Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: judgement

Really Simple Theology

Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure,
having this seal,
The Lord knoweth them that are his.
Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.

Here in 2 Timothy 2:19 the Apostle Paul gives the ground rules for discerning whether or not I am a Christian.

The first rule is that salvation is not a one-sided transaction – it is not enough to say that I know God and that from now on I will be a Chriustian. The real question is “Does God know me?” Jesus warned that at the judgment there will be many who claim that they know Him and did many wonderful things in service to Him, yet He will reply “I never knew you.”

God calls, I respond, and if God sees that I have responded with all my heart, no reservations, he adopts me as His child. We will know when this happens. “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15). “And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us” (1 John 3:24).

The second rule is that I cannot go on living as I did before. “And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them” (Ezekiel 36:27). “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him” (1 John 2:9-10) .

Theology can quickly become very complex, and sometimes it is merely an intellectual exercise that offers no real help in showing us how to truly live as a Christian. But if I have the Holy Spirit within me and love my neighnour as myself, I will not want to steal, lie, cheat or hurt anyone. Why make it more complicated than that?


Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things (Romans 2:1).

What kind of judging is the apostle talking about? Does he mean that we should make no judgment of right and wrong, in ourselves or others? That can hardly be his intention, as the Bible contains many instructions for discerning between good and evil.

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

“From such turn away.” “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.” Positive phrases such as these tell us that a Christian must judge between good and evil, between light and darkness. In fact, our eternal destiny hinges on those kinds of judgements. When someone insists that a Christian has no right to judge the actions of others, there is often cause to suspect that they do not want their own actions to be judged. While we have no personal authority to judge, or condemn, the person, we are in deep trouble if we cannot discern between light and darkness in the actions.

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21).

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit (Matthew 7:15-16).

But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds (Romans 2:2-6).

What we must not do is pretend that we as individuals can stand in the place of God. If we forgive others, that does not require God to overlook their sins. If we refuse to forgive, that does not require God to overlook their repentance. “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth” (Roman’s 14:4).

We must forgive, in order to be forgiven. “But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15). It takes a tremendous load off our own backs when we can forgive others. Perhaps they have not yet dealt with God — that is not our concern. Our concern is to be free of the bitterness that will eat away inside of us and poison our relationships with others, even those who have only goodwill toward us. Our professed desire for closure on a traumatic incident may be in reality a thinly-veiled desire for vengeance. That is outside of our sphere, only God is qualified to deliver a judgment of vengeance.

One type of judgment that is required of Christians is to judge ourselves in the light of God’s Word and through the leading of the Holy Spirit.

For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged (1 Corinthians 11:21).

Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my reins and my heart (Psalm 26:2).

The cause of divisions

At one point in Jesus’ earthly ministry, those who doubted suggested that He performed miracles through the power of Beelzebub, or Satan. “But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth. If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand?” (Luke 11:17-18)

Division is characteristic of our world today, in every area. There are conflicting ideas about nutrition and health, about child training, education, about the environment, about mental health, about the best way to help the poor and the homeless. There are conflicting truth claims about religion, conflicting doctrines among Christians. Does this mean that God is divided?

Solomon, in Ecclesiastes 7:29, says: “Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.” That is, God wishes to lead mankind in a way that is upright and simple to understand, but we have invented innumerable alternatives to His way.

We didn’t invent those alternatives all by ourselves; we had help. The serpent in the Garden of Eden suggested to Eve that there was perhaps an alternative to God’s instruction about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Since that time, Satan has made it his business to suggest to each one of us that we are being treated unfairly by others, even by God Himself. Although those suggestions come from outside ourselves, we become guilty when we accept them and act on them.

Satan is not divided against himself. Division is his stock in trade. He sows division between children and parents, husband and wife, between close friends and even between Christians. His goal is to cause division and mistrust until everyone stands alone, trusting no one but himself or herself. We see this between nations, in relations between employers and employees, between citizens and governments, between members of a congregation and their pastors.

This is not to say that there are not injustices. Those there are aplenty. But every time Satan suggests a way to alleviate an injustice he makes the situation worse. We should not think this to be an accident and that the remedy would work if only better people were put in charge. If we are listening to the suggestions of Satan, he will see to it that no permanent remedy can be achieved.

God offers a way to find peace in the midst of this chaos and to mend broken relationships. But we first have to become reconciled to the fact that we live in a broken and unjust world. We cannot expect that others will always treat us fairly; injustice is part of our lot in life. Our role is not to correct the injustices done by others, but to correct the injustices that we have done, to learn to treat others with respect and love so that we do not repeat our acts of injustice.

Jesus left us this promise in John 16:33: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” One day He will return to judge all those who have been unjust in their dealings with others. May we not be found in that number.

Are we down or up?

Twenty-some years ago, Paul Carnegie, a realtor from Stratford, Ontario, was telling us about houses that he had thought would be difficult to sell. In one case, he drove out to a small village in response to a call from the owner and located the house. He walked up to the living room window and looked in through a missing window pane, then went up to the door and knocked. An older man let him in and showed him around the house. There was a hole in the kitchen floor large enough to look down into the murky darkness of the dirt basement. Beside the hole was a pump powered by a small gas engine to draw water from an open well in the basement.

“I can’t understand it,” the man said. “All this luxury, and she left me.”

Paul offered some sympathetic words about the incomprehensibility of women and wrote up the listing. He never expected to get an offer on the house, yet it did sell.

Lee Hazelwood once wrote a song entitled “I’ve been down so long it looks like up to me.” That seems to have been the case with this homeowner. Evidently the picture looked different to his wife.

What shall we say about ourselves then? Are we comfortable, at ease, content that God is pleased with us? Do we dare ask what our life looks like to God?

Consider the message to the leader, and the members, of the church at Laodicea:

“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:15-17).

They were lukewarm, comfortable, feeling that conditions were just right and nothing better could justifiably be expected of them. Yet the message from heaven told them they were:

wretched: They imagined themselves to be among the blessed and free and could not see that they had become slaves to sin and unbelief.

miserable: deceived and pitiable.

poor: lacking the true spiritual riches.

blind: both to their own condition and to the needs of those around them.

naked: lacking the wedding garment and the garment of praise, no more covering for their sin.

We are often tempted to become complacent and self-satisfied in our Christian life, thinking that all is well. Yet here we have the Lord Jesus telling us how distasteful this is to Him. He finds those who are lukewarm so disgusting that He will spew them out of His mouth.

Yet there is hope. Hear the conclusion of the message to the church at Laodicea: “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:19-20).

If any man defile the temple of God

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).

This simple little statement of the Apostle is often misunderstood. What he is not saying here is that we should not defile our own physical body. That is not a good idea and is dealt with in other places. In this particular passage he is warning against defiling the church of God. The old fashioned “ye” is the second person plural subject pronoun. He is not addressing one person but the whole church at Corinth, and by extension all members of the church in all ages. Thus we have a plural subject and a singular object: “the temple of God.” This is the church and the Apostle is plainly saying that if any person will defile the church, God will not take it lightly.

Remember the story of Achan? He took a little of the forbidden booty from the destruction of Jericho and hid it in his tent. This was just his little personal misdeed, wasn’t it? No one else need know. The result was that thirty-six Israelites died when they tried to take the next city. Achan’s sin affected the whole camp of Israel and he and his family had to die for Achan’s “little” sin.

How much does the church suffer today because of careless Christians who think that it doesn’t matter what they do when no one is looking? We are playing into Satan’s trap when we think like that and leaving an opening for him to attack the whole church. Do we expect God to take such a thing lightly?

Lazy thinking

The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason (Proverbs 26:16).

My mother told the story of a poor farmer extolling the virtues of socialism to his neighbour who was even poorer.

“If everyone who has more than they need would share with those who do not have enough, what a wonderful place this world would be!”

“Sooo, does that mean that if you had two cows you would give me one?”

“Of course.”

“If you had two horses, you would give me one?”


“And if you had two pigs, you would give me one?”

“Oh come on now, that’s going too far. You know I have two pigs!”

That is the thinking of a sluggard. Sharing is a wonderful thing, if it means that you are giving to me. If I have to give something away, that is quite a different matter.

We all know people like that. If McDonald’s charges them five cents too much for a coffee, they are filled with indignation for days. If they see an opportunity to pick up a dollar that does not belong to them, it does not seem to cause the slightest twinge to their conscience.

Still, the majority of the people around us are honest; if they see a dollar laying around, they will try to find the owner. Why? Why is it that so many people still have a clear sense of right and wrong, even though they believe that we are just random agglomerations of protoplasm that appeared for no particular reason or purpose?

Isn’t this the reasoning of a sluggard? If there is a purpose for my existence, then there must somewhere be Someone who is the reason behind all that exists. The sluggard does have a sense of what is right and what is wrong, but wants to believe that this sense is just an evolutionary survival instinct. He would rather believe that he is doing the best he can under the circumstances and that he will never have to give account for cutting corners in life to the Lord of all that exists.

This is lazy thinking. If one seeks to search the reason for our sense of right and wrong, it quickly appears illogical that it could simply have arisen in response to the survival of the fittest in a dog eat dog world. Where then does our conscience come from? Evolution cannot even explain consciousness, let alone conscience.

There are people around us who appear to have stilled their conscience. Have they really succeeded? Or have they simply chosen to live with the terrors that dwell in their mind, hoping with all their might that death will be the end of it?

One of the greatest arguments for the existence of God is that those who have repented of the wrong they have done are blessed with a peaceful mind and a heart that forgives others who have wronged them.

The Midnight Call

This poem by minister Christian Buerge first appeared in print in 1904.  It was later matched with an older melody by Jermiah Ingalls and appears as hymn number 242 in the Christian Hymnal.

‘Tis midnight and the Saviour calls:
“Come unto Me, both great and small;
From ev’ry kindred, nation, tongue:
Come one, come all, come old and young.”

‘Tis midnight and we hear the cry,
The Saviour now is passing by.
Oh will you let Him call in vain,
Lie down and fall asleep again?

Ye slumb’ring nations wake and rise,
Lift up your heads, look to the skies;
The Saviour’s invitation heed,
Awake, arise, and make full speed.

Bring oil in lamps and march along
The Lord to meet a happy throng,
The precious time may soon be ‘er,
You’ll hear the Saviour’s call no more.

Now is the time, the day of grace,
For all the fallen human race;
Come to the Lord, accept His hand,
Or soon you must rejected stand.

Oh, will you now the call obey,
Or will you longer ling’ring stay,
Until you hear the trumpet sound,
The dead rise from the quaking ground?

Then make your bed in torments where
God will not hear your bitter prayer.
Gnashing of teeth will be your doom,
No light, no hope — eternal gloom.

Oh, will you make that awful choice?
Or will you hear the Saviour’s voice?
“Come unto Me while yet I call,
For now I will forgive you all.”

Do the saved go to heaven when they die?

I used to think that when a Christian died he or she was ushered straight through the pearly gates into heaven.  I guess I got that from the popular cultural perception of how Christians believed.  Ten years ago, the picture that I had was challenged on Scriptural grounds, and my thinking has changed.

Today I believe the answer to the question posed above is “Yes, but not right away.”  Let me explain.

In Matthew 25, verses 31 to 46, Jesus explains how it will be on the great day of judgement at the end of time.  All nations (people) will be gathered before Him and He will separate the sheep from the goats.  Those classed as sheep will enter heaven and those classed as goats will be cast into hell.  This picture makes no sense if the saved were already in heaven before this time.

The Bible is more concerned that we should have a genuine saving relationship with God in this life than in telling us exactly how things will be in heaven.  But we are told that in heaven we will have resurrected bodies, much like the body of Jesus after he rose from the dead.  In 2 Timothy 2:18 the apostle Paul writes a strongly worded condemnation of those who would teach that the resurrection is past already.  That bodily resurrection will not occur until the return of Christ in glory for the final judgement.  Revelations 6:9 speaks of souls under the altar, waiting for the resurrection day.

Two Bible passages are often misinterpreted, giving rise to the thought of an immediate entrance into heaven.  One is in Luke 23:43, where Jesus said to the thief on the cross: “Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”  The other is the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, found in Luke 16:19-31.  Here the rich man awakes in “hell” and Lazarus in “Abraham’s bosom”.

It helps to understand that “Paradise” and “Abraham’s bosom” were terms commonly used by the Jews to describe the place where the righteous would await the end of the world and the bodily resurrection.  It was pictured as a beautiful and delightful garden, where nothing would disturb their peace.  The “hell” mentioned in Luke 16:23 is actually Hades, the place where sinners await the final judgement.  It is not the lake of fire and brimstone, yet appears to be a thoroughly unpleasant place.

Another clue that this is only a temporary arrangement is found in the possibility of communication between Hades and Abraham’s bosom, though the finality of the separation is already established.  It is hard to imagine that the saints in heaven will be in such proximity to the lake of fire and brimstone.

It appears from the protestations in Matthew 7:22-23 that there will be those in Hades who are convinced that a great injustice has been done to them.  They will say, “ Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?”  And Jesus will reply that they had not done those works at His bidding, by His Spirit or by His power, and deny ever having known them.

I now believe that this picture of a temporary wait in Paradise or Hades before the resurrection is what the Bible teaches.  This in no way detracts from the promise of heaven.  In fact it makes it more real.

I never did find the popular image of wraithlike saints floating on clouds and strumming harps really that attractive as a long term future.  This old body and this old earth will pass away, but the Bible promises a bodily existence in a place described as a new earth.  The heaven sketched in the Bible appears to have some resemblance to our present existence, with the absence of all that now causes pain and sorrow, and in the presence of our Lord and all the holy saints and angels.


In the hush of the silent midnight
Shall the cry of His coming be?
When the day of the Lord’s appearing
Shall flash over earth and sea?

Shall it be at the morning’s awaking
And the beams of the golden sun
Grow pale and be quenched forever
When his journey is just begun?

We know not, we dream not, the hour;
But we know that the time must be
When earth, with it’s clouds and shadows,
Will shrink, and tremble, and flee.

Will shrink to the deepest centre,
And render before His throne,
The Jewels the Lord will gather,
The Gems that He calls His own.

There, bright in heaven’s noonday splendour,
And robed like the dazzling snow,
The saints to their many mansions,
The chosen and blest, shall go.

And songs of angelic gladness
Be borne on celestial air
To welcome the mighty gathering,
The throng, that shall enter there.

And, oh! in that awful parting,
That day of unchanging doom,
When earth shall give up her millions,
And empty her every tomb,

May we find in the Judge a Saviour,
A Friend, whom we know and love,
And be bidden by Him to enter
The courts of His house above.

-Annie Louisa Walker Coghill (1836-1907)

Be Perfect

Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect . . . (1 Corinthians 2:6).
Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you (2 Corinthians 13:11).
That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works (2Timothy 3:17).

The Bible admonishes us to be perfect and seems to assume that a well-grounded Christian is perfect.  What was God thinking?  It is impossible for us to live without ever making an unkind remark when we are frustrated and impatient or without making even worse mistakes.

A little searching reveals that the original meaning of perfect, when speaking of things, is complete, or finished.  When speaking of people it means mature, adult, fully-grown.  But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil (Hebrews 5:14).  In the margin of the Cambridge Reference Bible “perfect” is given as an alternate reading for “of full age.”

I once spent a morning as an observer in a Montreal criminal court.  The first case involved a young couple, dressed hippy-style, who were charged with smashing a store window and stealing some items.  Their lawyer asked for a one week delay to give his clients time to make restitution, and then they would return and plead guilty.  I wish I could have observed what transpired the following week, but I suspect that if they followed through on those commitments they probably got off with a suspended sentence and a recommendation to “Go and sin no more”.

Next up was a young man charged with break and enter.  His lawyer portrayed his client as an innocent man who was led into this compromising situation by a friend.  The judge didn’t buy it.  The young man went to jail.

A perfect man is one who accepts responsibility for his own actions.  He makes mistakes, but does not try to blame them on others, on circumstances, on his upbringing, his temperament or psychological state of mind, or on any other excuse that may present itself as an escape route.

When we stand before the judge of all mankind, excuses and explanations will be of no value.  The perfect man is one who realizes this today and acts accordingly.

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