Judge Not! ... and You Will Not Be Judged?
Last in a three part series
By B. Michael Bigg
In parts one and two of this article we discussed the difference between not judging and judgementalism, and also judging in regard to morals and sin. In this final section we will discuss the idea of Not Judging in regard to Teachers, Preachers and Prophets – including those who say they are one or all of these.
Judging Teachers, Preachers and Prophets
The New Testament does not elevate teachers, preachers, prophets and apostles to the status of being untouchable; but rather makes them more accountable (cf. James 3:1). Indeed rather than being the elite, they are told to be slaves, to serve others (cf. Luke 22:26, 27).
For some people, judging a sermon, doctrine, theology as well as pastors, teachers, preachers, prophets and apostles is a big “no-no”. A common rebuke, these days, by some who would call themselves these things is, “Don’t touch the Lord’s anointed”; but who says they are God’s anointed? Did God say they are His anointed, or do they merely claim to be God’s anointed?
Both the Gospels and the Epistles caution and warn of those who would distort God’s Word, the Christian Faith, and/or cause someone to stumble or walk away from God as a result of false words and false teachers, or otherwise misrepresent God.
And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes! Matthew 18:5-7 (NAU)
I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! Galatians 1:6-9
But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage. But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you. Galatians 2:4-5
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. 2 Peter 2:1-3
Beloved, 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. 1 John 4:1
It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach. Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things. Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households. For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.1 Timothy 3:1-13
For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipel from heaven, should preacation or rebellion. For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict. For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain. Titus 1:5-11
Unless we make a judgement call, how can we follow any of the above New Testament teachings and directives? If we ignore or reject the above teachings, then aren’t we acting as judges over God’s Word anyway?
Paul did not say to those who criticised, rebuked, examined or judged him, “I am an apostle, how dare you judge me!” ... though many a false prophet of today would. Rather, Paul wrote,
Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. My defence to those who examine me is this: 1 Corinthians 9:1-3 (Emphasis Mine)
Paul goes on to give his defence, he gives an account, he makes himself accountable to the Corinthians’ inquiries. If Paul was not afraid to do so, why should we be? Indeed, shouldn’t our words, teachings and doctrines be open to evaluation? Weren’t the Bereans (Acts 17:11) praised for checking the validity of Paul’s and Silas’ teachings and claims?
The Principle in the Epistles
Jesus’ principle of “Not Judging” is taught in numerous places throughout the New Testament epistles; and just as Jesus notes that it is NOT “judging” (in and of itself) that is the emphasis, but rather, it is the manner of judging that is the concern.
If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOUR AS YOURSELF,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. For He who said, “DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY,” also said, “DO NOT COMMIT MURDER.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? James 2:8-14 (Emphasis Mine)
Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself, for you who judge practise the same things. And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practise such things. Romans 2:1-2 (Emphasis Mine)
But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, “AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD.” So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this-- not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. Romans 14:10-13 (Emphasis Mine)
Being critical and judgmental of others – as if we ourselves are perfect – is unhelpful and unmerciful, as well as egotistical. We are all sinners.
Shortcomings and Specks
“Judge Not” is all about judgmentalism. Do we look to, and at, others merely to criticise, merely to find something wrong? Are we, as individuals, unmercifully critical of others and the sin and shortcomings in their lives? Do we chide, abuse, sneer at, or criticise those who have fallen short of the mark? Do we pride ourselves at pointing out the faults of others? Do we plainly see the sin in the lives of others without recognising our own shortcomings? Such an attitude is hypocritical, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Do we really think ourselves so much better than others? Luke 18 should come to mind in this regard!
And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14
Surely the closer we get to God, the more we [should] recognise God’s attributes of holiness, righteousness and justice, and the more we should recognise our own unholiness, unrighteousness and injustice. Even Paul did not regard himself highly because of his past life, his past sins and his own shortcomings (c.f. 1 Cor 15:9; Rom 7:18-20). Of all the people we know, shouldn’t we know ourselves best of all? Surely we recognise our own sinfulness. Surely I am the biggest sinner I know, and you are the biggest sinner you know. What attitude, then, should we exhibit in regards to the personal shortcomings of others?
How you judge others – voiced or unvoiced (if you are critical and fault finding) – then is the standard you set, and this will be the standard applied back to you (by God).
The verses in Matthew 7 also talk about a speck in someone else’s eye (i.e. a small, insignificant, irritation) versus the plank of wood jutting out from your own eye. The explanation (and example) show that you are finding fault, and being critical of others (their sins, actions, words, whatever) in a ridiculous manner, when your own faults far exceed theirs. When you consider Jesus’ reinterpretation of Scripture from not just action (or inaction) but in regard to attitudes and what you think of others, the significance of judgementalism becomes even more pronounced and apparent.
What will it “Prophet” a Man?
An issue we have when discussing “Judge Not” is the idea that not judging, or not being judgmental, means giving a free pass to false teachers and false prophets. The New Testament plainly shows that this is not the case.
Our attitudes toward INDIVIDUALS and their shortcomings is one thing; but the judging of doctrine and teachers, prophecy and prophets, leaders, elders and pastors is another. Indeed Scripture plainly shows that doctrine and prophecy can be, and indeed should be, judged. Or do we judge God and the writers of the New Testament when they say,
Beloved, 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. 1 John 4:1 (Emphasis Mine)
Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you. Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; Philippians 3:1-2 (Emphasis Mine)
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. 2 Peter 2:1-3 (Emphasis Mine)
Judge Not? It is obvious for anyone who is serious about God and His Word that Scripture tells us TO JUDGE. We are not talking, here, about personal sin. We are talking about false doctrine, false teaching, false spirits and false prophecy. We are talking about the beliefs, actions, and teachings, which are designed to, and indeed do, lead people astray and away from God, His Word and His Standards! Such persons, their teachings, and their words MUST BE JUDGED. Their innocence or guilt is NOT based on the degree of sincerity in their actions:
- a false prophet is a false prophet – he, or she, speaks in the name of God when God has NOT spoken, and
- a false teacher who draws people away from the Word of God, no matter how sincere, is still a false teacher.
Or does the warning of THE False Prophet in Revelation exist solely so that we might consider that person’s sincerity? If we are NOT prepared to judge false prophets now – how can anyone believe that anyone would stand up and say THE False Prophet is a false prophet – given the “miracles” he will work? Judge Not at your own peril.
You Will Be Judged!
Whether we make determinations, judgments or condemnations (either said or unsaid) or not, we will all be judged.Even if we, as humans, could truly “Judge Not” or “Not Judge”, rest assured we most certainly WILL “be judged”. The question is will we set the standard for our judgement (by being judgmental of others) or will we let God be the Righteous and Just Judge of others AND ourselves?
As has been plainly illustrated “Judge Not” does not mean not judging, but rather: Do not be, and stop being critical and condemnatory of others. We will all stand before God and we will all give account ... the merciful will receive mercy ... therefore let us show mercy.
For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, “AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD.” So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this-- not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. Romans 14:9-13
So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:12-13
And finally, having read this article, how do you judge it? No doubt some will disagree with what has been written – but don’t worry, they won’t be judging – NOT!
About The Author
B. MICHAEL BIGG, and his wife, Kathryn, came out of the Word-Faith movement. Michael has a concern for the preaching of the truth (or lack of it) in many of today’s churches. He has a desire to assist in the education of the elect and reaching the lost. Brett works in the Information Technology (IT) industry.