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If you look at your friend and in your mind think that he or she is doing, or believing, something wrong in God’s sight, and that you would like to stop or correct him or her, then you may one day be quite happy to pull the switch of an electric chair and kill them!

Does this sound too far-fetched?

Yet this is what God tells us is the underlying principle of every act of religious persecution.

It is the desire to control someone’s actions

on behalf of God,

for the good of the church,

or even for his or her own good.

And sometimes for the good of "the lost"!

But, when men or women indulge in this spirit, they are never satisfied with merely pointing out what they suppose to be a defect in their brother or sister. If milder means fail of making the offender do what they think ought to be done, they will eventually resort to compulsion. Just as far as lies in their power, they will force others to comply with their idea of what is right.

This is what the Jews did in the days of Christ, and what the church has done ever since whenever she has lost the grace of Christ.

Here is the secret of all religious laws that have ever been enacted, and the secret of persecution from the days of Abel to our own time.

Our only safety is in not possessing this desire at all.

THE DIFFICULTY LIES WITH THE INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH, AND IT IS HERE THAT THE CURE MUST BE WROUGHT.

Each one must cure himself or herself under God.

The problem

What is wrong with seeing or believing that some one has committed, or is committing, some action of sin or error of judgment, and should be stopped from doing it? The fault lies in not realising that God has said that vengeance and correction belongs ONLY to Him. He says,

"To Me belongs vengeance, and recompense; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste. For the LORD shall judge His people, and repent Himself for His servants, when He sees that their power is gone, and there is none shut up, or left." Deuteronomy 32:35-36.

And,

"Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lies in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place to [God’s] wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, says the Lord. Therefore if your enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing you shall heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:17-22.

"For we know Him that has said, Vengeance belongs to Me, I will recompense, says the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge His people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." Hebrews 10:30-31.

To accuse a person of committing sin or error in the hope that he will receive punishment, condemnation from his fellows, or even correction from God, is to usurp the place of God and thereby break the first commandment. It is to place oneself in the temple of God and to think that you are God. 1 Thessalonians 2:4.

It is actually to EXCEED the power of God for He does not punish nor condemn under any circumstances as Jesus shows us.

"When Jesus had lifted up Himself, and saw none but the woman, He said to her, Woman, where are those your accusers? Has no man condemned you? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said to her, Neither do I condemn you: go, and sin no more." John 8:10-11.

 


 

There are three main areas in which we have to deal with this problem. They are;

1. The personal conduct of others.

2. The area of sinful behaviour.

3. Errors in doctrine.

 

First the personal area

Jesus does seem to tell us in the following words that if we see a brother or a sister failing, we should first of all warn that person about it, then if we are ignored, bring the elders of the church to reason with him or her, and, as a last resort, acquaint the whole church with the problem.

He said,

"Moreover if your brother shall trespass against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone: if he shall hear you, you have gained your brother.

"But if he will not hear you, then take with you one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

"And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it to the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be to you as a heathen man and a publican." Matthew 18:15-17.

However, this counsel is given to us when the trespass is "against you", which means that we believe it to be directed at us, and is for use when we are determined to have revenge or compensation, and not because it is the way God works. Jesus did not use this course of action when the Pharisees accused Him of complicity with Satan. See Mark 3:22-30.

He left them strictly alone after explaining that their idea was not very sensible, and that a house divided against itself cannot stand. Then He warned them about the unpardonable sin.

And, of course, we can be like Him.

"The disciple is not above his Master, nor the servant above his Lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his Master, and the servant as his Lord. If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of His household?" Matthew 10:24-25.

It is when you have a civil problem with a brother or sister that these words of Jesus about elders and the church apply. Then He says, Don’t let a worldly judge decide for you. Try person-to-person first and if you can’t resolve the problem ask some elders to settle the issue for you. Then, if it still can’t be decided ask the whole church to judge you both.

This is what God says in another place,

"Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust [or people of the world], and not before the saints. Do you not know that the saints shall judge the world? And if the world shall be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest [or worldly] matters? Know you not that we shall judge angels? How much more things that pertain to this life?

"If then you have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in [or by] the church? I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? No, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goes to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers!

"Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because you go to law one with another. Why do you not rather take wrong? Why do you not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? Nay, you do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren." 1 Corinthians 6:1-8.

Another translation puts it this way;

"When any of you has a grievance against another, aren’t you ashamed to bring the matter to be settled before a pagan court instead of before the church? Don’t you know that Christians will one day judge the world? And if you are to judge the world do you consider yourselves incapable of settling such infinitely smaller matters?

"Don’t you also know that we shall judge the very [fallen] angels themselves - how much more then matters of this world only! In any case, if you find that you have to judge matters of this world, why choose as judges those who count for nothing in the church?

"I say this deliberately to rouse your sense of shame. Are you really unable to find among your number one man with enough sense to decide a dispute between one and another of you, or must one brother resort to law against another and that before those who have no faith in Christ!

"It is surely obvious that something must be seriously wrong in your church for you to be having lawsuits at all. Why not let yourselves be wronged or cheated? For when you go to law against your brother you yourself do him wrong, for you cheat him of Christian love and forgiveness." J B Phillips translation.

"We then that are strong [or so we think] ought to bear the infirmities [or problems] of the weak, and not to please ourselves [by condemning them]." Romans 15:1.

By all that has given us advantage over another, be it education or refinement, nobility of character, Christian training, or religious experience - we are in debt to those less favoured, and, so far as lies in our power, we are to minister to them. If we are strong we are to hold up the hands of the weak. Angels of glory, who do always behold the face of the Father in heaven, joy in ministering to His "little ones."

Trembling souls, who have many objectionable traits of behaviour, are their special charge. And in this ministry Christ’s true followers will co-operate.

The right way

If any of these "little ones" is overcome, and commits a wrong against you, then it is your privilege to seek his or her restoration as opposed to revenge. Do not wait for him to make the first effort for reconciliation. If you have lost one sheep out of a hundred, then look for it!

However, do not put him or her to shame by exposing the fault to others, nor bring dishonour upon Christ by making public the sin or error of one who bears His name. Often the truth must be plainly spoken to the erring one for he must be led to see his error that he may reform, but we are not to judge or to condemn as we do it. Make no attempt at self-justification. Let all your efforts be for his recovery.

In treating the wounds of the soul there is need for the most delicate touch, the finest sensibility, but our loving Friend will supply this.

If you succeed you will "save a soul [maybe your own?] from death" and "hide [in Christ] a multitude of [your own!] sins." James 5:20.

The first four of the Ten Commandments deal with our relationship with God, and He ONLY has the right to require obedience to them from us. However, the other six deal with our relationships with one another, as well as towards our Saviour, and we sometimes have the legal right under God’s law to require obedience to them from our fellow-creatures.

But with the legal right comes the choice to exercise forgiveness if we so desire!

As the centre-piece of His sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us that we are to ...

"Judge not, that you be not judged; and with what measure you [do] judge, you shall be judged; and with what measure you mete [or hand out], it shall be measured to you again." Matthew 7:1-2.

He said this because that which we do to others, whether it be good or evil, will surely react upon ourselves in blessing or cursing.

Whatever we give, we shall receive again.

The earthly blessings which we impart to others may be, and often are, repaid in kind. What we give does, in time of need, often come back to us four-fold. But besides all this, all gifts are repaid even in this life, in the fuller inflowing of His love, which is the sum of all heaven’s glory and its treasure.

But,

in like manner, evil imparted also returns again!

Everyone who has been free to condemn or discourage, will in his or her own experience be brought over the ground where he or she has caused others to pass. They will feel what their victim has suffered because of their want of sympathy and tenderness.

It is the love of God towards us that has decreed this. He would lead us to abhor our own hardness of heart and open our lives to let Jesus abide in them. And thus, out of evil, good may be brought, and what appeared to be a curse become a blessing. The standard of the golden rule is the true standard of Christian sanctification.

Anything short of it is a deception!

Right after Adam and Eve had sinned they tried to pass the blame for their actions on to another person. Adam even tried to blame God because He gave him the woman, and this is what sinful human nature must do when it is not controlled by the love of Christ. See Genesis 3:12. Why do we do it? Because the instinct for self-preservation is stronger than our love for each other, or for God. It is this desire which brings us to accuse another for in this manner we hope to divert attention from "us" to "them" and thereby ease our own conscience.

* * * * * * *

Now the sinful area

However, when the trespass appears to be against God and His commandments we have no right to interfere in any way at all without direct authority from Him, for this is normally the work of the Holy Spirit, the other Comforter. John 16:7-11. We do have warnings to give but they deal with being prepared for the end, and not with personal sins. They are to be given when the other person wants to hear, not when we want to give.

If we were directed by God to give a warning to some one regarding PERSONAL sin practices then it would only be if our heart were full of love for the other, and we would go very reluctantly to him, even at God’s command. We would be very conscious of our own frailty, and our own sinful life, and be only too glad to cease giving the warning once it had been recognised. It would not be our responsibility as to whether the message was accepted or rejected. That is God’s problem, not ours! We would not need to involve the elders or the congregation, for once we had spoken the word of God as Elijah did to Ahab, then if His Spirit cannot achieve repentance on the part of the guilty one, no amount of numbers of fellow-creatures will be able to do so.

However, it is one thing to acquaint an individual with the facts of his or her own life under God’s leading - it is quite another to condemn or accuse them to a third person or a group. We are not to make it a matter of comment and criticism among ourselves. Not even after it has been told to the church by the prophet are we at liberty to repeat it to outsiders, for a knowledge of the faults of Christians will only be a cause of stumbling to the unbelieving world. And, by dwelling upon these things, we ourselves can only receive harm, for it is by "beholding that we become changed", whether for good or evil.

While we seek to correct the errors of a brother in the right way under God’s direct guidance, the Spirit of Christ will lead us to shield him, as far as possible, from the criticism of his own brethren. And how much more the censure of the unbelieving world?

Therefore criticism or tale-bearing has no place at all in the life of a Christian who loves his fellow-creatures. If you cannot "in love" approach your brothers or sisters, then do not approach any one of them at all. Spend your time on your knees before God crying because you are not able to do this. Joel 2:15-18.

True Christians weep for the sinner and do not run off for others to help lean on him. Jesus cried great sobs of anguish over the inhabitants of Jerusalem who would be willing to kill Him within a week, without going into the details of their sins or enlisting the help of others. Luke 19:41.

Regarding His disciples, Jesus knew the characters of the men whom He had chosen. All their weaknesses and errors were open before Him, and yet He still called them to the work which was the most important to which human beings had ever been called, and which was second only to that of His own. John 2:25.

How tenderly the Saviour dealt with Judas who was to be His betrayer! He gave him no sharp rebuke for his covetousness, but with divine patience bore with that erring man while giving him evidence that He read his heart as an open book. John 6:70-71. We do not read that He called in others to help Him, or that He eventually had to appeal to the church at large. "Here is the patience of the saints."

 

* * * * * * *

The doctrinal area

To accuse or confront a man in any other way than to discuss his doctrinal beliefs with him, if he is willing, is to character-assassinate him, which is just another way of killing him.

But we do have the job of warning the world regarding the difference between the true God and the false one, their church systems, and the way of their religions.

When Martin Luther stood before the council at his trial and "protested" that he now knew the foundation principle of the Roman Catholic church was not Christian, he gave "the beast" a mortal wound with his sword of truth. But he did not seek this confrontation even though it was a doctrinal one. Revelation 13:3.

Unfortunately, his followers and spiritual descendants failed to keep their "protest" pure, and over the succeeding generations the reformers have had a name in the world that they are alive, but have in fact, been "dead" in God’s sight. Revelation 3:1. They were never able to clearly distinguish the three divisions nor their responsibilities in those areas. The result was, and is continuing to be, that the beast’s system is reviving and is continuing to grow. Revelation 13:2.

What can we do to rectify this matter?

Those reformers were zealous for their God and His Christ, studied their Bibles intensely, often had a re-birth experience, and thereby knew the power of Jesus Christ in their lives, and yet are called "dead" by the word of God. Why? Because they failed to put the axe at the root of the tree! When they saw what they considered to be failure on their part, or of some other church members, to keep what they considered to be the law of God, they devised rules and regulations of their own to force themselves to obey. All this as a barrier against sin! A worthy object but a wrong method, as the Jews who returned from Babylonian exile could have told them for "force" will never succeed.

The honest-hearted among them would now say to us, "Do not set yourself up as the standard. Do not make your opinions, your views of duty, your interpretations of Scripture, a criterion for others and in your heart condemn them if they do not come up to your ideal. Do not criticize others, conjecturing as to their motives and passing judgement on them. We cannot read another’s heart. Ourselves faulty, we are not qualified to sit in judgement upon others. Finite men can only judge from outward appearances. We cannot even judge ourselves!" Luke 6:37.

"Who are you that judges another man’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls", is the principle. Romans 14:4.

When Jesus explained this rule in another way to His disciples one of them was led to question whether in a certain case his action had been right. Mark 9:35-37. With the spirit of a child he laid the matter before his LORD. "Master", he said, "We saw one casting out devils in your name, and he followed not us: and we forbade him, because he follows not us." Verse 38.

James and John had thought that in checking this man they had in view their LORD’s honour. Now they began to see that they were jealous for their own. They acknowledged their error and accepted the reproof of Jesus: "Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in My name, that can speak lightly of Me."

None who showed themselves friendly in any way to Christ were to be repulsed, for the job of the church is to educate, not reject. There were many who had been deeply moved by the character and work of Christ and whose hearts were opening to Him in faith. The disciples, who could not read motives, must be careful not to discourage these souls, only guide them if requested or desired. When Jesus was no longer personally among them and the work was left in their hands, they must not indulge a narrow, exclusive spirit, but manifest the same far-reaching sympathy which they had seen in their Master.

Here He showed us the fact that if one does not in all things conform to our personal ideas or opinions this will not justify us in forbidding him to labour for God, or to think that he/she is not on God’s side. But then Jesus also continued and said,

"Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in My name, that can lightly speak evil of Me. For he that is not against us is on our part. For whoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, verily I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.

"And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in Me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.

"And if your hand offend you, cut it off: it is better for you to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: where their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched.

"And if your foot offend you, cut it off: it is better for you to enter halt [or lame] into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: where their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched.

"And if your eye offend you, pluck it out: it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: where their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched.

"For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt." Mark 9:39-49.

Why this earnest language which could hardly be stronger?

"Because the Son of man is come to save that which is lost." See John 3:17.

Shall His disciples show less regard for the salvation of their fellow men than the Majesty of heaven has shown? Every person has cost an infinite price and how terrible is the sin of turning away one from Christ so that for him the Saviour’s love and humiliation and agony will have been in vain. This attitude must be removed regardless of the cost!

Harshness or coldness shown by a disciple toward one whom Christ is drawing - such an act as that of John and James in forbidding one to work miracles in Christ’s name - might result in turning his feet into the path of the enemy and cause the loss of a soul. This is why He was so vehement.

"Woe to the world because of offences [or occasions of stumbling! RV] For it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence comes!" Matthew 18:7.

The people of the world, inspired by Satan the accuser, will surely oppose the followers of Christ and seek to destroy their faith. Woe to them. But double woe to him who has taken Christ’s name and yet is found doing this work, for in this he is following another master! "Get you behind Me, Satan!", Jesus said to Peter in such circumstances. Matthew 16:23. Our LORD is often put to shame by those who claim to serve Him but who thus misrepresent His character. Multitudes are thereby deceived and led into false paths.

In the ritual service salt was added to every sacrifice as Jesus commented. Leviticus 2:13. This, like the offering of incense, signified that only the righteousness of Christ "in use" could make the sacrifice acceptable to God. It was in reference to this practice that Jesus said, "Every sacrifice shall be salted with salt." Mark 9:49. And in the next verse, "Have salt in yourselves and have peace one with another." All who would present themselves "A living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God", must possess the living salt, the righteousness of our Saviour working in their lives. Romans 12:1.

Then they will be the "salt of the earth" restraining evil among men as salt preserves from corruption. Matthew 5:13.

But if the salt has lost its savour, its correct way of working; if there is only a profession of godliness, without the love of Christ for sinners, then there is no power for good.

* * * * * * *

 

No self-condemnation

Consider Peter’s reaction after he had betrayed Jesus and they met again on the shore of the lake. He did not try to justify himself but called on his LORD to do so.

The record states,

"So when they had dined, Jesus says to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, love you Me more than these? He says to him, Yea, Lord; you know that I love you. He says to him, Feed My lambs.

"He says to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, love you Me? He says to him, Yea, Lord; you know that I love you. He says to him, Feed My sheep.

"He says to him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, love you Me? Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, Love you Me? And he said to Him, Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you. Jesus says to him, Feed My sheep." John 21:15-17.

To illustrate this with a true story:

There was a church group who were not happy with the way in which one of their members dressed. He actually came to meetings dressed in shorts! But they put up with it for quite a while, exercising what they thought of as tolerance. However, it had a limit and eventually one of the church members received a message which he said was "from God" and it said, "My Son would not dress like that."

At first gentle persuasion was tried by the elders, leading eventually to the church decree or outright command to reform or get out. When he would not go of his own accord the offender was disfellowshipped because he would not conform to the church’s standard. Nearly everyone agreed that they had done the right thing for he should have harmonised having been some time in the church. Most of the congregation agreed with the action, but some had to leave with the "guilty" one, not because they agreed with him, but because they could not agree with the use of "justifiable" force.

This church later fell apart as it was bound to do because such a system destroys itself from within. God says of its author,

"You have defiled your sanctuaries by the multitude of your iniquities, by the iniquity of your traffic; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of you, it shall devour you." Ezekiel 28:18.

What makes it so sad is the fact was that it was a professed Sabbath-keeping group, but they were not "resting" in God.

The lesson we should learn from this experience is that it is NOT the "guilty" one’s actions that causes such a church to fall, but the "righteous" leaders re-action to his action!

ANY group that makes laws, even unwritten ones, must be prepared to enforce them and the ultimate punishment must be death, literally, or by disfellowshipping.

Jesus said that there would be few who would enter the strait gate because there are few who will recognise the right of complete and everlasting freedom of choice which belongs to others. God does!

And He says,

"Therefore all things whatever you would that men should do to you, do you even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

"Enter you in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat. Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads to life, and few there be that find it.

"Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. You shall know them by their fruits." Matthew 7:12-16.

* * * * * * *

 

Judging others

We must beware even of "silent" disapproval for that condemns as much as open opposition. However, it is Satan who stands up "boldly to resist" or accuse and any who do the same work must be of the same spirit.

"And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist [or accuse] him. And the LORD said to Satan, The LORD rebuke you, O Satan; even the LORD that has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments [as a symbol of his past actions], and stood before the Angel. And He answered and spoke to those that stood before Him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And to him He said, Behold, I have caused your iniquity to pass from you, and I will clothe you with change of raiment.

"And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the Angel of the LORD stood by." Zechariah 3:1-5.

Do not forget that the most dangerous snares which Satan has prepared for the church of God will come through its own members who do not love God supremely or their neighbours as themselves. God says,

"How good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard [at his ordination Exodus 30:22-33]; that went down to the skirts of his garments; [It is] as the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life forevermore." Psalm 133:1-3.

Therefore Satan is constantly striving to wedge himself in between brethren to counteract this blessing.

* * * * * * *

True righteousness

It is written that we should not let any deceive us, for only he "that does righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous." 1 John 3:7.

How was Christ righteous? What is the obvious distinction between the Christian and the non-Christian, the one that made the soldier exclaim, "Truly, this Man was the Son of God!" Mark 15:39. What is the basic action called "the fruit" whereby the Christian’s sanctification is known as "good" and the non-Christian’s actions as "evil"?

It is defined as

LOVE FOR YOUR ENEMY in one place

and (See Matthew 5:44 and 1 John 3:11)

LOVE FOR YOUR BRETHREN in another.

This because it shows itself most fully in the sight of men by our love for our enemies, but in the sight of God it is seen as the love for those whom we consider to be erring Christians.

Jesus said,

"You have heard that it has been said, you shall love your neighbour, and hate your enemy. "But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despite- fully use you, and persecute you; that you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. For if you love them which love you, what reward have you? Do not even the publicans the same?

"And if you salute your brethren only, what do you more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect [for He loves both good and bad]." Matthew 5:43-48.

"This is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another." 1 John 3:11.

No one can see the change of heart (or the lack of it), which actually makes the person into what he or she is - a child of God or a child of Satan, but our outward actions do help to make the invisible clearer.

Unfortunately, most of the actions performed by real Christians are also counterfeited by some professed Christians, for wolves in sheep’s clothing look like sheep. Tares can look like wheat if we are not observant, but only until the time of fruit, and in the meantime this confuses the world and some Christians. See Matthew 7:15-20. There is also the problem that many pronounced as Christians by God Himself have a public history that leaves a lot to be desired!

There is one characteristic of the Christian sanctified life, however, that the devil and his agents do not care to imitate.

This one makes it very clear to others (and to ourselves if we are willing to be shown), just how much of the principles of the kingdom of heaven are really in us. Jesus also told us about it in His sermon on the mount when He said, "Love your enemies ... for if you love them that love you, what reward have you? Do not even the publicans do the same? ... What do you do more than others?" Matthew 5:44-47.

This trait is not often practised by wolves in sheep’s clothing! It requires that we do not draw attention in any way to the personal faults of another. Criticize the doctrine, yes, if asked. Character or motive, No! Not even by inference.

This is the substance of the teaching of the prophets. It is a principle of angels and will be developed in all who are fitted for their holy companionship.

If we are to follow the LAMB wherever He goes, we must follow Him in this too, for He told us that we will be perfect, even as our Father in heaven is perfect, as we have just read. We will see the actions of the others of course, but we will not condemn or accuse any one of them, not even in our hearts.

Knowledge is NOT condemnation or accusation.

* * * * * * *

How often?

When Peter asked his Saviour how often he should forgive those who trespassed against him, he was told until 70 times 7 because Jesus wanted him to realize a very deep principle of truth.

70 x 7 = 490 and Peter would have seen the significance of this straight away because the message for his time was based solidly on the 490 day/year prophecy of Daniel and this was being openly discussed by many spiritual people in the land. This length of time had been foretold to Daniel as the interval of probation to be taken by the Jews before they fully removed themselves from God’s protecting power and Peter knew that this period was nearly over.

Daniel wrote;

"He [the angel messenger] informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give you skill and understanding. At the beginning of your supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to show you; for you art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision. Seventy weeks [of years] are determined upon your people and upon your holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy." Daniel 9:22-24.

Each and every year of that span of time God had wanted to forgive and cleanse the nation of Israel on the Day of Atonement, and each year they had wandered further and further away from Him and maligned His character. He said,

"How often would I have gathered your children together ... and you would not [let Me]." Matthew 23:37.

The Jews eventually came to the place where they could lay the blame for the curse of leprosy and death upon their loving Friend and Brother, just as Adam had done. Among them leprosy was regarded as a judgement on account of sin, and hence was called "the Stroke", and "The finger of God." Deep-rooted, ineradicable, deadly, it was looked upon as a symbol of sin.

Some among us today would call it, or a similar occurrence, "An act of God"!

Because of this attitude the professed church of God in the time of Christ had reached the stage where they could only be called "The accusers of their brethren." Revelation 12:10. This title they shared with the devil, for they were now his children as they themselves acknowledged. "We have no king but Caesar", was their cry. John 19:15.

But Christians will continue to forgive even after the other refuses to accept it, for that is the nature of Christianity.

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The real issue

We need to have the veil which separates the visible from the invisible world lifted so that we may see the controversy for what it is.

It is the constant exercise of God’s power for the protection of mankind, against the constant exercise of Satan’s accusations and destroying practices.

When we see the war in its ultimate simplicity then we will be able to direct our energies in the right direction!

In the vision recorded in the Old Testament, the high priest, who represents the people of God, is shown in "filthy garments." Zechariah 3:3. We are also told that these symbolize the past iniquities or sins of the people.

The priest does not defend himself or his people from the accusations made by the accuser for he knows that they are true! He is there to confess his guilt!

But he is relying on the mercy of a sin-pardoning Redeemer, who says, "Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more."

* * * * * * *

Motes and beams

Jesus showed this forgiveness when He was given the opportunity.

"And the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, they say to Him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what say you?

"This they said, tempting Him, that they might have to accuse Him.

"But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground, as though He heard them not. So when they continued asking Him, He lifted up Himself, and said to them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

"And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it [and saw what He was writing], being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even to the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

"When Jesus had lifted up Himself, and saw none but the woman, He said to her, Woman, where are those your accusers? Has no man condemned you? She said, No man, Lord.

"And Jesus said to her, Neither do I condemn you: go, and sin no more." John 8:3-11.

When the woman accused of adultery was brought to Jesus she was guilty of the sin, for her accusers said that she was taken "in the very act." She couldn’t refute it and therefore waited with shame and confusion for His verdict.

But there was one vital flaw in the case the Pharisees had brought against her, and Jesus knew it. They were as guilty as the woman, for they had arranged the whole situation just to try and get something against Him "that they might accuse Him."

Their "righteous indignation" was only a cloak to cover a far greater sin in their lives - the desire to kill Him.

Jesus has warned us as He had warned them, that before we can deal with "the mote" in our brother’s eye, we need to deal with "the beam" in our own. Matthew 7:3-5.

A "mote" is a very small object but a "beam" is a large one!

We have also been told that we only see and accuse another of a fault when the same sin, or the desire for it, is in us also.

It is written,

"Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are that judges: for wherein you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you that judge do the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things.

"And think you this, O man, that judges them which do such things, and do the same, that you shall escape the judgment of God?" Romans 2:1-3.

Therefore a "mote" and a "beam" are the same sin, yet one is much larger than the other in God’s sight.

This is because, to the accuser’s sin has been added conceit and censure. Therefore the accuser is much more guilty than the accused. This makes us worse in God’s sight and should stop us from continuing in an accusation when we realize our position as did the Pharisees.

Not until you feel that you could sacrifice your own self-dignity, and even lay down your life in order to save an erring brother, have you cast the beam out of your own eye so that you are prepared to help him.

Then you can approach him and touch his heart.

No one has ever been reclaimed from a wrong position by censure and reproach, but many have thus been driven from Christ and led to seal their hearts against conviction.

When the accusers of the woman claimed the due processes of law, Christ was able to turn that very law against them for they had not fulfilled its conditions. It was the duty of the husband of the woman to bring the accusation of adultery, for the sin could be against him only. Therefore the Pharisees had no legal right to accuse her. Also, the law provided that both parties to the act should be charged and punished equally but the guilty man was not brought before Jesus because he was their puppet.

It is stated in the law that:-

"If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shall you put away evil from Israel." Deuteronomy 22:22; Leviticus 20:10.

Another important point to notice is that the law given by God specified punishment by stoning as the death penalty and that the witnesses in the case should be the first to cast a stone. After that all the people must join in.

This means that if we are willing to accuse then we must also be willing to execute!

Are you willing to pull the switch on the electric chair?

"At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.

"The hands of the witnesses shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So you shall put the evil away from among you." Deuteronomy 17:6-7.

But as Jesus said, the witnesses must be innocent of the crime. In fact, they should be free of any sin for His words were, "He that is without sin among you." John 8:7.

Under the same direction, ALL the people were to have a hand in the death of any person convicted of a capital crime so that each would be responsible for his neighbour’s death.

Each, thereby, proclaimed his sinlessness!

If the law had been followed in this spirit, then, of course, there would never have been any executions.

* * * * * * *

Liars and murderers

In the case of the woman accused of adultery each of the accusers saw his position because Jesus wrote it for them in the dust of the earth and they walked away in shame. We today should be very careful not to put ourselves in the position of accusing someone for whom we are not responsible, if we would avoid similar shame and confusion. Eventually even Satan the great accuser will be brought to the place where he will bow the knee to Jesus Christ and acknowledge Him as totally righteous, and will then cease to accuse Christians. See Isaiah 45:23 and Philippians 2:10-11.

And so will his fellow-accusers. Romans 14:10-13.

Such are "liars and murderers" as Jesus told us, and they will see themselves in this way at that time, for we have all "sinned and come short of the glory of God." John 8:44 & Romans 3:23.

We should not accuse anyone if we do not want to be known as "liars and murderers." Liars because we are saying that we are sinless, and murderers because we desire to kill our neighbour.

Remember, those who do accuse "in the law" show that they desire the death or punishment of the one they accuse, and will use any method to bring this about, which is why the elders of the church need to be there.

When Jesus turned to the woman He was then acting in the capacity of her spiritual Husband and He chose not to exercise His legal right to deal out punishment. So it is always with God. Vengeance belongs to Me, He says, so that we will not interfere, but He is NOT going to take an active part in any punishment. Sin brings with it its own penalty and He loves us so much that He would rather suffer Himself than have it fall on us. God was in Christ, and ...

"Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for our brethren." 1 John 3:16.

* * * * * * *

 

Actions, motives, and knowledge

"If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed to an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he has humbled his neighbour’s wife: so you shall put away evil from among you.

"But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die: but to the damsel you shall do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death, for as when a man rises against his neighbour, and slays him, even so is this matter: for he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her.

"If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; then the man that lay with her shall give to the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he has humbled her, he may not put her away [or divorce her] all his days." Deuteronomy 22:22-29.

Adultery is a crime that can only be committed against a husband or a wife, for sexual intercourse by single people was not punished by death. In such a case the pair were to be married if they were willing! Therefore a married man can demand retribution, but only if he desires it.

Should he be willing to forgive the sin, then that is his prerogative, and if he loves his wife, his privilege.

The act of sin is what we see, but it is the circumstances surrounding the act that requires the death of the sinner. A married or engaged woman found having sex in the city was deemed to be guilty and executed, along with her lover, if she did not cry out. But a married or engaged woman committing the same act in the country need not necessarily be guilty. It could be rape and she not have been heard.

Yet it is the act which we see and the act of which we accuse.

Because we do not know the circumstances fully we often accuse wrongly and this is why we have been told not to do so. God alone knows the correct details.

* * * * * * *

Summary

So let us see again the foundation principle of Christian living.

Do not accuse your fellow and do not listen to those who do accuse because their accusations will not be based on correct knowledge.

Remember, to even look at your brother or sister and THINK that he or she should be restrained in even the mildest form, for the benefit of God, for the church, or themselves, is a worse sin than the one which he or she is committing.

This applies only to offences against the Ten Commandments, of course, but even with civil disobedience we should be very careful, for we are in the world but not of it.

Leave the "dead" to govern the "dead."

When we criticize the character of another member of the church, then we come up against the "mote" and the "beam" principle. That which we do to others, whether it be good or evil, will surely react upon ourselves, in blessing or cursing. Whatever we give, we shall receive again.

Every one who has been quick to condemn or discourage, will in his own experience be brought over the ground where he has caused others to pass.

It is because professed Christians take upon themselves the name of Christ, while in life they deny His character, that Christianity has so little power in the world.

We should be as Aaron and Hur - holding up the arms of our brother - for it was only while they did this that Israel prevailed. Exodus 17:12.

The return of Christ and the end of the world cannot come if this principle is not an active part of our church life.

 

oooOooo

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