jQuery Slider

You are here

Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged!

Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged!
The Whole Counsel of God on the Matter of Judging Others

by David Kyle Foster
March 13, 2020

Has anyone ever said to you: "Don't judge me!"

In Matthew 7:1, Jesus famously says......

Do not judge or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

That begs the question: What exactly does Jesus mean by "judge"? We know that He will be the final judge of all things (Acts 17:31a; Romans 2:16; 14:10c). But does that exclude other kinds of temporal judgment by those who profess Christ?

The Rightness of God's Judgment of Mankind

In Romans chapter 1, Paul lays out a case for the rightness of God's judgment on the peoples of the earth. He says that we have idolatrous hearts and are prone to worship the creature instead of the Creator. How do we do this?

• we place our hope and/or trust in man and his idols, trying to find our identity and/or purpose in them

• we pursue man's praise and the rewards that he dangles before us in exchange for our conformity to his ways

• we ignore God and suppress the revelation of His truth in favor of man's wisdom and the things of the world

• even knowing of His existence and His righteousness, (through the witness of nature, our conscience, and/or the divine revelation of Scripture), we still choose unrighteousness

• we exchange the truth of God for lies and degrading passions.

In his overview of the sinfulness of man, Paul uses homosexual behavior as a prime example of our idolatry. It should be noted, however, that He could have cited any number of sins as examples (e.g., other forms of sexual immorality, greed, hatred, dishonesty, etc.).

A Sinful Response to the Sins of Others

Lest readers develop a proud and haughty spirit over the sins of others and judge them as being worse than our own, in Romans 2, Paul warns against such a response.

You, therefore, have no excuse - you who pass judgment on someone else - for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.
(Romans 2:1)

Jesus made this point when the scribes and the Pharisees were about to stone a woman to death who had been caught in adultery. After writing something on the ground, Jesus said to them...

If anyone of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her. (John 8:7)

He then proceeded to write something else on the ground, after which they dropped their stones and walked away.

What did Jesus write on the ground?

O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake You will be put to shame. Those who turn away from You will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of living water. (Jeremiah 17:13)

This passage seems to indicate that Jesus first wrote their names in the dust and perhaps then wrote a sin that they had committed next to their name. Busted by Jesus, they walked away in shame and frustration. (See 1 Chronicles 28:9; Matthew 12:25; 22:18; John 2:25; 1 Corinthians 14:25)

Kinds of Human Judgment Found in Scripture

There are three primary kinds of "judging" referred to in Holy Scripture.........

1. Passing a final, condemning judgment over someone as being destined for Hell -- a judgment that God alone is capable of rendering. Such a sentence can only be rightfully adjudicated upon the death of a person, based upon evidence that can only be known by an omniscient God - who alone knows the thoughts and intents of a person's heart, as well as his/her deeds.

Do not judge, and you will not be judged.
Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.

(Luke 6:37; see also James 5:9)

2. Judging what is in the heart of a person. For example, presuming to know the thoughts, intentions and motivations for someone's actions without revelation of such things from the person we are judging (John 7:24; Galatians 2:6b). Even then, the person might not know their own heart (Matthew 13:14-15; Ephesians 4:17-19; Hebrews 4:12), rendering their confession inaccurate or incomplete. Only God knows what is in the heart of a man (1 Corinthians 4:5b), so such a judgment on our part is both presumptuous and impossible (Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 Peter 1:17; James 4:11-12).

3. The judging of other believers by designated leaders in the Church - using known and corroborated evidence revealed by the defendant and/or by at least 2 or 3 witnesses (Matthew 18:15-18; 1 Corinthians 6:1-8). This kind of judging is permitted for designated church leaders for the protection of the flock.

One positive is that in some cases, the guilty person may be won back to God through the loss of fellowship and the specter of judgment by God Himself (1 Corinthians 3:15; 5; 1 Timothy 1:20; Titus 3:10).

God's Judgment

In Romans 2, God's judgment is circumscribed by the following principles. (from a note in the NASB Study Bible)

God judges...........

1. according to the truth (v 2)
2. according to deeds (vv 6-11)
3. according to the light a person has (vv 12-15)

Getting this right is important, because according to 1 Corinthians 6:2-3, it is God's intention that once in heaven, believers be assigned to judge the world - even angels -- though probably just the fallen angels. (See also Revelation 20:4).

The Hypocrisy of Judgment by a Believer

Returning to Romans 2, let's take a deeper look at the perils of "judging".

After describing the idolatry and resultant sinful acts of lost human beings, (found in Romans 1), Paul switches gears and warns believers that they, too, commit such acts. (Thus the absolute and indispensable need for a Savior -- Jesus Christ).

Since we have committed our own sins, we are forbidden to judge others.

Everyone who passes judgment ......
condemns himself......
(Romans 2:1b)

Where then is boasting? It is excluded.
(Romans 3:27a).

You who teach another, do you not teach yourself?
(Romans 2:21a)

Indeed, why do we refuse grace to those who are offered it from God when we have done some of the same things and received the same grace?

What Then is the Purpose of God's Law

The Apostle Paul points out that the Law.....

• reveals God's righteous character and standards (Deuteronomy 32:4; 2 Samuel 22:31; Psalm 18:30; 97:2; 145:17; 1 Timothy 1:8),

• reveals the impossibility of man becoming righteous via his own efforts (Romans 3:20; 7:7, 12; 10:3-4; Galatians 3:11; 2:16),

• reveals the rightness of God's judgment of sinful man (Galatians 3:19; 1 Peter 2:23c),

• leads people to repentance because it brings a consciousness of sin, (Romans 3:20b; 5:20; 7:7; Galatians 2:1; 3:24-26), as well as the need for a Savior (Galatians 3:24; 1 Timothy 1:9).

There is none righteous, not even one.
(Romans 3:10)

Judging vs Bearing Witness to God's Word

When in conversation with someone about one kind of sin or another, the other person will often try to end the discussion by saying "Who are you to judge me?"

At that point, we need to check our hearts to see if there is any judgment on our part. Are we condemning them? Are we presuming to know what is in their heart? Are we criticizing them for doing the very things that we do or have done?

In some cases, however, our words are not judgments, but a witness to judgments that God has already made. We may be genuinely concerned over their eternal fate. Our motivation is love, not judgment.

In such cases, our response should be........

I am not passing judgment on you. I am merely trying to convey to you judgments that God has already made which have been revealed in His Word.

My concern is not to condemn, but to warn you of the consequence of things that He has already declared judgment upon, and thus, your need for a Savior who will take your judgment upon Himself. It truly matters to me what might happen to you when you are made to stand before Him to give an account for your life!

Often, this will expose the real problem -- they don't trust or believe that the Bible is God's revelation. If so, then the conversation really needs to begin there.

Judging Fellow Believers

As we've seen, having been forgiven for every sinful thing that we have done or will never do, (no matter how horrendous or evil), believers now have no right to judge anyone (except in the case of church leaders weighing known evidence in a case before the Church, a la 1 Corinthians 6:1-8).

Since it is God who judges all things, (even our hypocritical judgments of others), it is somewhat frightening that we pay so little attention to this matter (1 Peter 1:17; 2:23; 1 Corinthians 4:3-5). I am as guilty of this as anyone else.

We sometimes make the mistake made by the Apostle Peter. Upon asking Jesus about the fate of the Apostle John, Jesus said to him...

What is that to you? You must follow Me. (John 21:22)

And so, our mean-spirited judgments of those still trapped in sin, (even serious sin), must stop. We must become known for our love of sinner and saint - mimicking the same grace that has been displayed in us through Christ Jesus.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
By this all men will know that you are My disciples,
if you have love for one another.

(John 13:34-35)

Dear friends, since God so loved us,
we also ought to love one another......
if we love each other, God lives in us
and His love is made complete in us.

(1 John 4:11-12)

Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced
that one died for all, and therefore all died.

(2 Corinthians 5:14)

Do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness,
tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness
leads you toward repentance.

(Romans 2:4)

(See also 1 John 2:5-6; 3:14, 4:7-13; 20)

How Then Shall We Judge?

The Bible is clear that God alone will judge the secrets of men's hearts through Christ Jesus (Romans 2:16; 2 Timothy 4:1, 8; Hebrews 10:30; 12:23; 13:4; James 4:12; 1 Peter 4:5).

In the vast majority of cases, we are to leave all judgment to God Himself, who alone knows how to judge righteously (Romans 14:13). Again - the only exception found in the Bible is when designated leaders of the Church weigh known evidence against a defendant and pass a Bible-based judgment on (or exonerate) the one being charged.

Once again, it is important to note that when someone says to you: "Don't judge me!" they are often objecting to having the Scriptural judgments of God communicated to them and are mistaking them as your thoughts rather than God's.

But if you are relaying decisions that God has already made against sin in a loving, grace-filled attempt to enable them to see their need for a Savior, then you are only doing what the Apostles did, as led by the Holy Spirit.

And so, let the Holy Spirit lead you in these matters. He is the only One who can actually bring in the harvest, so allow Him time to do so.

Best advice -- show the love and grace of God. Rather than focusing on their sin, talk about Jesus and His love and forgiveness for those who surrender their lives to Him.

* * * * *

Dr. David Kyle Foster is the author of Transformed Into His Image and Love Hunger and is the founder/director of Mastering Life Ministries (http://www.MasteringLife.org). Read more of his take on sexual sin and brokenness in his newest book, The Sexual Healing Reference Edition and listen to his twice-weekly podcast at: www.charismapodcastnetwork.com/show/purepassion.

Get a bi-weekly summary of Anglican news from around the world.
comments powered by Disqus
Trinity School for Ministry
Go To Top