It is often thought that the most memorized verse from the bible is John 3:16. I suspect that is true for those who truly love Jesus and are in Christ. But I strongly believe that far more people have memorized Matthew 7:1 and they have done so without any effort whatsoever. Perhaps most of them only have two words memorized: “Judge not”. These two words are very likely among Satan’s favorite passages of the bible. And not only Satan but all who hate Christ and his church favor these two words. Then, of course, we think of those of whom the great Apostle Paul warns believers not to associate. These regularly and happily abuse the Lord’s phrase against judging others:
“But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves” (1 Corinthians 5:11-13[underlining mine]).
Few biblical passages are as universally believed and repeated as Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount “judge not least you be judged”. “Judge not” is thrown back in Christians’ faces and has been a mantra for liberals alongside: Diversity, social justice, political correctness and globalism. With such associations one should quickly realize that “Judge not” does not in any way, shape or form carry the same meaning that Jesus intended. So then, what does “Judge not” mean for the millions of Americans quick to use it?
It has two primary meanings each of which carry major implications:
First, “judge not” as understood today means that it is taboo to make a judgment about the rightness or wrongness of somebody else’s thoughts, words or actions. People universally recognize that “nobody is perfect”; however, the adoption of this aphorism lures people into moral carelessness. We should have a problem with our lack of perfect holiness. The perfect holiness of God demands that we be holy too, which is why the perfect righteousness of Christ is necessary to make atonement for our imperfection. The modern moral compass is off by one hundred and eighty degrees because sin is no longer considered a problem, and liberals go so far as to deny the existence of sin altogether.
If the modern understanding of “judge not” were accurate then the bible would not command us to reprove, rebuke and correct one another. In the fight against sin the Christian needs all possible assistance including other Christians coming alongside to rebuke and correct in the spirit of love. The modern understanding says that the only loving response to sin is to accept, confirm and even celebrate the person’s decision to defy the ways of God. Support for the person’s corrupt choices and lifestyles is demanded. Those who refuse to celebrate sinful choices are called bigots, homophobes, racists, misogynists and xenophobes. But know this dear believers, that any unpleasantness is not caused by a concerned brother’s loving confrontation but rather by the angry, rebellious response of the person in need of rebuke and correction. An unwillingness to repent from sin, believe in Jesus and obey the commandments of God is the response of an unbeliever.
Jesus’ phrase “Judge not least you be judged” has a second, equally disastrous understanding today, which is that even many of the regenerate cannot discern whether or not a claim to Christian faith is valid or specious. The overwhelmingly predominate mindset is that any claim to Christianity whatsoever is to be honored. If somebody says they are a Christian, than by golly they must be a very fine Christian indeed notwithstanding a truckload of evidence to the contrary…after all who are we to judge? This, of course, is completely inconsistent with Old and New Testament teaching.
People who are consumed by pride, unbelief, rebellion and gross immorality are still considered brothers in Christ with nothing more than an empty claim to Christianity. Jesus showed us how to recognize the difference between genuine disciples and wolves in sheep’s clothing. He said to the Pharisees “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.” Few today understand the obvious inference of the ‘log’ and the ‘speck’. The former is the sin of unbelief. The religious leaders in Jesus’ day refused to believe in the Son of God who came to take away the sins of the world, yet they still wanted men to view them as spiritual titans. Jesus was telling these “hypocrites” to remove the log of unbelief and become believers in God’s redeeming Son and then they would be part of the family of God and could reprove and rebuke fellow partakers in the kingdom of God, but they continued in their unbelief.
Jesus went on to say in the Sermon on the Mount, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” It is obvious that modern Christians cannot see past the clothing. Jesus then said, “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes or figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.” Therein we discover the problem. So many wolves have entered the church that Christians and so-called Christians alike are incapable of recognizing the difference between good and bad fruit. Most in the church cannot discern the difference between an unrepentant sinner and a saint who is engaged in a battle to mortify the remnants of indwelling sin.
If the church is blind, then how dark is the modern darkness? How will the members of the church of God know with whom they are to evangelize and with whom they are to fellowship? How can any Christian hope to obey God’s command, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers” if they cannot discern the distinction between a believer and an unbeliever? Christians are marrying unbelievers at an alarming rate and most of them mistakenly believe their new marriage partner to be a Christian when they are clearly not. If they were only practiced in the word of God, then they would be able to discern good from evil.
Those who throw around the phrase “Judge not” are demonstrating a clear failure to recognize salvation. Those who cannot recognize salvation reveal their ignorance of the biblical gospel. This problem existed in the churches of the first century as well: Jude said of them, “These are the ones who cause divisions, merely natural (worldly minded), devoid of the Spirit.” Salvation is not merely natural but supernatural. Salvation cannot happen apart from the power of the Holy Spirit. Salvation does not mean being part of a church or a denomination. Salvation is not inherited from one’s parents or from the religion of one’s parents. Salvation cannot be earned through works. Salvation cannot be chosen by the will of man. Salvation is entirely of God. God does not save without transforming.
So then, what is Jesus’ meaning when he said “Do not judge one another”? The Lord was saying that we must not hold one another in contempt. We must never want someone else to be eternally separated from God. We must not hate one another. We must not judge another to be beyond God’s forgiveness. The liberal says that God loves everybody unconditionally just the way they are, which means they do not need to repent or change at all. God forbid! On the other end of the spectrum, self-righteous religiosity holds the masses in contempt while uttering false blessings like ‘God bless you’. Equally appalling! There is a better way.
Paul told the Roman Christians “…not to judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.” So judging has to do with hindering someone from coming to the Lord. Paul’s question to the Roman Christians was, “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.”
What do Christians need to change in their thinking? It is not contempt but wisdom that recognizes the lost condition of a false confessor. Each person has a reliable tendency to favor themselves, so is it any wonder that millions of people think that they are living lives pleasing to God when they are not? If a person has become born-again, then they need to become practiced in the word of God so that they will recognize the clear biblical signs of salvation. This needs to be done early in the life of young believers, before they make a choice for a life-long marriage partner. This is the proper order: First get your own house in order and know the word of God, then seek a marriage partner who has fruit consistent with true faith.
Go to the word of God and learn the truth about the gospel and salvation. Know what salvation looks like—that is the thing. Do not equivocate; do not think in generalities or vagaries. When it comes to the gospel start with the Gospel of John and then read the New Testament book of Romans. Every regenerate Christian must have clear and obvious fruit that is readily recognizable to those who know God’s word. Every unregenerate person lacks this fruit. There is no gray line here. It is obvious to the mature Christian who is and who is not saved.
The problem lies in the fact that a vastly larger body of people, known to the world as Christians, are in the camp of being ignorant to what the word of God says about salvation. This majority insist, to their own detriment, that simply desiring salvation is all that is necessary to possess it. That is all fine and good in the here and now where the biblically misinformed believe whatever makes them feel good, but it will not transport them into the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ in the next lifetime. Of equal importance, when a true believer in Christ Jesus marries one of these false confessors of the faith they will learn sooner or later that they are bound together with an unbeliever, which is an awful condition and a sinful state.
“Do not be bound together with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14).