I had not been to senior bible study at my dad’s church for several months. I was injured at a job and I am not working, but that is no excuse to not stay active in God’s word and fellowship with “believers.” The man who leads the study is a math teacher at a college. I guess that is why it is so hard for me to understand why he feels he has to yell to emphasize some aspect of scripture. Today, as usual, he was yelling. He opened with, I need to say something, then proceeded to demand that we smile more and win more lost to the Lord, because we will have to contend with the judgment seat of Christ.
It has gotten to the point that when I hear stuff like this that it almost makes me ill. He never even referenced where this passage was found, I looked it up for myself. Therefore, it was just a manipulative rant. This kind of preaching makes me feel used and deceived. I came for a bible study and he wasted my time.
I suppose that some good comes from moments like this because it prompted me to take an in-depth look at something I was unfamiliar with. The entire thrust of this judgment seat comes from this verse: (Romans 14:10 KJV) But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
I cannot remember one time that someone has preached on this without adding a double dose of guilt and manipulation. Is that what this is intended for? The only way to sort this out and find the intent of the passage is to look at the context. In that light, I give you Romans 14:1-23
This is not an attempt at a thesis of great depth, merely an examination of scripture; something I find very helpful to understanding.
(Romans 14:1 KJV) Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.
That could be clearer, so let us look at it using the Message version:
“Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with–even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.”
Wow, there is nothing condemning about that, unless you are the person doing the jumping.
(Romans 14:2 KJV) For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.
That seems simple enough. I meet with some guys at a McDonald’s restaurant. We tend to talk about the Lord, but this particular morning one of the more outspoken guys shows up late and taunts us with, what have we learned today? Strangely, one fellow had decided to talk about our bodies inability to process pork, and how God knowing this, saved Israel tremendous grief by instructing them to not touch pork, because they would not have had the enzymes necessary to add to their diet. Where did all that come from? The latecomer locked on to the food aspect and turned it into an adamant rant about diet and the government’s efforts to kill us with GMO foods.
Obviously, he fit into the group of those who jump all over people, inundating them with his strong opinion. This is not the first time he has done this.
(Romans 14:3 KJV) Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
The Amplified says it like this: Let not him who eats look down on or despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains criticize and pass judgment on him who eats; for God has accepted and welcomed him.
(Romans 14:4 KJV) Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
We seem to have made a big jump from talking about followers of Christ, to servants. How did that happen? Let us look at another version and see if it gives us any clarity. The Bible in Basic English states: Who are you to make yourself a judge of another man’s servant? it is to his master that he is responsible for good or bad. Yes, his place will be safe, because the Lord is able to keep him from falling. Are we not servants of God? Jesus went on to say, you are no longer servants, but friends. You can look this up in John 15:15. We are clearly sons as well. Galatians 3:26 ESV “for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”
This verse speaks to another aspect of our relationship with Christ/God for it conveys that since we belong to Christ/God, then it is his responsibility if we stand or fall. Can I take that literally? I believe that it is as literal as his life, death and resurrection. Should I ask that question of some, I will get a very religious and hostile answer.
If we are to think of ourselves as slaves, then who is our master? Well, I suppose that depends on the depth of your understanding of your relationship with Christ. Ideally, we gave him our lives.
Paul, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, writes this letter to Romans, stating: (GW) “The servant will be successful because the Lord makes him successful.” Could that be anymore clear? The discussion about eternal salvation seems to be a non-stop battle, and yet here is a huge argument for the fact that it exists.
(Romans 14:5 KJV) One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
In the Good News bible, this reads: Some people think that a certain day is more important than other days, while others think that all days are the same. We each should firmly make up our own minds.
(Romans 14:6 KJV) He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.
From the “GNB”: Those who think highly of a certain day do so in honor of the Lord; those who will eat anything do so in honor of the Lord, because they give thanks to God for the food. Those who refuse to eat certain things do so in honor of the Lord, and they give thanks to God.
Here is where this really begins to answer questions directed at the Bema (judgment) seat.
(Romans 14:7 KJV) For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.
I need to restate for clarity. The Good News bible does just fine: “We do not live for ourselves only, and we do not die for ourselves only.”
If there are questions about the Bema/Judgment seat of Christ, it is only because people who take this idea out of context, and use it to manipulate followers of Christ, who cannot seem to stand on their own two legs because they will not read the bible for themselves. Perhaps the short answer to the question, is as Robertson’s Word Pictures explains: “But to the Lord, as he shows in Romans 14:8, life and death focus in the Lord.”
(Romans 14:8 KJV) For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.
For whether we live, we live unto the Lord;
and whether we die, we die unto the Lord:
whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.
What would it be like to live this focused?
The next verse is self-explanatory.
(Romans 14:9 KJV) For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.
“Christ died and rose from death to live again” This is the basis for our salvation. This was the price paid for our ransom, and the reason that we have this hope of a life with Him in eternity.
Here is one of the places where we get the Judgment/Bema seat of Christ.
(Romans 14:10 KJV) But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
This needs clarity so I give you the Bible in Basic English: “But you, why do you make yourself your brother’s judge? Or again, why have you no respect for your brother? Because we will all have to take our place before God as our judge.”
How did this essay open? “Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with”. Therefore, the thrust has everything to do with undo judgment, and over what, trivial things.
Some respond to this with, we have to adamantly come against those who do not come into line with doctrine. The greater question is, whose doctrine, yours or a particular denomination?
(Romans 14:11 KJV) For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
(Romans 14:12 KJV) So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
How do you think you will feel, standing before Christ’s judgment seat, as you try to defend the abuse and manipulation you performed in the name of religion?
(Romans 14:13 KJV) Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.
The focus shifted from the judgment of Christ, to let us stop judging, and stop making people stumble.
I do not feel the need to continue in chapter fourteen, since my point was to show a context for Paul to talk about the judgment seat of Christ. This, like Romans 3:22 levels the playing field. When we judge other believers, we are trying to show ourselves as superior, perhaps even more intelligent? The result is someone is walking away bruised and wounded.
A short time ago, as I sat for dinner at our recovery meeting, a man I know came and sat by me. We did the usual greetings, with shallow, guarded responses. However, this time I did something different. I asked him if he wanted to talk about the incident he briefly mentioned. He spoke about how someone had approached him under the pretense of helpful counsel, and proceeded to verbally accost and strip all self-esteem away from my friend. Tears began to well in my eyes as I listened. I know what this feels like when the well-meaning spiritually disembowel you.
I will let you in on a little secret. The brother I was listening to had done this very thing to me in the past. Thankfully, God healed that in me, and I can honestly say I really value this man, but there was so much lost time treating the wounds that no one could see.
I throw this last question at you for extra credit. I do not expect an answer.
In Romans 14:9, Paul makes the statement: “Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.” The living makes sense to me, for that is who I am because of my life in him. This life is the basis for my salvation.
Who is this dead Paul is referring to? We have a huge clue in that Christ is the Lord of these dead.
Consider that at the rapture, the dead in Christ rise first and then we, who remain and are alive, will be caught up to meet him in the air. Okay, but where are these dead people?
Let me give you some scripture that may help you form an answer about the dead.
John 14:3 NASB “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.
Can this passage from 2 Corinthians also mean, that if we are no longer home in the body, then we are with the Lord? 2 Corinthians 5:6 KJV “Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:”
1 Thessalonians 4 is Paul’s response to the Thessalonica body of Christ followers, who had fears that the dead will not hear the call or be excluded, and that they might have missed the rapture because the persecution they were experiencing was intense enough to make them think they were in the wrath (tribulation).
1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 KJV (14) For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. (15) For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. (16) For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: (17) Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
The thought process I go through questions, why does God need a body to rapture us?
Is there any doubt for the believer, that Jesus is Lord over everything? Take this thought one step further and ask, does the person have to have a relationship with Jesus Christ for Him to be able to claim that position? If you are like me, then you look around you. It does not seem that Jesus has control of anything if I based my assessment upon what I see. Fortunately, God is focused on the unseen world, the one that is more real, and the one that really matters. Satan’s end is well mapped out, and God is not a liar.
When you look to the thousand-year reign, you find nations having to come yearly, take part in the Feast of Tabernacles and offer sacrifices at the temple. As an aspect of their obeisance, they must bow before Him as Lord. This says nothing about the condition of the heart, does it? However, they are subjecting themselves to Him as Lord. (Revelation 15:4)
Tabernacles, Feast of
The third of the great annual festivals of the Jews (Lev_23:33-43). It is also called the “feast of ingathering” (Exo_23:16; Deu_16:13). It was celebrated immediately after the harvest, in the month Tisri, and the celebration lasted for eight days (Lev_23:33-43). During that period the people left their homes and lived in booths formed of the branches of trees. (From Easton’s bible dictionary)
If you look up the phrase, “the dead” in scripture, you will find things like this:
Psalms 115:17 NASB “The dead do not praise the LORD, Nor do any who go down into silence;”
Psalms 88:10 ESV “Do you work wonders for the dead? Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah.”
Ecclesiastes 9:5 ESV “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten.”
The point of view here is in the context of a Jewish mentality. They too awaited an afterlife, but they had no understanding of being in Christ, as we do; to them death may have been nothing more than a quiet waiting time.
Revelation chapter 20 talks about the dead being raised. It describes this as the first resurrection. This is very telling, as we tend to think of the rapture of the “dead” as the first resurrection, but clearly, it is not.
Now we are dealing with another set of dead people, different from the dead mentioned in Romans 14:9. Therefore, who are these dead we see now.
Revelation 20 shows us those whom have died from the beginning of time without a religiously defined relationship with God. We assume that these are hopeless with no comprehension of God. God separates them into two groups, the sheep and the goats. The Father grants them entrance into eternity. Shocked, they express their puzzlement and a realization that they really do not deserve eternity with God. God responds to their questions about why with, when I was hungry, thirsty, having no clothes, or thrown into prison, you came and helped me. Did you notice that He said, when I was hungry … this tends to look like the concept of being in Christ at this point.
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