44 Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me.
45 And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me.
46 I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.
47 And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.
48 He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.
49 For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.
50 And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.
In this passage we find several truths. One is that
Jesus came to save the world rather than judge it, even though
He has been given the authority to judge by the Father (John 5:22). This
does not mean that He intended every individual should be saved, but that
He came to the world, i.e. the earthly realm, to save those whom
the Father had given Him (John 6:37; 17:2,6,9,12 & 24). Another truth
is that all men will be judged, however, and there will be one
judge, the Word of God. Third, the judgement will not be of acts
committed, but of not receiving Jesus Christ, or unbelief. The actions
of unbelievers are merely the manifestations of their inner condition.
There is a reluctance on the part of individuals today to do any judging of the salvation issue, either as to what it is and how one gets it, or whether a person's testimony measures up to this. Even if it is examined, it is misunderstood and judged falsely. This is most often a result of misapplied scripture, such as Matthew 7:1, (which actually tells us only that we will be judged as we judge), Romans 2, (which deals with those who judge, but commit the same acts [2:3]), and others. Yet I Corinthians chapter 2 deals with those who judge spiritual matters according to wisdom given them by God, and it is approved. Indeed, Paul was judging the Corinthians in the Epistle. And, in II Corinthians 13:5, Paul goes on to tell them to examine themselves as a result of his judgement which revealed a problem with many of them.
In our churches today, the problem with judging the salvation issue can be likened to the two trial options available to citizens in this country and how a verdict is reached when a trial is held.
The first option is called a 'bench trial,' and there is one authority, the judge. He makes all determinations of court-room procedure, decorum, admission of evidence, calling of witnesses, &c. He ultimately weighs the evidence and arguments presented, and renders a verdict. There is no one to challenge his actions while the individuals are in his court. The judge is, however, restricted to making his judgement based on the law. (This further clarifies what Jesus meant by the word judging man. He will actually judge, but in accordance to the Word of God). The trial begins in what is called the 'lower court.' This is equivalent to those who are spiritual judging the salvation issue, or an individual judging their own salvation experience. We may do it, so long as the Word of God (the law) is the guide we follow. If one believes a judge has erred, an appeal may be filed to a 'higher court,' where the judge's procedure is examined. The guilt or innocence of the individual is disregarded for that time, and the judge is, in effect, put to trial. If he was correct in his practice, the verdict stands, if in error, it is overturned. Yet the individual may still be guilty, even in that event. This is how the salvation issue must be approached. The Word of God is the only authority which can be relied on to prove the case, and God is the sole judge of how salvation may be obtained. Even if our judgement is wrong, however, all will ultimately have to stand and give an answer in His 'Highest Court.'
The second option, is a 'trial by jury,' with the jury being formed of their peers (equals). This is by far the most used for several reasons. First, it allows one to be judged by individuals who rely on emotions and feelings rather than facts and evidence, in light of the law, to reach a verdict. If a touching story can be presented, the jury might accept it. Second, only one person on the jury must be convinced to agree with you. Third, the jury may not be allowed to hear certain testimony or see certain evidence which may be crucial, or at least relevant, to the case. Finally, the jurors are questioned in advance, with the supposed intent of finding unbiased members, but often it is to 'pad' the panel with those sympathetic to the defendant. Those who are not in alignment are 'challenged,' and 'excused,' i.e. dismissed before the trial. In this manner, a jury can be expected to return a favorable decision regardless of the case presented. Also, in a trial by jury, the jury is sovereign and can rule the law unfair or unconstitutional. This is the reason the founding fathers gave us this choice. If a verdict based solely on the facts and evidence presented was desired, a judge would obviously be the best choice to render a verdict.
One might ask, "What do these two options have to do with judging the issue of salvation?" The answer is that many today choose the option of trial by jury to back up their opinion of what salvation is, how one obtains it, and to measure experiences people have to see if they are sufficient.
Many base their position on what the majority of their friends, or what the 'big name' preachers say. If they can convince just one person to agree with them, they are comforted. As in a jury trial, many even try to persuade the jurors to agree with them, i.e. to 'sway' them to another conclusion. Men will even go to extremes to find the one to agree with them, discounting the Word of God and those who stand for the 'old fashioned ways' of salvation preached by our forefathers (and a few today). Often, certain individuals are not asked to hear the evidence due to the knowledge that they do not agree with beliefs held by the one seeking an answer. These individuals are 'challenged' and 'dismissed' without hesitation. Others leave out crucial evidence or tamper with the facts to mislead. For example, when John 6:37 is quoted as, 'Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out,' which is true, but the first part says, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me..." Or, when Revelation 22:17 is quoted correctly and entirely, but the emphasis is placed on the 'whosoever,' implying that any man can come. Some state that he must only be willing, which is true in the final analysis, but a man cannot make himself willing. Philippians 2:13 attributes the willingness to a divine work of God, and Hebrews 11:6 tells us that a man must diligently seek God. Such seeking is only produced by God causing a man to want to seek. Luke 13:24 tells us plainly that one must 'strive to enter,' for the gate is strait (narrow).
One has only to read the testimonies of men like Bunyan, Spurgeon, &c. to see that either they went through much needless travail, and that 20th century Christianity has found a 'secret formula' for salvation, or that these were correct in their apprehension of salvation, and there is confusion over what salvation is and how it is obtained in most churches today. These men and others of equal caliber said, "Salvation is hard." We say, "It is simple." Jesus said that it is 'impossible' without God. He went on to say that all things are possible with God, but never said it was easy or simple!
We have made salvation the product of plans, programs, prayers, and promise claiming, while God's Word says it is "...of the LORD." Many today presume to label God 'unfair' for His judgements and operations regarding the salvation issue. Men do not want to be accountable to God, much less to His divinely appointed judges; the true men of God. They choose, rather, to elect their own.
Many folks judge salvation by what everybody else they know has, and how they obtained it. They then teach others to do the same thing. Paul speaks of this in II Corinthians 10:12, saying, "For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise." While it is true that he is speaking specifically of external actions, the principle can be applied to condition also. Just because an individual got what they claim is salvation in the same way everybody else they know got it, is not evidence of truth, but merely of a similar condition. All of the Pharisees got the same thing in the same way, but we know what their similar condition was! Yet they thought they were right.
In our churches today are many who have no confidence in their salvation; no peace; no rest; no fruit of the Spirit. At best they have the fruit of external production. Galatians 5:22, Ephesians 5:9, Philippians 1:11, and Colossians 1:6, all say that fruit is produced in the believer, and as the result of a new creature (creation). Some fruit may be external, but salvation cannot be judged by merely 'inspecting' external actions. One can have external fruit without the internal, but not internal without external. Legalism produces workers, but they are not rightly motivated nor satisfied in it.
In judging the salvation issue, we must do it right; impartially, in light of the scriptures, and without preconceived notions. It must be done without a desire of a verdict favorable to our present condition, or that of the ones we know and love. We must seek truth rather than a false judgement. - J. M. G. (01/95)
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