The new John 3:16?
When I was a child, the most quoted scripture was John 3:16. Even the most biblically illiterate were familiar with the wording of John 3:16. However, John 3:16 has now been replaced in popularity. Now another verse is the mantra of the quasi-religious world. Quoted or misquoted more than any other is the commandment of Jesus not to judge.
"Who are you to judge? Don’t judge me.”
“That church is too judgmental.”
Did Jesus really say that the church has no right to ever judge? A text understood without context is a pretext. Let’s read a little context to determine what Jesus actually said.
Matthew 7:1-5 (NKJV)
“Judge not, that you be not judged. 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? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
If this was intended to convey that all judgment is wrong, the best thing that we could do is never judge anything and God would never judge us. That sounds too good to be true! Well, it is.
At first it seems that Jesus said not to judge at all, but in context it is clear that He said not to use hypocritical judgment. He clarified by saying that we will be judged with the same measure that we judge. Remove the sin (plank) from yourself and then you can see to remove the sin (speck) from your brother.
Actually, in the same sermon Jesus made it very clear that the Christian must be able to judge or take the risk of being consumed by the adversary.
Matthew 7:15-21 (NKJV)
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
Not everyone that calls Jesus the Lord will enter heaven. Not everyone that claims to be a prophet is true. Not everyone that appears to be a sheep is gentle. How can you tell? You must examine their lives and doctrine and judge them. Are they doing the will of God?
Those that love to quote the words of Christ concerning judgment rarely quote His further instructions in John 7:24.
John 7:24 (NKJV)
Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.
Jesus said that His judgment was righteous because it was according to the will of God and not the will of the flesh. (John 5:30)
This is not subjective judgment. This is judging by the word that is forever settled. In a sense, it is not us judging, but the Word is judging the disobedient.
John 12:48 (NKJV)
He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.
We are obligated to identify sin. We are compelled to preach a life of holiness. The church must declare the full counsel of God. By refusing to preach truth for fear that we appear to be judgmental, we ensure that those we were sent to influence will not be ready when the judgment comes.
It is equally essential that we live what we preach. We must cleanse our lives and then declare God’s purifying Word. We condemn ourselves if we don’t practice what we proclaim.
Romans 2:1, 3 (NKJV)
Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things…And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?
The world needs men and women that will be a shining example of holiness. Christians should live such lives that they can declare the truths of God without guilty consciences or hypocrisies. It is essential that the church be able to righteously execute judgment according to the Word and the leading of the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 6:2-3, 5 (NKJV)
Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?...I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren?
A church with no judgment is not a church at all. It is a shame when there is no voice of righteousness. It is a shame when there is no man declaring the true words of his God.
Consider the words of Paul.
1 Corinthians 5:11-13 (NKJV)
But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. 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.”
“That is so judgmental.” You are exactly right. Paul said that we judge believers and God will judge all those that don’t believe. Judgment begins at the house God. Judgment begins and ends with the word of God.
The truth exposes error. It marks false Christians and false teachers. This is its purpose. We are commissioned to use true doctrine to make true judgments about those claiming to serve our Lord.
Romans 16:17-18 (NKJV)
Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ…
God’s Word is not always popular. It does not always make you feel blessed. Sometimes it makes you uncomfortable. Many times God’s goodness is found by Him leading you to repentance. Many times the saints are built up only after the altars of worldliness are torn down. The Word cuts. It divides. It challenges.
2 Timothy 4:1-4 (NKJV)
I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
Sadly, we live in a time of deception. Few saints want a man of God to truly speak into their lives. They change churches or search for TV preachers until they find someone that affirms them instead of convicting them. Prosperity doctrine is more popular than sound doctrine. Human desires are more celebrated than the desires of God.
Preacher, you are charged by God to preach the word. You are charged by God to convince, exhort, teach, and also to rebuke. Nobody likes to be rebuked, but it is the God assigned role of righteous ministers.
You will be called judgmental. You will be called divisive. You will be called self righteous. Ironically, you will be judged to be a “judger.”
Teach on. Preach on. We need men and women of God that will proclaim the truth in love and, just as importantly, will live the truth. Let your light shine and let your voice be heard.