1 You shall not circulate a false report. Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness. 2 You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after many to pervert justice. 3 You shall not show partiality to a poor man in his dispute (Exodus 23:1–3, NKJV).
We are not under the Law of Moses since God took it “out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Col. 2:14). Still, our hope is strengthened by learning patience and comfort from what was written to Israel (Rom. 15:4). So it is with today’s passage. God said to Israel, “You shall be holy men to Me” (Exod. 22:31). Therefore, God commanded Israel to (1) Be honest (Exod. 23:1). Do not circulate a false report against your neighbor. Do not join the wicked in bearing unrighteous testimony against others. Spreading falsehoods by gossip, backbiting, or other forms of slander is not holy conduct (Eph. 4:24-25). (2) Be just (Exod. 23:2). Stand firmly against the peer pressure of the mob that twists justice and calls evil good and good evil (Isa. 5:20). Treat everyone with fairness. Holiness leads us to treat others as we wish to be treated (Matt. 7:12). (3) Be impartial (Exod. 23:3). Settling disputes requires impartiality. Like Israel, we should not let circumstances (poor, rich, etc.) sway our decisions about right and wrong or how we treat others (James 2:1-4). Impartiality is a mark of holiness made possible by being honest and just. This triplet, honesty, justice, and impartiality would serve Israel well in loving their neighbors as themselves. Even so, may we be honest, just, and impartial, patiently securing our hope by being holy in all our conduct (1 Pet. 1:15-16).
49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, 50 and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:49–50, NKJV)
Hell is real, and hell is horrible. Jesus often spoke about hell and warned of “everlasting fire” into which those cursed by sin will “depart” (Matt. 18:8-9; 25:41). This sorrowful scene of “wailing and gnashing of teeth” will not be God’s doing. Some who do not believe in hell try to convince us God does not punish people, and if He does, then He is a horrible God. Their attempt fails miserably. The eternal punishment of hell’s corruption results from sowings seeds of sin in our lives (Gal. 6:7-8; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 2:1-11). God sent His Son Jesus to save us from sin’s eternal death. We do not rely on poets’ imaginative journeys to explain hell (i.e., Dante’s Divine Comedy). We listen to Jesus. Denying hell’s existence and its eternal punishment of sin denies Jesus (Matt. 25:46). It is that simple. We believe the Son of God and the truth He taught about hell (Jno. 1:14; 14:6). Those who accept the Bible as God’s word believe in eternal hell (and eternal heaven) because we trust His word as truth (Jno. 17:17). If you deny hell is real, you do not believe Jesus (“Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire,” Matt. 25:41); you believe the devil (“You will not surely die,” Gen. 3:4). We urge you not to believe the liar and father of lies (Jno. 8:44). Believe and obey Jesus, who warns us to escape the condemnation of hell (Matt. 23:33).
23 Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; 24 But let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23–24, NKJV)
This stern warning against pride in personal wisdom, power, and wealth is set against the backdrop of God’s wisdom, power, and richness. Paul wrote, “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:25). Human insight is nothing before the Almighty’s wisdom. Only the boastful would make such a foolish claim. Concerning human power, “Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord” (Jer. 17:5). Pride moves people to think they are stronger than God. Riches are temporary, and “perish through misfortune” (Eccl. 5:14). Pride in material abundance can lead to neglecting eternal riches (Lk. 12:15-21). By contrast, we can “understand and know” the Lord (Jer. 9:24). We understand He is sovereign (Lord), and accomplishes what is gracious, just, and righteous in the earth. Humility glories in God’s accomplishments, not ours. By doing so, God assures us of His favor (delight).
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:23–26, NKJV)
Let that soak in for a moment. Our sins make us guilty before God and under His wrath. Our just punishment is eternal death (Rom. 1:18; 3:19; 6:23). But, God has provided an offering for our sins that appeases His wrath against sin (1 Jno. 2:2; 4:10). That offering is His Son, Jesus Christ. God’s grace justifies sinners by the blood of Christ (Rom. 3:24; 5:9). His blood appeases God’s wrath, redeeming us from sin’s bondage and death (Rom. 5:10; Heb. 10:1-10). The Law of Moses could not do this. God’s power to save sinners is in the gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:16; 3:20-22). By the offering of His Son, God showed Himself to be just (innocent, holy) when He bore with previous sins (Rom. 3:26; Acts 17:30). Now, He commands all sinners everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30-31). Thus, God is vindicated. The death of Jesus shows God was just in forbearing with “sins that were previously committed.” And, His righteousness is seen in justifying those who have faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:26). The faith (the gospel) produces personal faith that obeys the word of Christ (Rom. 1:16-17; 10:17; 6:17-18). Believing sinners obey Christ’s command to be baptized, which is into His death so their sins will be washed away by His blood (Mk. 16:16; Rom. 6:3; Acts 22:16).
“It is good for nothing,” cries the buyer; But when he has gone his way, then he boasts. (Proverbs 20:14, NKJV)
Honesty and equity should define our financial transactions. We certainly recognize a difference between getting the best deal possible when purchasing an item, and greedily taking advantage of the seller. (The same can be said for the seller, who is tempted to use uneven scales to gain dishonest profit, Proverbs 11:1). Today’s verse suggests several of the pitfalls to avoid when transacting business from the buyer’s point of view. First, we must be honest in purchasing from others (Eph. 4:25). Whether it is giving an honest day’s work for the wage we receive, purchasing products, or paying for services rendered – we must be guided by honesty (even when others are not, Matt. 7:12). Secondly, we must guard against greed. Greed can easily enter the buyer’s (and the seller’s) mind. The desire to get more than a fair exchange for goods and services reflects a love for money (1 Tim. 6:9-10). The love of money is the root of dishonest transactions. Greed tempts people to pervert justice for the sake of material advancement (Deut. 16:19). Thirdly, today’s proverb warns us against pride. Boasting in getting away with an unjust transaction is particularly ugly. Honesty, contentment, and humility should inform and guide all our financial transactions, and are counterweights to the sins of dishonesty, greed, and pride.
25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:25–26, NKJV)
God put forth Christ Jesus as our means of obtaining mercy for our sins. His death is the atoning sacrifice that appeases God’s just wrath against our sins. This means of justifying sinners is “by His grace” and “through faith” (Rom. 3:24-25). God’s way of justifying sinners 3:21-22) through “the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24), and demonstrates two aspects of God’s personal righteousness. First, God’s forbearance is witnessed in the restraint He exercised in not exacting just punishment against all sinners before Christ’s death (v. 25). God’s forbearance is witnessed in the sacrifice of Jesus, which atones for sins under the law of Moses (the Jews) as well as the sins of the Gentiles. Secondly, God’s personal righteousness is vindicated in the justice of this divine arrangement (v. 26). God did not acquit sinners without an acceptable sacrifice. He did not condone or ignore their sin. He has provided a way of justification for all sinners. God is shown to be just when justifies (acquits of guilt) sinners through faith in Jesus (Rom. 1:16-17).
“My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality.” (James 2:1, NKJV)
Impartiality is a trait of God Himself; “God shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11). We must resist and reject the temptation to show favoritism in our judgments and our treatment of others. We cannot hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ and do otherwise. Partiality is motivated by appearance, which exposes its unjust nature (John 7:23-24). Partiality grants an undue advantage to one, while unjustly withholding that same advantage from another (see James 2:2-4). Impartiality is a mark of justice, while partiality is unjust. God was quite clear in His law to Israel to be impartial in their treatment of others: “You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor” (Leviticus 19:15). Did you catch that? Neither poverty, riches, power or nobility were to inform and influence their judgments. Righteousness was to direct their judgments and their treatment of others. Judges were charged not to show partiality in judgment (Deuteronomy 1:17). Showing favoritism and bestowing benefits based on appearance rather than truth is not love for one’s neighbor. When we show partiality in judgment we “become judges with evil thoughts” (James 2:4). Let us be just in all our dealings, without partiality.
You have wearied the Lord with your words; “Yet you say, “In what way have we wearied Him?” In that you say, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, And He delights in them,” Or, “Where is the God of justice?” (Malachi 2:17, NKJV)
As when Israel wearied Jehovah in the fifth century BC, God must surely be weary today when He hears Christians denying His just standard of evil and good. Wearing the name of Christ never gives one the right to call good, that which God calls evil. In effect, this would be like saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delights in Him.” For example, increasingly, Christians deny the sin of immodest clothing offends the Lord, although He has revealed standards of moral purity that forbid the display of one’s own nakedness (1 Timothy 2:9-10; 1 Peter 3:2-4; cf. Isaiah 47:2-3). One cannot “put on Christ” and still “put on” the worldly attire of indecency. Christians who refuse to respect and follow what God’s word declares to be just, cannot expect Him to delight in them, and bless their disrespectful treatment of Him. The God of justice is where He has always been, and He is “ready to judge the living and the dead” (1 Peter 4:5). May we never “call evil good, and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20).
The integrity of the upright will guide them, but the perversity of the unfaithful will destroy them. (Proverbs 11:3, NKJV)
The contrast in this verse is between being blameless and being devious in attitude and action toward others. It is the difference between honesty and dishonesty. Every day, we face split-second decisions that reveal whether or not we are guided by integrity. For example, do you give back the extra ten dollars of change the cashier mistakenly gave you? (If not, why not? It is not yours.) Do you protest and pay the full amount that is due when that same cashier undercharges you? (If not, why not? Honesty demands you pay what you owe.) Do you lie to close a business transaction? (Are you okay with someone lying to you in a business deal?) Do you give an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay? (Or, do you slack off when the boss is not around?) You see, straightforwardness and honesty must guide our values and our treatment of others. Integrity produces reliability, dependability, and trustworthiness. These qualities bring success to one’s life. But, the deceitful will be caught in their own net and destroyed (Psa. 35:7-8). When a person loses his sense of truth, fairness and justice, his integrity is ruined. Left unchanged, eternal ruin awaits (Rev. 21:8).
34 Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35 But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. (Acts 10:34-35)
Unlike humans, God does not form judgments based on outward appearances. Things like race, ethnicity, gender, social status, accent or physical features do not form God’s impression of us – or anyone else. His impartiality implies His just treatment of each person. With impartiality God places the same conditions on all who seek His acceptance. Peter clearly announced whom God accepts: “whoever fears Him and works righteousness”. Reverent, obedient faith is essential to please to God. These in no way earn His approval, but they do demonstrate your faithful trust that God will indeed accept you when you fear Him and do His will. Fear God and work the righteousness He commands you in His word, and with impartiality and justice He will receive you.