GOD WILL REPAY ALL . . . . The good, the bad and the in-between

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God,and I hope it is also plain to your conscience.” (Reference: 2 Corinthians 5:10-11 )

Just as the writer of the gospels and epistles believed, the historic Anabaptists believed that the time of judgment would be coming soon. And if that was coming soon, then all who wished to repent should do so quickly. Jan Wouterss encouraged his accusers to make themselves right with God before the time of judgment. The irony is that his accusers thought it were people such as Wouterss and other historic Anabaptists who were living wrongly.

Wouterss said, “If I must innocently suffer for this unadulterated faith, I can think, that my Lord Jesus Christ, whose servant, I poor, sinful man am, fared no better at the hands of the authorities of that day and this through the instigation of the learned. O my honorable lords, repent, amend your ways and your doings. Jer. 7:3. And I also proclaim repentance of all my lords still living, who are guilty of the innocent blood of Joris de Ve, [Joris Wippe, who was put to death 1558] who shall soon come forth, shining in God’s glory, with great joy. For the day of the Supreme Judge is at the door: this is apparent from the pestilence, dearth, rumors of wars, and many other signs. O my honorable lords, be cordially warned of the evil which is to come upon you, for it is done out of love and friendship, and not through bitterness, for beyond doubt, we must all appear before the Supreme Judge; there every one shall give account of himself, and receive according to that he hath done; there excuses or regrets will not avail. Rom. 14:12; 2 Cor. 5:10. Oh, reflect; it will soon come to pass, and none can escape it.”

There is an authenticity in Wouterss statement that is compelling. He stakes his sincerity on the fact that all will be judged by God, and if his motivations in encouraging his accusers were not pure, he will be judge by God in that regard. And this resonates deep within me. How we spread God’s word and the attitude/motivation we have to spread God’s word is just as subject to scrutiny and judgment as how we life and organize our own lives. It is no wonder we need the support and intervention of the Holy Spirit to live well and wisely!

May you beloved live your life such that the judgment and scrutiny of God will bare witness to your to dedication to a Godly life. Selah!

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CONVICTED . . . After being judged

Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” (Reference: Jude 1:14-15 )

It would be helpful I think to establish the context of who “these men” were that the writer of Jude was talking about. Adversaries of God and those who did not truly/rightly belief in God had sneaked into the faith group that the writer of Jude was addressing. And the writer of Jude was warning the faith group that people had used “the grace of our God” (verse 4b ERV ) to commit sin. It was these people that he says Enoch was prophesying about. This historic Anabaptists took this as a warning that sinners would not escape judgment. In fact there would be many – more than enough – to judge all the sinners. The implication is clear – would you want to be found a sinner by “thousands upon thousands of . . holy ones”? Imagine beloved if someone would sit down and meticulously go through your life trying each act and word that was ungodly? Do you really think you would be found completely innocent?

But as I sit back and consider this verse, I have to wonder how the writer of Jude knew that the faith group he was writing to had been infiltrated in this way. Let’s say for arguments sake that he did not know for a certainty that they had, but rather was warning that if they had, these ungodly people would be found out. Or more likely, the writer of Jude had heard of problems and troubles, and concluding that false teachers/preachers/believers were causing the problems, and was warning them that they would be discovered.

I think, beloved, this is a verse that would tend to reassure the faithful believer as opposed to alarming him or her. At least that is how I am interpreting it. And this being the last passage focused on the theme of “Judgment”, I think it pleasant to end with a reassurance that God knows who is faithful and who is not. And that those who are not faithful will not escape judgment but will be subject to close scrutiny. May this bring you comfort and assurance that our Lord God is an able defender of the faith and faithful. Selah!

JUDGMENT . . . Applied to all humanity and for all time

They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit. “ (Reference: 1 Peter 4:4-6 )

This is sort of a hard verse to parse out, The writer of 1 Peter is taking great care to emphasis that both the living and the dead will be judged. There are several possible reasons that the writer is so carefully noting this. And since the faith communities that he is writing to were anticipating Christ’s return soon, and the judgment that would come, the theology expressed in this verse might be different than the one or ones we are more familiar with. So I am taking “tiny steps” in examining the theology. The Easy-to-Read Version puts verse six like this, “Some were told the Good News before they died. They were criticized by others in their life here on earth. But it was God’s plan that they hear the Good News so that they could have a new life through the Spirit.” So this makes it clear that, according to the writer of 1 Peter, those who have already died will be judged just like those who are, or more precisely, were then alive.

But still, I was not satisfied that I had seen this passage from all the possible angles. So I consulted Barnes. And his answer satisfied me. I am excerpting him at length. If you do not want to read through all of it, meet me at the end.

“Many, as Doddridge, Whitby, and others, understand this of those who are spiritually dead, that is, the Gentiles, and suppose that the object for which this was done was that “they might be brought to such a state of life as their carnal neighbors would look upon as a kind of condemnation and death” – Doddridge. Others have supposed that it refers to those who had suffered martyrdom in the cause of Christianity; others, that it refers to the sinners of the old world (Saurin), expressing a hope that some of them might be saved; and others, that it means that the Saviour went down and preached to those who are dead, in accordance with one of the interpretations given of 1 Peter 3:19. It seems to me that the most natural and obvious interpretation is to refer it to those who were then dead, to whom the gospel had been preached when living, and who had become true Christians. This is the interpretation proposed by Wetstein, Rosenmuller, Bloomfield, and others. In support of this it may be said:

(1) that this is the natural and obvious meaning of the word dead, which should be understood literally, unless there is some good reason in the connection for departing from the common meaning of the word.

(2) the apostle had just used the word in that sense in the previous verse.

(3) this will suit the connection, and accord with the design of the apostle. He was addressing those who were suffering persecution. It was natural, in such a connection, to refer to those who had died in the faith, and to show, for their encouragement, that though they had been put to death, yet they still lived to God. He therefore says, that the design in publishing the gospel to them was, that though they might be judged by people in the usual manner, and put to death, yet that in respect to their higher and nobler nature, the spirit, they might live unto God. It was not uncommon nor unnatural for the apostles, in writing to those who were suffering persecution, to refer to those who had been removed by death, and to make their condition and example an argument for fidelity and perseverance.”

I had thought perhaps that the writer of 1 Peter did mean “spiritually dead” but Barnes makes a good case for just plan having passed away. Or perhaps those who had passed away long ago, in the “before the gospel” time. And adjacent to that interpretation is that Christ went “down” to preach to those who died. But again, that did not seem right. No, I think Barnes has the best explanation and solid proof.

What then of us? It seems, beloved, living or dead we do not escape judgment. And more importantly what we believe alive will have great consequences when we have died. And as the Easy-to-Red Version points out, criticism that is received when one is alive pales in comparison to criticism by the God who judges after we have died!

We have heard/read several theories and versions of judgment – from “light judgment” that is tempered by mercy to heavy judgment that is unavoidable and comes with great consequences. It may be hard to know what type of judgment we should anticipate and prepare for. The solution, beloved, is easy. Live your life according to God’s agenda and direction, not any other. Then the judgment that comes will be merely a portal to what is beyond. Selah!

JUDGMENT . . . And the “antidote”

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (Reference: James 2:12-13 )

I took some time, and did some research, to understand these verses. The writer of James is not as clear in some translations/versions as he is in other. Anticipate that the law by which you will be judged is a law that has mercy in it – you can feel safe and assured when you are judged by that law. But if you have not shown mercy to others, mercy will not be shown to you. If you want mercy, show mercy. Mercy will triumph over any judgment, but where there is not mercy, judgment (and that judgment may well be harsh) will prevail.

The historic Anabaptists, naturally, felt they were worthy of the judgment that is softened by mercy for did they not show mercy!? (And I would ask of them, if I could, did you show mercy to ALL people?) And when they were judged harshly – and they were by the oppressors, accusers, and persecutors – they reacted strongly to it. Urich Stadler wrote to/about the authorities who were persecuting the Hutterites who lived there, “So far you have always dealt crookedly with us. You have continually threatened to divide and scatter us as if we were prisoners you have captured in battle or criminals under arrest or slaves you have bought. You have not only threatened to do these things but have actually done them to us. You were not willing to search your hearts and humbly consider that God, the protector of widows and orphans, knows how unjustly you are dealing with his poor, exiled children. Yes, in very truth, God the Lord, the righteous Judge, will bring upon each man’s head whatever he did in this world, be it good or evil, for on the day of judgment it will be clearly shown to all. Strict judgment without mercy will be passed on everyone who has not been merciful to his neighbor in this world. [James 2:13]”

One must take, however, in reading and applying this passage. The writer of James does not mean that all types of sin will be forgiven if you have shown mercy. In fact, quite the contrary! The verses preceding verse 12 & 13 deal with the issues of partiality, and not fulfilling both the letter and the spirit of the law. The emphasis is to keep all parts of the law, and to show mercy to others. While many translations/versions interpret the word as “mercy” I am thinking that mercy here is not just forbearance that would soften judgment, but compassion and care that would dissolve harsh judgment away.

So in fact, historic Anabaptist Stadler is not asking too much of the “authorities in Poland” but too little! In fact it could be a question posed to all of the authorities of that time – “Why are you persecuting those who are actually fellow believers?” But beloved, the question can be turned and be applied to the present times – why are some contemporary Christians being so harsh and judgmental, seeming to be without mercy? They are NOT, beloved, upholding God’s law! And where they are without mercy, there will be judgment brought against them!

And how vehement am I about that, beloved?! I know and see the paradox. It is not vehemence, but sorrow I feel. Those who are persecuted and those who persecute equally have my sorrow and concern. We must all make sure we are not pulled into the vortex of hating the haters.

May you, beloved, show mercy at every opportunity, and where you think there should be judgment show mercy instead. And may mercy be shown to you! Selah!

JUDGMENT . . . Paul speaks to it and other things

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction. “ (Reference: 2 Timothy 4:1-2 )

The first time I read this verse through, beloved, I did not pick up on where the “judge” part was. It took me by surprise that it was in the description of God and Christ Jesus because of the way I read Pauline writing. Paul is all about living wisely and well in the light of the revelation given by God and Jesus Christ. (Thank you Daniel Schipani & Jake Elias for your insights.) So if the description of God and Christ Jesus is the reason for highlighting this verse, it is an injustice to Paul. I may take Paul to task at times (one polite guffaw will do!) but I try to be fair when reading and using what he wrote. The focus of this verse, I think, is the “charge” or instruction he is giving Timothy in this second letter. You see, Paul would wax poetic about who God is and what God does, but the real meat of his letters is what we should do.

Menno Simons referenced as part of his statement of faith. He said, “I believe and confess that [Christ] was thus, without any doubt, that same flesh which had its origin in the Holy Spirit, born of the seed of the tribe of David and Abraham. Matt. 1:20. He was said to be born of a woman, under the law (Gal. 4:4), circumcised the eighth day, obedient unto His parents, increasing in all wisdom, in age and in grace before God and man. Luke 2:40. This same man, Christ Jesus, preached, was crucified, died, and was buried. He arose and ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Almighty Father, according to the testimony of all Scripture. From thence He will come to judge the sheep and the goats, the good and the evil, the living and the dead. 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Tim. 4:1.” While we have read in the past days about judgments, and who and how it is to be done, for the most part any lasting and consequential judgment will be done by God and Christ.

But what about the rest of the verse? Can we or should we just ignore that? Is it not an important thing to take note of? And if not, why would Paul include it? The answer is, as I stated above, the description of God and Jesus Christ is just Paul’s opening to what he really wants Timothy (and the reader) to know and do, especially in light of the fact that God and Christ Jesus will be evaluating the living and the dead. First, preach. Spread God’s word, tell of Christ Jesus’ life. Tell people because it is important! Second, be ready. For any and everything. Both God’s continued blessing and instruction, and Christ’s return. Be ready to live your life for God, but be prepared for the judgment that will come at the end of all things. Third, teach. Teach what you have learned and what God has told you. Help people to know what it is they should do and support them in doing that. Recognize when someone has gotten lost or gone astray, and lead them back to God and right living. But more over, do this carefully, gently, and prayerfully asking God and the Spirit’s guidance and wisdom.

Beloved, may the God who was God to Paul be with you this day and the days to follow preparing you for the final judgment, and inspiring you to minister to others. Selah!

JUDGMENT . . . The Right Honorable . . . Us?

Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!” (Reference: 1 Corinthians 6:2-3 )

The historic Anabaptists believed that to die a martyr’s death was to be confirmed as a saint. Now I am not looking for a show of hands, but if you would be willing to die for your faith, that would make you a saint too, according to the historic Anabaptists. It is a pretty heady feeling to realize that one be the stuff of saints! And if a saint, then a judge of the world. But what might than mean?

I consulted with Albert Barnes, and his interpretation is that the saints will have an acute and accurate sense of what is right and wrong; for they have lived rightly their entire lives and so are qualified to know what is right, and know what is wrong and condemnable behavior. It is not that we (are who are saints) will pass judge but they will see, know, and approve of the correct that is passed by Christ or God.

Now the writer of 1 Corinthians did not make this statement to establish leaders or judges. What he was saying to the Corinthians is that if there is a dispute or need for a legal action amongst the believers, they should not take it to a secular where a non-believer would decide the matter. Instead they should use the wisdom they have amongst them as believers to decide that matter. Once seen in this context, the application that the historic Anabaptists made of this verse does not seem to ring true – a “judgment” made myself, an “apprentice saint” or a saint-in-training.

But it is true, beloved, that when there is a dispute amongst fellow believers the matter should and can be decided amongst them. One would ask though, why fellow believers would dispute one another? It is, I guess, human nature.

May you beloved have good and sound judgments on all matters, large and small, and may God be your first and only appeal to what is best to do. Selah!

JUDGMENT . . . The difference between the spiritual person and the non-spiritual.

The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment. “ (Reference: 1 Corinthians 2:15 )

I had thought I would need to say something about this verse, and was pleased to since it is so short. Spiritual men and women do not judge each other, but accept each other. Each person had determined in their heart and with God what is Godly & spiritual wisdom and what is not. Thus determined they live out their live and allow others to live, sharing together in what is their common belief and worship. One who does not claim spirituality for themselves has no place in judging what is spiritual for their heart, soul, and mind have not been informed on spirituality.

But as has been my custom since the beginning of the year, I checked to see what was said by the historic Anabaptist for this day. It was Jacques D’Auchy. And to my delight the conversation reported between his accuser and himself illustrated precisely what I ended up saying. He reported the following:

On Friday afternoon, the 14th of January 1558, I was again brought before the inquisitor. I appeared before him, and he saluted me cheerfully, for, as much as I could perceive, wine had made him very merry; he brought no books with him. After we had exchanged a few words with each other, he said to me: “Jacques, the reason why I have come here, is simply to learn your decision: for I will no more dispute with you about the articles of faith, such as the mass, confession, indulgences, purgatory, and invocation of the saints, or other ordinances of our mother the holy church.” Jac. “My lord, I am well satisfied; I also do not seek to dispute, but simply to believe what we are bound to believe, as far as the articles of faith are concerned.” Inq. “Yes, we have not much to do with disputing; for Paul says: ‘A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, avoid.’” Titus 3:10. Jac. “My lord, how can you reprove me for heresy, seeing you have not yet convicted me of being a heretic.” Inq. “Not? Are you not a heretic, since you contradict the Christ faith?” Jac. “I do not contradict the faith, for all my purpose tends to it; but you take one view of the Scriptures, and I another, and no one can judge which is right, and which is wrong, except spiritual men through the Spirit of God.” 1 Cor. 2:15. He laughingly asked me: “Have you the Spirit of God?” Jac. “My lord, you must not ask me this in jest; for I do not boast of it; nevertheless, I trust through the grace of God, that I am not actuated by the spirit of Satan.”

I could have, I suppose, just used what he said and add nothing to it. It would stand alone as a good testament and illustration. But I wanted to you to know clearly, beloved, what I felt this verse was saying. It is important to understand how a spiritual person perceives this verse. I do not claim any great biblical or theological knowledge. But what I do know is spirituality and the living out of faith. I may not do it perfectly – I do not believe anyone can. But what I can do is explain spirituality, its intent, purpose and practice. I do so for you beloved.

May you live out your spirituality, beloved, as God may lead you. And may you support others as they live out the spirituality that they have been called to. Selah!