Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Sword of Jesus

Biblical, Christ-centered preaching is Christ’s own sword, which He wields to warn, correct, and judge both His Church and the world. The theme of God’s striking Word is seen in the prophets:
  • “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what His eyes see, or decide disputes by what His ears hear, but with righteousness He shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He shall kill the wicked (Isaiah 11:1-4).
  • “‘Is not my Word like fire,’ declares the LORD, ‘and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?’” (Jeremiah 23:29).

Does He do this directly in a literal manifestation of His Person? No. A passage in Hosea reveals to us how His sword is unsheathed to do its work: “Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of My mouth, and My judgment goes forth as the light” (6:5). The sword of the Word of God is present in the proclamation of that Word by God’s called emissaries.

His Word faithfully proclaimed in the power of the Holy Spirit produces the effects for which it is intended. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My Word be that goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10,11). We often quote this verse, but don’t make the connection between the Word going forth from the mouth of God and the proclamation of that Word by God’s prophets/preachers.

Read Genesis 1. The very existence of Creation all around us (and including us) is a testimony to the power of God’s proclaimed Word. This is the power He manifests when His appointed prophets/preachers proclaim His Word. Preaching is a function of the will of the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11,12). If the first Creation was made by His Word alone, how much more the New Creation – and who has been called and empowered to proclaim His creating Word?

As an important aside:
  • I define “prophecy” as the act of applying the Word of God by the calling, guidance, and power of the Holy Spirit – what we do when we “preach” in the Church every Lord’s Day. I think the continuists and cessationist arguments are both off because we have allowed the modern Pentacostal/charismatic movements to define the terms “prophecy” and “tongues” (among others). The vast majority of what we see the Old Testament prophets doing was applying the Law (including the promised curses of invasion and exile) to their day by the power of the Holy Spirit. “Prophecy” is a term that emphasizes the Spirit’s involvement in preaching (applying the contextually-accurate, theologically-orthodox explained Word to the hearers in the gathering of the Church).
  • I do not mean that the off-topic, contextually-removed, theologically-bankrupt, humanistic, erring babbling of the man who refuses to be faithful to the Word and is not in submission to the Spirit is the sword of Christ. Just because someone has a title and stands on the stage before a crowd does not guarantee that his words are the Word. Our opinions, preferences, “special words,” “leadings,” experience, etc., are not the sword of the Spirit of Christ, which is the Word of God proclaimed by His power. Please don’t hear me say otherwise.

This is how Christ the King works through His Holy Spirit: in the reading, preaching, and teaching of the Word wherever the saints gather:
  • This sword convicts and disciplines true believers: “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to Whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:12,13).
  • This sword is all we need against all the powers of darkness – human or spiritual – that oppose the reign of the King of kings over all the heavens and earth: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore...and take...the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:10-13,14,17).

The Revelation is a fitting conclusion to the Bible since it is put together by the Holy Spirit from all the other things the Spirit inspired in the rest of the Bible. There is not a phrase or image that isn’t echoing something that came before. Here we see “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God,” inseparably connected with the glorified, reigning Jesus:
  • “Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around His chest. The hairs of His head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, His feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and His voice was like the roar of many waters. In His right hand He held seven stars, from His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and His face was like the sun shining in full strength” (Revelation 1:12-16).
  • “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of Him Who has the sharp two-edged sword. I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast My name, and you did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of My mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches’” (Revelation 2:12-17).
  • “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The One sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems, and He has a name written that no one knows but Himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which He is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty” (Revelation 19:11-15).

Does Jesus have a two-edged sword literally, physically coming out of His mouth? No. Read these images in light of the rest of the New Testament, which clearly shows the Word going forth in power throughout the world, according to His will, by the power of His Holy Spirit, and through the Church.

“Behold! The ecclesiastical power which is given to pastors of the church (by whatever name they are called) is clearly declared! That is, by God’s Word which they are established to administer, they boldly dare all things and constrain every glory, greatness, and power of this world to obey and submit to the divine Majesty. By this Word they have command over the whole world; they build up Christ’s house and overturn Satan’s kingdom; they feed the sheep and kill the wolves; they lead by teaching and exhortations those who are teachable; they constrain and correct the rebellious and obstinate; they bind, loose, thunder, and cast lightning - but all in the Word of God” (John Calvin, 1541 edition of Institutes of the Christian Religion, 15).

As we go through these days in this world, our “righteous souls are tormented by the lawless deeds we see and hear” (to paraphrase 2 Peter 2:8). The days and weeks and months and years and decades seem long, and it seems that the forces of darkness are in easy, clear control of the world. It must’ve seemed so to Daniel, as well. But the message of that book is clear: despite the Nebuchadnezzars and Belshazzars and Babylons and scary beasts, God is absolutely, 100% in total control over all. The clashing of world powers is matched in the heavenlies by unseen (but far more powerful) forces that don’t fight for God in their own created strength, but by His unstoppable and perfect providential will. Let the Word direct your vision of the world – as it was during Daniel’s day, so it is today. The King of kings and Lord of lords has been given authority over all of heaven and earth. He has unsheathed His mighty sword – the Spirit-inspired Word, and wields it through the faithful proclamation of His Church in all places in all the centuries since His ascension. By it He defends where He will and defeats where He will, according to His perfect, sovereign plan. Read it with this truth in mind. Preach it, teach it, pray it with this truth in mind. Hear it and live by faith-based, Spirit-empowered obedience to its commands in your life. The Word is the Sword of Christ, and it does exactly what He wills it to do, both in your heart and mind, and on the vanity that is the world stage.

Biblical, Christ-centered preaching is Christ’s own sword, which He wields to warn, correct, and judge both His Church and the world.

All this being said, I feel I need to suggest something, and, in so doing, probably scuttle a reasonably edifying blog post.

Because of the principle I argued for above, I’ve often wondered if the events of Revelation 19:11-15 were actually descriptive of the events started at Pentecost: Jesus descending in His Holy Spirit (John 14:16-18; Romans 8:9; 1 Peter 1:11) to begin manifesting His reign and bringing judgment upon His enemies through the proclamation of the Word throughout the world (Acts 1:8; Colossians 1:23).

I’ve had the same thoughts about the Olivet Discourse (which is obviously about the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70): “And He will send out [αποστελει] His angels [τους αγγελους, which can also be translated “messengers”] with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:31). Could this be the current Gospel Age, when Christ is gathering the elect from all over the world through His sent-out messengers?

I’m not denying a “literal, physical, visible return” of Christ. I’m saying that it’s very possible that the passages that we’ve traditionally thought taught this doctrine do not. Before you write me off (I mean that figuratively, not literally, physically, and visibly), read the Old Testament parallel to Matthew and Revelation’s “literal, physical, visible return” texts: 2 Samuel 22//Psalm 18. Now show me where anything even remotely like this happened in a “literal, physical, visible” sense in the historical narrative of 1-2 Samuel. Do the same with Deborah’s song (Judges 5:4,5,20). When did we see the coming of the Lord on march or see angels stoop to battle human beings in the historical narrative of the battle itself (4:1-24)?

I think we in the Church are long overdue for a revolution (I would’ve used “reformation,” but that’s been taken) in our eschatology. Rooting our reading of the New Testament more firmly in the way the Old Testament speaks while being purposefully aware of the historical context of the A.D. first century and the theological shift-of-age that happened then would make our eschatology smaller (but more potent) and more focused on the general thrust of the entire N.T.: Jesus is Lord of all, and He manifests His reign by the power of His Spirit through the proclamation of the Word throughout the world. May our reading of so-called eschatological passages lead us to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) rather than charts and today’s news.

There is a connection between the response to the proclamation of the Word of God and our eternity after the final judgment. Proclamation and eternal judgment are linked in the Word of God (Romans 10:8-17; 2 Thessalonians 1:7,8). Don't underemphasize or undervalue this great link. Preaching is a manifestation of the eschatological.

Preach the Word. We are Spirit-empowered heralds of the King Who – right now – reigns over heaven and earth and continues (as He has for almost 2,000 years) to powerfully manifest that reign through the proclamation of the Word through His Church.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Common and Consistent Gift

On the day of Pentecost the apostle Peter preaches the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit. He issues the command (not invitation) of the Gospel to repent and be baptized. The promise that is attached to this command is forgiveness in Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit: “And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:38). Note this progression: repentant baptism and then the gifting of the Holy Spirit.

Now look at what happens a few verses later: “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:41,42). Repentant baptism is followed by the ordinary and regular observances/practices of the Church that are held down to this day two millennia later.

There is a very telling parallelism in these two passages:
2:38     “Repent and be baptized...” → “...receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
2:41     “...those...were baptized” → the practices described in 2:42

What I want you to see in this parallelism is that the Person of the Trinity Who is the Gift, the Holy Spirit, manifests His presence and works continually/regularly through the ordinary practices from that Day to Today. We have been so conditioned to seek the new from our worship, the latest program, the most in-demand speakers of the moment, the book du jour, etc. We hunger for communion with the Father through Christ by His Spirit (as we absolutely should!), but have been distracted from the regular means by which He has always blessed His people with His working, comforting, nurturing, guarding, guiding, loving Presence manifested.

Gather. Read the Word and hear it taught and applied to our lives. Observe the ordinance of the Table and baptism. Pray (I mean by this both the reading of “the prayers” – the Psalms – and our prayers). This is the manifestation of the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church. It does not require “the Latest Thing” or an innovation or a “Fresh Encounter.” It is ordinary in that the mature and infant believer can both equally and simultaneously partake in it. It does not require a magnificent building, state-of-the-art technology, or celebrity worship leader or preacher. It requires the obedience of those united with Christ by the sealing work of the Holy Spirit. It requires a faith that rests in the simple promise in the Word that this is how He’ll work in our midst.

Not only does the revelation of Scripture record this means on the day of Pentecost, but our forefathers in the faith confessed this to be true: “The grace of faith by which the elect are enabled to believe, so that their souls are saved, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily brought into being by the ministry of the Word. It is also increased and strengthened by the work of the Spirit through the ministry of the Word, and also by the administration of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, prayer, and other means appointed by God” (1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, 14.1).

Our spiritual ancestors also warn against the rejection of the ordinary means and the sad, heart-breaking results: “The saints may, through the temptation of Satan and the world, and because their remaining sinful tendencies prevail over them, and through their neglect of the means which God has provided to keep them, fall into grievous sins” (1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, 17.3).

Further, they tell us that we will find great assurance in the regular, consistent use of the means of the Presence of the Gift of the Holy Spirit in the Church: “...being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given to him by God, he may, without any extraordinary revelation attain this assurance by using the means of grace in the right way. Therefore it is the duty of every one to give the utmost diligence to make his calling and election sure [through the use of the means of grace], so that his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness for carrying out the duties of obedience. These duties are the natural fruits of assurance” (1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, 18.3).

I am not advocating reformation or revolution; I am urging from the bottom of my heart a humble, gentle, weekly, life-long restoration of these things as central to the Spirit-indwelt life of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. In this is rest for you, beloved Church. Cease the desperate groping and reaching for some new avenue of fellowship with the Divine; rest in the biblical means through which He has promised to work in every place and in every age with the gathering of His covenant people.

P.S. Just to make sure I'm not misread as necessarily endorsing older or culturally unique expressions of these means (styles of music or particular Bible translations), let me link up with these dear brothers who speak of the means of the Spirit's work so well.

The Person of the Delight of God

"The happiness of God is first and foremost a happiness in His Son. Thus when we share in the happiness of God, we share in the very pleasure that God has in the Son. Ultimately this is what makes the gospel good news. It opens the way for us to see and savor the glory of Christ [which is the Father's glory perfectly reflected]. And when we reach that ultimate goal we will find ourselves savoring the Son with the very happiness that the Father has in the Son" (John Piper, God is the Gospel, pg. 101).

I think I'd tie in Piper's great influence, Jonathan Edwards. In his unpublished essay on the Trinity, he says this about the delight between the Father and Son as it relates to the Holy Spirit: "The Godhead being thus begotten by God's loving an idea of Himself and shewing forth in a distinct subsistence or person in that idea, there proceeds a most pure act, and an infinitely holy and sacred energy arises between the Father and Son in mutually loving and delighting in each other, for their love and joy is mutual, (Prov. 8:30) 'I was daily His delight rejoicing always before Him.' This is the eternal and most perfect and essential act of the Divine nature, wherein the Godhead acts to an infinite degree and in the most perfect manner possible. The Deity becomes all act, the Divine essence itself flows out and is as it were breathed forth in love and joy. So that the Godhead therein stands forth in yet another manner of subsistence, and there proceeds the third Person in the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, viz., the Deity in act, for there is no other act but the act of the will...the Holy Ghost is the deity subsisting in act, or the divine essence flowing out and breathed forth in God's infinite love to and delight in Himself."

While Piper does utilize these Edwards quotes in a footnote (The Pleasures of God, pgs. 44-45), I don't think he makes the application to our lives as he could have. In the one living and true God Who is three Persons, the Holy Spirit is the joy and delight the Father has in the Son (Who is eternally and perfectly reflecting His glory); the Holy Spirit is also the joy and delight the Son has in the Father (Whose glory He eternally and perfectly reflects). The Holy Spirit is the eternal Person of the joy and delight of God. It is not a happiness based on circumstance, but on the unchanging reality of the Father and Son's delight and joy in each other. Nothing in this world or in our lives can change this, for it was the reality before there was space and time. It is eternally unchanging and foundational.

What I wish Piper would have done was make the pastoral application of this truth. This Spirit Who is eternal joy is the same Spirit Who is given to believers. "...the fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22). Our reading and consideration of Galatians 5:22 usually leads us to think the Holy Spirit should make us happy - we focus on the emotion opposite depression. This is why I started with the quote I did, though. The Holy Spirit is not a "positive emotion generator" in our lives. He is the joy and delight of the Father for the Son, and the Son for the Father - a delight based on the Son's perfect reflecting of the Father's glory. The Holy Spirit is given to us to seal us in the Father-glorifying Person of the Son. Jesus said of this relationship: "He [the Holy Spirit] will glorify Me [the Son], for He will take what is Mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is Mine; therefore I said that He will take what is Mine and declare it to you" (John 16:14,15).

The joy that is the fruit of the Holy Spirit is not an unfocused joy (a vague, mystical, inexplicable emotion). The joy that is the fruit of the Holy Spirit is not the result of the material, earthly blessings He might bring into our lives. The joy that is the fruit of the Holy Spirit is the result of Him drawing us into the eternal relationship between the Father and the Son, which is all delight and joy in the glory of the Father in the Person of the Son.

The Spirit uses the means of the Word, prayer, the Lord's Supper, and the Christ-exalting fellowship of the Church to draw us closer to Christ, Who is the object of the Father's eternal delight. In turn, we see the Father in the Son (John 14:9) and experience the eternal joy of the Son in the Father's glory. The 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith describes the Spirit's use of means to bring us grace: "...[the grace of faith] is...increased and strengthened by the work of the Spirit through the ministry of the Word, and also by the administration of baptism and the Lord's Supper, prayer, and other means appointed by God" (14.1). The "grace of faith" is the Spirit's bringing us into the joyous relationship between the Father and the Son. He uses the ordinary (continual, accessible to all believers) means of grace as they are observed in the Church.

The Trinity is eternally joy. In the salvation He has graciously given us, we are brought into His eternally delightful fellowship for His glory and our eternal joy. Do not grieve this Person of joy, but increase your commitment, obedience, and involvement in the Scripture-ordained means He uses to draw you into His joy as He helps you see the Son more and more. "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord Who is the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:17,18).

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Ridge Line of Faithful Teaching

“Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene” (2 Timothy 2:14-17).

Ah, this is what my pastor would (only partially jesting) call “the razorblade edge of doom.” On one side, the “ruin of the hearers” (2:14). On the other side, quick-spreading gangrenous talk that results in “further ungodliness” (2:16,17). Between these two disastrous drop-offs, on a narrow ridgeline above the clouds, is the only Way for the preacher/teacher of the Word. This Way requires diligence, work, and accuracy (2:15). This Way is before the very face of God, Who brings those on this Way under a “stricter judgment” (James 3:1). Yet this is THE Way. There is no other. So, despite the sometimes ferocious winds, precarious footing, and temptation to take a path down to easier trails, Paul urges us to stay on the ridgeline. To glory.

So, if you’re preparing to teach the Word tonight, or if you’re planning on attending Bible study, pray. Pray to the Father Who is the Source of “grace, mercy, and peace” (1:2), the Son Who is the Mediator and conduit of that strengthening grace (2:1), and the Holy Spirit Who enables us to guard this matchless treasure of truth (1:14). And get to work walking this high, narrow Way.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Sole Avenue of Grace

Every single day, repeatedly remind yourself and meditate on the fact that God’s infinitely saving grace comes to you solely through the Person and work of Jesus Christ:
·         “And from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:16,17).
·         The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (Romans 16:20).
·         The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you” (1 Corinthians 16:23).
·         The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).
·         The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen” (Galatians 6:18).
·         The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit” (Philippians 4:23).
·         The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (1 Thessalonians 5:28).
·         The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all” (2 Thessalonians 3:18).
·         The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit” (Philemon 25).

Don’t ever let yourself believe that grace comes to you through anything naturally in you or as a result of your actions, intentions, morality, ethics, politics, ANYTHING. The second we think we deserve God's forgiveness, blessing, adoption, etc., more than someone, anyone else, we are denying the very nature of grace as it comes through the eternal Son of God! The moment we entertain the idea that we receive anything from God through any other source than Christ, we are lapsing into Pharisaism, are denying the Gospel that saved us, and straying from true, biblical Christianity! You cannot add to the grace that comes from Christ. You cannot earn it. You cannot repay it. This requires a daily consideration of the truth of the Gospel and its claim that saving grace comes through Christ, and Christ alone. We need the daily Gospel!

Rest in that, beloved. Rest in that!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Hell is not the Offense

I read a post this morning talking about the Church’s contemporary minimalization of hell in its preaching and teaching, mostly due to the feeling that the topic drives people away and needlessly offends them. Good post. Good resources on the topic are mentioned, and I’ll be availing myself of them this year. But I don’t think that the idea of an eternal punishment in hell is the heart of the offense. The offense is any notion of being held accountable by an authority greater than ourselves.

With this in mind, let’s just lay down this principle: the true offense of Christianity will always be the Bible’s (and, to a lesser degree, the historical Church’s) claims about Jesus Christ at their core.

“It’s not fair or loving for God to send someone to eternal torment” is not based upon the torment itself, but the offense that God has a standard that is different than our own and that He will judge individuals based on that standard. The punishment is just the proverbial whipping boy for this offense.

Not only is God judging by a standard different from our own, but He has appointed a Judge for that day. He is Jesus Christ.

We are familiar with the idea that Jesus Christ is the only Mediator between God and man concerning salvation (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 7:25; 9:15; 12:24). However, His mediatorial role includes His role as appointed Judge of humanity on the part of God.

Paul does not hesitate to preach this judgment through Jesus Christ even to pagans who had no knowledge of the Bible at all: “Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a Man Whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:29-31, ESV unless otherwise noted).

Peter did not hesitate to preach this judgment through Jesus to people familiar with the Scriptures: “...God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. And we are witnesses of all that He did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put Him to death by hanging Him on a tree, but God raised Him on the third day and made Him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that He is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead(Acts 10:38-42).

Just so we don’t think this idea is an anomaly of Acts:
  • “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22).
  • “...we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
  • “...Christ Jesus, Who is to judge the living and the dead” (2 Timothy 4:1).

What’s the standard of this Judge? It is the Law of God contained in the Scriptures:
  • “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:18-19).
  • “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21-23, NASB).
  • “But of the Son He says [in Psalm 45:6,7], ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness above Your companions’” (Hebrews 1:8,9, NASB).

We can work all day long to try to remake Jesus into our image, but He remains the final Judge Who will condemn all violators of God’s Law to “the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might” (2 Thessalonians 1:8).

And we’re all guilty. Every human being without exception stands in violation of the Law of God. “What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under we know that whatever the Law says it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the Law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the Law comes knowledge of sin...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:9,19,20,23).

So how can we stand before the Judge? Repent of your lawlessness and put your faith in that same Judge to be your Savior. He has paid the price of your lawlessness completely and has lived a perfectly obedient (Law-keeping) life on your behalf. Believe in Him as Savior and be acquitted on the day you stand before His judgment seat – not because of anything you have done, but solely on the basis of what He has done on your behalf.

"Blessed is the one who is not offended by Me" (Matthew 11:6).