Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Judging Angels

In a daily Bible study, I read I Cor. 6:2-3: 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!

The context is Paul directing the members of the church to bring disputes before the elders and leaders of the church rather than the ungodly for judgment. Paul clearly indicates that man will have some role in judgment in the future. Here he says the world and angels. Yet, in I Cor. 5:12, Paul hints that man's role will be judgement of the church (and maybe others that know Christ, such as angels).

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside!

Mt. 19:28 adds weight to man's role in judgment but it is limited to a specific group: Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on the twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

The notes in my study Bible state that the word judgment in the context of Mt. 19:28 meant to lead or rule, referencing back to the Judges of Israel.

I have never heard these scriptures discussed or taught prior to this daily study. In fact, all the teaching and scripture I am familiar with concerns God's judgment and for me not to judge. Needless to say I was quite surprised and somewhat confounded as well as very intrigued by the above scriptures.

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measures you use, it will be measured to you. [Mt. 7:1] Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condem, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. [Luke 6:37-39]

These scripture are cross-referenced to Mt. 23:13-39 which is Jesus' harsh indictment of the Pharisees hypocrisy. The "do not judge" scriptures seem to refer to hypocritical judging and judging for the sake of judging, that is, negative Christianity. They may not refer to righteous judgment, and thus do not conflict with the first set of scriptures I listed.

But there is still a paradox and some confusion. There are scriptures that talk directly about who has the authority to judge and what that judgment will be.

Jesus' words: Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. For the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. [John 5:22-23; 26-27] Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind. [John 9:39] As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. [John 12: 47-48]

The Apostles' words: He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. [Acts 10:42] In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead. [Acts 17:30-31] This will take place on the day when God will judge men's secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares. [Ro. 2:16]

Hint of the method of Christ's judgement: It is the Lord who judges me [Paul]. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. [I Cor. 4:5]

Even further confusing is John 8:15-16, which seems to say that even Christ won't judge us, but leaves the door open for judgement of our sin. And, it clearly speaks to Jesus' authority to judge.
You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I am not alone, I stand with the Father, who sent me.

I found the above search rewarding but still somewhat paradoxical. I am not sure what to make of it. I am still intrigued by the scripture on judging angels and man's role of judgment in the Kingdom. Here are the initial thoughts I came away with:

1) God will judge man through Christ. 2) We will be held accountable for our actions, and more so for our heart. 3) Man has a leadership and judgment role within the church. But, does this extend to the end-judgment or is limited to leadership within the church? I don't know. 4) Judging should never be a motivation [added 10/17/2005].

What are your thoughts? What does your research reveal? For those familiar with Lee Camp's Mere Discipleship, do you think that the references to man's role in judgment, especially in the context of leading or ruling, refers to roles in the coming Aeon (the New Aeon)?


JMG said...

This is a tough one. I wish I didn't have so many papers to grade, or I'd get right on researching this one. I spent too much time over on the MD blog.

JMG said...

OK, I couldn't stay away. This is a very long answer.

I’m not sure what to make of the reference to judgment of angels, but according to the 1 Corinthians passages you referenced, those inside the church are not to be concerned about the behavior of those outside the church, and we are to settle any disputes between church brothers and sisters within the body of the church. Rather than going to civil court, we are to allow someone in the church to help us settle the matter.

As far as the passages about Jesus, here’s my take. (I’m going in the order that you presented them.) In the Matthew 19 passage, Jesus says that it is hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. We know this is difficult because it is impossible, as Jesus said, to serve both God and money—a person can’t live the life of a disciple and also be concerned about acquiring and accumulating wealth. The disciple lives by day to day faith. When Jesus makes this statement about the rich, the disciples then want to know who can be saved—if rich people with all their influence and connections will have a hard time getting in, then the poor certainly don’t stand a chance. Jesus replies that all things are possible with God, showing that their thinking is on human terms and that God’s way is not like that of humans. The last will be first and the first last. Peter then replies that he and the rest of the disciples have given up a lot to follow Jesus. It seems to me that Peter is not so subtly saying that, Hey dude, we really deserve some compensation for leaving our jobs and our families for weeks at a time to follow you around. Jesus assures him that in the kingdom, those who followed him will “sit on a throne” or, in other words, be in a position of authority. (I really like that he didn’t rebuke Peter for wanting that compensation.) What type of authority isn’t clear, but it is clear from the sermon on the mount that those who have suffered for Jesus will clearly be in a good position in the kingdom.

Now for the “do not judge” passages. I don’t see any contradiction between these and the “woe to the Pharisees” discourse. If we are to serve as judges for disputes between Christian brothers as Paul discussed, then we have to necessarily make a judgment. However, if we judge fairly and with justice, if we are ever in the same situation, our judge will judge us fairly. And, ultimately, God will judge us fairly.

In the John 5 passage, I don’t think Jesus is talking about end times judgment. Here he is explaining why he has the authority to do work (heal people) on the Sabbath. He explains to the Pharisees that he does what he sees his father do, or he acts in the same way that his father would—God can heal someone on the Sabbath day if he wants to, so Jesus can as well because he is acting under his father’s authority. To further explain, Jesus says that just as the father has life (or can give life—raise people from the dead), so Jesus can give life to whomever he pleases. God has made Jesus the judge of (or given Jesus the free choice over) whether he “gives life” or not. His father has given Jesus that authority.

In the John 12 passage, the author had just been speaking about certain leaders who believed in Jesus but who wouldn’t openly acknowledge him for fear of what the Pharisees would say. I saw some parallels here with the passage in Acts about judging matters inside the church. Jesus says that “another judge” (presumably the father) will deal with those who don’t believe in him. Jesus had established earlier that those who see him have seen the father—he is just like his father, so those who claim not to believe in him, Jesus equates with not believing in his father as well. Perhaps once they have rejected him (and his father), he is no longer concerned with them. His concern is with saving those who will listen. (My thoughts aren’t complete here.)

The Acts and Romans passages deal with end times judgment. Perhaps Jesus is in charge only of judging his church, the people who professed to believe in him. Maybe the “other judge” that Jesus referred to in the above passage refers to God’s judgment of the world at large outside the church?

In John 8—I’m not sure that Jesus is speaking of eternal judgment here. He has been speaking to the people who question his statement that he has the “light of life.” So far in John, the question has been whether or not Jesus is the promised messiah. In this passage, his authority/identity is being challenged, and he refers to OT laws concerning testifying against witnesses in court. He says that they (those questioning him) have no authority to pass judgment against his claim because he has two witnesses—himself and his father. He says that their judgment is based on human standards, but his is not—if he were a judge. But since he isn’t here to settle disputes (he was asked by a guy to settle a dispute but he refused—I forget the scripture reference for that), he isn’t a judge.

To summarize: 1) Jesus picked whom he wanted for his church--he didn't judge people. Perhaps in the new aeon this will also be his role: judging the church, maybe collectively for how effective it was, and individually for each person's motives. 2) The "other judge" is God who will judge the world outside the church. 3) Those who followed Jesus will have seats of authority in the kingdom, but what that will consist of I have no idea.


JMG said...

Also, put a big "perhaps" in front of all my statements.

jettybetty said...

That woman really should be a preacher ;-)

I think JMG has expressed one thing that struck me when I read this--there are different kinds of judgements in the NT. So we can be told we are to judge for one thing (disputes in the church) and not for the other (whether or not someone is saved or even judging a behavior that might lead to condemnation.)

I don't like to be judged at all by fellow believers (I am guessing few humans do)--but if I tell a fellow brother or sister to not judge me--then they can say I judged them--and it's the cat chasing it's tale and it's a really tricky thing.

So the whole "when can we judge thing" just confuses me.

About judging angels--if I understand angels correctly, judging is just not their role--God made them to minister to us when God directs them to. They don't understand everything about God either.

And I don't understand so much about this, *PERHAPS* I had better stop.

Tony Arnold said...

Wow, that was quite an effort, and a very good analysis in my opinion.

I find it still intriguing that some places God appears to be the ultimate judge, the "other judge". But in passages like John 5, God has turned judgement over to Christ.

Also, you deftly moved passed the judging angels reference via the "I'm not sure sure" dodge. I don't blame you, I did it too via the "what do you think dodge." But this reference really intriques me. Not because I care to judge angels or want to have a judgement role, I don't (I can't take care of me well alone judge others); I just find it puzzling and I am the type that likes to delve into puzzles.

I also believe that if we can come to some reasonable conclusions on these tough passage, it always helps our understanding.

I found your analysis, JMG, extremely beneficial.


Tony Arnold said...

P.S JMG, I tend to agree with your analysis on the judgment areas man is directed to participate in, except for one area I still am not sure about. The I Cor 6:2 statement Paul makes, "Do you not know the saints will judge the world?" Paul then immediately states, "if you are to judge the world", implying the believers are the saints to whom he was referring.

I guess my point with this post is that just maybe we have too quickly dismissed our responsbilities as disciples to hold our fellow disciples and the world accountable to a standard of behavior. It is seems to me that believers do have some role to play and some responsibility. If we don't really understand this responsibility, how can we handle it correctly? I don't believe we have any say in eternal life or death, other than through bringing people to Christ. But that does not absolve us of responsibility to hold the world to a standard, whether they choose to accept it or not.

One trap I think Christians have fallen into is to believe the rhetoric that you cannot hold people accountable and still love them and still be tolerant. Worse, we cannot hold each other accountable because my life is not your business. Both are complete nonsense.

I love my daughter so much it seems my heart is going to burst at times, but I still hold her accountable to a standard. Most importatnly, it is because I love her so much that I hold her accountable. I know if I don't, it will lead to pain in her life. When she knows that I am most concerned with her well-being, she accepts my chastisement as valid even though she still doesn't like it.

Our judgment will have credibility when it is rooted in true love for our fellowman. Christ was able to do this and his rebukes worked on those who accepted Him. His rebukes got Him crucified by those who knew its truth but reject it and therefore rejected Him.

Didn't mean for that to get so long typed, sorry.


JMG said...

Wow, I just looked right over that "you are to judge the world" thing. Hmmm. That throws a whole new wrench into the works. Perhaps a word study of "judge" would be beneficial here. Does it literally mean to pass judgment or does it mean something like to take a position of authority over? If the second is the case, that would seem to go along with what I said about what Jesus told his disciples about sitting on a throne. We know that the people of the church, those who walked as Jesus did, will inherit the kingdom, so that would place them (us--hopefully) in a position of authority just by definition.

I think a lot of how we should understand it comes from what the original Greek word was, something I haven't looked into to find if there is more than one word that could be translated as judge.


Malia said...

You wrote: I guess my point with this post is that just maybe we have too quickly dismissed our responsbilities as disciples to hold our fellow disciples and the world accountable to a standard of behavior.

I don't know how to interpret/explain all those judgement references - it hurts my feeble brain! I do think you hit the nail on the head with the above statement. It's one of those things in scripture that Christians have "conveniently" shoved under the rug. We cling to, judge not lest ye be judged, and walk around with "don't judge me 'cause I sure ain't going to judge you" attitudes and think that we have the whole thing figured out. Like jettybetty said about not liking being judged by fellow believers.

I think it's possible that we have the wrong idea about "judgement". That being said, I have no idea how to coherently explain what I mean! From what all the these passages appear to indicate, within the church, there can be judgement on each other. But is it really judgement or actually exhortation to be true followers of Christ? If there is a dispute, if there is sin, we should LOVE one another enough to a) find a settlement and b) gently help a fellow believer see and repent of their sin.

We have become so conditioned to "not stepping on anyone's toes" that we are doing each other a diservice in our walks with Christ and as a church body, a church family. We don't want to "judge" anyone, we don't want to appear holier than thou, we don't want to be accused of ignoring the plank in our eye to point out the speck in another's eye.

Ugh...I'm rambling and not making too much sense, I'm afraid. It seems evident to me that we have a responsibility within our churches while we are on this earth (which we are not really doing) and that responsibility apparently will cross over into the heaven someday so we shouldn't shirk from it now.

Preston said...

I'll throw out a quick thought from outside the proverbial box. I know what we all mean by judge, and it's pretty close to giving our approval or disapproval, maybe even condemning, but at the very least holding others to a certain standard. All of that seems very active.

I wonder whether we judge the world, etc., by the way we live. If I turn my back on this world, it's possessions and trappings and values, that speaks judgment on all who do not. I don't have to say a word or even take notice of what the others are doing. A life lived according to the teachings of Jesus, though not judging, automatically speaks judgment on anyone who does not abide by the teachings. If I make the same amount of money as my neighbor, but spend less money on a house inorder to give more away, then my actions have spoken judgment on him, even though I never actively judged him, his motives, etc.

Tony Arnold said...

Malia: excellent point. You did not ramble either.

Preston: great observation, although it doesn't help me much on the angels part of it, but on all the rest, certainly raises a valid perspective.

Ro 12:19-21: "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord. On the contrary: 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

From Preston's (and Roman's)perspective, we cannot help but judge the world if we live as Christ calls us to.

One other take away I have formulated from the scriptures and from the discussion is: although we may have a responsiblity to hold others accountable, or will judge by our actions, judgment should never be our motivation.