Home Media Sermons by Pastor Nicki Coertze Non-series Sermons by Year 2021 Sermons . The sin of judging and slandering . Who are you to judge? (Part 1)

. Who are you to judge? (Part 1)




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 conversation 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 few weeks 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. When I did this series from February 2012, 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 at that time.


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 combined with slander are maybe 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. When I was a child the rumour was spread around town that our small conservative Afrikaans Baptist church where my dad was pastor was a church where we would run around in the church and outside with sticks chasing Satan. Somebody supposedly saw this with their own eyes, and this was proclaimed in society as truth, and had a negative affect on our image. So, sadly, believers are often just as guilty as unbelievers in spreading slander. I did a whole series on the sin of slander which you can read on our website. 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 repeatedly?


  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 at all times.”
  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 are in sin and you do not glorify and trust God.”
  8. “Your appreciation of the beauty of the human form obviously implies that you have a problem with sensuality or lust.”
  9. “Wearing make-up is a sign of a wicked heart, ladies.”
  10. “It is wrong to shop or watch sport on a Sunday or even to prune your roses.”
  11. “Smoking is sin, because the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.”
  12. “I don’t believe that so and so is a Christian.”
  13. “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.”
  14. “I know why you have DSTV, you want to watch adult movies.”
  15. “The reason you are wearing a mask during Covid is because you lack faith.”




Now, all of us have made some of these statements, and all 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 freezer of course). Most Christians do not see a problem with these items today. When I was in my early 20’s the evil of watching TV was proclaimed from the pulpits. 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 will be one of the most freeing for all of us here today. Now, be careful that you do not listen today and prejudge what I am going to say and if it will be right or wrong.


The text for this series 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 us unpack this text for the rest of this devotion under a few headings.


Point 1. Judging on trial.

Paul starts with an interesting take on the matter in 1 Corinthians 4:3 when he says: ““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.” Paul is putting judgement on trial here. Paul seems to have this attitude of ‘go ahead make my day; I don’t care if you judge me, or if a court judges me, or even if I judge myself.’ Paul however is not making it a small thing. On the contrary he is making judging a big thing that should not happen. It is so wrong, that he is not going to allow the judging of others to affect his life, or make him lose sleep over it. Much of the worst conflict, bitterness and prejudice amongst people begin its development with the practice of wrongful judging. We need to pluck this SIN OF JUDGING out at the root at Logos before it tears us apart in future. But we must understand what it means, so that we pluck out that which God has not intended for us, but that we leave in place what God has intended for us.  Someone by the name of Francis Frangipane once said: “More churches have been destroyed by the accuser of the brethren and its fault-finding than by either immorality or misuse of church funds. So prevalent is this influence in our society that, among many, fault-finding has been elevated to the status of a "ministry"! Is this not so true?”


What does it mean to judge? The definition is actually quite simple. The Greek word here is anakrino {an-ak-ree'-no}, which means to ‘examine or judge’ and then to reach a positive or negative conclusion. Does not sound bad, does it? What is wrong with that? Does Paul not tell us in 1 Corinthians 2:15 (ESV) 15 the spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one”. We will see later that judging is not wrong, because verse 4 of our text tells us that God does it, and we all know that God does not sin. That is why my point is entitled, ‘judging on trial’ or judging in the scales of the law. At the end of the day, we will be talking about rightful and wrongful judging, and therefore it is critical for us to study this over the next bunch of weeks to make sure that we are not on the wrong side of the issue. Over time you will see that it is not wrong to make a judgment about someone, but how do we know when it is right and when it is wrong.



The judging that Paul is referring to here is wrongful judging. That is why he says in verse 5 that we must stop doing it. Now the million-dollar question: “in what situations is it wrong to pass judgment in our minds or verbally on someone?” The real question is, what are you judging, why are you judging it and how are you judging. In verse 5 Paul says: 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”. I agree with Dave Swavely in his book ‘who are you to judge’ when he says that the sin of judging is negatively evaluating someone’s conduct or spiritual state based on non-biblical standards or suspected motives.




Often when you confront a judgmental person and ask them what is wrong with that which they are judging, they will use human arguments as well as tradition or they would reply with the following words: “well, I would not do that, and you should not do that.” How many times have we not heard those words? Do we realise that when we judge something someone else is doing with the words “I would not do that”, I have become the standard of holiness, righteousness, and godliness, and as soon as I am that standard, judging becomes so much easier, because I am kind of like God and you are not? Was this not the attitude of the Pharisee in the temple who looked down on the Republican? If it were up to me, I would put an arrow through his head, and do not judge me for that now.



So according to Paul, to judge someone, based on something that the Bible does not clearly talk about, or to think that you know their heart and motives of a person are wrong.



The things done in darkness here by the way does not refer to sin or anything evil but that which is hidden from my eyes, or things that are yet beyond our knowledge or understanding. It is so sad to see Christians judging things that are not revealed to them, either in action, or in the man’s soul. There is one who knows the motives of a man’s heart and that one is God.



So, what Paul says in verse 3 is that he is not going to lose any sleep if he is judged by others, because people are inclined to judge too quickly, and they do not always have the facts or adequate understanding of the issue when they express judgment. Just think if you had to adjust your life to be on the right side of everybody’s judgments. We are so quick to judge when God is the one who will eventually judge. In Paul’s view, your judgment on someone or Paul for that matter is no big deal as you cannot crawl into their head and you do not know all the facts.



Point 2. Judging of self on trial.



Paul continuous in verse 3 and says: “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.”



The heart of what Paul seems to be saying here is that he is not even able to always understand his own heart and all the things that he should or should not be doing, how can he then judge others when he cannot even judge himself. Paul says that he is not aware of sin in his life, or that something he is doing is sin, how can he then place himself over others as their judge. God will judge Paul and God will judge others. We all know Jeremiah 17:9-10 (ESV) 9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?  10 “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”


The heart of the problem in judging is the heart. Spurgeon said that the eye and the heart are too close to one another, you can trust neither. Isn’t it amazing how people will see the splinter in another brother’s eye, but they will not see the beam in their own? That is the eye/heart problem. You will only investigate your own heart as deep as you want to and see what you want to, but deep inside there are cavities within cavities that you miss out on. But remember this, the Lord’s eyes miss nothing. He is the only one who misses nothing because He knows us better than we can ever know ourselves. We do not even know everything that the Bible says about right and wrong, sometimes we interpret Scripture wrong and we do not even always know our own motives. Why not? Because sin still dwells in us. We are saved from the power of sin, but not the presence of sin, until we stand in glory, then only will we be like Him. For now, Jesus says in John 7:24 (ESV) “24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”


Point 3. The past sin of judging on trial.

Paul continuous in verse 5: 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes.”

The verb tense here which is the imperfect tense is a clear indication that the Corinthian church was guilty of that and now need to stop it. This goes for us as well. How often are we not too quick to speak and too slow to listen. Judging others is a sin against God, you are stealing God’s prerogative. Wait for God. Too many believers know that ‘stealing, adultery, murder and lust’ are sin; by they do not seem to know that judging, legalism and slander are sin. I believe that these three things tear more churches apart than all the other sins put together. Scripture shouts against judging all over the place:


Romans 14:10-13 (ESV) 10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? 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 confess to God.” 12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. 13 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”.


Matthew 7:1-2 (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”.


James 4:11-12 (ESV) 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. 12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbour?”

If there were two issues that the Lord confronted during His walk on earth it was the issue of judging and the issue of legalism.


Church family; let us get back to Biblical thinking and behaviour on this matter. I found this interesting quote on the internet by a man called Jeffrey E. Ramey “Who decides what is right and wrong in the world? Who has the authority to define morality for all of creation? It is not the courts, congress, the media, public opinion, the "politically correct" police, the "tolerance" brigade or even the church. The only answer has been, is still and always will be Jesus Christ. You can find His opinion on a great variety of subjects in His best seller... The Bible.


Can I ask you in closing?

Do you understand and believe that Christ is the only one fully qualified and able to judge all people?


Do you agree that as you look back over your own past, and the past of others that we so easily are inclined to judge things that are “hidden in darkness”? We are no longer under law and God did not give us a rule book covering every incidence and activity.


Are you willing to commit yourself this morning to get off the throne of slander and to silence your tongue as you realise that it is driven by a heart that in its nature does not understand all things?


May God give us the grace to be people of grace. Oh, that we will not be like those who are experts at the doctrines of grace, but failures in applying the grace of the doctrines.



Logos community church:- 4 – 6 February 2021