The phrase ‘Judge ye not’ is perhaps one of the most misunderstood and misapplied biblical concepts.
Rarely does anyone want to confront sin, and rarely does a sinner want to be confronted. This presents a problem.
As the avalanche of immorality in America continues consuming many professing Christians, the idea of judging has become even more unpopular. You and I have choices to make regarding how to deal with the issue of sin in our culture and sadly, there are believers who think we should never mention the behavior of others.
In that case, how are we supposed to share the gospel of Christ, repentance from sin, and the need for forgiveness from God and eternal salvation?
Rather than address sin invading the church, we open the door to even more compromise by accommodating immoral behavior because we don’t want to offend anyone. But is this what Jesus taught?
“Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:4-5
Jesus used every opportunity – including death – to warn others. I strongly suggest we not exercise our right to be silent.
How can we turn a sinner back to God if we don’t make a judgment and say anything about sinful behavior? James wrote:
My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20
The apostle Paul told the church at Corinth not to associate with people who claimed to be Christians, but were living sinful lives (1 Corinthians 5:9). He urged the committed believers to judge those within the church and let God judge those who are outside (1 Corinthians 5:12-13).
So let’s be very clear on this: We are not to judge unbelievers; we are to share the gospel with them, because without Christ and the Bible they have no moral compass. We are instructed to judge fellow believers as long as we do it with a spirit of humility and love, not hypocritically.
There are two types of judgment in the Bible: krino judgment is to “try, convict and punish”; anakrino is to “scrutinize, investigate and determine.”
If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. John 12:47-48
The word Jesus uses here for judge is krino: “to try, convict and punish.”
But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 1 Corinthians 4:3-4
The word for judge in this verse is anakrino: “to scrutinize, investigate and determine”. Anakrino is used 14 times in the New Testament in these ways: examine, question, discern, judge, account.
Nine times out of ten, people use the words, ‘Judge ye not’ completely out of context. Even those with limited knowledge of the Bible and Christianity have either heard or have used these words themselves. This has become laughable in a culture today that promotes the idea of tolerance, but is quite intolerant when it comes to biblical Christianity, morality, and absolute truth.
Moral relativism seems to be the new law of the land. Everyone determines their own morality, and when man decides what is right or wrong, it becomes easier to defend the indefensible. After all, if the Bible does not apply to every person, well – then anything goes!
The people of Israel knew all about this and the result is always lawlessness.
In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. Judges 21:25
In the Old Testament, the God of creation often judged the people of Israel, and either blessed or punished nations depending on their obedience or rebellion. After Jesus Christ conquered the last enemy, death, by His resurrection, God the Father transferred all power and authority to His Son (Matthew 28:18). The deity and authority of Jesus are non-negotiable facts in the true Christian faith, and the Bible teaches Jesus will one day judge all humanity.
As believers, we have the Holy Spirit to help us discern good and evil, and the love of God should move us to compassion; to share the love and grace of Jesus Christ and to encourage and warn fellow believers entangled in sin.
This may seem obvious and elementary to some, but in today’s culture of hyper-tolerance it must be repeated: it is necessary to make moral judgments.
First, no one is without sin, and if someone says they do not sin, they are simply fooling themselves (1 John 1:8). Assuming you and I have confessed our sins and have received God’s forgiveness, we know how awful it feels to commit a sin and be distant from God, so we should help others be reconciled to Him.
Let’s be clear on another point: only God knows what’s in a person’s heart. All we can do is judge behavior according to the teachings of Scripture.
The concept taught in Matthew 7 is to judge yourself or examine yourself first, and then you will see clearly to address someone else’s sin. Some folks seem to think Jesus said never attempt to take the speck out of your brother’s eye (mention their sin).
In his commentary on this important teaching, Pastor Joe Schimmel of Good Fight Ministries wrote:
To grasp the true context, let’s take a closer look at Matthew 7:1-5:
Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
If you have never read past verse 1, then perhaps you are seeing the true meaning of this verse for the first time. Notice that Jesus did NOT ever say, don’t judge – period. He exhorts us to judge with righteous judgment in John 7:24 and here in Matthew 7:1-5. He says first be sure you’re right with God before pointing out someone else’s sin, thus granting the right to judge. The correct understanding of Matthew 7:1 is that simple! Verse 5 clarifies and exposes the skeptic’s erroneous understanding of “Do not judge”, by giving the green light, if you will, to judge… so as long as it is not done in a hypocritical manner.
God hates sin, and He calls you and me to shine our light and expose the darkness of sin. Naturally then, as we continue to witness unrestrained immorality in our culture, it should grieve our hearts and make us angry. That anger, however, should be directed toward the enemy and the evil of sin, not toward those who are entangled in its web. They need our prayers.
The dilemma remains: How do we bring someone back who has wandered from the truth? Some Christians actually think that instead of pointing out a person’s sin we should let our actions speak. Okay, roll the dice and let me know how that works out.
It is true sanctification – becoming more like Jesus Christ and less like the world – is a lifelong process. That being said, mature Christians should be held to a stricter standard than new believers. If we are not ‘walking the talk,’ we have no business telling someone else to repent of their sin.
In a perfect church in a perfect world, the person you approach concerning their sin would respond “Oh, wow, you’re right and I appreciate you telling me. I sure can’t argue with what the Bible teaches. I’m going to take it to God right now and ask His forgiveness, thanks so much for caring.” (OK, stop chuckling to yourself.) There must have been someone through the centuries of Christendom who responded with an open heart like this, no?
Pride is an ugly thing and we all deal with it at times.
Though most Christians may have good intentions, some choose to justify depravity by arguing against judging rather than promote biblical Christianity – and it is mind boggling.
Others are in the “hey, we just need to pray for them” camp. Okay, let’s pray for them. Then what? Too many people think that commenting on someone’s sin is never acceptable.
This accommodation of sin and refusal to judge and preach repentance – the main message of Jesus and John the Baptist – is a result of our silence and has led to our present culture of compromise. The sad thing is many Christians have been duped into believing that being silent is more loving, when, in fact, the exact opposite is true!
Our concern should be to encourage others in the faith knowing we are all sinners ‘working out our salvation. Galatians 6:1 states:
Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.
Restoration is a good thing! But how can we restore a sinner if we cannot even address the sin? It is foolishness; it’s worldliness to think this way.
Believers are obligated to live by the light of God’s Word. The apostles refer to their former condition (before Christ) as darkness, because those living in sin cannot see where they are going. In the Zondervan Matthew Henry Commentary, Ephesians 5:11 (exposing darkness) is explained:
We must have no fellowship (association, communion, participation) with sin or sinners. Sinful works are works of darkness. These works of darkness are fruitless deeds; there is nothing gained by them in the long run, whatever profit is pretended by sin, it will by no means balance the loss. We must therefore have nothing to do with these fruitless deeds. If we share with others in their sin, we must expect to share with them in their plagues. Rather than being partners with them, we must expose them. We must witness against the sins of others, and endeavor to convince them of their sinfulness in our words; but especially by the holiness of our lives. Reprove their sins by abounding in the contrary duties.
Making judgments in a biblical manner doesn’t need to be confusing if we understand God’s word. But we are in a time in America when the church is afraid to offer a moral judgment on anything. One thing is certain; we had better examine ourselves first and make sure we are true to the faith and Word of Jesus Christ!
For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 1 Peter 4:17
Thanks to the Holy Spirit, Christians have spiritual discernment nonbelievers do not have access to, particularly related to biblical truth. In 1 Corinthians 2:15, the apostle Paul says those who are spiritual should judge all things. One of the many promises from God is that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth. God gives us a greater capacity for applying His wisdom and discernment to everyday life.
Christians are instructed to examine everything carefully and cling to the good (1 Thessalonians 5:21). We do this by holding all things up to Scripture, the ultimate standard and truth detector.
The Word of God encourages Christians to remain in Him in order to produce good fruit in our lives. But how do you determine the good fruit from bad fruit? The Apostle Paul lists the fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Fruit is that which comes from our actions and words, hopefully pointing others to Christ and influencing our culture for godliness. Similar to Matthew 7, the gospel of Luke includes the same lessons from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in which he warns believers about false prophets and teachings, as well as about judging wrongly. Luke 6:43-44 states:
No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit.
You and I will be judged by what our lives produce, whether good or bad. This judgment will include not only what we did and said, but also what we approved of and did not say. Each of us will be held accountable for our actions, words, and lack thereof on judgment day.
Silence never saved anybody.
Do you really believe in your heart that Christians should have no input in matters of moral importance in our culture?
A religion professor at Charleston Southern University, Peter Beck stated:
I am greatly grieved by those who call themselves “Christians” yet constantly cover for the very wickedness and sin that they are supposed to shun and flee from. They embrace the very sinful people who have clearly transgressed God’s commandments, laws, precepts, directives, and requirements …You must understand, my friends that while you are so concerned with … creating an environment of love and peace, [lasting] peace is neither possible nor probable without the end coming first. Jesus Christ is the only One who can and will bring us eventual peace … when God sends Him back to earth as the King of Kings to reign forever and ever!
If we love those who are in bondage to any sin, we will tell them about the forgiveness of Jesus Christ and encourage them to repent. A Spirit-filled Christian with the proper love and motives will seek God’s approval, not the world’s approval.
In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul writes: All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable … for correction … Wait, “correction”? How can we as Christians correct anyone if we are not supposed to make a judgment on right or wrong? This misguided argument can make a person’s head spin – and we’ve all heard it. God’s correction is good and sometimes He uses other people in the church to get through to us.
The church is in some ways a hospital for those who know they are sick.
Pastor John MacArthur said:
A church that does not discipline a sinning member is like a person who has good reason to believe he has cancer but who refuses to go to a doctor – because he either does not want to face the problem or does not want to face the treatment. If he waits too long his whole body will be permeated with the disease and it will be too late for treatment to do any good. No church is healthy enough to resist contamination from persistent sin in its midst.
We also need to be wise and discerning about church leaders and teachers. Your pastor or ministry leaders are human, and they are just as susceptible to sin and temptation as you and I.
Throughout the Bible are warnings about those who purposely stretch or twist the gospel, apparently to deceive and lead others astray. Matthew 7:15-16 states:
Beware the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly they are ravenous wolves, you will know them by their fruits.
John writes to Christians in 1 John 4:1 saying:
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
The better we know the Word of God, the more we will be able to discern what is ungodly. If we know the truth, then we will be able to expose a counterfeit.
Another response you may have heard when reacting to a Christian’s judgment might be, “He who is without sin cast the first stone.” Implying that Jesus taught us not to judge is ludicrous. This verse is also misused and often taken out of context.
The passage in John 8:3-7 is about a couple caught in the act of adultery. It is interesting to me the Pharisees brought only the woman to Jesus. If she was “caught in the act,” then the man must also have been caught. Where was the man? The Law of Moses required both the man and the woman to be stoned to death, but the religious leaders didn’t care about technicalities. They had a different agenda: It was a set-up to test the Lord Jesus.
Notice Jesus didn’t tell them not to judge; He knew the wicked hearts of the Pharisees as they confronted Him with accusations. Jesus responded with, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her (vs 7).” Since they all had sinned, each of them dropped their rocks and walked away one by one (John 8:9). The Lord then acknowledged her sin, forgave her, and warned her to go and sin no more.
Andrew Murray said:
“To convince the world of the truth of Christianity, it must first be convinced of sin. It is only sin that renders Christ intelligible.
What a good juxtaposition. The very truth about sin can be what leads to understanding the solution God provided through the Savior. Apart from explaining sin’s consequences, the crucifixion makes no sense.
Francis Schaeffer believed Christians in general are avoiding the cultural battle and allowing its downward slide. In his book, The Great Evangelical Disaster, Schaeffer wrote:
It is my firm belief that when we stand before Jesus Christ, we will find that it has been the weakness and accommodation of the evangelical group on the issues of the day that has been largely responsible for the loss of the Christian ethos which has taken place in the area of culture in our country over the last forty to sixty years.
Full obedience to the Word of Christ obligates us to speak. We are to be on the lookout as watchmen on the wall because if God judged Israel for not repenting, how do you suppose He will deal with America?
Culture reflects the strength or weakness of the church which reflects the strength or weakness of individual Christians. In Ezekiel’s case, there was a specific message the Lord instructed him to preach and yet, the principle applies to believers today:
At the end of seven days the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Son of man, I have appointed you a watchman to the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me. When I say to the wicked, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet if you have warned the wicked and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered yourself.
Again, when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I place an obstacle before him, he will die; since you have not warned him, he shall die in his sin, and his righteous deeds which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. However, if you have warned the righteous man that the righteous should not sin and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; and you have delivered yourself. Ezekiel 3:16-21
How many more warnings do we need in order to repent and/or get others to turn back to Jesus as well? Sometimes we need stern warnings and other times we need to be the ones speaking up to warn others. God works through us to reach people, and those whom He finds faithful will receive their reward.
You never know, one day someone may thank you for caring enough to tell them the truth.
God will make the final judgments on all creation. We are His messengers, and our goal is to point people to Jesus Christ – and in many cases, back to Christ!
For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. John 5:26-27
Thank you for this post. It gives great resources, Bible verses, quotes, etc for refuting those who say we are not to judge. God bless you.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment, Barbara. God bless you!