Are you sinfully judgmental?


I recently picked up Dave Swavely’s new book titled, “Who are you to judge? The Dangers of Judging and Legalism.” I was interested in the subject for a variety of reasons so I thought it may be a good buy/read. Anyone who has been in ministry for anytime has probably been accused of being judgmental, unloving, and/or legalistic.
In my own life I know there are some occasions when this is indeed true. I try and justify my critical spirit claiming “I’m just being discerning.” Sometimes I fall short in this area and thus I see the need for repentance.
There are other times of course when I am misaccused of being unloving or judgmental when I am simply following the principles of 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.
Many people in the church today simply lack the will to discern (see Macarthur’s excellent book, “Reckless Faith”). These folks accuse anyone and everyone of everything when it comes to the arena of legalism/judging. All of us see the ramifications of this in the fulfillment of Ephesians 4:14, As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.
I decided to start by reading the appendixes of Swavely’s new book. I was intrigued by the title of one, “The Ultimate Human Judgment.” Swavely tries to answer the question, ‘So how can we judge whether someone is a Christian or not?’ Pastor Swavely makes a few good points saying we can never know for certain whether or not someone is genuinely saved. Ultimately only God knows the heart. If someone makes an orthodox profession (p. 185) then we should assume that person is speaking the truth. He writes, “So our relationship to other professing Christians as brothers and sisters is based on a presumption of faith. Or to put it another way, we call them believers, accept them as believers, and treat them as believers.”
I was ok with this appendix until I read the following sentence, “The biblical writers did not attempt to determine or distinguish true believers from false believers within the church. They accepted people’s profession of faith, as long as it was a credible or biblical profession…” Wait a minute! What about the book of 1 John and all the tests that are laid out for us. 1 John 5:13, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life.” What about the book of James?
On page 186 Swavely writes, “I would suggest that when someone has professed personal faith in Christ, been baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and identified with the church, we are then under obligation from Scripture to make NO NEGATIVE JUDGMENTS about the validity of his faith” (emphasis mine). I understand where Pastor Dave is trying to go with this but in my mind I do not fully agree. He continues, “That obligation remains even when a professing believer seems to exhibit a lack of fruit, or even if he commits repeated heinous sin, because in those cases the other members of the body are called to encourage, admonish, and if necessary discipline him…”
The problem is most churches baptize anyone who makes a profession of faith and then they do not treat those people as N.T. Christians (through encouragement, admonishment, accountability, discipline, etc). I agree with the author that, “we must think twice before concluding that a fellow member of the body is not a true Christian.” Ultimately God is the one true Judge.
Do you think it is judgmental for churches to withhold baptism for those who profess Christ? My personal desire is NOT to limit baptism only for the spiritually mature or to the super saint. I believe baptism is for any person who professes saving faith in Jesus Christ. I do think it is important to test the profession of faith to determine if it is genuine saving faith as much as is humanly possible (again James and 1 John are so helpful here). I know non-Lordship brethren often accuse Reformed believers of super imposing spiritual conditions on the gospel message. As you know, many people simply do not understand the biblical components of saving “faith.” I concur with Dr. Stuart Scott’s biblical interpretation here.

“Understanding Saving Faith (“believing” – Jn.3:16; 1:12)
a. The Knowledge (content) of the Gospel Facts with Jesus as the object of faith = Noticia (Jn.17:3; Heb. 6:4; 10:26; Jas.2:19)
b. The Agreement (intellectual assent) with the Gospel Facts = Assensus (Mt.13:20; Jn.6:44,65; Acts 26; Heb. 6:4; Jas.2:19)
c. A personal transfer of trust and reliance from oneself to Jesus alone for your Justification = Fiducia.
This involves godly sorrow and repentance for all sin, an about face and an all-out pursuit to love, submit to, fully trust in and follow after the Lord Jesus Christ in obedience to His revealed will by the Spirit’s enablement (grace, Acts 11:18; 2 Ti.2:25). This saving faith will always result in good works (Eph.2:10; Jas.2:26).”

I’m just wondering how Swavely’s appendix works itself out? Are these accurate quotes? Do they even matter? Should churches be less restrictive when it comes to membership or baptism? Any thoughts????

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