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We Shall Judge Angels (Morning Companion)
Corinthian church was a piece of work. This cosmopolitan city bred a
talented crew, but they were also a cantankerous bunch. Church member
sued church member in courts of law, and naturally, Paul felt the need
to admonish them. “If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he
take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints?”
(I Cor. 6:1)
After that he says something very intriguing, almost as
if we should already understand it. “Do you not know that we will judge
angels?” (verse 3)
What did he mean by this?
A judge sits in a
court of law, judges the innocence or guilt of a party based on the
evidence and the law, and then pronounces a sentence on a guilty party.
Did Paul really mean that we are to judge angels?
This begins to make
sense if we realize that some angels do need judging. The world beyond
the physical has some strange goings on, a good deal of which is on the
Dark Side. Scripture and tradition from many religions, not just the
Judeo-Christian ones, speak of these forces, and some even openly
worship them. Much of the evil in the world can be traced at its root to
the influences of the gods of this world. They need judging.
brings us to the question that some amateur and not-so-amateur
theologians have bandied about: what will be the fate of such demons? We
know that at the return of Christ these spiritual entities will be
dealt with (Luke 7:31, Revelation 20:1-10). But people disagree on what
that fate might be.
Some, quoting Ezekiel 28, claim that Satan will
be destroyed. “I threw you to the earth. I made you a spectacle before
kings. By your many sins and dishonest trade you have desecrated your
sanctuaries. So I made fire come out from you, and it consumed you, and I
reduced you to ashes on the ground in the sight of all who were
watching”. (Ezekiel 28: 17-18)
Others, looking to Jude, say they will
be banished to the outer reaches of the universe, in exile forever.
“And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but
abandoned their own home – these he has kept in darkness, bound with
everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day … They are wild waves
of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars for whom blackest
darkness is reserved forever.” (Jude 6,8)
Some would consider this to be an even more excruciating punishment than annihilation.
This brings us back to Paul’s enigmatic statement to the Corinthians: “Do you not know that we will judge angels?”
let me put a third theory on the table. Maybe the final fate of these
angels – these fallen angels – will be annihilation, or maybe it will be
banishment forever. Or maybe, just maybe, the final decision is yet to
be made, because it is we who will judge these angels. Maybe their fate
will be in our hands. Maybe we will get to decide.
Salvation: Process or Providence? (Sabbath Meditations)
few months ago I was visiting a long-time friend and we became engaged
in one of those animated theological discussions, where you sit on the
edge of your chair, leaning forward, red in the face, gesturing wildly
at the beginning of every sentence, while your spouse glances around the
room at anyone who may be within earshot and apologetically rolls her
Pausing briefly after having exhausted our brain cells on one
topic...I can't remember which one....probably something deep and
weighty like the identity of the two witnesses or the suitability of
Petra as a ‘place of safety’, I attempted to launch the conversation in a
new direction. I asked my friend, “So, how would you describe the
process of salvation?”
He thought for a moment and then responded:
“The process of salvation is analogous to climbing a cliff. Upon
conversion, we stand at the bottom of a high cliff. We’ll call it the
cliff of perfection. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we begin to
climb. We struggle and we strive throughout our Christian life to make
it to the top. At the end of our life, or at Jesus’s return, whichever
comes first, whatever distance we haven’t yet managed to climb, God, in
His grace, reaches down and grabs our hand and hoists us the rest of the
distance to the top.”
I was impressed. It was a compelling analogy.
One that I, at one time in my life, would have whole-heartedly endorsed.
It deftly attempts to balance the tension between the Christian’s
responsibility to obey the law and the role that God’s grace plays in
But there was something about my friend’s analogy that,
for me, didn't ring true. Something about the premise that, though I
couldn't quite put my finger on at the moment, struck me as flawed. So
rather than launch into a dissertation of the ten reasons why I did or
did not agree, I simply responded, “Hmmm, interesting. I'll have to
think about that,” and then stared blankly at the wall in front of me.
I’m sure cutting our discussion short spared my wife the necessity of
rolling her eyes a few more times, but I left
In the weeks and months since then I’ve
spent a lot of time pondering my friend’s analogy and what it was about
it that bothered me. I now have some definite thoughts on the subject.
Unfortunately, it’s too late to go back to my friend and pick up our
conversation where we left off. He lives about 2,000 miles away. That
moment has passed. So I’ve done one better. I’ve put my thoughts on this
topic in writing so that my friend, and you, can have the pleasure, or,
depending on your perspective, the frustration, of pondering these
things along with me. Or, maybe, just roll your eyes. Either way, here
With regard to salvation, it’s my conviction that scripture makes two clear pronouncements.
Salvation is not something to be achieved; it’s something to be accepted.
Salvation is the starting point, not the ending point, of our Christian journey.
abundance of scripture tells us that, no matter how great the effort,
we cannot achieve salvation. Isaiah 64:6 tells us “All our righteousness
are as filthy rags.” Romans 3:10 says “There is none righteous, no not
one…” Psalms 39:5 reads “…every man at his best state is vapor.”
would be easy to dismiss these as statements about non-Christians who
don’t have the Holy Spirit working in them, except for the fact that
even Paul, who no one can argue was led by the Spirit, said the
following in Romans 7: “For I delight in the law of God according to the
inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the
law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which
is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from
this body of death?”
Paul is saying that, even though he delighted in
keeping the law, he had to acknowledge his complete inability to do so.
He acknowledged that he was, even with his best effort, even with the
Holy Spirit having changed His heart and mind, still a wretched sinner.
In short, he acknowledged his inability to climb the cliff.
certainly thankful that Paul didn’t leave us hanging (pardon the pun).
He goes on to share where his assurance of salvation came from. Romans
7:25 “I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I
myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.”
he didn’t say, “I thank God – through my effort and Jesus Christ.” No,
he said “I thank God – through Jesus Christ!” He, not I, gets all of the
glory for saving me. I deserve none of it.
Does that mean that Paul
didn’t try to climb the cliff at all? Of course it doesn’t. Paul loved
the law. He wrote a great deal about running the race, fighting against
the flesh. But he had no misconception that his effort contributed one
iota to the work Jesus Christ was doing in Him. That work was not his to
achieve, only to accept.
So why then did Paul bother striving
against sin? Well, that question leads to what I believe is the second
great pronouncement of scripture regarding salvation. That is: Salvation
is the starting point, not the ending point, of our Christian journey.
As I see it, the formula for salvation according to scripture is not:
Believe --> strive to become like Christ --> receive salvation
Believe –> receive salvation –> strive to become like Christ
Romans 10:9-11 “...that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus
and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you
will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and
with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture
says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”
Salvation: Titus 3:4-7 “But when the kindness and the love of God our
Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have
done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of
regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, which He poured out on us
abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified
by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal
life.” (See also 2 Timothy 1:9–10; Ephesians 2:8–9)
Strive to become
like Christ: Romans 5:17–21 “For if by the one man’s offense death
reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace
and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One,
Jesus Christ.)…so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might
reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our
Continuing in Romans 6:11-14, “Likewise you also, reckon
yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus
our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you
should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as
instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as
being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of
righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you
are not under law but under grace.”
These scriptures and many others
seem to confirm that our desire to obey is a response to salvation, not
an incentive to work for it. Our Christian walk is spent striving to
become what we already are in Christ Jesus.
1 Corinthians 1:30-31
tells us: “But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom
from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—that, as it
is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord’.”
operative word: ‘became’. Jesus Christ became our righteousness. He
became our redemption. I can’t imagine how much clearer it could be, can
you? We don’t climb 80% of the cliff, only to have Him help us with the
last 20%. Our contribution to our salvation doesn’t even measure up to
.00001%, so far are His ways above our ways. He is responsible 100% for
our salvation. His life in us, His righteousness imputed to us, makes us
worthy to be on top of the cliff with Him.
Ephesians 2:4-10 “But
God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved
us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with
Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and
made us (past tense - upon our conversion) sit together in the heavenly
places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the
exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of
yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should
boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good
works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
is not something we attain at some future date, but, spiritually
speaking, it's ours, right now. Spiritually speaking, through faith in
Jesus' sacrifice, we sit in heavenly places with Him. Salvation is ours.
Membership in the Family is ours. It’s the starting point, not the
ending point, of our Christian journey. He has placed us on the top of
So now, when the Father looks at you and me, he doesn’t
see us. He doesn’t see our sin. He sees His Son. Romans 8:1 tells us
that, before God, those who are in Christ Jesus are without
condemnation. We are worthy, now, at this moment, of the gift of
salvation, because His righteousness in us has made it so.
receive that gift in all its fullness until the resurrection, when our
bodies are converted. So in that sense, I guess it could be said there
is a process involved. There are stages to how salvation is ultimately
realized. But the fact that we can't yet walk through walls in no way
negates the fact that salvation is ours. No one would argue that a son
who has been granted an inheritance is not really a son until he has it
in his hands. He can choose not to receive it. He can reject it, but as
long as he remains, it’s His, whether it’s in the bank or in his hands.
The same is true of us. We are sons. We are in the Family. Our
inheritance is in the bank.
“But wait a minute,” someone may protest,
“What about scriptures that seem to clearly tell us our effort does
contribute to our salvation? Doesn’t Philippians 2:12 tell us to ‘Work
out your own salvation with fear in trembling’?” Of course. However, you
must understand what that means in the light of the verse that
immediately follows: “...for it is God who works in you both to will and
to do for His good pleasure.”
“But what of the many passages that
proclaim ‘He who overcomes’?” They too must be understood in the context
of Revelation 12:11 which reads, “and they overcame by the blood of the
“Surely,” it might be argued, “you must concede the
importance of our effort revealed in Matthew 24:13, where Jesus teaches,
‘He who endures to the end will be saved’.” Certainly, but to get the
full picture you have to couple that verse with Paul’s words in Hebrews
12:2, “looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for
the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame,
and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
He is the
Author, the Beginning, and the Finisher, the Ending, of our faith. He is
our endurance. He will finish it for us. We can reject Him, but as long
as we remain in relationship with Him, the end is not in question.
there are those who might continue to take exception: “If salvation is
already ours, where then is the incentive to obey?” It’s a fair
question, but one that, if we think objectively, has an obvious answer.
Why do we assume that incentive is something the Christian needs? Is not
a Christian by definition someone in whom the Holy Spirit dwells? The
individual who has truly accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior
will have a changed heart, correct? Would not an individual who has
truly accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior, in whom has been put
a new heart, want to obey, even if he can never do so perfectly, even
if he is completely unable to climb the cliff himself? And wouldn’t this
new man, having had his mind renewed by the indwelling of the Holy
Spirit, be compelled by that Spirit to desire to become like his Savior?
So then, if the heart of this new man is not motivated by a desire to
become like Christ, and the pattern of his life has not become one of
working, overcoming and enduring, isn’t it doubtful that he ever really
repented and accepted Jesus as his Savior in the first place? Isn’t he
by definition still unconverted?
So, what difference does it make how we understand how salvation is obtained?
Answer: It doesn’t...and, at the same time...it makes all the difference in the world.
Huh? No difference?
changes about what we do. We still strive to obey. We still love God’s
law with all of our heart, all our mind and all our soul. We still
strive to become like Christ. That goal is in no way diminished.
All the difference in the world?
Though it doesn’t change the what, it has huge implications for the why.
one, it changes the dynamic of our relationship with God. It moves us
from a place of obedience based on compulsion, on fear of not measuring
up, to an obedience based on love, on desire to be like Him.
it takes the focus off us and puts it squarely onto whom it belongs,
God the Father and Jesus Christ. They, not we, get the glory for
anything and everything they are accomplishing in us.
levels the playing field of comparison between brethren in Christ. It
confirms that each of us are not 5%, not 20%, but 100% dependent on His
grace and mercy. We recognize, like Paul, that we are all sold under
sin. None of us has reason to exalt ourselves above our brethren. That
truth drives us to our knees, where we, like Paul, exclaim daily, “O
wretched man that I am, who shall save me from the body of this death?”
To which, we boldly and confidently reply, “I thank God through Jesus
Christ our Lord…” He has done it in me. I am saved, not by the process
of my effort, but by the strong hand of His providence.
And carried in those strong hands, no cliff is too high.
Salvation Isn't Easy (First Century Christianity)
many times have we heard that all we need to do to be saved is to
accept Jesus and that our works are filthy rags? It’s countless, isn’t
it? But let’s take a look at some verses that don’t mesh with that
For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of
God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those
who do not obey the gospel of God? AND IF IT IS WITH DIFFICULTY THAT THE
RIGHTEOUS IS SAVED, WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE GODLESS MAN AND THE SINNER?
Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall
entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right. 1
I really like Peter. He’s a blue-collar kind of guy who
has made his share of mistakes. He even had the privilege of being
rebuked by Yeshua in person. Peter doesn’t mince words, either, as his
sermon on the Pentecost when the Spirit came is very short and very
direct. No beating around the bush with this guy. And he says some stuff
here that is pretty difficult for a lot of Christian denominations to
The first is that the household of God is being judged.
Most folks are taught that believers are not judged at all! The second
is that it is outright hard for the righteous to be saved. Cue the
‘needle scratching the LP’ noise; I thought there were none righteous?
How can this be? Peter is telling us that not only are we judged but
that even righteous people, those who live properly and fear Yahweh,
still have to strive to be saved. Those are some sobering words right
Next up is James the brother of Yeshua.
For whoever keeps
the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of
all. For He who said, “DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY,” also said, “DO NOT
COMMIT MURDER.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder,
you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those
who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be
merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.
What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no
works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without
clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in
peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is
necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no
works, is dead, being by itself. James 2:10-17
James clearly states
here that faith without works is death. Permanent death, not the
temporary first death we all experience. He starts by saying whoever
keeps the whole law and stumbles is guilty, which sounds like keeping
the law is somehow obsolete, but he goes on to explain that pure faith
without works is nothing. If we keep reading, we see that even the
demons have faith. They know they were created and by whom. They know
who Yeshua is, too. But their works condemn them, just like it will a
great many on the great and terrible day of the Lord.
Now what about
Paul? What does he have to say about works? He is, after all, the one
who supposedly told us that Torah is obsolete and those bothersome Old
Testament rules are obsolete, right?
More than that, I count all
things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ
Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and
count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in
Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that
which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from
God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His
resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to
His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but
I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid
hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid
hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and
reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the
prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Phi 3: 8-14
Paul writes that he had to strive for salvation, working towards a goal
and forgetting what was behind him. Yes, this is shocking information!
brothers and sisters, we have to strive every day to achieve a better
resurrection. We have been called out of the world and have to work to
keep ourselves out. We have to constantly fight temptation and grow in
knowledge. That growth tends to condemn us, as the more we learn, the
more we are liable for. So let’s all strive together, encouraging one
another, as we focus on the goal of Yeshua the Messiah!
Small is Beautiful (New Horizons)
churches, it would seem, are caught in a complex web of bureaucratic entanglement. Endless committees. Sheets of bye-laws. Conferences.
Budgets. Accountants. Salary structures.
And the bigger the church the
more complexity. Why?
The answer lies in the definition of
‘church’, defined as a ‘denomination’. If ‘church’ is an organized group
of tens or hundreds or thousands of associated assemblies, all
answerable to a central bureaucracy - then that complexity might be a
requirement. You don’t need to look far to find examples. And given
that any activity - religious services, evangelism, stipends etc - needs
a degree of finance, it’s clear that bigger means more: more money,
more personnel, more admin. And less to support the essential work of
Assume, on the other hand, that a ‘church’ is a unit - a
single local assembly, serving a defined area and co-operating willingly
with other local area assemblies. (You will find this is the New
Testament pattern of church governance.) It is small. It is not burdened
with paper-work or pages of bye-laws or committees or salary scales or
pensions. It is adaptable to local culture and needs, and language.
portrayed by the churches of Revelation chapters 2 & 3, each
assembly is individually monitored by the Head of the church, Jesus -
the leadership being directly accountable to Him for the health and
welfare of his congregation. Any necessary administration is the
responsibility of a diaconate.
Such a structure is not a barrier to
‘acting big’. If all such local churches of like-mind were to co-operate,
more impact could be made - locally and even globally. Inter-dependent,
in other words.
In reality, denominations are self-protective,
carefully guarding their own turf and excluding such co-operation, the
leadership remote from the brethren. It is time for the leadership and
brethren to re-think priorities.
The Fullness of Christ (Children of God)
seems to be a widely held view within the Churches of God that is not
very far removed from the Protestant’s erroneous belief, ‘Once saved –
always saved’. In the Church of God the belief goes something like this,
“I was baptized and converted, and I go to church every Sabbath - I’ll
be in the Kingdom of God.”
That is not the way it works. Going to
church services is not enough! Certainly, with our repentance, faith and
baptism, a conversion ensues that places us within the body of Christ,
and makes us children of God. Yes, that places us in the Church of Jesus
Christ. We are justified and the righteousness of Jesus Christ is
imparted to us. But that is not the end of our spiritual journey - there
is much more to it.
The Scriptures speak of a process variously
described as sanctification, holiness, going on to perfection, growing
in grace and knowledge, and being filled with the fullness of God. It
has not been emphasized enough in our traditional narrative. We
understand that on the day we were baptized we were placed into the Body
of Christ - but we must go on to perfection through the process of
sanctification, being set apart, or made holy. To what extent do we
strive to attain to the perfection or holiness of Christ?
all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of
God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness
of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13)
Sanctification must be sought after and
worked toward all of our natural lives. After baptism, we are to become
a new creation in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). We are to become
like Jesus, and like God the Father.
“For this cause I bow my knees
unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in
heaven and earth is named, That He would grant you, according to the
riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the
inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being
rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints
what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the
love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that ye might be filled with all
the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:14-19)
It is this “inner man”
that must continue to grow to the fullness of Christ through the process
of sanctification. Simply going to church services week after week and
year after year will never suffice.
Loyalty to God and His Truth must
be the central theme for members of God’s Church today. It now falls to
all of us, as brethren, to take up the mantle of true Christianity. So
many prominent leaders have not done so. There exists a morbid state of
self-satisfaction of ‘having it made’, in many of the groups. This gives
us the opportunity to be Christ-like and build fellowship among God’s
children. It is a salvational requirement.
“Follow peace with all men, and holiness [sanctification], without which no man shall see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14)
of us is anywhere near being like God is - we have our work cut out for
us - with the help and guidance of God’s Holy Spirit. Are we pursuing
this course of sanctification with all our might?
“As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” (1 Corinthians 15:49)
verse does not mean that we wait until after death for this to take
place. We should begin at our baptism - and then continue to grow into
the fullness of Christ. Christ’s sacrifice begins the process of godly
character growth - a perfection that proceeds to sanctification which is
holiness. We are sanctified when we grow into the fullness of Jesus
“Unto the Church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are
sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every
place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and
ours:… And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are
sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by
the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 1:2, 6:11)
We are made holy -
sanctified by living the word of God (John 17:17). We are sanctified
over time by God’s Spirit working within us.
“Elect according to the
foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit,
unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto
you, and peace, be multiplied.” (1 Peter 1:2)
The sanctification of
the Spirit shows the working of God’s Spirit in us that, not only
separates us from the world, but also brings us to the fulfillment of
the salvational process.