Home Media Sermons by Pastor Nicki Coertze Series 2. Who are you to judge? .. Who are you to judge? A Biblical case against judging

.. Who are you to judge? A Biblical case against judging

Article Index
.. Who are you to judge? A Biblical case against judging
Page 2, Judging on trial.
Page 3. Judging of self on trial.
Page 4. The past sin of judging on trial
All Pages


Let me start this series with two stories that should make us all laugh but at the same time realise just how serious the topic is that is before us.

The story is told of two priests who needed to cross through a river, when a young lady with a mini dress arrived also to discover that she needed to cross through the normally dry riverbed. There she stood with her high heeled shoes, stockings and quite a bit of a predicament. The priests decided to walk through and then the one priest out of the kindness of his heart offered to carry the young lady through. He did this and put her down on the other side and they walked on. For the next 5 km the other priest was on his case with statements like: “How could you do it, what if people saw you, did you see how short her mini was, you must have lusted after her, you are a priest and it is totally inappropriate for you to carry a woman through the water” and so the list went on. The priest, who carried the woman, suddenly stopped and rebuked his friend with the following words: “you know what? 5 km ago, I put her down, but you are still carrying her”.

Another story that is told is of a slander issue that erupted in a church and was tearing the church apart. The focus of the slander was the young pastor who was still a bachelor. The accusation was that he either had a problem with alcohol, or gambling or he was sleeping with prostitutes. He traced the route of this slander back to a spinster in the church who saw his car parked in front of the local hotel one night for the whole night. Her conclusion was that one of the three reasons mentioned in the rumours had to be the reason for his car standing there all night. What she did not know is that the water geyser in the apartment he was renting burst and that all his things were wet. He solved his own problem for the night by closing the main tap, and booking into the hotel for the night. On discovering the source of the rumour this bright young pastor got back at the spinster. That night he went and parked his car in front of her home and he left it there all night.

These two illustrations which we will refer to again as the weeks go on bring us to our topic for the next 6 – 8 sermons on judging and legalism.

The words “who are you to judge” are maybe some of the most quoted words in the world and are used by believers and unbelievers to the same degree. Somebody remarked that these words are quoted more that John 3:16. At the same time these words are maybe some of the most misunderstood and misapplied words to be uttered. One of the reasons it so wrongly applied needs to be placed fairly on the shoulders of us pastors. Two weeks ago I asked our congregation to indicate by the raising of hands if they have ever heard a series preached on this subject. Not one hand was raised, and the sad fact is that some of those in the audience have sat under my ministry for as many as 20 years.

Now, to define these terms “judging” and “legalism” again creates its own problems, as what is judging or legalism for one is not judging or legalism for another. At the end of the day though we need to ask, what God’s view is on the matter? This is what we will attempt to do over the next bunch of sermons.

The issue of judging and legalism is maybe one of the most destructive forces in the church of Christ, because it too often does not stop in one’s mind but it reaches the tongue. It fits into the realm of the unbridled tongue that is like a rudder that steers ships or like a flame that sets the world alight. But more than that, it is deeper as it brings about the most devastation to interpersonal relationships and the ability for believers to work together in God’s Kingdom. Sadly believers are often just as guilty as unbelievers in spreading slander. It is like we feel we are in power when we have information and we need others to know that we are in power and therefore we share information so easily without putting it to Biblical scrutiny.

I believe that if we can solve this problem, true peace and joy will be promoted in the body of Christ.

How many of us have heard the following statements over and over again?

  1. “I know what you are thinking”.
  2. “How can you work as a wife and mother? Obviously you are neglecting your household and family.”
  3. “There is no way that someone can drive a car that expensive or own a house that fancy and still glorify God.”
  4. “All secular music is the devil’s music”.
  5. “All age restriction movies are wrong for believers.”
  6. “You don’t care to spend time with your child, which is why you send him or her to a public school instead of home schooling them.”
  7. “If you take antidepressants, you do not glorify and trust God.”
  8. “Your appreciation of the human form obviously implies that you have a problem with lust.”
  9. “It is wrong to shop or watch sport on a Sunday.”
  10. “Smoking is sin, because the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.”
  11. “I don’t believe that so and so is a Christian.”
  12. “Drums and electric guitars cannot glorify God, let’s stick with a piano, it was good enough for the apostles, and therefore it is good enough for me.”
  13. I know why you have DSTV, you want to watch adult movies.


Now, all of us have made some of these statements, and all of these statements have some form of error in them which I will explain in detail later.

In the meantime I want to simply state that what we do too readily is to go beyond what is written in Scripture, and we also create moral and legal standards that God has not given us as a rule. Let me just say this for now; if anything is unlawful as far as the Word of God is concerned, it will always be unlawful. Our Lord and His word are not like shifting sands. When I grew up as a child, dancing was sin, any movies were sin, wearing denims was sin, short or long pants for ladies was sin, buying an ice-cream on a Sunday was sin, but it was not a sin to eat one bought on Saturday (on condition that you kept it in the deep freeze of course). Most Christians do not see a problem with these items today. The bottom line is this; if they are not sinful today, they were never sinful. As always, the rules and opinions of men have too often proven not to be the rules and opinions of God.

All of us have either judged someone in our lives or we have been judged by someone. Whether you are on the receiving end or the giving end, it is the most frustrating, unbeneficial, and cruel experience to encounter. Some of us also place burdens on the lives of other believers by creating unbiblical rules for them to keep. Other’s here today, might be carrying heavily on burdens laid on their shoulders through legalism. I pray that this series of sermons will be one of the most freeing for all of us here today. Now, be careful that you do not sit here today and prejudge what I am going to say and if it will be right or wrong.

The text for this sermon will be the basis for the rest of the sermons in this series.

1 Corinthians 4:3-7 (ESV) 3 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. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 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. 6 I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favour of one against another. 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

Understanding this text and the rest of what Scripture teaches on the subject should go far to eliminate so much disunity and fighting amongst believers. We know how much harm is caused by the tongue. Just last year a fellow elder in my previous church said to me: “you will not stop people speaking (slandering) so just live with it”. Biblically speaking he is wrong. The New Testament is full of rebukes against this evil that destroys the church systematically. James 4:11 is clear on the matter: “11 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge”. So this attitude that says we will deal with all other sins in the body, but judging, slander and gossip we accept because we cannot stop it is wrong. I would recommend that this elder and all of us read an excellent book written by Dave Swavely on this subject. His book is entitled “Who are you to Judge? – The dangers of Judging and Legalism”. I want to encourage you to get it.

Let’s unpack this text for the rest of this sermon under a few headings.