God has been revealing a clearer understanding of what true fellowship with Him entails. This has also magnified the instruction which states how someone is able to worship God (have a true relationship with Him), or if they are incapable of having such a relationship at all. For it is clearly stated that, “God is a spirit” and those who worship Him must worship “in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:24).
This final area that will now be covered is one in which there has always been much confusion within the membership of the Church. It is about how to judge and then to act upon such judgment concerning those who are not in the fellowship of the Church. This final section will answer many of the questions that relate to this issue.
As with the last section, where a categorization was given for those who become “set against” God, a categorization will be made here at the beginning for those who are not in a “spiritual fellowship” with God at this time. Then, each of these will be explained more fully as we proceed further into this subject. We are to learn to better discern these differences through “clearer judgment,” and then “act” upon such understanding more wisely. Within this category of those who are not in a “spiritual fellowship” with God at this time, there are two primary groups of people:
1. Those who “have not been called”
a.) Who are highly indulgent in immoral and evil living
b.) Who are among most who are “of the world,” living out normal physical lives
c.) Who are against God’s Church
2. Those who “have been called”
a.) Who have been disfellowshipped and have no active outward display of ill will toward the Church
b.) Who have been disfellowshipped and have an active outward display of ill will toward God’s Church
c.) Who became scattered after the Apostasy, but have not been formally disfellowshipped from God’s true Church
Judge Righteous Judgment
As we proceed through this final section, some will be “tried” in how they may have to make some adjustments in current relationships and/or how they currently view them. God is helping us to more fully refine our thinking about relationships, especially in how to more perfectly judge them.
God’s Kingdom will soon be established on this earth and some of the parameters here will change when that begins. For example, group #1, or those who “have not been called” will begin changing at that time, for many will have the opportunity of a calling in the Millennium. But in all of this, God is teaching us much about a process of attaining to a stronger ability to “judge righteous judgment.”
Sometimes in the beginning of one’s calling, people can struggle with some of the things Christ had to say about judging. Although he made statements such as, “judge not, that you be not judged,” he also stated, “judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment”. In all these instances, Christ is warning that we should not judge by normal human judgment based on sentiment, pride, prejudice, selfishness, etc., but that it is to be based upon God’s word and ways (purpose, design, and will).
Christ said, “You judge after the flesh (via human nature). I judge no man (in the context of ‘after the flesh’). Yet if (when) I judge, my judgment is true, for I am not alone (not reliant upon self), but I and the Father who sent me” (Jn. 8:15-16). He was showing that right judgment must originate from God and through His inspiration (conveyed by His holy spirit). This is also in line with the statement he made: “Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous (the source being from God) judgment” (Jn. 7:24).
Once we are more perfectly able to judge in such a manner, then we and we alone must choose if we will live according to such judgment. It is the difference between living by (or according to) “our own will” or choosing to “live by God’s will.” Our Passover stated it beautifully: “I can of my own self do nothing. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just because I do not seek my own will (to live by that), but the will of the Father who has sent me” (Jn. 5:30).
The key to the difference of living our lives our way, or God’s way, especially in all relationships, is in what was stated at the very beginning of this series.
In Part 1 under the section heading of “God First,” the following statements (in quotations) were written:
“Relationships reveal what is in the heart, desire, and ‘true’ convictions of one who has entered the Body of Christ. Jesus Christ plainly stated how important it is that God be first in a person’s life, above all other relationships, ‘if’ a person desires to remain ‘in’ true fellowship with God.”
“If any come to me (through the Body of Christ) and does not love less (often translated as ‘hate’ – but in meaning and context is to ‘love less by comparison’) his father, mother, wife (or husband), children, brothers, sisters, and yes, even his own life also, then he cannot be my disciple” (Lk. 14:26).
“Christ is clearly saying that in order to be in a true relationship of continuing fellowship with him and God that one must always place God first in all matters of life in all the closest of human relationships.”
Before proceeding, it must be stated that all too often, some people’s spiritual weakness and self-inflicted trials in close relationships come from not “standing on the principle” (living by, applying it to life) that God is indeed first in their life. Too often, there is vacillation, blindness, and even downright failure to actually place God first above “loved ones.” The question must then be asked, “Whom do we truly love most (first)?”
In this series, those who are in God’s Church have had magnified to them the awesomeness, privilege, seriousness, and humbling honor it is to be granted true fellowship with the Eternal God, His Son, and His Church. In this final segment, we are focusing on learning how to better judge our relationship with those who do not now have such a relationship with God.
Making a categorized list of those who do not have such a relationship with God is for the purpose of turning our attention to a sound process for exercising basic judgment. This is because human nature tends to judge “after the flesh” – by the way “I” see it (“self” sees it). Although this has just been covered, it must be emphasized again in this manner. The reason for this is because righteous judgment requires we turn our attention fully away from how “we” instinctively see something (via human nature) to the way God shows us to “see,” which is in a sound spiritual manner.
The process for such judgment we are being shown here, concerning those who do not now have an active relationship with God, is quite basic. It is first divided into two basic categories: “those who have not been called” and “those who have been called.” Our ability to judge such matters does have a direct bearing on our overall relationship with God.
This is truly a simple place to begin, but again, although it is simple, it serves to turn our attention away from judging “by the flesh” (from carnal reasoning) to focusing on seeing such matters in light of “other’s” relationship to God, His plan, and purpose for human life.
The first area of focus is upon those who have not been called by God. In this group, there are three basic sub groups of people to be considered. Within this, there are some things that God is revealing, correcting, and refining concerning past understanding which will help us to clarify many past and current relationships.
The first area that is listed here is not a difficult one to judge, and obviously, God’s people should not be engaged in any “relationship” with such individuals. This concerns those who are highly indulgent in immoral and evil living. This concerns those who openly and outwardly live real evil in life. However, there are biblical admonitions that God’s people should not even be in environments and close relationships with any that live highly immoral lives. There is plenty said in scripture about this so there is no need to more fully cover it here.
The second group is often more difficult for many to judge when it comes to the kind of relationship we have with them. This consists of most of those living within the “western” world around us that we see and come into contact with day by day. It is one that we would simply see as “normal,” in and of the world. They are of the same group that most of us were in until God called us out of the world. It is with this group that we so eagerly look forward to being called by God. It is with so many within this group that we hope will have the opportunity of living on into the Millennium and then being able to learn and live full and blessed lives.
It is this group that can sometimes be treated with impatience by us, as we can tend to “expect” more from people and how we are treated by them. Yet, the bottom line is that they are not yet called and “are who they are” until they can begin to be transformed into something different. So it is always expedient upon us to treat them in a right manner, with patience and understanding, as we have already been blessed to be called now. So in many ways, it is with this group that more is required of us – of how we exercise God’s love toward them and that we not “expect” something of them that they really cannot yet deliver.
Before giving some specific examples that are more “common,” over which some have difficulty judging, the third group of “those who have not been called” needs to be mentioned. The reason for this is that “those who are against God’s Church” (1c) is one of the primary “deciding factors” for judgment of those “in the world” and not yet called out of it.
Both groups of 1B and 1C are made up of people, who by nature, are at “enmity against God” (Rom. 8:7). Most know nothing of God’s Church. Some who know you may know some basic things about what you believe. It may be about you keeping the seventh day (Saturday) Sabbath, foods you do not eat, or that you do not observe Christmas or Easter. None of these “agree” with your belief (Rom. 8:7) and they most certainly do not want this for their way of life.
However, there can be big differences in how they respond to you, your belief, and/or the Church (those in it). While all who are in the world who have not been called are simply “against” God, there are many who are tolerant of different beliefs even though they do not agree with the Church and its teachings, since they do not have the ability to do so. Many simply like you as a person because they like the qualities they see in you in the way you live and how you treat them. This makes up most of those who are simply “of the world” (1b), and it is with these that we are able to interact and have some form of relationship and friendship. This is said in the context of physical human relationships (friendships) that can be rewarding and meaningful, but obviously void of the added “spiritual” level of relationship that we look forward to having with them in the future.
Standing Firm in God
This is akin to how Jesus Christ interacted with the world around him. Others around him at that time did not have God’s spirit dwelling “in” them, with the exception of John the Baptist. These relationships were more of a matter of how Jesus himself treated others, just as we should. Yet there were many who were outwardly against him and what he believed and taught. He did not seek nor work to build any relationship with them, but stood firm in his “stand” for God and the truth. He did not strive to make peace with them, as they were outwardly against His Father, himself, and the truth, and they had no desire to have any “peace” with him.
Jesus Christ actually said something that is quite contrary to what many in traditional Christianity actually believe: “Do you suppose I have come to give peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division” (Lk. 12:51). This is actually said in the context of close human relationships, because when someone is called there will be those who they have close relationships with that will no longer be close, but instead will be filled with outwardly manifested division and void of peace. When these things occur, God’s people are tried and tested as to their true stand in faithfulness, conviction, and of placing God first in their life.
Jesus Christ was “down to earth,” as the expression goes. He had no display of superiority, pride, or haughtiness, but displayed a humble, approachable, kind, and open demeanor to those around him – in all levels of life. This is our example of how we should interact in our relationships with the world around us.
We too are to stand firm in God, with God always being clearly first in our life. For those who respond in a friendly manner (within the world) to “who we are,” without wanting to or working to “change” us, then we can have meaningful, productive, and rewarding relationships and friendships. However, these cannot be compared to the added strength and purpose that comes from “spiritual” fellowship, but at a future time that can potentially become added as well.
Most can especially relate to this desire of future hope in relationships within physical family. Although being “in” God’s Church (both a husband and wife, or other family members together), by definition, does not automatically bring about happy marriages and/or happy family life, because for such to exist, one must “live” God’s ways to attain this kind of fullness and richness in life. Candidly, I’ve known of a few marriages and families where only one person has been called and the marriage and/or families were closer, more caring, and filled with more happiness than some marriages and families in which both spouses and/or the family is together in God’s Church and had access to God’s spirit to make such fullness and happiness in life a much greater reality.
Some questions about relationships can become more difficult to judge when someone is more emotionally invested due to a marriage relationship, or that of a parent to child, child to parent, siblings, or of other close relationships. These can become very difficult because of the personal attachments and longings that exist in a marriage, family, and/or close friendships. But at the top of all such considerations is the fact that God must be placed first – that one stands firm “in God” above all else.
It would be good at this juncture to repeat some of what was written toward the beginning of this series under the heading of “Second Commandment.”
“In covering the first commandment, it was stated, ‘God is saying that no one should place any relationship (fellowship) ‘before’ or ‘in front of’ Him and His purpose in Elohim. He is stating that to do so is to place some other family (fellowship, relationship) against Him and against His purpose in Elohim – to raise up ‘other gods’ before Him – some other god family (other god elohim).’”
“It is truly one of the most heinous acts of all idolatry to ‘raise up’ some other relationship (family, fellowship) above what God has called us to become – His Family Elohim – which is currently in His begotten Church. Indeed, God’s Church is a Family!”
Those Against God’s Church
One of the most needful and yet often one of the most difficult places for one to stand firm in God concerns the situation where one’s mate or other close family member (who has not been called) takes a stand against God’s Church (against members and/or beliefs). In such an environment the only answer and action to be taken is a clear response that God and His Church come first in your life, and that this will not change!
Either the person vocalizing their disdain for God (the truth, God’s Church, towards yourself as a member, etc.) ceases doing so and agrees to love you and accept you for “who you are,” or not. If they will not accept you for who you are and love you for who you are, then their true response will be one of continuing their attacks (anger, disdain, resentment) against you and the Church. That will not change toward you unless they change toward you. If they will not change, then what kind of relationship actually exists and what kind of relationship can be built upon such a thing? If they love you for who you are, then they will respect you, be kind to you, and enjoy being with you even though they do not agree with your beliefs.
Can meaningful and lasting peace ever dwell where there is such division? It is a simple truth, a clear statement, which Jesus made about a basic family structure that also applies to the greater structure of a kingdom itself. “And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand” (Mk. 3:25). Peace cannot be produced in a divided home – only compromise. Compromise can only lead the one who is called to distance themselves from much needed fellowship with God and His people. In such cases of compromise, people can tend to pull away from God (His Church and His people) in order to appease someone who is “against God.” In such a case, God is not being placed first, and all too often a person is actually directly disobeying both the First and Second Commandment, blatantly so.
God gives strength, favor, and direct help to those who grow in learning how to place Him first in their life. Each must themselves discern, judge, and apply how this is to be accomplished in their life.
There are some awkward, unsettling, difficult, and at times very trying occurrences in relationships that often develop within the environment of the Church when someone is called into a relationship with God. These have often proven to be very hard to address by those who are called.
Paul addressed some of the most difficult issues that can arise. These have not been fully understood within the Church; however, God is now giving greater clarity. The first issue concerns one of the closest of relationships that God has given mankind to experience. It is in marriage. Yet the lesson from this first issue can also be applied to other relationships.
“To the rest I speak (as an apostle), but not (directed of, from) the Lord. If any brother (one called who is in the Church) has a wife that does not believe, and if she is pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away (‘put away’ is generally translated as ‘leave’). And the woman who has a husband who does not believe, and if he is pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave (same Gk. word translated as ‘put away’ in vs. 12) him” (1 Cor.7:12-13).
It is expedient that these verses be looked at much more closely. In the previous verses, Paul covered several issues concerning relationships and especially marriage relationships between those who are called and in God’s Church. Verses 12 and 13 go on to address a difference where only one in a marriage is called (is believing of the truth) and the other is not a believer – not called.
If someone wants to “change you” to being someone else, then they do not truly “accept you” or love you for who you are. If they do not truly love you, they will continue their attacks upon the Church. If they accept you and love you for who you are, then they will clearly cease from all attacks. Only then can there be a real and meaningful relationship to be built upon. Each person must decide for themselves how they choose to deal with such environments. However, it should also be understood that such adversarial environments can work against one’s spiritual strength and convictions.
Many have gone by the wayside because they have not stood firm “in God” and firm against such adversarial attitudes, spirit, and actions against themselves, God’s Church, and God’s truth – against God. Over the years, due to close family ties (or friendships), there have been far too many who have worked to appease, console, compromise, and have given in to attacks from those whom they love, yet that has never produced any lasting or meaningful peace. Instead, it generally just weakens a person spiritually in conviction, faithfulness, and joy in the truth.
In these two verses in 1 Corinthians 7, the expression “put away” is generally translated as “leave,” and in this context it is about a mate leaving the marriage either by legal separation or divorce. It is about the matter of whether a person is free before God to put away – to leave – that relationship. The deciding factor here rests on whether the unbelieving mate is “pleased to dwell” with their believing mate.
The word translated as “pleased” into English is from a compound word in Greek (composed of two separate Greek words). The first word is “union” or “being close together” and is sometimes translated as “companionship” or “association.” The other word means, “to think well of,” as “in approval of,” “thinking good of,” or “to be pleased with a person.” In the context used here, it gives a complete meaning of “thinking well of the relationship – the marriage” just as it is. It is simply another way of stating that the unbelieving mate accepts their believing mate “the way they are” – for who they are, even in their own personal beliefs, although they do not believe the same.
Although Paul was not charged by Jesus Christ to add this instruction to the Church, nevertheless, he was under God’s inspiration and he was in unity with Him as he wrote this for what the Church was to observe (thus “being bound on earth”). He clearly told members of the Church that if they had an unbelieving mate who accepted them (for who they were) and thought well of them “in their belief,” that they were not to leave that relationship – not to divorce them. However, he is also showing by this that if a mate is “against God” and is not accepting them in their belief, but is instead against them (wanting them to change to something else), then they are free to make the choice of separation or divorce.
This is also obviously true for anyone who has a mate who is turning (or has fully turned) away from the truth and is not “pleased to dwell with them” in their continuing belief. In other words, the one who turns against God (and against the believing mate) begins to pressure their believing mate to change in some form or manner to begin to also turn from God (away from His truth).
The lesson contained here from this matter of how to judge such relationships in marriage is also one that individuals need to weigh, consider, judge, and then apply to other close relationships. If someone who is not pleased with you in the way you are, in who you have become as you are being transformed, and they are “against God” and want you to change, then you are certainly “free” to put away – to leave –such a friendship and/or relationship. In such cases, it is so very often spiritually expedient to do so.
Another issue often misunderstood and/or misapplied is in what Paul addressed that actually follows directly behind the instruction that has just been covered.
“For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife (who is in the Church), and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband (who is in the Church), or else your children would be unclean, but now they are sanctified” (1 Cor. 7:14).
This verse is merely stating that an unbelieving mate and any children born from that marriage are “sanctified,” which means they are “set apart for holy use and purpose” due to that relationship. However, one must understand what that holy use and purpose is. This does not mean that the unbelieving mate or any subsequent children are being called by God or are even being offered a calling from God, unlike what previously has been believed within the Church concerning sanctification.
It would be helpful to consider what this sanctification is all about in order to more clearly understand how this is being applied to such a relationship. A simple statement about sanctification is used in Hebrews where a comparison is being made of physical sacrifices performed by the Israelites with that of the power God has given through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to forgive and remove sin.
“For if the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, ‘sanctifies’ to the purifying of the flesh, then how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb. 9:13-14)?
The “sanctification” being spoken of here was for “holy use and purpose” so that Israel was able to exist in a unique physical relationship with God, but not in a spiritual one.
In like manner, God sanctifies an unbelieving mate and children so that they may be in a unique and indeed special relationship with someone in whom God dwells. It is God’s presence that sanctifies, and in this case, individuals are able to enter a unique physical relationship with one who has been begotten of God (in whom God dwells), but the relationship is not spiritual, just as Israel’s relationship was not spiritual.
This sanctification is not a “calling” into a spiritual relationship with God, nor is it “offered” because of sanctification alone. So someone who is sanctified in order to be in such a physical relationship, due to the one who believes, is not being called, nor can they automatically choose at any time to be in a “called” – spiritual – relationship with God.
It is solely within God’s power, timing, and purpose for who and when anyone is called by Him.
There are potentially awesome blessings that such sanctified individuals can receive in their life, just as there were potentially awesome blessings available to the Israelites because of their sanctification. For the Israelites, receiving those blessings depended upon the personal choices of each individual with what they accepted (willingly received) from what God offered to them, and then choosing to apply it in how they would then live their life, according to what God had given. This obviously involved physical aspects of life, concerning such things as clean and unclean foods, tithing, observance of the Sabbath, and other of God’s laws. God blessed obedience, even on a physical plane.
Other nations were not sanctified as Israel had been blessed to be. God gave Israel much truth of His way in which life is to be lived. The rest of the nations were void of such knowledge. In like manner, there is no one in the world who has knowledge of God’s truth until they are blessed to come into contact with it. Those who are “called” of God to enter a spiritual relationship – fellowship – with Him, His Son, and His Church are so very profoundly blessed above all mankind. Those who are sanctified and able to come into an environment where truth dwells are also profoundly blessed, even if it is limited to a more physical plane.
(This concludes Pt. 12, as more must follow which cannot be readily received until this portion has had time to be more fully consumed and digested.)