Within our current generation, due to this Gondi like presentation of Christ, wherein pacifism is the standard; how easy it is to demand that people not use discernment, biblically speaking, judgment; which appears to be so hard-hearted. “Let each man stand before his God,” is heard as an excuse to not exercise biblical judgment. It would seem to be so hard hearted to exercise discernment concerning a brother’s unbiblical behavior.
This is perhaps one of the greatest tools of our generation that Satan has used to hinder the spiritual growth of the church. If no one is allowed to use discernment, then everybody can do whatever they want. And fact, you can talk about the power of the authority of the Word of God, but without the discernment to hold others accountable for their behavior when it opposes God’s Word; where is the cleansing force God’s Word is meant to maintain within the church.
Therefore, it is only when the church follows the example of the first century church and exercises proper Biblical judgment concerning that which is righteous according to God’s Word, and that which is proper according to God’s Will, that the church will again be empowered to affect the world as occurred in the 17th and 18th century, with more headway for salvation made than has ever been known in the history of man – or is it too late.
Have we refused to judge others so that they in turn will not be allowed to judge us in return, to the extent that there is no going back? Did God not say in Isaiah 1:16-20:
“Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.” (KJV)
Judgment is not the Same as Condemnation
It is common in Christian circles to hear believers state that “we should not judge other people,” and while we are never to condemn (Greek: kataÌkrima, “to render condemnation” ~ Romans 5:16, 18; 8:1) another person, as this is God’s role and not ours; this statement is not completely true, in fact sometimes it is completely false because we are commanded to judge others2. What is unfortunate concerning our English translation of the Greek New Testament, is that the English word “judgment” is translated from more than a few Greek words which don’t have the same meaning in the Greek. Sometimes the Greek word is the equivalent of the English judgment, as in the use of discernment. However, sometimes the Greek base word is the word “condemnation,” in the sense of condemning something or someone to hell, which is only God’s privy. Unfortunately, the same English word “judgment” is translated for these two opposing Greek words, wherein in the Greek the use of discernment is never considered on par with the use condemnation.
We are to “keep” God’s Word (Deuteronomy 11:8, 18-22; Psalm 19:13), which mandates that we watch (Greek: gregoreuo: which means “to give strict attention to”; “to exercise judgment and discretion in the most serious sense of readiness and awareness”) how others interpret it (Acts 17:11), and teach it (Acts 20:28-32; Romans 16:17-18), which will lead to identifying those false prophets and teachers that distort the Word of God (2 Corinthians 11:12-15; Galatians 1:6-10; Ephesians 5:6-11; Colossians 2:4,8; 18-19), for without watching and staying aware (1 Thessalonians 5:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4), the ability to be productive workman for the kingdom is made null and void (2 Timothy 2:15).
We are to judge when believers sin against other believers, such as defrauding each other financially (1 Corinthians 6:1-4), though this is normally referred to as church discipline (Matthew 18:15-20), it is the discernment of the individual members of the church that is necessary, not just the pastor (1 Corinthians 6:5).
We are also to judge other believer’s behaviors within the church which are sinful (1 Corinthians 5:1-12; 6:2-6).
We are to judge the actions of our leaders as well (Matthew 7:15-23), determining by their behavior, referred to as their “fruit“, if it lines up with sound Biblical doctrine, displaying what good spiritual leadership should entail, or if their behaviors can identify them as false leaders or prophets (2 Peter 2:1-3).
Fallen Human Nature & Judging
At the worldly, secular level it is common to observe a lack of desire to judge or be judged, which becomes understandable in light of the natural (fallen nature) human rejection of authority in general (Proverbs 12:15; 16:2; 21:2), and the authority of God in particular (Psalms 107:8-11; 10:4). Added to this is the observation that the display of judgment lends itself to the manifestation of condescension, aggression, a lack of sensitivity or being unsympathetic, and of being inconsiderate, callous, unkind, or harsh.
What is unfortunate is that those in the church are following this example, many times in the name of tolerance, diversity, acceptance, and what it refers to as love.
However, without the ability to discern, there is no ability to rightly choose, and without the ability to choose correctly [only made possible by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit] we are cursed to follow the sin nature, which is opposed to the Word of God.
The Source of Godly Discernment
Perhaps one of the most important, as well sophisticated passages that addresses the application of judgment, also referred to as discernment is found in Hebrews 5:11-14, which states:
“Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”
First, we should note that the writer states that in spite of his desire to press on and teach the weightier issues of God’s Word, he cannot because they are dull of hearing. He goes on to state that in spite of the amount of time that they have been believers, in which they should be teachers by now, they haven’t even began to understand the elementary principles and doctrines of God’s Word, which he refers to as milk, that they are unable to metabolize whole food, the more deeper issues presented in God’s Word.
Discernment & Spiritual Growth
What a pathetic picture the author draws, that of believers who should be spiritual adults, yet spiritually immature believers unable to dig deeper into God’s Word; not because they have not heard the teachings, not because there’s not been a teacher to explain it, not because there is a lack of ability to perceive what is stated cognitively; but because of their lack of exercising proper judgment concerning what is good and evil. In the same way that faith is like a muscle and must be stretched and used in order to grow, the same principle is true concerning Spirituality, wherein the muscle that must be stretched is that of judgment and discernment. There must be an application of God’s Word concerning what is right or wrong in order to create the condition for yet further growth.
It’s like a baby that does not practice crawling, can never achieve the muscle necessary for standing. What is unfortunate is that the lack of ability to judge is formulated because of a lack of desire to use it.
Discernment, which is simply a politically correct way of saying judgment, must be used or it will be lost. And when there is a lack of judgment there is a lack of ability to spiritually perceive reality, and see what the Holy Spirit wishes to teach the believer from God’s Word.
There is a connection between spiritual perception, the understanding of God’s Word, spiritual growth, the ability to discern good and evil
The repetitive and habitual use of Biblical judgment.
Correctly Dividing God’s Word Regarding Judgment
As was stated in the introduction, many times we hear well-meaning Christians state we are not to judge one another, citing Matthew 7:1, or Luke 6:37, or Romans 2:1.
What this means is that there are many believers who cannot perceive deeper spiritual truths in God’s Word, which are necessary for spiritual growth, because of their refusal to exercise discernment according to God’s Word; and are therefore lacking spiritual perception concerning what is good and what is evil.
However, concerning these three passages (Matthew 7:1, or Luke 6:37, or Romans 2:1; which appear to be abused more than most), we need to exercise grammatical and contextual integrity in examining them. Matthew 7:1-5, states:
“Judge [Greek: krino3] not, that ye be not judged [Greek: krino] . For with what judgment [Greek: krima3] ye judge [Greek: krino], ye shall be judged[Greek: krino]: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
In verse one, the Greek word for judge (Greek: krino)3 is a verb wherein the word can mean judgment, but it in can also mean condemnation, depending on the grammar, and condemnation is not about evaluating something, but it is about damning the person. The grammar here is not condemnation.
Concerning the grammar concerning the above Greek word “judgment” (Greek: krima3) used in this verse, it is a verb, the tense is present (a continuous, never stopping action), the voice is active (the person being spoken to is doing the action, not receiving it), the mood is imperative (this is a command, it is absolute, the person doing it is not ambiguous), and the person is second (the command is to anyone), and the number is plural (the command applies to everyone, no exceptions).4 What this means is that the judgment was a continuous action, never stopping, not contingent upon the situation but upon the person who continually judged. The judgment was therefore not discernment, but an attitude of condemning others which is prohibited. And the condemnation came from the person was not a reflection on God’s Word, but their own opinion. This grammar displays a permanent attitude of superiority, wherein the final result is ultimate condemnation (this word in the English, though it has the same base as the other word for Judge; would better be translated “condemnation,” it is the grammar that more fully displays the difference in these two Greek words), that of condemning someone to hell in judgment. This command from our Lord to not condemn others applied to His local audience as well as you and I, and it pertains to everyone.
Defined & Applied
What this means is that the intention of the word (“judgment” ~ Greek: krima) was “condemnation,” not simple discernment or judgment, but putting oneself in a place of superiority in condemning another person, and doing so in hypocrisy. This is seen in contrast to the correct application of judgment where discernment and judgment are rendered rather than condemnation, and where the person doing the judgment does so not in hypocrisy, but yet in humility in accordance with God’s Word. The point is, this is not about a subjective opinion, this is about application of God’s determination of right and wrong. It is applying God’s Word to a situation where judgment is necessary in order to bring correction, as opposed to condemnation and self-righteousness which is never correct.
Robertson states that concerning the word “judgment” used here that it was:
“The habit of censoriousness, sharp, unjust criticism. Our word ‘critic’ is from this very word. It means to separate, distinguish, discriminate, that is necessary. But prejudice (which is prejudgment) is unfair, and captious criticism.”5
Barnes states concerning this passage in the word “judgment“:
“Judge not … – This command refers to rash, censorious, and unjust judgment. See Romans 2:1. Luke 6:37 explains it in the sense of “condemning.” Christ does not condemn judging as a magistrate, for that, when according to justice, is lawful and necessary. Nor does he condemn our “forming an opinion” of the conduct of others, for it is impossible “not” to form an opinion of conduct that we know to be evil. But what he refers to is a habit of forming a judgment hastily, harshly, and without an allowance for every palliating circumstance, and a habit of “expressing” such an opinion harshly and unnecessarily when formed. It rather refers to private judgment than “judicial,” and perhaps primarily to the customs of the scribes and Pharisees.”6
What we need to see about this particular use of the word judgment was that the focus was not on the judgment, but upon condemnation, as well as inappropriate hypocrisy when judgment was merited. What Jesus is honing in on is the attitude of the person, who did not have genuine concern for the person they observed as having a mote in their eye, and was the observer in a position to where they had clarity to truly discern the situation, by not having a mote and their own eye. This passage deals with pride, arrogance, and condemnation, along with hypocrisy, and spiritual immaturity; it is not condemning discernment or evaluation in judging, but the use of judging others in an immature ungodly manner.
The Real Issue
It is by noticing that verse 5 goes on to instruct the hypocrite that once he has corrected his own error, to go on and address the error of his brother, in support of helping a brother by the exercise of judgment that needs to be focused in on concerning the subject of judgment.
What should also be noted is that a few sentences later, at verse 15 and 16, Jesus commands (Jesus states: “beware” ~ Greek: prosecho ~ which is in the imperative in the Greek, meaning it is a command not an option) the people to become fruit inspectors, meaning that they were to judge the behaviors of their leaders to discern if they were teachers according to God and His Will, or false teachers.
Without proper judgment, without proper discernment; the believer is not properly using God’s Word or following His guidance. Judgment is not only a privilege (1 Corinthians 6:2-3) but a necessity as far as God is concerned (1 Corinthians 6:5).
Acting ~ Hypocrisy
One other aspect concerning hypocrisy is seen in the Greek word for “hypocrite” which is based upon one of its derivatives combined with the Greek word for “to cover,” meaning: “a person that judges from behind a mask.” This word was used of actors. The Greek plays, which were symbolized by two masks, one laughing and the other crying (this icon has been used ever since movies originated), goes back to this idea. Hypocrites are not those that say one thing, and do another, they are individuals that hide behind a mask and judge and mock those in front of them. This is what the actors had the ability to do because of the cover of the mask while they were wearing (these masks were not worn on the face, but held in front of the face with stick which was held by the actor, in order to disguise who they were, but also what they were really feeling. This was a valuable tool concerning sarcasm, condescension, and mockery. Sometimes the actor presented according to their words sympathy while behind the mask truly feeling sarcasm or contempt) them on stage.
This passage appears to be a reintegration of the sermon of the Mount as was in the above Matthew passage.
Concerning the context of the Romans 2:1 passage, it would be best to consider as much of it as possible to gain the full context, at least through verse 11, which states:
“Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: For there is no respect of persons with God.”
First, it must be understood that this passage is to the unbeliever, not the believer. The unbeliever has no ability to discern or judge anything due to their spiritual deadness, which in turn mandates spiritual blindness. This essay, concerning discernment only applies to born-again believers, and only applies to those that by studying God’s Word, and exercising what God has said concerning good and evil, have gained the ability to correctly judge the world they live in, as always only according to and by God’s Word. In no way is this essay meant to separate Biblical discernment from God’s Word, Biblical discernment cannot be separated from God’s Word. It is when the believer has hid God’s Word in his heart7, has studied God’s Word and taken it as his own, when he has incorporated God’s views and judgments; that the believer can thus exercise discernment.
When reading the above passage in Romans in context, it is clear that God is contrasting the arrogant, presumptuous, evil type of judgment of fallen man (nonbelievers) in relation to God’s own judgment and that God speaks against those that condemn according to their own blindness. This passage has nothing to do with the judgment which comes according to the Holy Spirit as seen in God’s Word, meant for reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness, as stated in 2 Timothy 3:16 (bracketed words from Warren Wiersbe), which states:
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine [teaching ~ “what is right”], for reproof [correcting wrong doctrine ~ “what’s wrong”], for correction [correcting wrong behavior ~ “how to get it right”], for instruction [teaching right living ~ “how to stay right”] in righteousness“
The reason for all of this is explained why in the next verse (2 Timothy 3:17), which tells us:
“That the man of God may be perfect [Greek: artios: “complete, sufficient, qualified”]3, throughly furnished unto all good works.”
What we must understand is that there are many different aspects (over 12 words in the Hebrew and Greek, with more diverse renderings according to the grammar) to the root word for “judgment“ (such as: judge, judging, judged, judgment, discern, separate, select, choose, to determine, to examine, investigate, question, to separate throughout, discriminate, to decide, to judge, to pronounce judgment, to condemn4).
A few examples taken from the Word of God concerning the word “judgment” in regards to diverse applications are:
1) Execution of Judgment ~ Only God’s prerogative ~ 2 Thess. 2:12; Acts 7:7.
2) Making the Judgment of Condemnation ~ Man’s wrong assumption ~ Rom. 2:1.
3) Exercising the Role of a Judge ~ Rulers ~ Matt. 5:25; 7:1; John 3:17 (Noun).
4) The Process of being under Judgment ~ A trial ~ John 3:18; 16:11; 18:31; Jas. 2:12.
5) Judgment Rendered ~ A sentence or verdict ~ Acts 15:19; 16:4; 21:25.
6) Legislative Judgment ~ Plaintiff ~ Matt. 5:40; 1 Cor. 6:1; Defendant ~ Acts 23:6.
7) Governmental Judgment ~ To administer affairs, to govern ~ Matt. 19:28; cf. Judg. 3:10.
8) Figurative Judgment ~ To make a resolve ~ Acts 3:13; 20:16; 1 Cor. 2:2.
9) Discerning Judgment ~ To form an opinion ~ Luke 7:43; John 7:24; Acts 4:19; Rom. 14:5; I Cor. 6:5, 11:31; Heb. 11:11.
10) Believers to Exercise ~ Judgment according the truthfulness of what is said (fulfilled prophecy, which is speaking for another, speaking for God, rather future tense or not) ~ Deut. 13:1-5; 2 John 7.
11) Believers to Exercise ~ Judgment according to the Biblical doctrine of the divinity of Christ ~ 1 John 4:1-3; and Jude 1:3.
12) Believers are ~ commanded by Christ judge the fruit (behavior) of spiritual leaders in determining that they are not false prophets ~ Matthew 7:15.
13) Believers to Exercise ~ Judgment according to doctrine / God’s Word ~ Acts 20:28-32; Rom. 16:17-18; Gal. 1:9; Eph. 5:6-11; Colo. 2:8; 1 Thess. 5:6, 21; 2 Thess. 2:1-4; 2 Pet. 1:20 to 2:3.
14) Believers to Exercise ~ Judgment according to the prompting of the Holy Spirit within ~ Eph. 5:10; 1 John 4:1-3 ~ 1 Tim. 4:1.
15) Believers to Exercise ~ Judgment concerning the behavior of believers in the church ~ 1 Cor. 5:12-13, 6:2-5.
16) Believers to Exercise ~ Self-Examination/ Judgment ~ Mark 4:22-25; 1 Cor. 11:31.
17) Spiritual Leaders to Exercise ~ Guarding Their Doctrine ~ 1 Tim. 4:16; 2 Tim. 4:3; Tit. 1:9 to 2:1.
18) Spiritual Leaders to Exercise ~ Guarding Their Congregation ~ 1 Tim. 6:20-21; 2 Tim. 2:23-25. (From K-House.org)
A Good Example
It is in understanding the diversity of a word that we gain clarity concerning what the Scriptures expect of us in exercising discretion, as compared to the act of condemnation. A good example can be found in I Corinthians 11:31, which states:
“For if we would judge [Greek: diakrino] ourselves, we should not be judged [Greek: krino].”
The literal Greek rendering is: “if we discern for ourselves, then we will not be eternally condemned” (according to the full context of the chapter which centers around the Lord’s Supper; what is implied is that if a person discerns according to Gospel, faith unto salvation, they will not be eternally judged, the discernment here is unto life. Those in verse 29 are unbelievers, which is displayed because they could not see the value of Christ’s death, and indulged in the Lord’s Support focusing on themselves, not on Jesus’ as the only acceptable sacrifice for their sins. In verse 32 it states literally in the Greek: “when we perceive we are condemned as sinners, this perception by faith leads to God’s training/teaching [by and through His Word] wherein we are saved apart from the world that is condemned to pay the price for that condemnation“). The first word for judge, diakrino, means to separate thoroughly, to withdraw from, to discriminate, or decide; depending on the grammatical breakdown. The second word for judge, krino according to its grammar means to condemn.
Therefore, we understand that this is stating that,
“if we would discern ourselves; with the implied intent of change, we would not be subject to ultimate condemnation.”
This is what is to take place within the life of the believer according to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Lack of Discernment
In these last days, one of the most predominant features within the church is this lack of discernment which allows carnality to run rampant, even disguising itself as spirituality.
Some have said the greatest trick the devil ever performed was to convince the world that he was nonexistent. Yet, I believe the greatest trick Satan has performed within the church of Jesus Christ is to convince us that the application of discernment and judgment has no place within Christendom, and that therefore tolerance and acceptance are true signs of Christian love.
It is when we lower the standards of God’s Word, either due to a lack of application, judgment; that we open ourselves to all kinds of worldly pursuits.
Corinth, a Church for 21st-century America
The church of Corinth displayed such poor judgment that it had allowed incest to be accepted openly, as well as believers defrauding other believers financially, their preoccupation with mysticism, along with signs and wonders in place of gifts of the Spirit, where the supper of the Lord was abused in drunkenness and gluttony, while others went hungry. Where selfishness became the norm to the extent that Paul worked a full-time job to support himself as well as the Ministry (which he later regretted because it added to their spiritual immaturity) no doubt exhibiting their lack of financial support in spite of the fact that they were very affluent. Yet, in a close examination it becomes apparent that all of this existed because of their lack of and refusal to exercise proper judgment according to the mind of Christ. They were a very worldly church that refused to judge and intervene according to the church discipline (Matthew 18:15-17). Unfortunately for us, of all the New Testament churches we most resemble them today.
We in America are affluent and prosperous, we suffer no persecution; and yet we are also arrogant, self-centered, and morally bankrupt as a society. The buzzwords of the day which display that which is politically correct (concerning a lack of judgment) are: tolerance, broadmindedness, open-mindedness, forbearance, patience, acceptance, conformity, understanding, and respect. As well as (concerning the selfish, me-first, “refusal to die to self,” egocentric mindset which is becoming predominant within the church) such politically correct buzzwords as: success oriented, victorious, expedience, pragmatic, and purpose driven; all words which display our narcissism, and underpin a mindset that is contingent upon a lack of judgment in what is good and what is evil concerning God’s perspective as reflected in His Word. It is the idolatry found within Christianity today which explains why America is becoming more and more ungodly in spite of its Biblical roots. Christian idolatry can be seen when believers:
“Worship Their Work, Work at Their Play, and Play at Their Worship.”
Deception – Warning
Without judgment we have no ability to perceive danger when it is present. This is why Jesus spoke so often about deception. The only protection against deception is God’s Word and its application as seen in proper Biblical judgment.
Jesus repetitively warned: “Take heed that no man deceive you,” and “be not deceived,” as recorded in Matthew 24:4; Mark 13:5; Luke 21:8.
Paul and others also warned us concerning deception as recorded in: John 7:24; Acts 20:28; Romans 16:18; I Corinthians 3:18; 5:1-13; 6:9; 15:33; Galatians 1:6-9; 6:3,7; Ephesians 4:14; 5:6; 5:11; II Thessalonians 2:3,10; 3:6; 3:14-15; Titus 1:10-16; II Timothy 2:15; 3:5-7; Hebrews 5:14, James 1:22,26; II Peter 2:14; I John 1:5, 8; 3:7; 4:1; II John 1:6-9; as well as the seven times that the word “deceive” is used concerning the Devil in the book of Revelation.
What we must keep in mind is that these references are exclusively to believers, it is the believers that can be deceived when they refuse to stand firmly on God’s Word and judge according to what God has said.
An Example from the book of Revelation
One of the common denominators within the seven letters to the seven churches as recorded in the book of Revelation, chapters 2 and 3; is their inability to perceive their true spiritual state. It is their lack of discernment, their lack of judgment that stands out so predominantly concerning their condition, and was why they could not see the remedy to their problems.
Defending God’s Word
We, as the church of Jesus Christ have been granted the privilege of holding God’s Word in written form in our hands. And with privilege comes responsibility, which cannot be separated from accountability. This is why Peter said in I Peter 4:17:
“For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?”
It is in realizing that many times judgment is demanded in God’s Word concerning the ability to “Watch, “or “Guard,” or in warnings such as: Be not deceived.” The point is that the Bible is filled with admonitions to judge as seen in the following examples: Mark 4:24; Acts 20:28-30; Romans 16:17-18; Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 2:4; 2:8; 2:18-19; I Corinthians 5:12,13; 6:2-5; 11:31;14:29; I Thessalonians 5:6; 5:21; II Thessalonians 2:1-4; I Timothy 4:16; 6:20-21; II Timothy 2:23-25; Titus 1:9; I John 4:1-3; and Jude 1:3. Judgment is even demanded many times in the Bible as seen in Christ’s command (“beware” in the Greek is in the imperative, which is a command) to believers to judge the behaviors (idiomatically referred to as “fruit“) of their spiritual leaders to affirm that they are not false prophets, as seen in Matthew 7:15-23. Jesus also commanded judgment in John 7:24, yet “righteous judgment,” which Biblically speaking is always according to God’s Word. The largest amount of text concerning judgment is the Biblical admonition and/or command to judge which in comparison to those passages which speak against judging because it is either condemnation or condescension; is minimal, as seen in James 2:4; 4:11, 12. Or where conditions are required, such as: Matthew 7:1; or areas where judgment is not allowed due to an incorrect application (their interpretation of fulfilling the laws of Moses), such as: Mark 2:16-28; Romans 14:1-17; Colossians 2:16.
Matthew 18:15-20 ~
“Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them”
A few insights concerning Church Discipline according to Jesus:
1. We, the reading audience are not who Jesus is directing addressing here as He is speaking to the second person (“thee,” or “you”), He does this to communicate that we have all been guilty of offending someone else, and within the church this is something that should be dwelt with rather than allowing it to fester.
2. We can assume that the person accused (whether the accusation is verbalized, or simply felt by the other) is innocent of the accusation, otherwise the Lord would have instructed him to apologize, make amends, openly confess his sin, and thereby be restored to their brother, the accuser.
3. Therefore, if a brother (Church Member) has something against you, you are not to wait for him to approach you; you are to go to him. Be assertive, not aggressive; be gentle, not forceful.
4. When you go, go alone (the first time), keep it private – don’t attempt to use others to make you feel justified, the one who is right.
5. You are not to go to other brothers and attempt to enlist them as a jury where you present your side, and win approval.
6. You are to show honor by keeping the privacy of your disagreement between yourselves, to go tell others in order to receive reassurance is actually gossip, and brings division to the church, setting people into groups, and against each other.
7. If you cannot convince your brother that you are right and an agreement cannot be reached between the two of you, then meet with him again and this time bring 2 or 3 other brothers as witnesses, but also to attempt to convince of him of his error.
8. If he refuses to concede, next you are to take the issue before the whole church as an assembly to judge.
9. This is not a jury situation where opinions are rendered, where discretion is allowed. Either you are vindicated according to the Bible or your brother is. This judgment is not about what others think; only who lines up with God’s Word, and who does not. It is black and white; there are no gray areas in the Bible. When there appear to be contradictory passages, clarity is obtained according to the priority as it is set in the Bible, yet always according to God’s Word.
10. What should be noted here is that there is no specific reference to the pastor or leader of the church being involved. No doubt that Jesus left out the Pastor so that there would be no intention of trying to draw him in and make it about the Pastor and the two of you. Church discipline involves the whole church, yet without voting. What is inferred by this is that it would be obvious to all according to their knowledge of God’s Word who is innocent and who was guilty, it is not propagating a democracy. God’s Word and the Torah are not subjective, but the idea is that the whole church was involved in the process so that if a person was excommunicated, the whole church would shun the person, and not associate with transgressor.
11. If the person refuses to repent (Change his mind and ways) and obey the judgment of the church, he is to be excommunicated, and treated as a heathen, not as a brother in Christ. There is not the option to show forgiveness without consequences, because the priority here is the purity of the church, without the option of mercy to individuals. Forgiveness cannot he granted without repentance, and a turning from the sin, making amends and setting it right.
We like to paint Jesus as a loving individual that showed mercy to all, without exception. Yet, this is an un-Biblical picture of Jesus, as repentance (changing direction ~ Acts 20:21) was mandatory (Matthew 9:13; Mark 1:4), as well as sorrow for wrongs committed (2 Corinthians 7:9, 10). The wrongdoer had to admit that they were wrong (Mark 2:17), seek for forgiveness, and be willing to make amends (Matthew 3:8; Luke 3:8; Acts 26:20). It is un-Biblical to allow sin to persist within the church, corrupting others; in the name of mercy, grace, and love; and allowing sin to go unanswered, which in reality has nothing to do with any of these 3 virtues.
It’s like allowing your oldest child to habitually violate your rules with no repercussions, while their younger siblings watch and learn from this pattern of rebellion. Excommunication is demanded in this situation, it is not an option. The motive was always to correct, to drive the brother to repentance, in order to receive him back (2 Corinthians 2:6-10). It must also be seen that when a brother was excommunicated, there was no Biblical defense against litigation. 1 Corinthians 6:1, forbids a brother from taking another brother to court, yet when a believer has been maltreated, or mistreated by a nonbeliever, they have the right as a citizen (Matthew 5:40 ~ presupposes involvement in the judicial system) to utilize the legal system which was meant as a defense against evil being allowed to permeate, and grow, perverting the community, and contaminating every one.
What About Forgiveness as in: “turning the cheek”
Matthew 5:38-41 ~
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the left also. And if any man will sue the act the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.”
An eye for an eye
The problem that we have in understanding this passage is our lack of awareness that it had become common during that period of time, that if a Jew (wealthy & powerful prominent individuals) had felt that he had been wronged and suffered loss at the hands of another, rather than following Gods ordained system of law (Deuteronomy 19:18-21) which dictated that a local magistrate would investigate the situation and render justice in the form of any prescribed punishment according to the law of God, the Jews would revenge themselves, which meant that it was no longer a system of justice, but of vengeance.
What Christ is not saying here is to disregard the law, which contained a criminal justice system concerning the punishment of criminal behavior (Matthew 7:12; Romans 3:31). What Christ is saying here is that believers are not to revenge themselves upon perpetrators, but being willing to forgo what had become the standard of the day, which was to retaliate when one was wronged. Christ is indicating that we should forgive those that offend us.
Resist not evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other
It had become common that if a Jew felt humiliated or shamed by another, in return they would strike a person upon the cheek which in itself was viewed as an act of humiliation (Lam. 3:30; Job 16:11). This was usually done with an audience, in front of others as a display of shame and ridicule. The physical pain was minimal and not meant to address or correct negative behavior, but it was the humiliation of the act that was the point of the offense.
The very act of slapping another person on the face was an act of condescension, displaying pride and arrogance, and therefore considered evil in its self. The Greek phrase used here (me antistenai toi poneroi), would be more literally translated: “resist not him that is evil,” which concerning the grammar is in the infinitive (second aorist active), an indirect command; which could place the emphasis either on “the evil man,” or “the evil deed,” but either way this plays the assumption of the definite article (“THE“) in the English, which indicates that Christ was NOT saying to allow evil to permeate our society, without resisting it according to God’s law (1 Timothy 1:8-9).
On any individual basis, when a believer is minimally assaulted physically, and (to the real issue at hand) is humiliated or shamed, which is evil or done by an evil person; don’t retaliate, or supposedly defend yourself by verbally insulting them in return. We must keep in view that the issue here is not the physical contact, but the humiliation and shame intended.
This also doesn’t say that we are NOT to defend ourselves if we are physically attacked – it is the shaming that we allow to occur – to use this verse to say we are not to defend ourselves physically in “reading into the text” that which Christ did not say. As believers, we should allow our feelings to be hurt by others shaming us, which is not about our feelings, but our pride – THIS IS THE POINT OF THIS TEACHING – DON’T LET YOUR PRIDE LEAD YOU BY GETTING INTO A TIT FOR TACT SITUATION WHEN YOU ARE HUMILIATED.
Jesus displayed our example of this Himself when He was slapped (as a sign of humiliation and ridicule) by one of the Temple officer’s while being questioned by the High Priest (John 18:19-23), and Jesus responded by verbally defending himself and saying, “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou me?” Jesus also protected His followers, which is much easier to see in the Greek Grammar than the English (John 17:12; John 6:37-40 – SEE JOHN 18:8-9), displaying His ability to defend them (Jesus kept them spiritually concerning salvation, yet also physically as well).
The point is that Jesus is not presenting a pacifist doctrine here. As believers we are always to fight against evil, and those that promote it, otherwise we would violate the very law which God had given to man as a reference concerning what was good, which always mandated fighting and punishing what was evil. Jesus was not contradicting the law.
Jesus did not come to change the law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17; Luke 24:44) by dying for the sins of the world (2 Corinthians 5:21). The point was not that we are all forgiven, but that our punishment was paid by Jesus, that there had to be punishment (1 John 2:2; Romans 3:25; 1 John 4:10), that the justice of God would be upheld (Romans 3:25).
What Christ is saying is that if a (small) offense is committed against you, such as being shamed by another (to reiterate, which is what being stricken on the cheek meant to the Jews, striking on the cheek was considered a non-punishable offense, one of questioning another’s integrity by publicly shaming them), take the offense and don’t revenge yourself, show honor and character in the face of humiliation.
If any man will sue thee at the law
First, and most importantly, what Jesus indicates here is that you are guilty in this litigation, and that your accuser wins against you, according to the legal conclusion against you in that the court determines to: “take away thy coat.” The law was very specific concerning the loss of personal property, especially if it was the essentials, such as a personal wardrobe (which are many consisted of the clothes on their back).
Jesus is here referring to a common occurrence of his day, wherein an individual would utilize their (tunic) inner garment as collateral for a purchase, and after being found guilty of not having fulfilled your part of the bargain, be prepared to surrender your outer garment as well. Because of the essential nature of the need of clothing, such as the tunic, in Hebrew law, the only way that your adversary could seize your tunic was because you used it as collateral for a loan and default on the loan. It was common that if an individual conducted a street transaction (bartering) and did not have the items with them (which in a case where coinage was not used or available, bartering by using animals or other intrinsic articles was common), they would leave as collateral something of greater value with the person, such as their interior coat / tunic. This is seen when Judah doesn’t have the price of bartering (“a kid of the flock“) to pay Tamar, but uses as collateral (pledge) his signet, both bracelets and his staff (Genesis 38:17-18).
Therefore what Christ is saying is if you lose litigation, indicating that you are wrong, be prepared to pay not just your obligation but even more in recompense, which in this case would be to allow the claimant to have your outer cloak as well, which was more expensive.
Whoever shall compel thee to go a mile
The expression “shall compel” was a specific terminology of Persian origin (a Figure of Speech, a current American cultural expression would be like saying “the few, the proud, …”, which would set the stage for the understanding that the reference was an expression concerning “…the Marines”), and was utilized concerning a royal standing command that was as a Royal law of the kingdom, throughout the conquered lands of Persia (from which the Jews had many times been under, such as Cyrus), and was understood that one of the officers of the King’s court could demand that a local citizen would personally escort them during their journey for a distance of up to 1 mile in aiding them during their travels. This principle was used by the Romans, and known as the law of Angaria. Whereas verbal instructions concerning directions could be misunderstood (“go straight for 1 mile, then turn right at where Farmer Joe’s barn used to be”), having a local citizen personally take you to your destination became necessary.
The point that Christ is making is that when it comes to our civil commitments (whether they seem righteous or not), we should be willing to not only fulfill the requirement of the law, but sacrifice even more than required. Believers, as citizens are not only to meet their requirements, but to exceed them.
A final thought
It is amazing to consider that due to a lack of understanding concerning cultural issues of the (Biblical) times, that when believers do not study (studying is far more than simply reading, it is using credible Biblical dictionaries, encyclopedias, commentaries, word studies, and being fed by Spirit and guided Bible teachers; and more. If we love God with our whole being [Mark 20:30], why would we do less) God’s Word, that what they perceive superficially ends up being much different from the reality that is presented.
Concerning Matthew 5:38-41, these 3 short verses hold tremendous insights and immense meaning.
First, do not revenge yourself, but allow the Powers that God has ordained (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17) to administer justice. ~ Be a forgiving person
Second, if someone shames, humiliates, or ridicules you; do not revenge yourself, but show honor and character by not reiterating the same back. ~ Be a humble person
Thirdly, if you have been found legally guilty, and rightly so, be prepared to suffer for your wrongs into pay back even more than what seems fair. ~ Be a righteous person
Fourthly, concerning your civil commitments; be willing to not simply meet your requirements, but to exceed them as well. ~ Be a good neighbor and good citizen, therefore be a good example
1. But what about “Thou shalt not kill?”
Notice that it’s “Thou shalt not kill,” but David slew Goliath? [In the Bible, when you find a word in italics, this means that this precise word is not in the original text, it is implied or there is not an exact English word with the same meaning, and the translators use their own guess at what the word would be close to in their current grammar. The main problem with this is that many English words have changed their meanings over the last 400 years. The Biblical Greek word can now be better understood based upon the grammar and a more educated understanding of the Koine Greek as compared to four centuries ago.]. Why two different words? Because the original meaning of kill was more nearly that of murder, whereas slay meant homicide in general. Although there’s some overlap in usage in the Bible, generally actions like killing in battle are translated with slay. The distinction was clear in the 1600’s when the King James Bible was published. It’s only when we became intellectually sloppy that we blurred the distinction between the two words. This is a pons asinorum (bridge of asses) – an initial first step that has to be made before any productive discussion can begin. People who trot out “thou shalt not kill” as a basis for pacifism are revealing only their illiteracy. (http://www.uwgb.edu/dutchs/PSEUDOSC/ProblemWithPacifism.HTM)
2.Repfrint from above: Judgment Commanded
It is in realizing that many times judgment is demanded in God’s Word concerning the ability to “Watch, “or “Guard,” or in warnings such as: “Be not deceived.” The point is that the Bible is filled with admonitions to judge as seen in the following examples: Mark 4:24; Acts 20:28-30; Romans 16:17-18; Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 2:4; 2:8; 2:18-19; I Corinthians 5:12,13; 6:2-5; 11:31;14:29; I Thessalonians 5:6; 5:21; II Thessalonians 2:1-4; I Timothy 4:16; 6:20-21; II Timothy 2:23-25; Titus 1:9; I John 4:1-3; and Jude 1:3. Judgment is even demanded many times in the Bible as seen in Christ’s command (“beware” in the Greek is in the imperative, which is a command) to believers to judge the behaviors (idiomatically referred to as “fruit“) of their spiritual leaders to affirm that they are not false prophets, as seen in Matthew 7:15-23. Jesus also commanded judgment in John 7:24, yet “righteous judgment,” which Biblically speaking is always according to God’s Word. The largest amount of text concerning judgment is the Biblical admonition and/or command to judge which in comparison to those passages which speak against judging because it is either condemnation or condescension; is minimal, as seen in James 2:4; 4:11, 12. Or where conditions are required, such as: Matthew 7:1; or areas where judgment is not allowed due to an incorrect application (their interpretation of fulfilling the laws of Moses), such as: Mark 2:16-28; Romans 14:1-17; Colossians 2:16.
3. Thayer’s Greek Definitions, Parsons Technology Inc., Cedar Rapids, IA 52404.
4. Robinson’s Morphological Analysis Codes, eSword, Ver. 9, Rick Myers, esword.org.
5. Robertson’s Word Pictures In The New Testament, Vol. IV, A.T. Robertson, Broadman Press Inc., Nashville, TN 37234.
6. Albert Barne’s Notes On The Bilbe, William McDonald, Thomas Nelson Pub., Nashville , TN.
7. Psalms 119:11 ~ “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee.”
The difference between ‘involvement’ and ‘commitment’ is like an eggs-and-ham breakfast:
the chicken was ‘involved’ – the pig was ‘committed’.”