Friday, May 28, 2010

Who is your master?

I operated a retail business for over twenty years and I had the privilege of meeting many nice people who came into my store. Most of them, I hope, were satisfied customers and many became my friends. On occasion, though, there were those who were not satisfied for some reason and they would complain to me. Often they had legitimate complaints and I would try to address those as best as I could. A few times, however, someone would complain about what an employee did and suggest that I fire them. What that person did not know is often the employee was doing as I had instructed them. They were following my orders. Of course, the customer may not have known that. They "blamed" the employee for something when they were only doing what they were told.

Paul told the church at Rome, "Who are you to judge the servant of another?". Indeed. What right would a customer have to try to pass judgment on those who are only carrying out their assigned duties and following the policies that have laid down for them?

How is it that we so freely pass judgment on servants of the Lord? I am speaking specifically of criticism and judgment of ministers of the Gospel whose ministries we dislike. Paul specifically mentions the danger of judging ministers. "Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts; and then each man's praise will come to him from God."
1 Corinthians 4:5

The apostle tells us that will be a time when the Lord will judge ministers of the gospel, but not until he returns. It is not right for us to judge them. They do not work for us. They work for Him.

I particularly like the part of Paul's statement regarding the motives of ministers. God will bring that to light as well. Yet many continue to judge the motives of ministers who do or say things that they do not like. This, I think, is even worse than judging their teaching. It is one thing to disagree with someone or not to like a certain type of ministry at all. It is another to judge what is in their hearts. We have no right to do that. Once we do that then it is our hearts that are wrong. We have set ourselves as judges over God's ministers.

Okay, I know what the response of some will be. It will be that these are not true ministers of God, but false teachers who are leading God's people astray. In some cases, this is true. We should not accept false teachers.

But are all those whom we may be judging actually false teachers? False teachers are those who deny certain basic doctrines of the faith. They deny the deity of Christ, the Trinity, the atoning death of Christ and His physical resurrection and His literal return to earth. Beyond that there is not too much which can rightfully considered to be heresy.

Recently, I read an article in a Christian publication written by a Christian scholar who is concerned that the gospel is being compromised. (I often share his concern.) But as I read at what he said was 'false gospel', I must disagree with him. The main thing that he talked about was the message that "God has a wonderful plan for your life". He said that this is not the gospel at all. The gospel is the Word made flesh, crucified for our sins and raised again from the dead. Well, that certainly is the core of the gospel. Is the one who proclaims that 'God has a wonderful plan...' denying that? Doesn't God have a wonderful plan for each of us? Isn't the result of Jesus' dying to free us from our sins and bring us into the fullness of the Kingdom of God? We can certainly say that 'God has a wonderful plan' is not the complete gospel, but it is part of the gospel.

Different ministers are called to preach different parts of the Word. Just because a minister preaches one part of the Word that does not mean they deny the other. One preacher was asked why he always preached a certain kind of message. He answered that that was what he knew well. It was what God had given him to preach.

There is a lot in the Word to preach and teach. If we all just focus on the main core of the gospel, then much of the Word will remain untaught and unknown. Some will focus on deeper truths of the Word that others, even highly educated people, will not grasp. Sometimes those who think that they have great understanding of the Word because of their education will be the ones who accuse others of being false teachers. And often they will be wrong. God does not reveal everything to the educated. "At that time Jesus said, 'I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.'" (Matthew 11:25)

So what do we do if we believe that a minister of the gospel has fallen into some error? Is the answer to criticize them either publicly or privately or to judge them in our hearts? Should we not pray for them and ask God to bring them back to the right path? Are we to sit in judgment on them, or to acknowledge them as brother or sister and help to restore them to the truth?

We ought to try to restore them. I must warn you, however. If you pray for those in 'error', then God might show you that it is you who are wrong and not those you are praying for.

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