Saturday, August 29, 2015

Judging with Righteous Judgment

I'd like to address the topic of judging with righteous judgment. I have written several articles on Eternal Destinations about how the Lord is warning His Church of evil practices that His sons and daughters are engaged in. In His mercy, He is warning us to repent, so that we don't perish.  Yet many have rejected these warnings, and they give various reasons for doing so. Today I would like to discuss one such reason some nay sayers may give, which is that we must not judge by appearance.

One sister in Christ who read my article, Seven Reasons to Believe the Seven Divine Revelations, wrote to me saying that she used to believe all Seven Divine Revelations on Godly Attire and Adornment, but now she does not believe any of them. The Scripture she quoted was John 7:24, in which Jesus said, "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." Her point is that the Lord taught us not to judge according to outward appearance, and she believes these revelations are judging other people according to their outward appearance. However, it's important to correctly understand what the Lord meant in that passage, before we can properly apply it to this situation.

In the context of that verse, He was refuting those who were angry with Him for healing a man on the Sabbath, and who claimed that He had a demon.  So let's keep the verse in it's proper context, in order to understand its meaning correctly.  They were judging the Lord merely by the appearance of what He was doing, and because they had never seen anyone do such things before, they assumed it was work, which was forbidden on the Sabbath.  However, notice what the Lord said to them. He said, "Judge with righteous judgment." What does that mean? He explained what it means with the following words.

"For this reason Moses has given you circumcision (not because it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and on the Sabbath you circumcise a man. If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses will not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath? (Joh 7:22-23)

The Lord pointed out to them how they had no problem circumcising a baby on the Sabbath, in order to keep the Law of Moses.  They knew it was right to conduct a circumcision on the Sabbath, if it was the eighth day since the child was born, even though it could be considered work. They realized that although work was forbidden on the Sabbath, they could obey God's Law on that day by circumcising, and not be guilty of breaking the Sabbath. Likewise, since the Law also requires that we love our neighbor and do good, then Jesus could heal a man on the Sabbath without breaking the Law.  He was doing what was pleasing to God, making a man well, and there is no law against that.

Furthermore, since we do not know the thoughts and intentions of other people, it impairs our ability to properly judge them. We might perceive that a person is doing something wrong, as they assumed Jesus was on the Sabbath, when in fact the individual is actually doing good. Likewise, there is the danger of assuming the person is innocent in what they are doing, when in fact they are doing evil. That is why we should not judge the motives and intentions of others, but we can judge their actions or fruit. To judge with righteous judgment is to judge others based on what is truly righteous, not based on our opinion of how their actions appear to us.

Judging Righteously Based on Scripture
The key to judging with righteous judgment, as the Lord taught us to do, is that all righteous judgment must be based on the Word of God. Since the Scriptures teach us what is righteous and what is evil, then we should judge others based on what is in the Word. Our judgment must not be based upon our religious traditions, upon our preferences, upon culture, upon what is popular or fashionable, or upon anything else besides the Bible. Let me illustrate my point.

Rainbow hair in braids
The sister who used this verse to say we should not judge by appearance is essentially claiming that we should not judge anyone in the Church by the way he or she is dressed or the way a Christian adorns himself or herself, such as unnatural hair styles, dying the hair, immodest clothing, makeup, and jewelry.  That sister, who once believed the revelations about godly attire and adornment, now says a person can dye his or her hair without sinning. I suppose she means a Christian may dye her hair any color she likes, since it is fashionable to do so, or even multiple colors if she so desires, and thereby change the way God made her in His own image (Gen 1:27).

Therefore, to anyone who uses such an argument from John 7:24 to say (like this sister did) that we are free to do such things, and nobody can judge us, I'd like to ask you some questions. If someone claims to be a brother in Christ, but comes into church wearing a pentagram (a five-pointed star that is formed by drawing a continuous line in five straight segments, often used as a satanic symbol), would you warn him? If he comes into church dressed as a woman, claiming to be a brother in Christ, would you warn him? If he claims to be a brother, and as a musician leading worship, he gets up on the platform with makeup on his face to make him look like a demon, even perhaps with red color beneath the corner of his mouth to look like blood dripping down, would you warn him? I know you personally would not judge a person, because you are against judging by appearance. But would you warn him? What if he wears a T-shirt with a satanic Baphomet image on the front of it? Would you warn him? What if a so-called brother wears an upside down cross? Would you warn him? What if a so-called pastor has the number "666" tattooed on his forehead? Would you sit under his preaching? Or would you warn him?

Judging Those Inside the Church

Before you answer, please read 1 Cor 5:9-13, in which the apostle Paul wrote the following directive to the Corinthians:

“I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. 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.”  (1Co 5:9-13)

Paul clearly instructed us that we are not to associate with immoral people who claim to be brothers or sisters in Christ. He instructed us to "judge those who are within the church" (v. 12) and "remove the wicked man from among ourselves" (v.13).  Therefore, anyone who says we are not to judge others, in the sense that Paul was referring to, is not following these instructions. 

Regarding verses 12 and 13 of the passage above, Matthew Henry commented:

" to members of the church, they are within, are professedly bound by the laws and rules of Christianity, and not only liable to the judgment of God, but to the censures of those who are set over them, and the fellow-members of the same body, when they transgress those rules. Every Christian is bound to judge them unfit for communion and familiar converse*. They are to be punished, by having this mark of disgrace put upon them, that they may be shamed [2Thes 3:14], and, if possible, reclaimed thereby: and the more because the sins of such much more dishonour God than the sins of the openly wicked and profane can do. The church therefore is obliged to clear herself from all confederacy** with them, or connivance*** at them, and to bear testimony against their wicked practices. Note, Though the church has nothing to do with those without, it must endeavour to keep clear of the guilt and reproach of those within."

*Converse is "To keep company; to associate; to cohabit; to hold intercourse and be intimately acquainted; followed by with." -- Webster.

**Confederacy is "a combination of two or more persons to commit an unlawful act." -- Webster.

***Connivance is "Properly, the act of winking. Hence figuratively, voluntary blindness to an act; intentional forbearance to see a fault or other act, generally implying consent to it." -- -- Webster.

Warning the Wicked as a Watchman
And before you answer the series of questions I have asked above, please read the entire passage of Ezekiel 33:1-16. For the sake of space, I will only quote a portion of it here:

"Now as for you, son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel; so you will hear a message from My mouth and give them warning from Me. "When I say to the wicked, 'O wicked man, you will surely die,' and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand. "But if you on your part warn a wicked man to turn from his way and he does not turn from his way, he will die in his iniquity, but you have delivered your life." (Eze 33:7-9)

The Lord commanded Ezekiel to warn the wicked, so that they do not perish, and that is what the Church must do also.  We must warn the wicked. Once we have warned them, then their blood will be on their own heads. Our hands will be innocent of their blood, according to that passage, and according to the apostle Paul's own words in Ac 20:26-27, in which he said, "Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God."

Furthermore, the Lord commanded us to warn our brother when we see him in sin (Mt 18:15-19). Before you answer my questions, I'd like you to read that, too. The Lord wants you to purge the evil from among you. You need to understand that there is such a thing as ultimate accountability.  In addition to being accountable before God for our own lives, we are accountable for our fellow man.

Knowing Them by Their Fruit
I also recommend reading Matthew 7, in which the Lord taught us not to judge others, but said we would know people by their fruits (Mt 7:20), as I explained in my article, Testing the Spirits of False Prophets. To check someone's fruit, look at their ways, their actions, and the results of their actions. If the fruit is good, then the tree is good, since a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. However, if the fruit is bad, then the tree is bad also, since a good tree cannot produce bad fruit.

Doesn't a person's fruit refer to anything produced by their life, including how they attire and adorn themselves? So part of fruit testing is to observe the attire and adornment of others who claim to be disciples, in order to see whether it is godly, worldly, immodest, occultic, or even satanic.  After all, not everyone who says to Jesus, "Lord, Lord" will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of His Father Who is in heaven (Mt 7:21).

The Lord warned us about the rise of antichrists in the last days, so we must beware of them. Testing the fruit of so-called prophets, pastors, preachers, teachers, and any other so-called Christians will help you to judge with righteous judgment.  It will help you discern between true disciples and false disciples.  Just be sure you get the log out of your own eye first, before you try to help anyone get the splinter out of his or her eye.

Perhaps if the people who judged Jesus by appearance, who accused Jesus of being demon-possessed and breaking the Sabbath, had tested His fruit, they would have realized there was only good fruit in His life and no bad fruit, and consequently they would have realized that He Himself had to be good.

Judge Not!
Since I mentioned the Lord's command not to judge, I think it's important to quote His exact words, in order to give this subject proper treatment. He said, "Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye? 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." (Mat 7:1-5)

I think it's pretty clear from the context what Jesus meant by judging others. Now I would like to share the following commentary notes from Matthew Henry and John Wesley about what Jesus meant by "Judge not":

Mathew Henry wrote: "There are those whose office it is to judge - magistrates and ministers. Christ, though he made not himself a Judge, yet came not to unmake them....We must judge ourselves, and judge our own acts, but we must not judge our brother, not magisterially assume such an authority over others, as we allow not them over us: since our rule is, to be subject to one another. Be not many masters, Jam 3:1. We must not sit in the judgment-seat, to make our word a law to every body. We must not judge our brother, that is, we must not speak evil of him, so it is explained, Jam 4:11. We must not despise him, nor set him at nought, Rom 14:10. We must not judge rashly, nor pass such a judgment upon our brother as has no ground, but is only the product of our own jealousy and ill nature. We must not make the worst of people, nor infer such invidious things from their words and actions as they will not bear. We must not judge uncharitably, unmercifully, nor with a spirit of revenge, and a desire to do mischief. We must not judge of a man's state by a single act, nor of what he is in himself by what he is to us, because in our own cause we are apt to be partial. We must not judge the hearts of others, nor their intentions, for it is God's prerogative to try the heart, and we must not step into his throne; nor must we judge of their eternal state, nor call them hypocrites, reprobates, and castaways; that is stretching beyond our line..."

John Wesley wrote: "Judge not any man without full, clear, certain knowledge, without absolute necessity, without tender love. Luk 6:37."

Needless to say, I think that both these eighteenth-century, holiness preachers were absolutely correct in their interpretation of what Jesus meant.  The Lord's directive does not prevent His disciples, especially His ministers, from judging those within the Church with righteous judgment. And neither does it keep us from warning those within the Church of sins that will keep them from heaven. In fact, we are obliged to both judge and warn them.

Wrapping it Up
So once you have read those Scripture passages I have cited above (1 Cor 5; Ez 33; Mat 7 and 18), please tell me whether you would warn the wicked man in the Church who does the things I mentioned. If you believe that those things I mentioned are obviously evil (e.g., the pentagram or the 666 on the forehead), then on what basis do you consider them to be evil? The Lord commanded us to judge with righteous judgment, and the standard by which we do so is His Holy Word. That is why we must declare the whole counsel of God as Paul did, so that people may be warned and repent, rather than perish. If you would warn the people in the examples I cited above, based on the Word of God, then why wouldn't you also warn others of wickedness in the area of attire and adornment, based on the same Word of God? Why would you think that warning others is judging them?

The problem is that the shepherds are like dogs that don't bark. They are not warning people of these evil things. They are afraid to offend people. But it is primarily the responsibility of the shepherd to warn people as a watchman. That's not judging by appearance. It's part of the shepherding role of elders. If it's judging at all, then it's doing so with righteous judgment. 

The Lord does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked, and He requires that we warn them. As Paul instructed the elders of Ephesus, "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood." (Act 20:28).  Guard yourself and guard the whole flock among which you are an overseer, as the Holy Spirit has made you to be.  Warning people is part of shepherding them, and elders must shepherd the Church of God that He purchased with His own blood.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Most other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, unless otherwise noted.

Author's note: Also see Seven Divine Revelations on Godly Attire and Adornment, Seven Reasons to Believe the Seven Divine Revelations, Sins That Will Keep You From Heaven, Testing the Spirits of False Prophets, The Rise of Antichrists, Alcohol and Cigarettes -- Ten Divine Revelations, Rock, Rap, and Reggae Music -- Three Divine Revelations, Tattoos and Body Piercing, Purge the Evil from Among You, Ultimate Accountability, The Difference Between a Disciple and a Believer, A Warning for Married Christian Couples, Carrying Your Cross or Cross Dressing?, The Shepherding Role of Elders, and The Judgment Seat of Christ, as well as the articles available through the Home page of this blog.  You may access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.

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