How God Judges

Q. I’ve known “Christians” whose behaviors do not measure up to what I expect of true believers. Are they saved? How will God judge?

A. I have written on related topics before, and refer you to previous posts:

I believe the key test of whether a person is truly saved is fruitfulness. The Lord expected fruit from the Jews:
Lk 13:6-7 And He began telling this parable: “A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’

And He expected it of His servants:
Mt 25:26-27 “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest.

However, unlike those who hold to “once saved always saved“, I do not believe one act of obedience once in a person’s life guarantees his/her salvation. Nor do I believe one act of disobedience cuts a person off from God’s grace, as the God of the Bible is:
Ex 34:6 The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness and truth;
God is a God of second chances, proven time and again throughout the Bible, but there is a limit and we should not presume on His forbearance.

As I explained in the article on “Principles of Judgment“, I believe God’s judgment is cumulative and based on obedience. That is, God looks at everything in the individual’s lifetime to determine whether he/she is truly obedient. Everything will be taken into account. Nothing will be overlooked. That’s why only God can judge whether your friend is a true believer or not, because only He knows all the thoughts, circumstances, considerations the person went through in acting the way he/she did. We see only the surface, like the tip of the iceberg, and are in no position to judge our fellow-men.

What if a wicked man repents or a righteous man turns bad? Then the principles in Ezekiel 18 apply:
Ezk 18:21-22 But if the wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed and observes all My statutes and practices justice and righteousness, he shall surely live; he shall not die. All his transgressions which he has committed will not be remembered against him; because of his righteousness which he has practiced, he will live.
• Ezk 18:24 But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity and does according to all the abominations that a wicked man does, will he live? All his righteous deeds which he has done will not be remembered for his treachery which he has committed and his sin which he has committed; for them he will die.

That’s why I believe it is the whole pattern of one’s life, not just single acts, that determine whether he lives or dies. God assesses all at the end, taking the beginning, the end, and everything in between into consideration. He bases everything on truth, according to what was done, and does not play favorites. That’s why He is fair and every mouth will be stopped.

One last thing. According to Jesus, our concern should be whether we are following Jesus, not what will happen to others, as all of us will have to give an account of ourselves to God.
Jn 21:21-22 So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!
• Rom 14:4 Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
• Rom 14:12 So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.

So focus on your own discipleship. Don’t to nosy about what happens to others except to help them.


God sanctioned Genocide?

Q. What’s all this violence in the Old Testament? How can God order the extermination of a whole race of people, slaughtering men, women and children without exception? He is worse than Hitler or Pol Pot!

A. Instead of sitting under God’s judgment, critics and skeptics sit in judgment of God, charging Him to be a moral monster who butchers innocent people. They accuse God of being an out-of-control despot, killing those who oppose Him indiscriminately. Is that what’s happening? Of course not, because the accusers do not know the facts and are just ranting their false allegations.

What does the Bible say?
Deut 20:17-18 But you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite and the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that they may not teach you to do according to all their detestable things which they have done for their gods, so that you would sin against the LORD your God.
On the surface God did command the Israelites to utterly destroy the nations around them. Why? So that the nations may not teach the Israelites to do all their detestable things they have done in their idolatry. What detestable things? Archeology tells us a lot about the evil practices in the nations’ pagan worship, but let me quote just two passages from Scripture to illustrate.

Lev 18:24-25 Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled. For the land has become defiled, therefore I have brought its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants.
God was punishing the nations who defiled themselves by doing all the detestable things by casting them out from the land. The list of “these things” is given in Lev 18:6-23, which includes:
• all forms of immoral sexual relations with blood relatives i.e. incest;
• adultery with neighbor’s wife;
• offering offspring to Molech as a whole burnt sacrifice;
• homosexuality;
• bestiality, among others.

The second example is in:
Deut 18:9-12 When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the LORD; and because of these detestable things the LORD your God will drive them out before you.
This again includes burning children and all forms of the occult. As such, God is just in punishing the nations for their grievous evil. If God doesn’t judge them, He would not be righteous.

But even in His righteous judgment God is slow in anger and abounding in loving-kindness, being very patient in giving time to repent:
Gen 15:16 Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.
As an example, the Amorites were allowed four generations before judgment finally struck, when God used the Israelites to execute judgment.

Some feel the men and women deserved to be punished, but children? What evil could they have done? I need to point out two things. First an analogy. In dealing with cancer, you need to remove all the cancer cells, not just some parts of it. Otherwise what’s left behind will kill you. There can be no leniency in leaving parts behind. The same is true in dealing with the depraved nations, which need to be totally removed.

Secondly, in destroying the children, God is actually showing mercy to them, because children who are under the age of accountability, who do not yet have the capacity to distinguish right from wrong, are accepted into God’s Kingdom by grace. They are born sinners and do not deserve heaven, but God is compassionate and gracious. He gives grace when the young children are not yet developed to such an extent that they know how to trust Him. I have written on the evidence for this in previous posts. Those interested can refer to:

So in conclusion I say “Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” (Gen 18:25) Don’t be so fast in condemning God, worry about how you will face Him as Judge instead.

Greater Gifts?

Q. In 1 Co 12, Paul went to great length in explaining there are different members of the body that God put together, especially giving honor to the weaker parts so there is no division. Each member is given different gifts as the Holy Spirit desires and is just as important. So we ought to be satisfied in playing the roles that we are given. If so, why is it all of a sudden in the last verse (v 31) he asks us to desire for the greater gifts? It almost implies that there are levels of greatness and importance in the gifts. On the one hand, we are to be satisfied with what our gifts are, but on the other hand, we are to desire and seek greater gifts?

A. There is no contradiction. On the one hand, the Church is one body, with many parts. To each one is given some gift by the Spirit for the common good (v 7), not personal glory. Notice the phrases:
• through the Spirit v 8,
• according to the same Spirit v 8,
• by the same Spirit v 9,
• by the one Spirit v 9,
• by one and the same Spirit v 11, and
• by the Spirit v 13,
a 6-fold repetition to emphasize that everything comes from the same Spirit who distributes to each one individually just as He wills (v 11). Accordingly there should be unity amongst members despite the diversity of gifts.

On the other hand, the Corinthians had mistakenly elevated tongues above prophesy, when in fact it should be the other way around:
1 Co 14:5 Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying
so Paul wrote to correct this error. The measure of the importance of a gift is the extent to which it builds up the church:
1 Co 14:12 So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church.
Tongues, unless interpreted, do not edify others, and is therefore inferior to prophesy which edifies everyone:
1 Co 14:19 however, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also (i.e. prophesy), rather than ten thousand words in a tongue.

Is there a priority ranking to all the gifts? Yes and no.
1 Co 12:28 And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.
• 1 Co 14:1 Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.
• 1 Co 14:39 Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues.

Note that apostles, prophets and teachers are also gifts, or gifted men, that God gave to the church. Yes, there is a ranking as indicated by first, second and third, and some extend that ranking (fourth, fifth, sixth etc.) further to other gifts, but the latter is not part of the text, only an extrapolation by commentators. No because the ranking is not given for all gifts, only some. I would restrict myself to what’s given in the text, no more, no less, and estimate the relative importance by how much a gift edifies the church.

We are to be satisfied with what gifts we have, because they are sovereignly given by the Spirit:
1 Co 12:11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.
We are also to earnestly desire the greater gifts (1 Co 12:31), so that the church will be edified. There is no contradiction.


Q. 1 Corinthians 2:15 But he that is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. What does “judged of no man” mean? Is seems to be talking about the infallibility of clergy or the Catholic theory. It does not make any sense with Acts 17:11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

A. It is not talking about infallibility. The word “infallible” appears only once in the Bible:
Acts 1:3 to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. (NKJV)

It means:
• that from which something is surely and plainly known,
• on unquestionable evidence, impossible to doubt.

Only God and His word are infallible in the sense of “incapable of being wrong, unable to err”. Paul knew he was a sinner, and even claimed to be chief:
1 Tim 1:15 It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.
By definition sinners are wrong and cannot be infallible. For any human to claim infallibility is foolishness.

As always, the meaning is determined by the context. The whole chapter 2 of 1 Co is talking about Paul’s reliance on the Spirit. In particular, the immediate context is 1 Co 2:14-16 (NASB):
14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.
• 15 But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one.
• 16 For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ.

The natural man, the man who does not know God cannot understand spiritual things, because they must be spiritually evaluated or discerned with the mind of Christ. A spiritual person, one who is controlled by the Spirit, is able to judge all things, yet no one (the unbeliever) can understand him.

Let me quote from a few paraphrases to make it clearer:
AMPLIFIED BIBLE But the spiritual man [the spiritually mature Christian] judges all things [questions, examines and applies what the Holy Spirit reveals], yet is himself judged by no one [the unbeliever cannot judge and understand the believer’s spiritual nature].
• THE MESSAGE The unspiritual self, just as it is by nature, can’t receive the gifts of God’s Spirit. There’s no capacity for them. They seem like so much silliness. Spirit can be known only by spirit—God’s Spirit and our spirits in open communion. Spiritually alive, we have access to everything God’s Spirit is doing, and can’t be judged by unspiritual critics.
• PHILLIP’S NT But the unspiritual man simply cannot accept the matters which the Spirit deals with—they just don’t make sense to him, for, after all, you must be spiritual to see spiritual things. The spiritual man, on the other hand, has an insight into the meaning of everything, though his insight may baffle the man of the world.

Hope this helps.