Judge Not, That You May Judge Well

Christians are not to judge other Christians. And Christians are to judge other Christians. That’s what the Bible teaches. In fact, the apostle Paul says both things in the same letter just a few paragraphs apart.

Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. (1 Corinthians 4:5)

Don’t judge other Christians.

For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? (1 Corinthians 5:12)

Judge other Christians.

Is Paul contradicting himself? No. Paul is simply instructing us that there are things we must not judge and things we must judge.

What We Must Not Judge

We must not judge “the hidden . . . purposes of the heart” of other Christians based on their decisions, actions, perspectives, words, or personality that concern us if those things themselves are not explicitly sinful (1 Corinthians 4:5). We must not assume sin if we suspect sin, given how biased our suspicions can be.

When Paul wrote, “do not pronounce judgment before the time,” he was referring to a debate among Corinthian Christians over whether Paul, Apollos, or Peter (Cephas) was the most authoritative apostle (1 Corinthians 1:11–12; 3:3–4). Why were they quarrelling over such a thing? We don’t know. All we know is 1) the Corinthians had personal knowledge of and experience with these apostles, and 2) how we tend to judge leaders based on our observations and experiences.

Like different leaders we know, Paul, Apollos, and Peter had different personalities. They likely had different rhetorical and pedagogical styles, theological emphases, and may have exercised or emphasized different spiritual gifts.

We know Paul was a “planter” and Apollos was a “waterer” (1 Corinthians 3:6–8). Perhaps some simply much preferred Apollos or Peter to Paul. Perhaps some misunderstood something Paul said or did and took offense. Perhaps the “super-apostles” (2 Corinthians 11:5) had slandered Paul, but not Apollos or Peter. Whatever the factors were, certain Corinthian Christians judged Paul uncharitably, calling his ministry and character (his “hidden . . . purposes of the heart”) into question (1 Corinthians 4:3).

We can understand this because we’ve all done this. We know how fast we can move from misunderstanding or disagreement to concern, then to suspicion, and then to judgment. If we think we perceive smoke, we can too quickly assume there’s a fire.

In such cases, we must remember Jesus’s words, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (John 7:24).

What We Must Judge

Christians must judge the explicitly sinful behavior of a professing Christian.

Jesus said a “tree is known by its fruit” (Matthew 12:33). When do the hidden sinful purposes of the heart reveal themselves? In a person’s explicitly sinful behavior. That’s why Paul didn’t even have to be present to pass judgment on a man who engaged in sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 5:3). And he explicitly instructed the Corinthian Christians to pass judgment on him too (1 Corinthians 5:12–13).

When we sin, our Christian brothers and sisters have an obligation to judge us. They must not condemn us, but they must, out of love, call us to repent. Such judgment is a grace, an expression of God’s kindness (Romans 2:4), and we only compound our sin if we take offense. If our sin is very serious and our church determines that we must be disciplined according toMatthew 18:15–17, we must keep in mind that the purpose is to pursue our redemption not damnation (1 Corinthians 5:4–5).

Written by Jon Bloom

Full article at Desiring God  

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