by Mike Ratliff
For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:11-16)
I have been a Christian since 1986. From the day of my salvation to the present, I am sure I have heard dozens of teachings on “The Mind of Christ.” Along with those teachings, I have also heard many confusing references to Jesus’ statement from Matthew 7 and Luke 6 where He commanded His disciples to “Judge Not…” In my own experience, more often than not, the command to “Judge Not” came from someone wishing to protect some malefactor against people demanding his or her scalp in response to some heinous act. Are believers to never judge? Is it wrong to judge? Are Christians to be spineless acceptors of every person regardless of the magnitude of their reprehensible actions? We must look at Jesus’ command exegetically to answer these questions. Reading vital scripture passages in isolation without placing them in proper context misuses scripture via some eisegetical process. That means reading into scripture what is not there. Proper exegesis of scripture never pulls scripture out of context and uses scripture to interpret scripture.
The prerequisite for believers to conform to Jesus’ command to “judge not” is spiritual maturity. This level of maturity has increased to the level where the Christian has apprehended or acquired the mind of Christ. In other words, no one is capable of obeying this command unless he or she has become a spiritually mature, Christlike Christian. Is Christlikeness possible for every Christian? I believe it is. (Philippians 1:6) How does the Christian acquire it? I cannot think of better place to start in this study than the beginning so let us start there.
For the past several weeks, I have been reading a book by the great American Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards titled The Freedom of the Will. He wrote it shortly before his death in 1758. The title of the book is a bit misleading. His thesis is not an exposition of Man’s free will. Instead it is a methodical dismantling of the every position which proclaims that the unregenerate, the lost, have the ability to make spiritual decisions in God’s favor. The main truth I have learned from reading this book is how corrupt, defiled, and depraved the unregenerate heart is. It is completely incapable of seeking God or His righteousness.
“as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.”, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:10-18)
That being true, how can any human being ever apprehend the mind of Christ? This horrible condition resulted from Adam and Eve’s fall into sin. (Genesis 3) Because of their willful disobedience of God, all of their descendants are born spiritually dead. There are no exceptions. Man is neither capable of seeking God nor willing to seek Him. Since we are all born spiritually dead we are completely cutoff from God. In that condition, there is no hope of ever knowing Him or spending eternity with Him. Instead, our eternal destination is Hell. However, I have good news! God is gracious. He has determined to save some of His creation.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:3-14)
Before the foundation of the world, God looked into the future and selected or elected those He would save. He predestined them for adoption through Jesus Christ. God is all-powerful (Omnipotent) and sovereign. He never fails. He will accomplish all that He wills to do. Therefore, those whom He elected will be saved. Those whom He did not elect will never believe. Jesus’ death on the cross was completely sufficient to pay the price for the elect’s sin. God the Father chose or elected those who are to be saved. Jesus Christ, God the Son, died on the cross to pay the penalty of the elect’s sin. His death established a blood covenant whereby all who partake of it are saved. (Matthew 26:28; 1 Corinthians 11:25; Hebrews 7) The process is set, but how do we actually come to salvation if it isn’t our choice or decision? How do we partake of this blood covenant with the Lord? Let’s look at another passage.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Romans 8:28-30)
This foreknowledge is based upon knowledge or knowing a person, not what a person will or will not do. God foreknew each person He set His heart to save. He set His intentions and affections on them. Because of this foreknowledge and loving of His elect, He predestined each of them to be conformed to the image of His Son. Of course, the Son is Jesus Christ. Now we are back to our original question. How can sinful and spiritually dead Man become conformed unto the image of the Son so he can apprehend the Mind of Christ?
Look at the progression in the passage above. God foreknew all whom He would save. Because of this affection, He predestined them for glory. Jesus’ death established the blood covenant through which God’s elect are saved. Since Man is still spiritually dead and helpless, God must take the next step. The next thing God does in the heart of those whom He saves is to call them. This call is the effectual call made by the Holy Spirit in the heart of the elect in God’s timing. This call is the actual regeneration of the heart of the new believer. This is the point a new believer is “Born Again.” They are new creations who are no longer spiritually dead. This act of regeneration opens up the new believer’s Spirit so it is aware of God and His holiness and justice. He or she also sees their sin in light of their new knowledge of God. This realization of their lost condition and their sin drives them to repent of that sin by turning to Jesus Christ for salvation. This is the act of repenting and believing on the Lord Jesus Christ by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8-9) This is the only part of salvation whose responsibility is the believer’s alone. However, the faith through which it is accomplished is a gift of God by His grace and is part of the act of regeneration of the heart, which must come first.
Because of the effectual call by the Holy Spirit, the new believer repents and believes. God alone accomplishes the next part of our salvation. Because of the believer’s act of faith, God justifies him or her. This means God accounts them as righteous according the righteousness of the Son. After all, it is through His blood through which they are saved and partake of His covenant. Their act of repenting and believing on Him is their act of dying to self that made them a member of the covenant. God the Father justifies them. They are now righteous in His eyes. If we go back to the earlier passage in Ephesians 1, we see that one of the purposes of election is to adopt those whom He saves into His family. Therefore, after the effectual call accomplishes its regenerative work and the new believer believes, God justifies, then adopts him or her into His family. They are now Jesus Christ’s brothers and sisters.
The only step remaining in passage in Romans is “glorification.” This is the actual conforming of the believer unto the image of the Son. How is this accomplished? The next step in our salvation, “sanctification,” conforms us unto the image of the Lord. Yes, I know it isn’t listed in Romans 8:28-30 or in Ephesians 1. However, even though we have regenerated hearts, we are justified by faith, adopted into His family, and have glorification awaiting us in Heaven we are nowhere near ready for that last step. How does God take new believers who are spiritual babes and accomplish conformity unto the image of His Son? This is where sanctification comes in.
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13)
How do we do this? We must mature in Christ. We must cooperate with God in our sanctification by “working out our salvation with fear and trembling as He works in us according to His will.” Sanctification is the process that will take the rest of our lives. It is the actual restructuring of our hearts to bring them into conformity with our Lord. We are to take on His character as we drop or jettison all of the fleshly things that hinder our spiritual growth. This process matures us so that we can now apprehend or acquire the mind of Christ. That means as we mature in Christ, we become more and more like Him. That isn’t all though. It also means the Holy Spirit leads the mature believer, the Spirit-led, into righteous behavior. The Spirit-led believer walks through each day with God’s value system apparent to his or her heart. This is accomplished as God circumcises their heart more and more with each act of surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all parts of their lives. (Deuteronomy 30:5-6) With a circumcised heart, the believer’s conscience is pure and undefiled. That means God’s value system is apparent to it. A pure and undefiled conscience leads to pure and undefiled behavior because the believer heeds it. This results in God giving the believer His wisdom as needed (James 1:5) Decisions are made in light of God’s value system and their own very active conscience. This is walking through life with the mind of Christ.
If our hearts are circumcised and we heed our consciences as we walk by the spirit within the light of God in all things, will we judge others? I contend that most believers not only judge others as a way of life, but they are not Spirit-led nor have they apprehended the mind of Christ. The Spirit-led are not perfect, but they have a huge drive to walk in the light of the knowledge of God. That means they want to exercise their wills in complete obedience to God’s will. Until they mature unto Christlikeness, they will struggle mightily with reactions to other people who are rude, unreasonable, or simply annoying. Pride is still highly active in their hearts. Humility is growing, but it isn’t fully developed.
Even though this study’s title is Judge Not, I am not suggesting that all we have to do is stop judging others then we will be Christlike and humble. Instead, the thesis of this study is this: the way of life, which does not judge others based on ones own value system, results from surrendering to the Bible’s teaching on judging ourselves against God’s standards. When we do that, we do not judge others. Instead, we forgive them. We understand what we were like before God saved us. We understand that we are not worthy of election let alone salvation. We deserve hell. God rescued us from it and predestined us for glorification as brothers and sisters of our Lord. We did not come to Christ by deciding to do so. We are not saved because we made the right decision while the lost aren’t smart enough to do so. If this were true then we could boast couldn’t we? However, Ephesians 2:8-9 makes it clear that we have nothing about which to boast. God saved us according to His will and purpose for His glory. We deserve nothing. With that in mind, how dare we judge others!
When the realization of the true nature of our salvation sinks home, it should humble us. Now, we must seek to apprehend the mind of Christ thereby taking on His character. When we do that we will respond to everyone the Lord brings into our spheres the same way Jesus would. That means we must “judge not.” Instead of judging, we must practice forgiveness with a humble and lowly heart.
Join me in this study of developing the mind of Christ in our hearts. The Western Church desperately needs this teaching. Humility is sorely lacking. Most believers are very immature as a result. Let’s dedicate ourselves to submission to the truth from God’s Word as the Holy Spirit reveals those areas in our hearts that desperately need spiritual surgery.
Oh Lord, I pray that You will do a tremendous sanctifying work in the hearts of all who read this study. I pray that You will be glorified as they repent of judging others and turn to a life of Christlikeness. I pray that with each response to other people the reader’s conscience will reveal the need to be humble and non-judgmental. At the same time I pray you will empower them to obey Your will as they seek to walk by faith. I pray their lives will be marked by gentle forgiveness to all around them so Jesus’ image in them will apparent to all. All for your glory Lord—Amen!
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™ Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.