Judging another man's servant
Nov 16, 2011
In Romans 14 the apostle Paul discusses the need for believers to show love toward those who hold differing opinions or alternate interpretations of Scripture. Paul specifies food laws and feast days as his examples, but the principle certainly holds true on all matters that do not involve the foundational issue of justification by faith.
Paul's prime argument is given in Romans 14:4,
(4) Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and stand he will, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
In other words, Paul tells his readers that they are servants of Jesus Christ--not servants of the Church. No man has the right to judge the servant of Jesus Christ. What is perhaps even more astounding is what Paul says in verses 5 and 6,
(5) One man regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind; (6) He who observes the day observes it for the Lord, and he who eats does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.
There will always be differing opinions among those who have the right to have their own personal relationship with Jesus Christ. To remove that right in the name of enforcing Unity is much like forcing everyone to become a slave in order to protect them from themselves. A few centuries after Paul's death, the Church leaders usurped the authority of Christ and began to think of Christians as the servants of the Church.
The Church Councils, beginning in the fourth century, attempted to force all Christians to a uniform belief system on the grounds that there was but "one universal church" that could not be divided. The statement was true enough, but because they had redefined the Church to mean an organization rather than the body of Christ, they applied it with the wrong spirit. In so doing, they took upon themselves the spirit of Saul and usurped the place of Jesus Christ.
In other words, they began to judge another man's servant.
The body of Christ is made up of those who have faith in Jesus Christ. They have faith in the mission and purpose for which He came to earth. They are the ones who understand that His death on the cross was a Sacrifice for sin and fulfilled all the prophecies of the Old Testament sacrifices. They are the ones who, by the law of sacrifice in Lev. 17, have brought the blood of His Sacrifice to their Temples to apply it to themselves personally.
Or, to put it another way, they have applied the blood of the Passover Lamb to their "house."
These are also those who believe that God raised Him from the dead for their justification. Apart from His resurrection, there is no resurrection for us either.
Those who believe these basic things are those who have faith in Christ. Anything else is secondary, and we are not to judge another man's servant.
The Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. was set up to determine if the Trinitarian doctrine was correct, or the Arian view. The winners of that Council branded the losers as "heretics," by which they meant that the losers were not believers at all. Subsequent Church Councils dealt with other beliefs, each one defining a true Christian in a narrower manner.
In most cases, these Councils judged another man's servant, and anyone who did not conform to the decisions of the Church Councils was branded a "heretic." Later, the Church leaders enforced their decrees by means of the death penalty, fire, and torture. Throughout all of this, it was presumed that the Church was the earthly organization, complete with the hierarchy of priests and bishops. Hence, in order to be a true believer, one had to join their organization and submit to its leadership and belief system. In doing so, they usurped the place of Christ, who asked only that we have faith in Him, His death, and His resurrection.
This was the spirit of Saul. Recall that Saul became king of Israel because the people had rejected the direct rule of God (1 Sam. 8:7). They wanted to be ruled by men, rather than by Jesus. What was seen in the days of Samuel established the pattern of what came to pass in the Church as well. Why? Because human nature had not changed. The flesh was still ruling them.
There is nothing wrong with having men in positions of authority under God. The problem comes when those leaders and rulers usurp the place of Christ and presume to judge another man's servant, thinking that all believers are their own servants. Men lost the freedom to have their own personal and direct relationship with God. Their relationship was indirect, having men standing between them and Jesus Christ--men who claimed the power to give or deny them access to Christ.
The people were denied access to Christ unless they conformed to all of the decisions of the Church Councils in matters that diverged far from the simple faith of the New Testament. Paul said in Eph. 2:8, "For by grace you have been saved through faith." To this simple formula, the usurpers added a host of doctrinal requirements.
In the sixth century, the Church Councils anathematized (cursed) those who believed in the Restoration of All Things. Though some of the greatest and most respected Church leaders of earlier centuries had believed that God would ultimately restore all mankind to Himself, the Church chose to ignore this fact and proceeded to class such people as "heretics."
In doing so, they re-wrote Paul's admonition, "For by grace you have been saved through faith and belief in eternal hell as divine judgment for sin." I personally fail to see how we must have faith in hell in order to be saved. Paul mentioned "hell" (i.e., hades) only once in all of his writings, and that was to say that it had been overcome (1 Cor. 15:55).
It is amazing to me how the spirit of Saul continues to operate far beyond the walls of the Roman Catholic Church. It has spread throughout most of the denominations today. I am personally being judged even now for my beliefs, not by those who have read my books and understand what I teach, but by those who presume to know after hearing only a few words. On the basis of the sixth-century Church Council, they feel free to judge me as a "heretic."
I realized years ago that to truly pursue God and to know His heart would bring out the worst in my fellow believers. They do not like it when anyone steps out from the beaten path of orthodoxy as established by carnal men of Saul in past Church Councils. I have found that while virtually every Christian claims to possess the love of God, they tend to apply it only to those who believe the same as they do. The limited application of love is a natural consequence of their belief that God Himself does the same. They are only imitating the character of God as they perceive it.
When people think that God can love people while He tortures them in hell, then they believe that they themselves are entitled to do the same.
In the end, the issue is not really about doctrine, but about our concept of divine Love, which Paul discusses in Romans 5 as the basis of his view of Universal Reconciliation. First He establishes the fact that God loves even His enemies to the point of being willing to die for them. This unconditional Love is then expressed in the "free gift" that He has given to "all men" in the same manner that Adam's sin negatively affected "all men."
Yet if men wish to believe that God is unable to save men after the great "deadline" of death, they are free to believe this. I strongly disagree, but I must respect their right to believe this. I cannot judge another man's servant.
Dr. Stephen Jones