sole survivor washed ashore on a small island and wasn’t found for years. When rescues discovered him they found he had built three huts. When asked, he pointed to the one and said, “That’s my house.” Then he pointed to a second, and said, “That’s my church”.
After a bit of silence, the rescuers asked about the third hut. Nonchalantly, he said, “Oh that was the church I used to belong to.”
In some towns, the preachers know the families who ‘church hop’. They’re at this place one week and a month later they’re down the street with another group. Someone says something to them or doesn’t say something to them and they’re off looking for the next place where God is calling them.
These are examples of what it means when Jesus tells us “Judge not” as in Matthew 7:1. John Stott describes much of the judgment is along lines of the form of baptism, if the person ordained is properly in line with the apostles, the color of their skin or the from the right social class
Matthew 7 ends calling us to make a judgment call as to whether Jesus’ words are worth dedicating our life or not.
“24Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock…26And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.”
In Matthew 5, Jesus calls for self-judgment in areas of anger and lust. Jesus judges the Pharisees of his day and calls them white-washed tombs. God judges a couple in Acts 5 for lying to the church. Acts 10, as we’ve read, Peter makes a judgment and baptizes a Gentile family on whom the Holy Spirit had fallen. And in Antioch, the church makes a judgment and separated Paul and Barnabas to a new ministry. Today, in 1 Corinthians 6 Paul expects the church to be able to judge issues that crop up between members without taking it to pagan courts.
So why, do we hear people telling us, “don’t Judge”; “Christians are too judgmental”, or “who are you to judge?” Here’s the answer. First they don’t understand what judgment is and isn’t. Second, they are guilty and don’t want to be held accountable Third, they don’t have any foundation from which to properly exercise judgment. The conflict between Paul and Peter is a great example of these three issues
What is and isn’t judgment?
Do not mistake an opinion for judgment. Opinions can flow from our “fears, pride or ignorance”
(Smedes). Dr. Smedes says, “Judgments are opinions that we form only after we have made a serious effort to know the facts, and, for those of us who are Christians, only after we have consulted the moral teachings of Scripture and prayed for Spirit-informed discernment.” Then there is this great summary, “Any lazy or biased fool can have opinions; making judgments is the hard work of responsible and compassionate people.” (Smedes).
When Paul confronts Peter it isn’t based on some opinion of what is and isn’t right behavior. Peter has, up to the time these other guys showed up, been eating and visiting with Gentiles like it was no big deal. This other group shows up and he starts to pull away, to become aloof and distance himself.
It becomes so obvious even Barnabas, who has been Paul’s partner steps away from the very churches he’s helped establish.
Paul doesn’t mince words, Peter “stood condemned”. The word indicates someone “condemned before God” (Kittle TDNT 8:568 n. 51). He’s just not wrong. He didn’t simply make a mistake.
Guilty as charged
Why did this happen? The simple story is one of peer-pressure, of giving into the expectations of others instead of standing for what we know is true or right. It is a story as old as sin itself. Remember Ralphie in A Christmas Story? He’s fine till, “the coup de grace of all dares, the sinister triple-dog-dare”
(A Christmas Story). Go ahead, everyone’s doing it, are you chicken… are other such things we have heard in the past.
Peter is pulled away from the expectation of others. There is something nice about knowing that even now, with the church growing, God working and the kingdom expanding that Peter still caves. I love the quote from Dunnam’s commentary.
It is to our spiritual benefit, growth, and maturity, not that we are fickle in our loyalty, wavering in our convictions, but that, like Peter, when our weakness is revealed we acknowledge our betrayal, repent in sorrow, and dedicate ourselves again to be Christ’s representatives and servants. (Dunnam and Ogilvie p 41).
But his failure at this place not only overcame him but caused him to betray the hope of the Gentile believers who thought they had a friend in Peter.
Paul lays it out for Peter in clear, unmistakable terms. Peter may believe the right way but he isn’t living the ‘truth of the Gospel’ (v. 14) which literally means ‘not walking straight’. When he confronts Peter he does so by relating to him by saying “We ourselves…” (v.15). Here’s my paraphrase of the meet of verses 16-17. “Peter, you and I know this truth of the folly of the Law and the power of Jesus. And if we keep trying to do it by our efforts we’re going to go to hell as sinners.”
There is humility in Paul’s confrontation. He includes himself with Peter in the issue.
No foundation for proper judgment
Last week I mentioned, ‘line in the sand’ type of choices we face and how Paul faced this with the issue of circumcision of Gentile believers. Here is another line over the issue of justification.
The basis for any judgment is Jesus Christ, who loved us and gave himself for us as Paul writes in v. 20. Paul doesn’t say, “I feel that Jesus would have us…” He goes to the facts of Jesus’ life and death; of the revelation he, Paul, had experienced of Jesus himself and of his call. Today we do the same thing, but we do it by referring to the book in which these are recorded, God’s Word.
The foundation of Christ and His word give us the facts which takes from mere opinion to a place of judgment. And it is the only vantage point from which one can hope to rightly judge oneself or another. Our ability to stand on this vantage point comes only when we are justified by God through Jesus Christ.
Justification isn’t a common word today. We hear it along with ‘making excuses’ or to explain away something we did or didn’t do. We sometimes use it when we type a document and have to justify margins. Trust me, the Biblical meaning is different.
It takes something that is out of place and moves it into the right place. It refers to something that is ‘straight’ as opposed to bent or crooked. It refers to God taking us from where we are, in sin, and putting us where we should be, in a relationship with Himself. When a person does God’s will, which involves believing Jesus is the Messiah and Savior they are righteous. It is so central to the faith Luther called it the “principle article of all Christian doctrine.” And “So necessary it is, therefore, that we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually”
Paul underscores for Peter, the Galatians and us just how important it is to know the basis for our justification. If we allow the works we do to make us worthy we fall short. If we allow Jesus to be the one we trust we stand strong.
Turning the corner--Application
The world strives to make ‘opinion’ and ‘judgment’ interchangeable. When opinions rule there is no basis for judgment. Judgment is bad because it includes guilt, restitution, payment, punishment, sorrow and other un-nice feelings. The world wants to keep un-nice things away from us.
With opinions truth becomes whatever is trending on Twitter, FOX news or the latest trend in news reporting. Look to God’s Word, for God’s judgment and instructions. It’s not easy, it takes work, and it takes time. But it is THE source of God’s judgment and hope for everyone around us including our neighbors and friends.
Remember to judge others with a humility and grace.
Be quick to confess when you have failed, as Peter did. One of the things that I should do with this table is remind us that we aren’t to eat and drink if we don’t know Jesus or we have unconfessed sin. Paul says some of the Corinthians had even died because they took the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner.
A Christmas Story. 2015. DVD.
Dunnam, Maxie D, and Lloyd John Ogilvie. Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982. Print.
Kittel, Gerhard, G. W Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1964. Print.
Luther, Martin. A Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians. Cambridge, Eng.: J. Clarke, 1953. Print.
Smedes, Lewis. 'Who Are We To Judge?’ ChristianityToday.com. N. p., 2015. Web. 31 July 2015.
Stott, John R. W. The Message of Galatians. London: Inter-Varsity P., 1968. Print.