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(Acts 17:10–15) A Plea For Judges

(Acts 17:10–15) A Plea For Judges

by Stephen Davey
Series: Sermons in Acts
Ref: Acts 17:10–15

You've seen the COEXIST bumper stickers and you've experienced political correctness.  So what is the role of truth? Learn why the modern mantra "Don't judge me," just isn't Biblical.


“A Plea For Judges”

Acts 17:10-15

In 1820 a young man named Joseph Smith wandered out into a field where he was allegedly visited by God the Father and God the Son.  Eventually, he supposedly discovered golden plates written in a strange language that an angel helped him to translate.  Over the next decade, Smith continued to receive revelations, and by 1830 he had written the Book of Mormon.  Today, millions of Americans and millions more overseas follow that particular cult:  a cult by the way that is attempting to align itself with Christianity and their beliefs that God is a man and Jesus is the brother of Satan; denying the incarnation of God through Christ.  These things are downplayed as they increasingly adopt evangelical terminology. 

In 1886, Mary Baker Eddy, while recovering from an accident, supposedly discovered new realms of metaphysical truth.  Her major work, Science and Health with a Key to the Scriptures, defines the Christian Scientist doctrine that is basically a repackaging of Hinduism.

In 1879 a man named Charles Russell wrote a book entitled Zion’s Watchtower.  He left an orthodox Presbyterian background to experiment with Seventh-Day Adventism and then Christadelphianism.  Finally, he founded his own cult known as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a cult that denies the deity of Jesus Christ and is embraced by millions of people around the world.

I could go on and on, talking about spirit guides, the new age movement, the fascination today with UFO’s and the occult, the rise of Islam, now with more than 1 billion followers worldwide, and in the inroads of Buddhism which regards Jesus as a mere enlightened man.

None of these beliefs should surprise us.  The scriptures tell us that we will do battle against the doctrines of demons.  Never before has the church faced such an array of false teachers and false doctrines.

At the same time, however, the church seems to be uncertain of its response.  Human rights, a global sensitivity, has created in us a desire to respect other cultures, languages and people.  That’s all well and good; but somehow a respect for other religions as equally valid slipped into the mix.

Ladies and gentlemen, you most certainly should respect the Hindu, the Mormon and the Muslim as people.  But, you are not to respect the religion of Hinduism and Mormonism any more than the first century Christian was to respect Caeasar worship and pagan idolatry.  By the third century, Christians were being thrown to lions, because they refused to acknowledge any spiritual truth outside of biblical truth and any other worship outside of biblical worship.

But, wait a second.  Aren’t you being unloving by not allowing other religions their right of way?  If there was a bottle of strychnine in your cupboard, would it be loving to label it maple syrup?    If you knew that a path in the woods led to a sheer cliff, would it be loving to build a sign next to it that reads, “Out of respect for your own hiking preferences and experiences, this path may work for you.”  No!  The most loving thing you could do for the rest of the world would be to make a sign that said “Danger, drop off ahead.”

The most loving thing I can do is tell the Mormon (atheist, Jehovah’s witness, or new ager) he’s wrong.

One might say, “Well, aren’t you being judgmental?  Who are you to say that 1 billion Muslims are wrong and millions of Mormons are lost?   Doesn’t the Bible say we’re not suppose to judge people?”  “Yes, ‘Judge not, lest you be judged.’”

That verse is one of the most misused passages in the New Testament.  In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus Christ was telling them and us not to judge as the Pharisees judged.  It had nothing to do with religious truth.  The Pharisees were judging men, not on the basis of their religion, but on the basis of external legalistic standards:  whether or not they washed their hands at the right times, observed the rituals of the Sabbath, etc.

Did you know that there are several verses of scripture that actually encourage the believer to make judgments?


Here are 4 instances where it’s not only right but imperative for you to judge.

1)  It is right to judge when it relates to the truth of Christ’s deity.

Notice how he labels the religions of the world that deny the truth of Christ’s claim to be the world’s only savior and only path to eternal life.

I John 4:1  Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits (put the spirits to trial – examine the evidence; scrutinize their teaching – why?)  to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

2:21.  I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth.  Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ?  This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.  Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father.

The underlying similarity between Mormonism, Hinduism, Seventh Day Adventism and Jehovah’s Witnesses, Islam and on and on and on is this basic fact:  they all deny that Jesus Christ is God come in the flesh and that He is indeed the revelation of God who came into the world to reveal the only pathway back to God.

2.  By this you know the Spirit of God; every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming and now it is already in the world.  v. 5.  They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them.

That’s why we hear Jesus declaring a message, not of universal salvation but of universal judgment.  In John 3 He said, “I did not come into the world to condemn the world, because the world is already condemned.”

The world is walking along that broad path that leads to destruction… (Matthew 7:13)

We need more people willing to build signs that say, “Danger…”

2)  It is right to judge when someone rebels against the scripture

I Corinthians 5:1-5 refers to a man who was openly involved in immorality.  He was a member of the church in Corinth.  Paul wrote to the church and said ‘The one who has done this deed should be removed from your midst.  For I have already judged him who so committed this.”

3)  It’s right to judge our own relationship with Christ.

I Cor. 11:28 relates to the observance of communion, and the word judgment occurs 5 times in just 3 verses.  “But let a man examine (judge) himself and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he does not judge the body rightly, but, if we judged ourselves rightly, we should not be judged.”

Our contemporary culture is erasing repentance and self-evaluation from the life of the believer.  That’s too depressing; let’s focus on the power of positive thinking.  The pursuit of personal holiness causes you to need to confess.  That isn’t good for your self-image.

4)  It is right to judge every experience and teaching in light of Scripture.

The Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 2:15 is speaking to the issue of spiritual truth versus spiritual error, the natural wisdom of the world in contrast to the spiritual wisdom of the word.  He states, “He who is spiritual judges all things.”

The spiritual man or woman puts everything to the test of scripture to see if it is indeed pure and true.

In Hebrews 4:12 the Bible is called the kritikos which gives us the words critical, criticism, criteria.  It’s translated throughout the N.T. with the English word judge.

The word of God is the inspired criteria of truth.  It is the grand decider between truth and error.  We must not follow the current mode of popular ideology and religiosity which follows:

            Emotional sentiment instead of scripture

            Human rationale instead of divine revelation.

One of the most incredible examples of people doing just the opposite of current popular thought was a group of Jewish and Greek men and women who went to the scriptures in order to examine the newest thing they’d ever heard.  You find them at the next stop in our tour of the Book of Acts. 

Acts 17:10 And the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea; and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness.

Isn’t it interesting that even to this day, centuries later, you never hear of a church being named “Thessalonica Baptist Church,” “Thessalonica Methodist,” or “The Free Church of the Thessalonians.”

But you do hear Berean Baptist or Sunday school classes called“The Berean Class.”

Why?  Because the Bereans were more noble minded that the Thessalonians. 

Then Luke quickly tells us three reasons why:

First of all, back in verse 11b. “the Bereans received the message with great eagerness.”  Now that doesn’t mean they believed it.  They simply wanted to hear it.   They received the message eagerly.  The original word carries the idea of rushing forward.

You may remember that for the most part the Thessalonians didn’t want to hear it.  In fact, they did everything they could to drown it out.

Perhaps you’ve discovered the same two kinds of people to whom you try to witness.   Thee person says, “I’m not interested.  I don’t want to hear it!”  The other kind of person says, “Just what does the Bible say?  I’ve never heard that before; could you tell me more?”

Secondly, they examined the message thoroughly.

Notice the next phrase in verse 11b. “examining the Scriptures daily.”

The incredible thing was their loyalty and openness to the word.  They examined the scriptures to see if they were supposed to change their lives.  We so often go to the scriptures to try and prove we don’t have to change; or we ignore the scriptures because we know they demand that we do change. 

Not the Bereans.  The Bible says, “They examined the Scriptures for an hour on Sunday morning.”

Circle that very convicting word daily.  Didn’t they have jobs?  Didn’t they have farming to do?  Didn’t they have meals to cook and children to teach?  They had a synagogue in Berea; didn’t they pay the Rabbi enough to do that for them?!

Thirdly, they examined the messenger objectively.

11b.  They examined the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.”

To see whether or not Paul was telling them the truth.

But wasn’t Paul a Pharisee; a graduate of Gamaliel’s school of theology; a man with a lawyer’s logic and an orator’s passion; a man who had the power to perform signs and wonders; a track record of healing and even a testimony of raising from the dead.  Wasn’t Paul telling them, “God told me to tell you this. . .this is from God!”

Didn’t matter.  Did what Paul have to say match what God had said?!!! - what God had said, in black and white, Old Testament, clear cut, propositional, explicit revelation.

The word examined is the word anakrino- krino – judge.  They judged Paul in light of the scriptures.  Don’t you know you’re not supposed to judge anybody?  They were judging the Apostle Paul.  As well they should!

The message of Paul was radical, revolutionary.  It would rip families apart.  It would bring division to their city; it would stir up incredible emotional controversy in the synagogue, but that wasn’t what mattered most.

What mattered most was whether or not Paul’s message could be substantiated by O.T. scripture and if it could, than obedience to the word was critical – why?  Because the word was revelation from God – and to disobey the word is to disobey God; to ignore the word is to ignore God.  To argue against the word was to argue against God.

12 Many of them therefore believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men. 13 But when the Jews of Thessalonica found out that the word of God had been proclaimed by Paul in Berea also, they came there likewise, agitating and stirring up the crowds. 14 And then immediately the brethren sent Paul out to go as far as the sea; and Silas and Timothy remained there. 15 Now those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed.

APPLICATION:  From Ancient Berea to Contemporary Believers

True doctrine concerning spiritual matters is  expounded in scripture.

Paul wrote to Titus (1:13),  “. . .the testimony (of scripture) is true.”  Jesus Christ said in the last chapter of the last Book of the Bible, “These sayings are faithful and true.” (Revelation 22:6)

Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:16 that the word is profitable for doctrine.  This tells you what to believe.

Doctrine isn’t stuffy propositions for faculty board meetings and seminary dialogue.  Doctrine is the truth of scripture, lived by believers every day.

In fact, the only way to live correctly is to think Biblically.  If you do not think Biblically, then you will not behave Biblically.  “Solomon wrote, “As a man thinks (believes in his heart), so is he.”  You are what you believe.  Proverbs 23:7

Who decides what you believe?  This Book?  Your peers?  Your professors?  Who decides?!  Your answer to that question will determine then how you will live.

True discernment concerning issues of life emanate from scripture.

The word of God is profitable, Paul goes on to say in 2 Timothy 3:16; so that the man of God (the believer) may be thoroughly furnished for every good work . . . every aspect of life.   “Thoroughly furnished” is an original phrase that was used of a man stocking his wagon with supplies for a long journey.  The only way to have discernment and wisdom over the long haul of life is to stock your wagon with the word.

Would you like to live a life of purity, integrity and sincerity?!  I found it interesting this past week as I studied the original derivatives of the Greek word krino – judge – that the words sincerity, purity, and integrity are translated from a combination of two Greek words – krino – judge and another word aleia which refers to the light of the sun.

Integrity, sincerity could literally be translated “judged by the light of the sun.”   If you wanted in first century Greece to test the purity of honey, you held the jar up to the sun and looked to see if any impurities were mixed together in the jar.  Pure honey was declared so only after it was tested by the light of the sun.

So we today must expose and hold up to the light of the Son of God and His revelation every doctrine, every fad, and every new idea to determine whether or not it is pure and right.

True development of the church is explaining scripture so that its members can explain scripture to others.

Paul wrote to Timothy, “Timothy, the things you’ve learned from me, teach them to faithful men who will be able to teach them to others and the implication goes on and on (2 Timothy 2:2).

In fact, according to Hebrews 5 the mark of a mature believer was not someone who got an A+ on all the Bible quizzes but someone who was learning the scriptures and then eventually teaching the scriptures to others: one to many; parent to child; friend to friend; small group discussion…

You know what a teacher does.  He or she sits alone at some desk or in some kitchen corner pouring over the word, examining the word, cross-referencing, underlining, outlining, memorizing, digging the truth out for themselves and dissatisfied with pre-digested truth.

I want to share the story of a Yellowstone National Park ranger who relayed how much of a problem they have with bears dying in the winter.  Even though there are signs along the roads that read, “Don’t feed the bears,” tourists feed the bears.  The young bears eventually learn to stay near the road and feed off the tourists.  Then winter comes, and the young bears die by the road when the tourists stop coming.  There are even cases where some cruel people have given bears poisoned food.

The goal of this church is not to fatten you up with predigested scraps but to equip you to live a Biblical life that ultimately enables you to communicate Biblical truth to those who don’t know the Bible:  people who are dying because they don’t know how to find the food for themselves; others because they readily take whatever is handed to them, and it is poisoned food.

That’s why we need more judges today, not less.  We need more critical thinkers today, not less.  We need more courage today to speak the truth in love to a world who knows neither truth nor love but is desperately in need of both.  We have found both truth and love in the Son of God Who loves us with an everlasting love and Who promised us that in Him we would know the truth and the truth would set us free.



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