Matthew 7:1 “Judge not, that you be not judged.”
As a Believer and witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ how am I to understand this verse? If you, like me, have ever discussed or had a confrontation with someone about their eternal destiny there is a pretty decent chance they’ve used this verse in retaliation. “Don’t judge me… only ‘god’ can judge…” is what they will say.
Now what? It seems that they’ve got you just where they want you. “Oh okay, I guess that’s the end of this discussion, right?”
Of course not, because to rightly divide the word of truth we must have an answer to this sort of a common retort. Scripture in the hands of those that want to twist and manipulate is a dangerous thing. Satan used scripture when he was tempting the Lord in the wilderness and as we consider the Lord Jesus Christ’s response we can see the way in which we must handle these very common uses of or misuses of the word of God.
Jesus was tempted by Satan three different times while in the wilderness and he used scripture to make his case. In each instance Jesus countered Satan’s use of scripture with scripture.
So why would we use any other approach than to imitate Christ?
So what did Jesus mean when He said Judge not, are Believers to judge?
The first thing we need to consider is that nobody has the ability to judge unto sentencing. In other words I have no authority or power to condemn someone. Only God has that ability but the sinfulness of man should be judged and for someone to say they don’t judge would be hypocritical. We all make judgments constantly throughout the day.
What most people are saying in these situations is they don’t appreciate any accountability to their sinful lifestyle and they certainly don’t want to hear what the Bible says about it.
Let’s look at what Jesus goes on to say. Matthew 7:2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
To understand this in its context is the key to understanding what Jesus meant. Jesus is not condemning making judgments, He’s condemning hypocrisy. If I attempt to call someone to repentance for their sin, I had better not be entangled in that same sin myself. How can I call someone on their sin of adultery if I’m engaged in the same thing myself? I can’t without being a hypocrite.
But what if I’m not an adulterer; can I then tell someone they are breaking God’s law? Jesus certainly said I should.
Matthew 18:15-17 “Moreover if your brother sin against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone, If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear you, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he refuses to hear them, tell it even to the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.
So why should Believers judge? This keeps purity in the church.
1 Corinthians 5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife!
How did Paul know this? Somebody judged this to be a sinful action and reported it to Paul correct?
1 Corinthians 5:3-5 For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
So for the purity and sanctification of the Church of Christ, which He purchased with His own blood, we must judge those in the church.
1 Corinthians 5:12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.”
So now I know you are thinking, “Okay I’m not to judge those outside?” Well, again we can’t judge them unto condemnation, but we must warn them that the sin they are engaged in will lead them to hell if they don’t repent and turn from their sin.
Galatians 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in the past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
How can we truly care for people’s souls if we don’t tell them these things? This is not judging them but loving them. We risk being persecuted, reviled, despised and falsely accused of being judgmental so they can see their separation from a Holy God. Can we do this in a loving and gentle way rather than a harsh and finger wagging fashion? Of course and we must, but if you don’t warn them, if you don’t proclaim the remedy to their problem how will they ever know?
Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.
Be gentle today and tell someone Christ died so they could be free from their bondage to sin.
Twist not scripture lest you be like Satan – Paul Washer