by Rev. Martin L. Dawson
Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged. And with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but beholdest 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. Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet and turn again and rend you. Ask, and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them, for this is the law and the prophets." Matthew 7:1-12. Thus far God's word.
Let us pray....O Holy Spirit, we do pray that as we have just sung, thou wilt illumine our hearts, that we may understand this teaching of Jesus, and that understanding it we may embrace it, and have grace to practice it in our lives. Open our hearts and speak to us we pray, for Jesus' sake. Amen.
"Judge not." This is one of those sayings in the Bible, one of those teachings of scripture, that is very well known, even by unbelievers. It is one of the best known of Jesus' teachings, and it's probably one of the least understood. All the world seems to know of this saying, and they like to say it too. You hear people say, who aren't even Christians, "Well I don't want to judge" and then they usually say "but", and commence to judge. Or, they will accuse us Christians of being judgmental, when we say that certain immoral things are against God's law, and contrary to His will. They say, "Oh, you shouldn't judge. I thought you were a Christian." Even Christians are frequently woefully confused as to the meaning of "Judge not". Either they absolutize this rule (they think it's wrong ever to judge) and this is unbiblical, or they act as though this solemn warning of Jesus about, if we judge we'll be judged, doesn't count, because we're Christians, and we're saved. But Jesus is speaking to Christians when He makes this commandment with its attached warning. So it's of real importance that we as Christians understand what this teaching of Jesus is. I believe that Christians get themselves into a great deal of trouble by not understanding and walking in the light of this particular commandment of Jesus, "Judge not". Our Lord says, "Judge not that ye be not judged, for with what judgment ye judge ye shall be judged, and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again". I want us to consider this teaching of our Lord under these three heads: first, what "Judge not" does not mean, secondly, what it does mean, and thirdly, what reasons Jesus gives for us not to judge.
In the first place, then, what judge not does not mean: It does not mean that it is unlawful for a Christian ever to pass judgment upon another. Indeed, we cannot be obedient to the Lord if we do not pass judgment upon others under the right circumstances. Scripture must interpret scripture. This is the great canon, the great interpretive rule of the Reformation, that the Bible is God's word, and God has put in His word everything we need to know, and that if we need to understand what the scripture says in one place, then we have to understand it by scripture's own explanation some place else in the Bible. We cannot take one scripture and interpret it so that it will be out of harmony with the rest of the Bible, because one Holy Spirit gave all the words of the Bible, and He never contradicts Himself. So God can't say, "Thou shalt not judge" in one place, and then command judgment in another, and you can't say, "Well, I'll take this scripture and you take that scripture". No, we have to find out why He said both, when it's appropriate to judge and when it's not. Other things are like that. St. Paul says, "I am persuaded that there is nothing unclean of itself". If you lifted that out of context, you could say that there is nothing wrong with murder. There's nothing unclean about stealing. Paul says there's nothing unclean. You have to read it in the context to know what he means by that, and not just lift it out of the scripture and absolutize it and erase all the rest of what the Bible says about this subject. So we have to look at the context here of "Judge not" to know what Jesus means by it, and the context itself, the verses surrounding it teach that this commandment "Judge not" are given in the context of commanding us to judge.
What is the context of "Judge not"? Well if you look here at chapter seven, in the very next breath, after Jesus says "Judge not" He says, "Give not that which is holy unto dogs, neither cast your pearls before swine. Now, the only way I can determine whether someone is a dog, or a pig, is by making some sort of judgment. Dogs and pigs are types in the Bible of the reprobate. They're types of unbelievers who will not hear the word of God, who hate the word of God, and you're wasting your time once you've witnessed to them and you've given them the truth, and they hold it in contempt and blaspheme the Lord. Jesus says go on and spend your time with somebody who will listen. But you have to first determine who is a pig or who is a dog. That's judgment, obviously. Or again, in the same chapter, verse fifteen, Jesus says, "Beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves". You have to make a judgment to know who is a wolf, and who is not, who is a false prophet, and who is a true one. You even hear Christians say, "Well, you shouldn't say that person is a false teacher. After all, you're not supposed to judge. It's just God's job to judge." No, Jesus says it's your job. Maybe it's God's job on the last day to judge, but it's your job to beware of false prophets. It's your job to determine by their doctrine whether people are teaching from the Scriptures or not, whether, just because they look like sheep...you know, He says they come in sheep's clothing, the false prophets don't come in a red suit, and with horns. They come dressed like sheep, like an angel of light. But you can determine by what they say in scripture, you can make the judgment, is this person or not a Christian. That's judgment. Only by judging can we obey the Lord in that matter. So "Judge not" certainly does not mean that somebody's doctrine, or somebody's behavior according to the law of God cannot be determined by us to be wrong. Indeed, we MUST do that.
It certainly doesn't mean (and some Christians have even said that it does mean) that the courts. the civil courts, the criminal courts, have no right under God to judge. I've heard people say, "Well, if you're a born again Christian, you could never be a judge because God says not to judge." But you know what God Himself says about judges? In the Old Testament, God calls judges "gods". God says of human judges, because they stand in a divine mission, that they are called "gods". "Ye are gods" our Lord says to them in the Old Testament. And then in the New Testament, St. Paul talks about the judges which God has put upon the Earth, the civil magistrates, and He says that they are God's servants, His ministers. They're not only appointed by God to judge, but they're even appointed by God to have the power of the sword to take life - the ultimate judgment, is capital punishment, and God gave them that judgment.
"Judge not" doesn't mean that we as individuals don't judge, it doesn't mean that the courts don't judge. Indeed, Christ has appointed both. "Judge not" does not mean that the church courts do not judge. I think that there are very few churches today that practice excommunication. Our denomination is one that does. If someone lives in sin, and will not repent, he will be excommunicated, because that's what the Bible commands of us. We don't have the right to change that. We cannot say that we are more compassionate than God. God is all compassion, but God commands us.
Listen to this text: In Titus it says, "An heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject, knowing that such is subverted of himself." Determine who the heretic is, and reject him. In St. John's epistle, he says, if sombody comes to you and doesn't bring the doctrine of Christ (and how many of you know that they knock on your door, wanting to sell you Watchtower, and they don't have the doctrine of Christ) John says, don't receive them into your house and don't bid them Godspeed. That's judgment, isn't it? And you say, "Well, they're religious, they're Christians, and..." No, He says, they should be rejected.
Those examples I just gave you were doctrinal ones, but it's also true of morality, St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 5, he talks about a church that had refused to judge and refused to cast out an immoral person from their midst. And Paul in the Holy Ghost rebukes the church for this. You know, the Reformers believed, when they went back to the Bible, they said, "What is the church, anyway?" The Reformers, Luther, and Calvin, and Knox went back to the scripture and said, "Let's find out from the Bible, what are the marks whereby we can determine what a true church is." And they found the preaching of the gospel, the proper administration of the sacraments, and church discipline, which means judgment, which means the church has a court, that if people are guilty of breaking God's law, they will be confronted with that. They will be corrected. If they refuse to repent, they will be excommunicated. In 1 Corinthians 5, St. Paul is talking about judgment not in a doctrinal, but in this case, in a moral matter. "It is commonly reported that there is fornication among you." And then he says, "I verily, as absent in the body but present in spirit have judged." Paul says, "I have judged this man already. In the name of the Lord Jesus, when you are gathered together, with the power of the Lord Jesus to deliver such an one unto Satan, for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Purge out, therefore, the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump." And then St. Paul goes on to say, "I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators."
Judgement, on a moral issue, and what does he say? They should be banished if they don't repent, not to company with them. They should be shunned. He says, "For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? Do not ye judge them that are within? Them that are without, God judgeth, but therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person." Now what he's saying is, when I say you can't have company with a sinner, it doesn't mean you can't go with the gospel out into a world of sinners, you can't have dinner with them, you can't present Christ to them, you can't try to bring them into the kingdom of God. He says, no, it's when somebody calls themself a brother, and somebody says "I'm a Christian", when somebody is a member of the church, and lives unrepentently, that's the person he says that you are to judge. That's the person you are to put away from yourselves, "that wicked person" in his own words. And so, very obviously, thou shalt not judge does not mean that, as so many mistakenly think, that individuals may not ever make judgments, or civil courts, or church courts. That they may not ever judge the conduct or doctrine of another. Indeed, that is unbiblical, and we cannot obey the Lord, if we were to follow that. But let us look in the second place, then, at what "Judge not" does mean.
Again here, the immediate context gives us an interpretive clue. "Judge not, lest ye be judged" and then Christ goes on to give an example of what He's talking about. "Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye?" Why are you so keen on discovering the tiniest fault in your brother? That's the judgment He's condemning. When we become, as we say in English, a nitpicker. When we become hypercritical. When we become faultfinders. When we become the kind of people who are quick to see any error or weakness in another, and yet very slow to see it in ourselves. That's the kind of evil judging that Jesus solemnly warns us of. And I say solemnly warns us because this is vitally important. I said before, many Christians say, "Well, I believe that because I'm saved that it doesn't make any difference how I live. God will treat me just the same." But it's just not so. Or some Christians will say, "Well I know from this, "Judge not", I know the world doesn't understand this. I know the word permits us to judge, and even commands us to." And so they forget all about the fact that God really is here prohibiting a certain kind of judgment with a very serious warning. He really is prohibiting us from being judgmental in no uncertain terms.
I'll give you an example from the army, I know a Roman priest who is a chaplain in the army, as I'm a chaplain in the army. This priest almost unceasingly smokes cigarettes, and almost unceasingly takes the Lord's name in vain. Now, all too many of the evangelical Christians I know are far more upset by the fact that this fellow smokes, which really doesn't mean a thing to me. I don't care if he does or not. They're his lungs. I don't like the smell of cigarettes. A Havana cigar is something different, but I don't like the smell of cigarettes. It's none of my business if he smokes, but honestly, all of the Christians I know, they think this is really...."How can he be a Christian and do that?!" Look, that's a health issue. That's none of our business. That IS being judgmental. But he takes the name of the Lord in vain in almost every sentence, and that is outrageous! He asked me once if I thought he was saved and I said, "no". That's judgement. Judgement. But I believe that I would be guilty before God if Ihadn't made it.
People who like to be judgmental often like to pick and choose how they're judgmental. You know, if they don't like dancing, they'll condemn dancing, but if they are rather over fond of cholesterol, then they don't say anything about cholestorol. Now why can't we condemn one if we're going to condemn the other? If we're going to go around finding that kind of fault, and that's exactly what Jesus is talking about here, that we ought not to do. So a Christian that understands "Judge not" is not going to judge a man on his personal issues.
You know what happens (and I'm indebted to Martin Lloyd Jones for this insight) when we're judgmental we end up being the very opposite of people who dwell in love. If we dwell in a critical spirit, that critical spirit quenches the love of God, and indeed makes it impossible for us to practice it.
If you look at 1 Corinthians 13, the great love chapter of the Bible, though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and I am critical, I am become as a sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. You can read the whole chapter that way. And though I have the gift of prophesy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith so that I could remove mountains, and I am critical, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and I am critical, it profiteth me nothing. And then this description, "Charity suffereth long, and is kind". You know, the critical spirit is the very opposite. Instead of suffering long, it's touchy, and unkind. "Charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up." The critical person is very quick to find fault in others, but not in himself. Why? Because he vaunts himself, and is puffed up. You see how this is the very opposite of love? Charity rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth. The critical spirit rejoices in iniquity. They find somebody has fallen into sin and there's almost a satisfaction to hear that, instead of a grieving. But love doesn't rejoice in that. Love rejoices in good things. "Rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things" The critical spirit does NOT hope all things and believe the best of his neighbor, but rather, will always believe the worst, will always put the worst slant on what they see anyone doing, and put the worst interpretation on it. And so you can see that when we disobey Jesus and we are critical, and we are fault finders, when we're hypercritical, when we're nitpickers, when we're judgmental, then we're the opposite of love. The critical spirit is the opposite of love, and it's the death of love.
Now let's look in the third place at the reason Jesus gives us for not judging. The reason He gives is "that ye be not judged". That ye be not judged. The first thing I have to say here is that Jesus is not talking about salvation. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus". That means there's no judgment. That means on the great day of God almighty you will not be judged for your sins, not because God doesn't judge your sins, but if you're a Christian, God judged your sins on the cross. And He found them guilty, and he punished them with the pains of Hell. But there's no judgment for the Christian. Whether you're going to Heaven or Hell is already determined if you're a Christian.
It's not that judgment Jesus is talking about. Rather, it is the way you will be treated in this life. If you are judgmental, you will find you are being paid, as we say, "in the same coin". That's God's principle. Some people interpret this, and they're right as far as they go, they say, "Well, if you're a critical person, then other people will be critical of you." And that's true. It also tends to be very offensive to the critical person because it's an interesting thing, spiritually. I believe that the more critical a person is of others, the less able he is himself to be critcized, the less he's able to receive criticism, the more shocked and hurt he is when others criticize him, while he freely criticizes others. So it's true that if we are judgmental, or we are critical, others will tend to be that same way with us. That is true, but why is that true? You see, we have to go beyond those people to the providence that makes it true. It's God's providence that allows people to do that to us. Because ultimately what Jesus is saying here is that if you are judgmental, God will be judgmental with you, whether He does that through others, or some other way, that as you treat others, God will treat you.
There's a principle, "Do unto others as you will have them do unto you" which Jesus says right in this context. And you know how you can read that? Do unto others as you would have God do unto you. That's really what He's saying here. Now that principle runs all the way through the Bible. It is so firmly embedded in both Testaments that I'm very surprised that more Christians are not aware of it. As we treat others, God treats us. That's the principle. How many of you noticed it? In the psalter selection this morning in Psalm 18, the first verse was this. The Psalmist was addressing God, and the Psalmist says to God, "With the merciful, thou wilt show thyself" what? Merciful. How does God treat us? The way we treat others. With the merciful person, God will show Himself merciful. With the upright thou wilt show thyself upright. With the pure thou wilt show thyself pure, and with the froward thou wilt show thyself froward. The principle we see in the offertory reading, give and it shall be given unto you, good measure, with the same measure that ye mete, it shall be measured unto you again. The way you act towards others is the way God will act towards you. You want God to be generous with you? Be generous. You want God to be merciful to you? Be merciful. You want God to be longsuffering and patient with you? Be longsuffering and patient with your neighbor, because God promises in this that the way you treat others is the standard by which He treats you.
Now again, this is not salvation. He's talking about the way He treats people who are saved. The way He deals with them in this world. If you want God to be forgiving with you (and this is not the forgiveness of salvation, which is once and for all) but what does Jesus say after the Lord's prayer? He says that if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will God forgive you your trespasses. If somebody asks to be forgiven, you'd better forgive him, because otherwise, God is going to begin dealing with you in that same, exacting and harsh, and unmerciful way that you deal with others. And so, if you do not want God to be a fault finder, and critical with you, then ask the Holy Spirit to write, "Judge not" upon your heart.
We've seen then, in conclusion, what these words mean. First we saw that "Judge not" does not mean that it is wrong to declare heretics to be heretics, or immoral people to be immoral. We did see that it does mean that the critic and the fault finder, sees only what he doesn't like in others, which makes walking in love and walking with Jesus impossible. And thirdly we saw the reasons our Lord gives. You will be judged in just the same way. And so if you want God to be fault finding with you, be fault finding with others. But if you want God to be merciful and kind, and patient, and loving with you, with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged.
Let us pray...Our Heavenly Father, we confess that there is not one of us here present, who has not times without number been guilty of breaking this commandment. But we do pray, Lord, that we may like that wise man who hears these words, and builds his house upon a rock. That we will mend our ways, that we may try more and more to be like our Savior Jesus in kindness, and patience, and in not being judgmental. O Lord our God, write all these, thy law, upon our hearts, for Christ's sake. Amen.
This sermon was preached by Rev. Martin L. Dawson, Pastor of Stratford Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the voice for Reformed Christianity in Southern New Jersey. Reverend Dawson received the Bachelor of Science degree from Bethany College, and the master of Divinity degree from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. He served as Police Chaplain for the Stratford Police department, and is a retired Army National Guard Chaplain, and he holds the rank of Lt. Colonel.