ARE YOU A SOPHOMORE?
We as Christians love to quote 2 Cor. 5:17 to ourselves, as we should. “17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” But how many of us recite in ourselves 2 Cor. 5:16: “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.”
We in ourselves reverence, have a deep respect, joy and thankfulness of our newness in Christ and “old things passed away”; yet, we do not hold this in the same regard to others conversion in the grace given them in Christ.
We do not see in ourselves this same regard for others who we knew before Christ and after Christ, still seeing them as the same person. We want to speak to remembering how they “were” pre-Christ. Remembering their old ways, recalling the things they did, judging them from their past, waiting for them to mess-up, be the same way, do the same thing, telling them they are not doing what God wants them to do; your not behaving like a Christian; God doesn’t like what your doing, etc., etc., etc. Yes, these things are true, and yes some of their old behavior shows up in them as they begin their walk or journey in Christ. Yes, they may still practice some of their old behavior. Yes, they may still be entangled in sin. However, it is the sophomore Christian that is always ready to pounce and judge them, saying, “I knew he/she was not a real Christian” or “their just going through a phase of wanting to be a Christian”. “You not behaving like a Christian.” “If you were really a Christian you wouldn’t be doing this and that.” “You just behaving like the world”. “They only coming to Church because their going through some things.” God don’t like what your doing.” Etc., etc., etc.
These people are sophomore Christians, and are dangerous to a new Christian’s faith. These sophomore Christians only see 2 Cor. 5:17 and overlook the whole passage 2 Cor. 5:16-17 telling us “All” who have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are “new creations” and we are not to look to their outward appearance of that person – “know we no man after the flesh”. Yet, sophomore Christians judge from the outward appearance and not the spirit.
The word sophomore comes from two Greek words sophist, which means one who is wise; and, móros – fool, stupid; it’s where we get the word moron. The two words combined seem like an oxymoron; however, the combination of these two Greek words is where we get our word sophomore, meaning a 2nd year student. They’re no longer a “new” incoming student but neither a senior student. So, they have enough wisdom to know a few things, but they are not educated or experienced enough to know or apply what they have learned. The word sophistmoros, means wise-fools!
As we know, many people stay sophomoric. They have just enough wisdom or knowledge to judge things but they never quite become seniors in their developed thinking. There are three things that stick out about the sophomoric Christian; 1) their judge-mentality and 2) legalism; and 3) hypocrisy.
1. Because they have come to know sin, the rights and wrongs set forth in the word of God, they judge others by the outward appearance of what they see.
2. There judgment is based upon do’s and don’ts and not the spirit but the letter. They do not consider the inward development but only the outward appearance of what a Christian should be demonstrating in their lives, even for a baby Christian. They do not consider that such person came as they were to the Lord and being born again does not remove our sin nature.
3. There judgement is based upon hypocrisy, because they either do not look to the inward truth of the things God still has against them that still needs to be worked out within them; yet, they are judging another’s walk.
Sophomore Christians do not understand Rom. 14:1-4
(KJV) 1 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. 2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. 3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. 4 Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
As we all know, this passage is not really talking about food, eat or drink. It’s but an analogy telling us that we are not to be doubtful disputations to him that is weak in the faith but to receive that person. What does doubtful disputation mean? The word doubtful is διαλογισμός dialogismos, meaning a deliberating, questioning about what is true, hesitation, doubting, disputing, arguing. And, disputations is διάκρισις diakrisis; judicial distinguishing, discerning, judging. Judicial has to do with judging by law. So, if we understand Rom. 14:1, it tells us is that we are not to question, doubt, dispute or argue judging one’s faith by the law but to receive them as one weak in faith.
Rom. 14:2-4 tells us that we are not to judge another’s Christian walk based on their outward appearance because Jesus is their master, and to Jesus that person will stand or fall. Our concern should be to edify them with the Word of God, extend grace to them and to help enable their walk or journey in growing in Christ, not judge them. It’s not that you don’t call a spade a spade, obviously; if they are breaking God’s laws, then by every means admonition them. However, there is a difference between admonition and judging based upon what you see.
Look at the wisdom of the Holy Spirit given to the First Church of believers that was growing each day, Acts 15
(NIV) 8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9 He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?
(NIV) 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
(NIV) 19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.
(NIV) 28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements:
As we can see from the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, for those who just came to Christ, anything beyond the basic principles of idolatry, sexual immorality and practice of eating meat of strangled animals and from blood. The latter, regarding blood had to do with common practices of the Gentiles of blood pacts, idolatry worship in drinking blood and such. Anything other than these basic principles would be putting a “yoke” on them which they would be unable to bear. Why? Because as “new” converts it would “make it difficult” for them to live up to all of the laws of God, which the Jews who had the law could not even live up to. This would only cause in them a discouragement, a feeling of defeat, a sense of not being able to own up to their conversion, a early falling away from Grace given them.
It is not for us to judge what God is doing in another, we do not know what God knows about that person and what need to be worked out in them. Sophomore Christians look to the outward and neglect the understanding of God’s grace and mercy as is such in Isaiah chapter 1, as God tells the people how they have rebelled against Him, that a simple beast knows its master and manger, but His own people don’t even understand His love for them. How there very sinful and evildoers given to corruption, they spurn Him, turn their backs on Him, they are afflicted with sickness of mind and heart with no soundness of what’s right, they are wicked as Sodom and Gomorrah; yet, though He is sick of them and can’t even bear their assemblies, sacrifices or prayers anymore, in His grace, mercy and love kindness, He still says,
(KJV) 18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
We are unable to know what God is doing in someone’s heart or where that person is coming from or what they need, but God does. You don’t expect a baby to act like nothing but a baby; eat, poop, cry and sleep. They do this until they are able to develop enough skill to do for themselves.
The sophomore Christian has caused more babies in Christ to fall away than the world pulling them back because they have placed a “yoke” upon a babies neck causing them bear or carry what they are unable as babies to bear or carry, instead of allowing them room for spiritual growth. This is why Paul tells the Galatians,
Gal. 6:13, 15
(NIV) 13 Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh… (NIV) 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.
Let us be careful before we judge another believer by just outward appearance or by the flesh. As you are a new creation of Christ Jesus and old things have passed away, so are they – “henceforth know we no man/woman after the flesh”.