Looking at two leaflets from Covenant Reformed Fellowship Limerick. Judge Not 1 and Judge Not 2.

Judge Not!

In our day, there is a very popular, but terribly wrong, interpretation of Jesus at Matthew 7:1: “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” This means, many say, that absolutely all judging is wrong. You must not judge religions or churches or doctrines or people or principles. For did not Jesus say, “Judge not, that ye be not judged”? According to this view, one cannot say that pagan religions are idolatrous (Ex. 20:3; I Cor. 10:20), abortion is murder (Ex. 20:13; Ps. 139:13-16), free will is false doctrine (John 6:65; Rom. 3:11) or homosexuality is an abomination (Lev. 18:22; Rom. 1:26-27). “Judge not, that ye be not judged”! In fact, the only thing that is wrong is judging that various things and people are wrong, and the greatest virtue is tolerance of everything. “I’m OK and you’re OK!” There are no absolute standards, everything is relative and only judging is forbidden. In fact, judging is sin—if there is such a thing as sin any more!

This view and this interpretation of Matthew 7:1 is foolish and logically contradictory. If all judging is forbidden, then it is also forbidden to judge someone for judging! After all, judging someone for judging is also forbidden by this (false) interpretation of Jesus’ words, “Judge not, that ye be not judged”!

Moreover, the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7)—in which this text is found—requires judging. Consider our Saviour’s words in Matthew 5. He condemns murder and even being angry with one’s brother without a cause (21-26); adultery, even looking on a woman to lust after her (27-30); divorce, except for fornication (31-32); and various sorts of sinful swearing (33-37).

Judging is also required in order to obey Christ’s instruction in Matthew 6 concerning alms or charitable deeds (1-4), praying (5-15) and fasting (16-18), for one must not do these things, like the Pharisees, in order to be seen. The Lord Jesus judges the following as sinful behaviour: laying up for ourselves treasures on earth (19), trying to serve God and money (24), and worrying about our earthly needs (25-34).

Matthew 7 is similar. In order to obey Christ’s prohibition of casting our pearls before swine, we need to recognize the people whom He characterizes here as “dogs” and “swine” (6). And how can we heed Jesus’ warning against false prophets, if we are not to judge them by their fruits, as He requires (15-20)?

There are many other situations in which (proper) judgment is required. I Corinthians 6:2-3 tells us that, at the last day, believers will judge the ungodly world and angels. From this, Paul encourages the saints in the church to judge rightly now (1, 4-5). Obviously Christ’s word, “Judge not, that ye be not judged,” does not forbid this.

Magistrates are called to judge in civil affairs. A murderer is arraigned before the court or a thief is brought to trial. It will not do for someone to stand up in the gallery and shout, “Judge not, m’lord!” appealing to the false view of Matthew 7:1!

Parents, too, must judge. Was their son’s or daughter’s behaviour sinful (according to the principles of the Word of God)? What is the most appropriate form of loving discipline in this case? Verbal admonition? Or does it warrant physical chastisement?

Church consistories or sessions are also called upon to judge righteous judgment. A member goes the way of Matthew 18:15-20 with another member. Sadly, the brother does not repent after being frequently admonished. So the matter is brought to the elders, according to the procedure laid out in the Church Order.

Congregations are called to judge church leaders biblically. The church at Ephesus was commended by Christ for condemning false apostles (Rev. 2:2). The congregation at Thyatira was rebuked by the Saviour for tolerating a Jezebel who taught and seduced the saints (20).

Each believer is commanded to judge himself or herself according to the Scriptures, as I Corinthians 11:28 commands, “But let a man examine himself ...” This is especially our calling as we prepare for the Lord’s Supper, as the context in I Corinthians 11 shows (Belgic Confession 35; Heidelberg Catechism, Q. & A. 81).

In fact, the child of God is commanded by his heavenly Father to judge in various capacities and ways. The believer is, after all, a prophet, priest and king. As kings, we must judge, exercising righteous judgment in conformity with the mind of Christ, as revealed in Scripture.

Martin Luther famously declared, near the start of The Bondage of the Will, his celebrated rebuttal of the humanist Erasmus, that a professing Christian must judge (in accordance with biblical standards) or else he reveals that he is not a believer. “To take no pleasure in assertions is not the mark of a Christian heart; indeed, one must delight in assertions to be a Christian at all. Now, lest we be misled by words, let me say here that by ‘assertion’ I mean staunchly holding your ground, stating your position, confessing it, defending it and persevering in it unvanquished ... And I am talking about the assertion of what has been delivered to us from above in the Sacred Scriptures ... Take away assertions and you take away Christianity. Why, the Holy Spirit is given to Christians from heaven in order that He may glorify Christ and in them confess Him even unto death—and is this not assertion, to die for what you confess and assert?” Then Luther asks Erasmus (and all modern, politically-correct sceptics), “What is this new-fangled religion of yours, this novel sort of humility, that ... you would take from us power to judge men’s decisions and make us defer uncritically to human authority? Where does God’s written Word tell us to do that?” Where indeed!

The Christian judges according to his position or station in life (e.g., parent, magistrate or elder), taking due cognizance of the facts (on both sides), with mercy (allowing for mitigating circumstances), in love (for the Triune God, for His truth and for his neighbour), in humility (as a servant not a lord) and according to scriptural principles.

Next time, Lord willing, we shall consider the (sinful) judging that our Lord forbids and in which we must not engage. Rev. Angus Stewart

Judge Not! (2)
In our last issue of the News, we considered the judging that is not forbidden (and the righteous judging that is required). We need now to consider the judging that is forbidden: “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matt. 7:1).

We must not judge someone with regard to “adiaphora,” that is, in things indifferent. Romans 14 and I Corinthians 8 teach that this is a biblical category. For example, if a person eats only vegetables it is not per se sinful, so one should not judge or despise him or her for it. “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 14:17).

We must not judge in matters that do not belong to us or enter into quarrels that are none of our business. “He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears” (Prov. 26:17). Thus Peter exhorts, “But let none of you suffer as ... a busybody in other men’s matters” (I Pet. 4:15).

We must not judge without being aware of the pertinent facts of the case. If it truly belongs to you to adjudicate on a matter, you need to hear both sides (so to speak) of the case. Without hearing both sides, you are in no position to judge. Just because one side is forward in presenting his or her view to you is no guarantee that he or she is in the right. “He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him” (Prov. 18:17).

We must not judge other people’s motives. Do you know who was guilty of judging someone’s motives in what is perhaps the most famous biblical example of this sin? The devil! Satan judged Job’s motives: “Doth Job fear God for naught?” (Job 1:9). So wicked and hardened was the devil in this evil that he made it a charge of sin against holy Job, a charge Satan made to God Himself! But the devil was dead wrong! Contrary to Satan’s accusation (10), Job did not serve God for what he could get out of it. He served God because he loved and feared Him (1). God alone knows man’s secret motives. “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God” (I Cor. 4:5).

We must not judge without mercy. Love requires us not to impute evil motives to good actions. Love requires us to put the best construction we can on doubtful actions. We must not “make a man an offender for a word” (Isa. 29:21). We must also remember mitigating circumstances and that we too are weak and sinful. “How would I have reacted in that difficult situation? Maybe I, too, would have ...”

We must not judge out of hypercriticalness. Some people love to judge, to criticize, to put down. They are always looking for a fault which they promptly magnify out of all proportion. They are glad when they have something to criticize and they are sad when they can find no fault for then they have nothing to say.

We must not judge out of self-righteousness. This is the sin of the Pharisee in the Lord’s parable: “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess” (Luke 18:11-12). When we put down others, it is often to make ourselves look good and feel good, for when we are pointing our finger at the sins of others, it is hard to remember our own iniquities. If we are not confessing our sins to God, and thereby experiencing forgiveness by Christ’s cross and Spirit, this is a sort of substitute. “I must have relief from the guilt of my sins, but I’m not going to humble myself before the Triune God. Instead, I’ll talk up how bad others are and then I’ll not feel so guilty.”

We must not judge as if we were the final judges. God alone is the supreme judge and He judges according to His Word (John 12:48). Our judgments are provisional. Jehovah is the judge of all the earth and He is my judge and your judge too. So we must never think or speak as if our judgments are supreme and final.

Having seen the types of judging that are sinful, we must also consider the sphere in which sinful judgments are especially forbidden. Let us read three verses that follow almost immediately after our Lord’s prohibition in Matthew 7:1: “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (3-5). Your brother! Not so much your physical brother, but your spiritual brother (or sister) in the church!

Obviously sinful judgment is prohibited in all spheres: family, home, workplace, school, neighbourhood, etc., but in Matthew 7 it is especially forbidden regarding one’s fellow saints in the church. These are the ones we should especially love (I Cor. 13:4-7) and so be least judgmental about (Matt. 7:1-5).

But if we are not walking with the Lord, the exact opposite is often true. We show patience and kindness to almost everybody else, but we sinfully judge our brothers and sisters in the church. These things ought not be!

We must not judge unkindly the motives of our brethren, or judge them rashly or unheard, or look askance at every word or act. We must not be hypercritical about an elder, a minister or deacon so that everything or most things they do are viewed with suspicion or a jaundiced eye. Nor must we judge them out of self-righteousness to make ourselves look or feel good. Instead, as those redeemed by Christ and “born again,” let us “love one another with a pure heart fervently” (I Pet. 1:22-23). Rev. Stewart
Judge not, lest you be judged” (Matthew 7:1). How many people today take that one verse from the Bible and apply it wrongly? They will tell others that no one can tell them that what they are doing is wrong, because that would be judging them. Then they throw out the verse where Jesus said “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. And since we are all sinners, then that means that no one can tell anyone that what they are doing is sinful.

Let’s take a look at this strange philosophy and dissect it. First off, “to judge”, as it is used in “Judge not, lest you be judged”, means to condemn someone on moral grounds, and then to pass judgment. Only God can condemn and pass judgment. “To judge” as it is used here does not mean that people cannot discern that an act is sinful, nor does it mean we can’t tell the sinner that he or she is sinning. If that were so, then parents could not ever tell their child that it is wrong to lie, to cheat, or to steal. And if the child were caught in the act, then no parent could tell him or her that they were wrong. And they could certainly not ever punish the child, because there could never be any wrongdoing. How dumb is that? Carried to its logical conclusion, no one could ever tell anyone that anything is sinful or wrong, including fornication, adultery, stealing, murder, taking the Lord’s name in vain, etc. And we would have to fire every judge in every courtroom worldwide. St. John the Baptist, the greatest man born of woman, according to Jesus, certainly told Herod that it was wrong for him to have married his own brother's wife. And John the Baptist was certainly not judging Herod himself, but rather, he was judging his action as sinful. BIG difference.

Powered by Translate

In today’s society, someone caught fornicating or getting drunk all of the time will tell his or her accuser, “Who are you to judge me?” And the accused sinner will then feel morally superior to his accuser for having pointed out to him that he is not God, and how dare he, with all of his sins, “judge me”? But this action flies in the face of the spiritual work of mercy that commands Christians to admonish the sinner. To admonish the sinner means to caution him or her about a particular sin they are committing. This is the job of all Christians, to warn others about sin and where it will lead them.

And St. James says that correcting a sinner has many spiritual benefits, not only for the sinner, but also for us:

James 5:20: let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

And whether we want to admit it or not, we are indeed our brother's keeper:

Genesis 4:9: Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" He said, "I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?"

Secular society today does not want to hear any of this, because it believes that this world is all there is, and that we will not come to a supernatural end in heaven or hell. So, the hedonists in charge of government and media today belittle Christians for having the audacity to even mention to others about the wages of sin (which is death). GK Chesterton once said that only dead bodies float downstream with the current; it takes live ones to go against the flow. And this is so true in society today. How many people just go with the flow of pornography, fornication, adultery, homosexual marriage, abortion, assisted suicide, etc., and never speak out against these evils because they don’t want to be belittled by the so-called “mainstream media”? A lot. The devil only has one commandment, “Do as you will”. So many people in the world today follow that demonic philosophy, and they really hate it when Christians bring up the fact that sin exists.

To sum up, judging the actions of a person as being sinful is NOT condemning a person and passing judgment. It would be wrong to say to a person, “You are an adulterer, and you are going to hell”. It would not be wrong to tell a person “You are committing adultery, and that is sinful. You need to repent of it, go to confession, and never do it again, because it breaks one of the Ten Commandments”. The former is passing judgment; the latter admonishes the sinner. Big difference. A judge passes sentence; discernment of people’s sinful actions does not. A good rule of thumb to follow is that we humans do all of the praying, and we let God do all of the judging of people. That in no way stops us from discerning that a person's actions are wrong and sinful.


No Copyright