In the book Christ’s Object Lessons, page 73, we are given the names of a number of the tares who were found in the church. We find Ananias and Sapphira listed, who, when their sin became open, were removed from the church by death. Also listed are Simon Magus and Demas, both of whom were at one time welcomed into church membership, but who, when their sin became open, were later removed from fellowship. In this infamous list is also Judas, who is perhaps the best known of all and whose name has become closely associated as a prime example of a tare. When his sin became open, Judas took his own life, effectively removing himself from the church. (It is interesting to note, however, that Caiaphas, assumed* by many to rank close to Judas in notoriety is not mentioned.)
For at least the last year of His ministry, Jesus knew what was going on in the heart of Judas and that he was a tare, though no one else suspected his real motives.
“Christ’s discourse in the synagogue concerning the bread of life was the turning-point in the history of Judas. He heard the words, ‘Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you.’ He saw that Christ was offering spiritual rather than worldly good. . . .
“In all that Christ said to His disciples, there was something with which, in heart, Judas disagreed. Under his influence the leaven of disaffection was fast doing its work. The disciples did not see the real agency in all this; but Jesus saw that Satan was communicating his attributes to Judas, and thus opening up a channel through which to influence the other disciples. This, a year before the betrayal, Christ declared, ‘Have not I chosen you twelve,’ He said, ‘and one of you is a devil?’” The Desire of Ages, 719, 720.
The history of Judas presents a sad ending to a life that might have been honored of God. By becoming the slave of one vice, he gave himself to be driven to any lengths in sin.
Rich Opportunities Lost
In his work with Jesus, Judas had some precious experiences which should have helped him in his conquest with sin and self. His life is a warning to us. We cannot rely on our connection with the work of God or our association with a godly man to assure us of salvation. We can never rest secure in this world of sin, believing that we have nothing to beware of.
How many of us have had as rich an opportunity and experience as Judas had? “Judas saw the sick, the lame, the blind, flock to Jesus from the towns and cities. He saw the dying laid at His feet. He witnessed the Saviour’s mighty works in healing the sick, casting out devils, and raising the dead. He felt in his own person the evidence of Christ’s power. He recognized the teaching of Christ as superior to all that he had ever heard. He loved the great Teacher, and desired to be with Him. He felt a desire to be changed in character and life, and he hoped to experience this through connecting himself with Jesus.” Ibid., 717. (All emphasis supplied.)
Do you have “a desire to be changed in character and life”? Do you hope to experience this change through connecting yourself with the work of God? Judas had those same desires and aspirations.
“But Judas did not come to the point of surrendering himself fully to Christ. He did not give up his worldly ambition or his love of money. While he accepted the position of a minister of Christ, he did not bring himself under the divine moulding. He felt that he could retain his own judgment and opinions, and he cultivated a disposition to criticize and accuse.” Ibid.
Jesus gave every possible benefit to Judas, even endowing him with power to heal the sick and cast out devils; but Judas failed of fully surrendering himself to Jesus. Consequently, he failed to overcome sin.
The all-important question is how do we overcome the sin in our lives? Inspiration answers: “The expulsion of sin is the act of the soul itself. True, we have no power to free ourselves from Satan’s control; but when we desire to be set free from sin, and in our great need cry out for a power out of and above ourselves, the powers of the soul are imbued with the divine energy of the Holy Spirit, and they obey the dictates of the will in fulfilling the will of God.” Ibid., 466.
Have we been on our knees and agonized with God, as did Jacob, that our hearts may be broken on the Rock? Have we fully surrendered ourselves to Christ? It is not enough to be a worker for God. It is not enough that we are connected to God’s work, or even that we have felt His power in our soul. It is not enough that we are hoping for a change in character. If we never come to the point of a full surrender to Him, there is still a connection between our souls and Satan. “Many while hoping and desiring to be saved will be lost.” Testimonies, vol. 2, 265. “If one sin is cherished in the soul, or one wrong practice retained in the life, the whole being is contaminated. The man becomes an instrument of unrighteousness.” The Desire of Ages, 313.
Jesus is full of mercy and He works untiringly for man’s recovery from sin. Even if we are blind to our sinful condition, God works for us as He did for Judas. “Judas was blinded to his own weakness of character, and Christ placed him where he would have an opportunity to see and correct this.” Ibid., 717. If you are deceived, it is impossible to know it, because if you knew it, you would not be deceived.
Clinging to Doubts
It was a source of frustration to Judas that Jesus always seemed to be dwelling on the negative and discouraging side of life, talking of trial and persecution. He was offended when Jesus presented the spiritual nature of His kingdom, and he allowed doubts to begin running through his mind. Though Judas had not yet decided that Jesus was not the Son of God, he began questioning and seeking to find some explanation of His mighty works. In spite of all this, “Judas made no open opposition, nor seemed to question the Saviour’s lessons.” Ibid., 720.
Judas’ experience was not all one-sided. Even though he was plagued with doubts and uncertainty, we are told that, “He felt the satisfaction that always comes in service to God.” Ibid., 718. But those feelings were not sufficient to save him. If we begin to rely on our feelings as a barometer of our experience, we are on dangerous ground. Our only standard is the law of God. It matters not how good you may feel about helping the homeless and giving Bible studies; if your heart is not fully surrendered, it is of no avail. Until the root of selfishness is pulled out of the heart, we are blind to our real condition.
“John and Judas are representatives of those who profess to be Christ’s followers. Both these disciples had the same opportunities to study and follow the divine Pattern. Both were closely associated with Jesus and were privileged to listen to His teaching. Each possessed serious defects of character; and each had access to the divine grace that transforms character.” Acts of the Apostles, 558. Though Judas might have comprehended the methods of Christ, his selfish desires blinded him and he found only disappointment and confusion.
Because of his disappointment in Jesus’ failure to fulfill his expectations in setting up a worldly kingdom, Judas decided that he was not going to unite himself with Christ so closely but that he could easily draw away. From that time he expressed doubts that tended to confuse the other disciples.
Reasoning of the Pharisees
As Judas began questioning if Jesus was the Son of God, he started using the deceptive reasoning of the Scribes and Pharisees. They “had misinterpreted God’s promise of eternal favor to Israel: ‘Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The Lord of hosts is His name: If those ordinances depart from before Me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before Me forever. Thus saith the Lord: If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that theyhave done, saith the Lord.’” Jeremiah 31:35-37. The Jews regarded their natural descent from Abraham as giving them a claim to this promise. But they overlooked the conditions which God had specified.” The Desire of Ages, 106. They had taken the promise of God’s everlasting favor to be an unconditional promise by which God had bound Himself. They believed that no matter what the Jewish people did, they were still the people of God.
“Many who were convinced that Jesus was the Son of God were misled by the false reasoning of the priests and rabbis. These teachers had repeated with great effect the prophecies concerning the Messiah, that He would ‘reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients gloriously;’ that He would ‘have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.’ Isaiah 24:23; Psalm 72:8. Then they made contemptuous comparisons between the glory here pictured and the humble appearance of Jesus. The very words of prophecy were so perverted as to sanction error.” Ibid., 458. Because Jesus failed to meet their false expectations, they concluded that He was an imposter and sent messengers all over the country to warn the people about Him. (See Ibid., 213.) Incredibly, the Author of the Scriptures was among them and yet they used the very words He inspired the prophets to write, to turn the nation against Him. Just imagine the Bible studies that were given throughout the land and the Bible based sermons that were given, all with the determined purpose of turning a nation from the truth.
The scribes and Pharisees false reasoning lay in their failure to understand the spiritual nature of the true church, and, they were offended that Christ did not have the due regard that they supposed He should have for the priesthood. Judas picked up the flawed theological thinking of the church leadership and was found “repeating the arguments urged by the scribes and Pharisees against the claims of Christ.” Ibid., 719. “Christ’s oft-repeated statement that His kingdom was not of this world offended Judas.” Ibid., 718. In all that Christ said to His disciples,there was something with which, in heart, Judas disagreed. Jesus saw that Satan was communicating his attributes to Judas, and thus opening up a channel with which to influence the other disciples. He would introduce texts of Scripture that had no connection with the truths Christ was presenting, yet he did so in such a way as to make it appear that he was conscientious. (See Ibid., 719.) In taking the truths that Jesus taught and presenting them in a different light, he was attaching to the words of Jesus a meaning that He had not conveyed.
If we come to the Word of God with the selfish desire to prove our own point or to lift up ourselves we are certain to come up with a false reasoning, just as Judas did. So, when you see anyone lining up theologically with the scribes and Pharisees of today, repeating their arguments about the nature of Christ’s kingdom (His church) — be careful!
And so it was that a year before the betrayal, Christ declared, “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” John 6:70. It was generally Judas who began the contention as to who should be the greatest. “His suggestions were constantly exciting an ambitious desire for temporal preferment, and thus turning the disciples from the important things they should have considered.” Ibid., 719.
Just One Sin
All the evil manifested in Judas came from just one sin — the sin of covetousness. If we allow one sin to be cherished in the heart, all the good traits we have will not do any good in the long run. “We may flatter ourselves that we are free from many things of which others are guilty; but if we have some strong points of character, and but one weak point, there is yet a communion between sin and the soul. The heart is divided in its service, and says, ‘Some of self and some of Thee.’ The child of God must search out the sin which he has petted and indulged himself in, and permit God to cut it out of his heart. He must overcome that one sin; for it is not a trifling matter in the sight of God.” Review and Herald, August 1, 1893.
“How many are betrayed into sin, because they have not, through prayerful study of the Word of God, realized the sinfulness of sin, and found out how they may steadfastly resist it. When temptation comes upon them, they seem to be off guard, and ignorant of the devices of the enemy. We are living in perilous times, and as we draw near the close of earth’s history, there will be no safety for those who do not become familiar with the Word of God. I would warn the disciples of Christ of the impending days of peril, and beseech you to prepare for the time of test and trial; for everything that can be shaken, will be shaken. Do we now obey the Word of God, and live by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God? Are we established and settled in the present truth? There is need of closely examining yourselves whether you are in the love of God; for except Christ be in you, you are reprobates. Self-deception is dangerous, and no one of us can afford to go on in delusion.” Youth’s Instructor, May 18, 1893.
Of ourselves we cannot know our errors. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9. We may even attempt to express our poverty with words, while all the time it goes unacknowledged by our proud hearts as they swell with conceit at their own superior humility.
“When sin has deadened the moral perceptions, the wrong-doer does not discern the defects of his character, nor realize the enormity of the evil he has committed; and unless he yields to the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, he remains in partial blindness to his sin. His confessions are not sincere and in earnest. To every acknowledgement of his guilt, he adds an apology in excuse of his course, declaring that, if it had not been for certain circumstances, he would not have done this or that, for which he was reproved.” Signs of the Times, March 16, 1888.
Judas was a leader among leaders in the church, for he was more capable than all the other disciples. (See Education, 86.) Judas had precious traits of character that might have been a great blessing to the church. He was polished. He possessed financial ability. Christ saw great possibilities in Judas. “Christ connected Judas and impulsive Peter with himself, not because Judas was covetous and Peter passionate, but that they might learn of Him, their great Teacher, and become, like Him, unselfish, meek, and lowly of heart. He saw good material in both these men. Judas possessed financial ability and would have been of value to the church had he taken home to his heart the lessons which Christ was giving by rebuking all selfishness, fraud, and avarice, even in the little matters of life.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 486.
Have you taken home to your heart the lessons which Christ has given you? Has His rebuke of selfishness and covetousness expelled those traits from your heart? Are you becoming like Jesus? Or, are you desiring to be changed, like Judas did, but instead of expelling the sin from your soul, you are secretly fostering covetousness? Turn, oh turn, before it is forever too late.
*As students of the Word, we need to be very careful that by a lack of careful study we do not come to some conclusions for which we have no inspired support. These ideas, though we fail to realize it, are assumptions. An assumption is an idea that is so taken for granted that it is not thought necessary to prove it. Assumptions, once accepted, become very powerful as they bypass the critical faculty in the thinking process, shaping all of our other thoughts and decisions. It matters not how sincerely we hold them; false assumptions cannot help but lead us to wrong conclusions.