the humility, gentleness and self-awareness that Christ was talking about.

Jesus taught that if someone sins against you, you first go to them privately, then if they don't respond, take a brother with you, and then if they still don't repent, take it to the church (Matthew 18:15-17)  He didn't intend for us to go through life with unresolved sin destroying people and relationships and poisoning the witness of the Church.  Sometimes people are honestly struggling and need help.  Sometimes they don't know that what they are doing is wrong and need to be taught. Sometimes they are stubborn and rebellious and need to be disciplined with the hope that they will repent and be restored.  Sin always kills (Rom 6:23) and has to be confronted and removed lest the poison spread.  Jesus died so that we could be free from it, and instituted righteous judgement in His Church to help us deal with it.

There is one other issue to consider.  In the context of Romans 14, Paul is talking about believers who have found freedom from the Old Testament Law, and telling the believers not to judge each other over the matter. Some things are clearly sin: adultery, lust, murder, lying, outbursts of anger, drunkenness, etc. Other things are a matter of conscience: Sabbath keeping, eating only kosher food or avoiding food offered to idols, drinking alcohol, playing cards, etc.  We are told that we are NOT to judge one another on these issues, which was the topic of a previous post (Don't Judge Me!).  This also applies to judging what people believe, differentiating between essential, required beliefs (the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, the sinfulness of mankind, Jesus' death and resurrection, etc.) and those areas where believers can disagree (predestination vs. free will, sign gifts, drums in the sanctuary, etc.).

So, there are times when believers are to judge one another, not hypocritically, not self-righteously, but with humility and gentleness and the goal of repentance and restoration.  If you are doing it Biblically, please, judge me!



Friday, July 14, 2017

Don't Judge Me!

The Shadow of Things to Come
"Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ." (Colossians 2:16-17, NASB)

 I have some good friends who believe that in order to follow Jesus / Yeshua, you must keep the Sabbath, the Jewish feasts and the Old Testament Law / Torah.  I saw someone post in reply to this verse that it does not refer to Jewish Sabbaths and Feasts, but to pagan feasts.  However, that would mean that:
1.  Paul would be teaching the Colossians not to let people judge them for keeping the pagan feasts, when he repeatedly tells Gentiles to abandon idolatry and come to Christ.
2.  Paul would be teaching that those pagan feasts are a foreshadowing of the Jewish Messiah, which also makes no sense.

 No, Paul was teaching the Colossian believers that the Jewish feasts, new moons and Sabbaths were the shadow of the Messiah.  The contrast is between the body of Christ and the shadow of the Feasts and Sabbaths.  They are only a insubstantial shadow compared to the substance, the reality, of Christ.  Believers who have trusted Christ for salvation follow Him by walking in the Spirit, obey His New Covenant commandments, and are under no obligation to observe the old shadows of food laws, Feasts and Sabbaths.   They were fulfilled in Christ and now we have the fullness of God in Him.

 "But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter."  (Romans 7:6, NASB)


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Is the Holy Spirit a Person?

Some friends of mine asked in a blog post about the Holy Spirit "how can a person live inside you?" They do not believe that the Holy Spirit is a person, or in the doctrine of the Trinity. The word "Trinity" does not appear in Scripture, but is a theological term describing a number of Biblical truths. The definition of the Trinity is that "there is one God who exists eternally in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit."  My purpose in this post is to show where the Bible teaches the personhood of the Holy Spirit.

First, we have to understand what the term "person" means.  It does not refer to "a person walking down the street," or "the person who lives next door."  A person (this is not hard to understand) is someone who has a mind, will, emotions and can relate to others.  The Bible teaches that God is personal.  He is not like the "force" in Star Wars or some directionless cosmic energy, but He has a mind (Isaiah 55:8-9), the incredibly inventive mind that designed all of creation and knows the thoughts and intentions of every heart (Jeremiah 17:10).  He has a will (Mark 3:35), a will that chose to create mankind in His own image and that chose to send Jesus to the cross to pay the penalty for our sins (Luke 22:42).  He has emotions, the emotions of anger (Numbers 32:13), joy (Zephaniah 3:17), jealousy (Exodus 20:5), grief (Genesis 6:6)) and compassion (2 Kings 13:23).  He is capable of relationships, evidenced by his relationships with the people of God in the Bible, like Abraham, Moses, David and now those who have put their trust in Christ alone for salvation.

Our own personhood is a large part of the "image of God" created in each of us and that which distinguishes us from the rest of creation.  Our own personhood and consciousness does not end when we die and are absent from our bodies (2 Peter 1:13-15), but our spirits go on to exist in heaven or hell (Luke 16:19-21) where we continue to think, feel and communicate with others.  We cannot equivocate on the term person to say that a person has to have a body when Jesus clearly taught otherwise.

Do these characteristics of personhood apply to the Holy Spirit?  Let's look at what Jesus taught in John 14:15-17, John 14:25-26 and John 16:8-15.

1.  The Holy Spirit has a mind.  Jesus said that the Holy Spirit " will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you" (John 14:26).  Teaching requires a thinking mind.  In John 16:8 Jesus, speaking of the Holy Spirit, says, "and when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment."  Sin, righteousness and judgment are deep topics, and convincing someone of their sin takes knowledge and intellect, just like guiding people and speaking to them as we will see in a moment.  (1 Cor 2:10-13).

2.  The Holy Spirit has a will.  "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come" (John 16:13).  The Holy Spirit chooses not to exercise His own authority in speaking to the believers, but to speak on behalf of the Father  (another distinction between Father and Spirit).  Even Jesus said, "The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority" (John 14:10).  Does that mean Jesus does not have authority?  No, it means that He was not speaking using the authority that He clearly has.  In the same way, the Holy Spirit chooses not to speak on His own authority, but on the Father's authority.  He has a will (Acts 7:51; 1 Corinthians 12:11).

3.  The Holy Spirit has emotions.  This passage in John does not teach that the Holy Spirit has emotions, but others do, including Isaiah 63:10 (the rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit), Ephesians 4:30 (do not grieve the Holy Spirit) and Hebrews 10:29 (insulting/outraging the Spirit).

4.  The Holy Spirit is capable of relationships.  In John 16:13, Jesus uses the verbs hearing, speaking, guiding and declaring which are all relational.  John 14:17 says "you know him."  The Holy Spirit can be known, not just intellectually, but personnally and relationally.  Interestingly, Jesus does not call the Holy Spirit "it" but "he," a personal pronoun, and describes Him as "another Helper."  In Greek, the word means "another of the same kind."  In Acts, Ananias and Sapphira lie to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3-4).  You cannot lie to an impersonal force, but only to a person.

On a final note, some might say that the Spirit of the Lord is just an extension of Yahweh or another way to refer to His action in the world, like "the arm of the Lord" or "the voice of the Lord."  Is the Holy Spirit distinct from the Father?  Jesus said that He and the Father would send the Holy Spirit to the disciples (John 14:16; 14:25, 16:7).  Can God send Himself?  In Hebrews 3:7, the author writes "as the Holy Spirit says, 'Oh, that today you would listen as he speaks!'"  In context, the "he" is God the Father.  If the Spirit was the Father, how could the Spirit say "listen as he speaks?"  In Romans 8:26-27, Paul teaches that the Holy Spirit intercedes for believers to the Father.  An intercessor is one who comes between two others and pleads the case of one to the other.  Biblically, the Holy Spirit is not an extension or operating mode of God the Father.

So, does the Holy Spirit dwell in believers?  Clearly, as Jesus taught about the Spirit, "you know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you" (John 14:17).  I have demonstrated above that the Holy Spirit is personal, or in theological terms, "a person."  Therefore, the Person of the Holy Spirit can dwell in someone.

I will deal with the Deity of the Holy Spirit, the Deity of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity in other posts.  Please keep comments on the topic of the personhood of the Holy Spirit or the arguments I made above.  God bless you as you seek to grow in the knowledge of His Glory and Grace!