Home Media Sermons by Pastor Nicki Coertze Series 2. Who are you to judge? .. Who are you to judge? The right kind of judgment.

.. Who are you to judge? The right kind of judgment.



For the past seven weeks we have been looking at the issue of Judging from various angles and have come to various conclusions. Most of our conclusions have been based on reasons that we need to refrain from judging because it is such a dangerous and destructive force in the church of our Lord Jesus Christ. The question that now remains is, are there then no areas that we as believers are allowed to judge at all? Didn’t Paul say to us as well in 1 Corinthians 2:15 (ESV) 15The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.”

Do all of the previous sermons imply that we now all turn a blind eye to whatever is happening around us or in the lives of our fellow believers? Aren’t we at a place where we are now in danger that sin will prevail in the church and none of us are in a position to deal with it because we first need to take the beam out of our own eyes before we remove the splinter from the eye of a brother? We have also been clearly reminded by Christ that only he who is without sin can cast the first stone. Haven’t  all the previous sermons now put us in a position where the sinner has been given ammunition to shoot back with as soon as he or she is criticized by simply saying; ‘who are you to judge?’

I believe that we need to be careful now of an unbalanced overreaction. Are we allowed to judge at all, if so, what do we judge, and then how do we judge?  Surely we cannot escape our responsibility to judge. Paul reminds the very same Corinthian church that we have been focusing on for weeks in 1 Corinthians 5:12 (ESV) 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” So clearly there is a judging that must take place.

However, what was clear over the last many sermons is that we must watch our attitude as we do not even understand our own hearts, how can we understand the hearts of another. We saw clearly that we are not to go beyond what is written, we cannot judge those things that are beyond our sight, or as Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 4:5 “what is hidden in darkness’. We can also not judge the motive of a man’s heart. So there are certain things that are best left to the Lord. So if these are the cautions against judging, judging can then only be right if we clearly stay by what is unmistakably written and that which is clearly in the light, meaning that it is in full view. We can never understand the motives of a man’s heart, but I believe that there is a level where we can judge when the words of a man’s mouth and his actions clearly spells out what is in his heart. Let me give an example. Somebody can act like a Christian, do the things that seem good to general Christian conduct, but you have doubts about the person’s salvation purely based on some tell-tale signs. Now, even if we have doubts about whether the guys is a true Christian or not, we must take confidence in the fact that “God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his”(2 Timothy 2:19 (ESV). So, am I not allowed to conclude on the basis of these tell-tale signs that the person is a believer or not? The answer is clearly no, unless the tell-tale signs are a habitual going against what is written with a verbal denial of what constitutes saving grace. Only then I believe can a person with some certainty say that such a person is possibly not saved at all. We will look at the example of a man in 1 Corinthians 5 a little bit later in this sermon as an example of how far we can go or not.

In some sense I wish there was a chapter or a verse in the Bible and specifically the New Testament that spelled out exactly how such a process should take place. All we really have to deal with is principles, and this is maybe the best, because then we are guided by wisdom and Biblical conviction instead of rules. Because as the church develops over the centuries, it will face unique circumstances, situations and people where a one size fits all solution will not work. In saying that, I do believe that a guiding principle should always be to err on the side of grace. This is an attitude we have learnt from God, from the teaching and actions of Jesus Christ and even from the teaching of the apostles. We are saved by grace, we are kept by grace, salvation is a work of grace, sanctification is a work of grace, and our attitude towards each other should be that of grace and that grace needs to be extended irrespective of a person’s position in the life of the church.

I want to try with this sermon to give two approaches to right judging that I believe are in keeping with all the principles on this issue highlighted in Scripture. So this morning is not as much an exposition of various texts but more a heart to heart summary of what we have learnt.

Point 1. Begin with self.

  1. 1. Don’t be a professional spiritual judge.

Before you judge anybody, check your heart, and while I cannot substantiate the following statement with a verse from Scripture, I believe it is critical to ask yourself the following question: “am I a professional spiritual judge?” Some people see it as their work, their duty to be judging others all the time. They make it their singular goal in life to purify the church and to sort everybody else out and often the reason is not the Glory of God, but some kind of church politics. So before you deal with another person, check on yourself how regularly you are involved in this conduct. If you are a regular judge, then I believe that you are on dangerous grounds and maybe your basis is what we saw in 1 Corinthians 4:7 namely ‘pride’. Such a person can often give criticism, but they normally cannot handle criticism. I like the name that a pastor we had on staff at our previous church gave these kinds of people. He called them “Bible Police”. I believe the word says it all.

Remember the Pharisees. They were professional judges. They were checking out continuously to see if someone broke the laws. They were there when Christ healed on the Sabbath, they were there when the disciples picked grains of wheat on the Sabbath, they were there when Jesus ate with the tax collectors and prostitutes, and they were there in the temple comparing themselves in a judgmental fashion with the publican, always on the prowl, always checking out the holiness of another.

  1. 2. Check your own life, to see if you have room for improvement.

Matthew 7:1-5 (ESV) “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 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."

In this section, Jesus Christ does not condemn judging in totality but He says, ‘beware kettle, before you call the pot black.’ There is a time and a place to remove a speck of saw dust out of the eye of a brother, but before you do that, it is critical to search your own life and to see what is in you. Remember that the heart is deceitful and wicked and difficult to understand, and often we are blind to the log in our own eyes. So once again, before you judge your brother, judge yourself otherwise you are hypocritical as far as Christ is concerned.

Once again, remember the Pharisees. Jesus says about them in Matthew 23:2-4 (ESV) 2“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3 so practice and observe whatever they tell you— but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.

Jesus is simply saying here on behalf of the Pharisees: “do what I say but do not do what I do.” We have all heard this comment many times before.

  1. 3. Watch your attitude and your life before you proceed and while you proceed.

Remember the time in John 8 when they brought the adulteress woman before Jesus. The words of Christ were clear: “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7 (ESV) The issue is not if they have never sinned before. They all have, like we all have, but just in the process of bringing this woman before the Lord they were in sin on numerous accounts. We have seen this in a previous sermon.

In Galatians 6:1-2 (ESV) we read: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Paul here confirms that there is a time and place to correct a brother, to point out his sin. Now this is normally the time when the sinner might turn around and say, “who are you to judge?” Unless your answer can be “I am a caring, loving brother, who is really concerned about you and who wants to walk with you in a path of restoration”, unless you can say that, stay out. There are too many Christians who like to quote Galatians 6:1 and feel it is their duty to point out the sin of a brother, but their aim is not to restore him in a spirit of gentleness, and neither are they concerned with verse 2 that says we must bear one another’s burdens. Unless you make that your aim, do not proceed and sort out your own life and attitude.

So, we need to begin with ourselves,

Point 2. Continue now with another.

We do have a responsibility as already seen this morning to address issues in one another’s lives in love. Remember our definition of wrongful judging. It is to ‘negatively evaluate someone’s conduct or spiritual state on the basis of non-biblical standards or suspected motives.’ The right time to judge then would be when we are clear that our judgment is within the parameters of Scripture, the issue before us is not hidden in darkness and therefore before our eyes, and the motives of a man’s heart seems truly questionable.

I want to give two examples from Scripture, deal with them on the surface and with that we will stand. The first example is from Matthew 18 and deals with one on one sin issues. The second example is from 1 Corinthians 5 which deals with general sin in the body.

Matthew 18:15-17 (ESV) 15“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

Now remember that Christ is dealing with His disciples here and He is giving them solutions to a problem that can be applied right there and then. So many preachers interpret this text in a way that the words of Christ would have been useless to Peter and the other disciples in their day and age.

This section is often referred to as a four step process of church discipline, which I personally abhor. I do not believe that this is what Scripture teaches and that this is in the mind of Christ. I believe that this section is about the loving restoration of relationships at all costs with an attitude of forgiveness permeating the whole situation.

The simple reality for all of us is that there is going to be a time when your brother or sister sins against you and you will be the judge of that. Now firstly, I believe you need to ask yourself if you are going beyond what is written and was this sin actual and in full view or is it perceived. You need to also establish whether you are maybe in the wrong and judging your fellow believer’s motives wrongly. If you are happy that your answer is affirmative on all three of these levels, then you go to your brother and show him his fault. What you do not do is to make it an issue of slander. This section teaches you that you start with the narrowest base possible and then you go wider. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.

Secondly, now if he does not listen to you or agree with you, your aim should still be to restore that relationship, and therefore you take one or two others along. The mistake that many make in interpreting this texts is that they view the one or two you take with as support for the accuser, so they are there to gang up in showing this other guy his sins. Should they not be there to listen objectively, and they might actually turn around and show you your error I the situation. However, if the brother is truly guilty and they address him and he does not listen, then there is a step three.

Thirdly, you are told to then take it to the church. Now what is this ‘church’ in the mind of Christ? Most theologians immediately import the concept of the gathered congregation as we understand it into this text. So in Christ’s mind it should be to put it in a practical manner something as follows. Let’s say we have a congregation of 10000 members. I have a problem with Mike, I go and speak to him, he will not listen to me, and so I take Ivan and Marc with me as witnesses so that the matter may be established by two or three witnesses. He will not listen to us, so now we take him before the 10000 member congregation so that they can rebuke him, admonish him or say to him whatever they want to, because if he does not listen to them then he must be treated as a gentile or a tax collector. Conveniently most theologians have replaced this text with the following mindset. They now simply make a public announcement to the church which makes a mockery of the words of Christ in this section. Step three for Christ is that the person will hear the church, not be reported to the church.

The Greek word here can help us resolve what Christ meant and what would have worked for the disciples in their time and for us today. The word church comes from the Greek word  ekklesia {ek-klay-see'-ah} which means either a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place, or an assembly of the people convened at the public place of the council for the purpose of deliberating, and then in the Christian sense an assembly of Christians gathered for worship in a religious meeting. The word is made up of two root words namely ‘ek’ and ‘kaleo’ which is to call out. So in the mind of Christ I believe He can simply be implying, if you guys don’t get this resolved between the two of you, or even with two or three more gathered, now to make sure you resolve this, call out some people specifically to resolve this matter. How many people are needed, I guess will be determined by the problem. But this is not a public announcement as some imply.

The way Christ ends this part of the conversation says to me that He does not have 10000 people or even 200 or even our group of fifty in mind. Matthew 18:18-20 (ESV) 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

So there is a time to judge the actions of another, otherwise there will be unresolved matters between people that become like a cancer that eats up the unity of the body.

Lastly, just one more example of judging that should take place. Let me summarize it. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5 that there is a situation in the Corinthian church. There is this guy who is having a sexual relationship with his father’s wife, so it can be his mother or step-mother. Now this sin was not hidden in darkness, and the motives of this man is very clear as his lifestyle is clearly beyond what is written. The sad thing is that we read that instead of dealing with the issue Paul says: 1 Corinthians 5:2 (ESV) 2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.” Somehow they justified the situation, maybe because the guy was influential or had lots of money and they did not want to lose him.  Paul continues in verse 3 and says that he has already passed judgment on the man. What Paul does not do is to say that this man is therefore an unbeliever. The context required that they deal with the situation harshly which they did not do. Even today you will see churches dealing harshly with some situations but with others they deal softly, because the person is either a buddy or for some other reason.

It is in the context of this sin that Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:12 (ESV) 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?”

For the sake of time I am not going to now go into the detail of repentance and unrepentance, but to say that is this person repents, he must be treated in love and forgiveness. Paul is clear on this in 2 Corinthians 2:5-11. I must quote verse 10-11: 10 Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs".

And so we can go on and on in dealing with this subject.

Maybe the best place to end this series is with the words of Paul that we started with in our first sermon from 1 Corinthians 4:5 (ESV) 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.”

Join me in obeying what we have learnt so that we can promote peace and joy in the body of Christ here at Logos. And the way we will do that is to harken to what Paul taught us in 1 Corinthians 4:6, namely ‘do not go beyond what is written’. And then Romans 14:13 (ESV) “Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.”


Logos Community Church: - 6 May 2012