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Bible verses about Judging Others
(From Forerunner Commentary)

The New Testament instructs us in a number of places not to judge our brother. This does not mean we should not judge at all; a broader view of this subject shows we should be cautious and not condemn. We must judge, because making choices and acting upon them requires judgment. When we must judge a brother, we must remember that we really know very little about his situation. This plays a large role in skewing our judgment.

This is where mercy enters. We must judge people from the inside out, as it were. There are reasons why they—and we—act as we do. If we knew their reason(s), we could much more easily understand, sympathize, forgive, be patient and tolerant toward them—or for that matter, be harder on them if need be. When we take this approach, both justice and mercy are tempered by clearer understanding of another's words, attitudes, and conduct.

A French proverb states, "To know all is to forgive all." This saying is somewhat similar to the more commonly known, "There but for the grace of God go I." They touch upon the general truth that, if we really look inside another person deeply and clearly enough, we begin to see ourselves reflected in them. The circumstances, chronology, and specific situations may be somewhat different, but the human nature expressed in them will be the same. Once we recognize this, it greatly tempers our judgment of the other and almost automatically activates the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Forgiveness or mercy follows.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 5: Blessed Are the Merciful


 

Matthew 7:1

Some cite Matthew 7:1 as proof that we should do no judging whatsoever: "Judge not, that you be not judged." Here, the Greek word for "judge" is krino, meaning to condemn, avenge, sentence, or levy a punishment. Christ plainly says that if we condemn others, we will be condemned ourselves. Dangerous territory indeed!

Though it is certainly hazardous to evaluate the problems or sins of others, the context answers the question of whether we are to do so. We are to judge and in every aspect of life, as other scriptures show. Christ continues His thought, in context, by showing that we are to evaluate the deeds of others, but to be very careful with our judgments. We should consider our weaknesses and sins very carefully, to the point of overcoming them, before we make harsh judgments on others. How can we condemn someone else when we may have even bigger problems? He instructs us to remove the hypocrisy and then we can help our brother with his difficulties.

Focusing on the Greek to show that "condemning" defines judgment better than "justice" really makes no difference. The sense of the context is proper evaluation of our own and others' conduct so that proper justice is done. If we wish to use a harsher definition, such as condemnation or damnation, then Christ is saying He will also evaluate us in that light. Major or minor infraction, light or harsh judgment, the outcome is the same: "As you do unto others, so shall it be done unto you!"

Christ's initial statement about judgment cannot be ripped out of context to stand on its own. We must understand it considering His whole explanation, which includes recognition of others' sins and their disposition, but only after overcoming our own faults.

Otherwise, Matthew 7:1 directly contradicts John 7:24 where He uses the same Greek words: "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge [krino] with righteous judgment." Here He says we are to judge, but He mitigates it with instruction on how to judge, just as in Matthew 7. Certainly, we are to analyze—judge—what is right or wrong, based on the mind of God as expressed in His Word. How we apply that judgment to others is critical, for Christ will take the same attitude with us that we take with others.

Like it or not, life forces us to make judgments or decisions about people every day. These may deal with mundane physical things or with friendships or marriages that affect a lifetime. Many have gone through life wishing they had been equipped early in life to render and exercise sounder judgments, for the process of making good calls can be very confusing. It is so easy to dwell on the wrong factors or see only what is on the surface.

Staff
The Weightier Matters (Part 2): Judgment


 

Matthew 7:2

"Be careful," He says. "You are stepping into a minefield when you begin to judge your brother!" Because the dangers are hidden, minefields are especially deadly, and judging beyond our area of authority is just as dangerous. If we ignore the warning and continue pressing forward, judging beyond our authority will blow up in our faces, ripping us to shreds!

Why are we warned so strongly against judging others? In The Complete Word Study Dictionary, p. 892, Spiros Zodhiates writes, explaining the difference between the words krites and dikastes (both meaning "judge"):

Krites, as used of God (Hebrews 10:30; 12:23; James 4:12) involves the inherent power to discern the character of a person. Similarly it is an attribute of Christ in the same manner as it is an attribute of God (Acts 10:42; II Timothy 4:8; James 5:9). On the human level, a krites is one who makes a judgment as to the character and actions of others without receiving such appointment from someone [i.e. God did not give us the authority] whereas dikastes implies a responsibility attributed by society and others. Therefore dikastes is more of a forensic term, a judicial judge, while krites is one who uses his subjective criteria to evaluate others.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Judging Our Brothers


 

Matthew 7:2

Jesus warns us that we will receive the same kind of judgment that we make of others. Do we really want that? That warning ought to sober any thinking person! Do we really believe God when He gives us such a stern warning?

Jesus adds another warning: Our judgment may be distorted because we may have a flaw of far greater magnitude in us than the flaw we observe so critically in our brother. The unspoken intimation is that because the flaw is ours, and we love ourselves, we are willing to be lenient in our self-judgment. By focusing our criticism on another, it enables us to avoid scrutinizing ourselves carefully and critically. Some enjoy correcting others because it makes them feel virtuous, compensating for failures in themselves that they have no desire to face. But the judgment we make about others is in reality the judgment we will receive from God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Judgment, Tolerance, and Correction


 

Matthew 7:3-5

Jesus gives us practical instruction on this matter of judging. In a word, we are unqualified. We are not qualified to make these judgments. Setting ourselves up to judge another—even to "help" him in whatever problem he may have—is self-exalting, proud, presumptuous, vain (in terms both of vanity and futility), and as Jesus says, hypocritical because we are guilty of the same problems. In fact, He implies that our problems are worse! They are planks versus specks in the other person's eye.

The great overriding problem here is that it arrogates to ourselves a prerogative of God. He is the Judge. What are we doing taking one of His jobs from Him? In James 4:12, the apostle asks, "Who are you to judge another?" It sounds rather harsh to hear it put that way. "Who are you to take upon yourself the authority to judge this other person?" He says in verse 11, "He who speaks evil of his brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law." That is what happens when we take it upon ourselves to judge another person.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
What's So Bad About Busybodies?


 

Luke 12:13-14

Even our Lord and Master Jesus Christ would not go beyond the area of His authority that God had specifically given Him. He was supposed to live His life a certain way, as a man like us, to preach the gospel and found the church, and then to give his life in sacrifice as our Redeemer. But within all these responsibilities, within his sphere of influence, he had not been given at that time the responsibility or the authority to be a judge or an arbitrator in matters such as these.

Therefore, He refused to go beyond the powers and the authority that He had been given.

Had He done this, He would have taken someone else's job. He would have been meddling in the affairs of, say, a justice of the peace, an elder at the gate, or some other person who had been legally entrusted with the job to arbitrate or judge matters such as inheritances. Jesus had no purpose, no right, to put his finger in that pie because God had not given Him that as part of His sphere of influence.

We are told in other places that He has been given the responsibility and authority to be Judge of all. We must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. But when did that appointment take place? It occurred once He was received up into heaven. It began at that point, legally, because He had qualified to be our Judge. That, however, was after the scene in Luke 12, and it will come into its fullness in the judgment. He is judging us right now; judgment is now on the house of God (I Peter 4:17). But in Luke 12, He had not been given the responsibility to judge. So if He had stepped outside of His given responsibility and authority, He would have been guilty of sin, taking another's responsibility, meddling.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
What's So Bad About Busybodies?


 

Luke 13:1-5

In Luke 13:1-5, Jesus took advantage of two local tragedies to make the point that, in a major way, all sins and all sinners are equal. The incident of the collapsed tower was in all likelihood a time-and-chance accident. However, Jesus alluded to those who died as being sinners, and He implied that those in His audience were also sinners who deserved to die—and would, unless they repented.

What is interesting is a possible reason why Jesus responded as He did to their report of Pilate's action. He seems to have detected in their attitude that they thought that those killed by Pilate deserved to die! The victims were sinners who "got what was coming to them," implying that they themselves were righteous. Jesus' replies that they were just as guilty as those who died! Someone's sudden and violent death is not proof that he is particularly more wicked than others.

Jesus' point is that, while it is not our responsibility to judge the degree of sinfulness of those who die suddenly and violently, it presents us with a golden opportunity to meditate on the state of our character and standing before God. We may be in just as much danger as those we regard as being very wicked!

We live in a world that is given to extremes of judgment. One extreme is to call victims of a random tragedy "innocent," when the Bible shows no such human being exists. They are only innocent of causing the calamity that brought about the sudden end of their life. The other extreme is that human nature has a propensity to judge that those killed in such a circumstance were in reality great and wicked sinners who got what they deserved. This suggests that those making this determination are in good standing with God.

Ours is a topsy-turvy world. We desire with all our being for things to go "right." We want good to be rewarded and evil to be punished. But we find in places like Psalms 37 and 73 that evil men often prosper, live in peace in lovely homes, wear fine clothing, are surrounded by their families, receive acclaim and honors within the community, and die at a good old age. Conversely, the righteous suffer afflictions, are unappreciated, persecuted, demeaned, dishonored, reviled, scattered, and perhaps even cut off in the prime of life!

Some things involving life, judgment, and the out-working of God's purpose are simply beyond our knowing. We also have a very difficult time correctly judging the intent of another person's heart. Thus, God cautions us to be careful.

But He expects us to be able to judge the intent of our own heart correctly. We should know what is going on inside. So often, though, even in this we allow ourselves to deny the evil of our own motivations. We proudly justify ourselves by thinking, "God won't mind. It's just a 'little' sin that won't hurt anybody. And, besides, I need to do this." Is there really innocence in this kind of thinking?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Innocent Victims?


 

Romans 2:1-3

We can often see our faults more clearly in other people, yet we usually fail to apply them to ourselves. Because our reaction is so often to criticize negatively, we usually do not see that we are guilty of the same things. If we find a certain type of behavior especially irritating in others, we may have the same problem!

To illustrate this blindness to our own sins, recall David's sin, recorded for all the world to see in II Samuel 12:1-5, when God sent Nathan to show David his sin with Bathsheba. Nathan told of a case in which a rich man who owned many sheep had stolen a poor man's pet lamb and killed it to eat for dinner. King David was outraged that anyone would be so greedy and selfish, so he pronounced the death penalty on this man. Then Nathan quietly pointed out that David had done the exact same thing when he stole Uriah's wife and sent Uriah to his death.

David was a man who, when he recognized his sin, would deeply repent. So how far his heart fell at that time, we can only imagine. He must have been devastated.

What angers us about others in God's church? Consider this carefully, since in the answer may be a clue to our secret sins. "For you who judge practice the same things."

Martin G. Collins
The Law's Purpose and Intent


 

Romans 6:23

Not a single person would be alive if God responded to sin as carnal man wants to respond to sins that directly affect him. Consider that, in the scenario of killing in self-defense, the one killing is judging that his life is more important than the life he is willing to snuff out. One sinner accounts his life to be of more worth than the life of another sinner. Would God make the same determination?

David C. Grabbe
Does Scripture Allow for Killing in Self-Defense?


 

Romans 14:4

Yes, God has given us a promise of becoming judges, kings, and priests in the World Tomorrow, but He has not given us the authority to be judges now. We are to be making evaluations and learning how to judge. But, right now, unless we have been appointed to a certain position in which such judgments must be made, if we take it upon ourselves to make them, we are stepping into the muck. We have gone beyond our sphere.

He is telling us that, if we decide to take it into our own hands to judge another man's servant (think of it in terms of every other person being God's servant), then we have begun to be presumptuous. We are meddling in another's matters.

Jesus would have been meddling in somebody else's affairs had He decided to arbitrate the dispute in Luke 12:13-14. He would have been what the Bible calls a busybody—someone who is doing something that he has not been called to do or been given the authority to do.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
What's So Bad About Busybodies?


 

Romans 14:7-13

These verses give the proper perspective of our relationship and responsibilities to Christ and our brothers and sisters in the church. Paul wrote this to confront a problem, judging and scorn, that was dividing the church. The counsel he gives fits our circumstances, and if used, it can go a long way toward solving many of our problems. He reminds us first to remember to whom we belong, why we belong to Him, and what responsibility this gives us. We belong to Christ because He died for us, rose from the grave, and now sits at the right hand of God, judging those the Father has called into His church.

We should be acutely aware of this, knowing we are being judged according to what we do. We are to strive with all our being to please Him by living as He lived, not to serve ourselves, but to serve Him and the church. Judging each other does not fall into our area of responsibility. Living according to the Sermon on the Mount does. If we do this, we will not cause any brother to fall. We appear not to be striving hard enough to please Christ, which is why we continue to split.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part One: The Sermon on the Mount


 

Romans 14:10

The very fact that we are sinning human beings under judgment disqualifies us from judging. Our manner of life in the past has so perverted our judgment that we are incapable of judging with the fairness of God. Our judgment is too subjective to be fair, too influenced by our own experiences to consider all the nuances of another's life to judge without prejudice. Not until after we have lived a life of overcoming and are rid of this body and mind of flesh will we be in a position to judge the lives of others.

Since we are obviously empowered to judge between right and wrong and commanded to choose the right even when evaluating the conduct of others, the judging that God forbids is the passing of judgment against another. In other words, God forbids the handing down of a sentence. It is one thing to call a spade a spade and decide that such an act is evil, but to condemn the person as evil, implying incorrigibility, is stepping into the minefield.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Judging Our Brothers


 

1 Corinthians 4:1-5

Paul, embroiled in a situation where he was being judged for the way he conducted his affairs as God's apostle, gives some excellent advice. Passing judgment on someone based on our narrow perspective and subjectivity is an exercise in futility and vain, with nothing of spiritual value to be gained from it. That is why God does not want us doing it. Its prime motivator is to elevate (cf. verse 6) or justify the self.

Paul did not even pass judgment on himself! He certainly examined himself because he wrote to this same church, "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Prove yourselves" (II Corinthians 13:5). Then why did he say he did not judge himself? Because we all are saved by grace through faith. We certainly are not saved by our own favorable judgment of our conduct. Though he could find nothing wrong with his conduct in this situation, he still would not step into Christ's area of authority as Judge. Even his blamelessness did not justify him.

Many things we judge in others are trivial and sometimes extremely "picky." Many situations do not involve sin at all but simply different ways of doing things. We tend to pounce on situations or characteristics that will hardly mean a thing a year from now—and certainly will matter nothing in a thousand years. There may be nothing wrong with pointing them out to someone concerned, but why focus on them to the point we pass judgment on the person?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Judging Our Brothers


 

1 Corinthians 5:12-13

The apostle John writes, "He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked" (I John 2:6). Just as Jesus Christ refrained from judging the world until the proper time, so also the brethren of God's church must not render judgments on men until God's appointed time.

When is this appointed time? The same as Christ's time to judge! Daniel writes, "[The false church persecutes the saints] till that the Ancient of Days hath come, and judgment is given to the saints of the Most High, and the time hath come. . ." (Daniel 7:22, Young's Literal Translation). This squares perfectly with Revelation 5:10: "And [You] have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth." When our Savior returns and grants us jurisdiction over the world, we will judge it!

In obedience to Christ, the saints must restrain themselves from passing judgment on the world until the time set by God. The saints have no authority or power at this time to sit in judgment over others' lives. But when the time is right, they will judge.

Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? (I Corinthians 6:2-3)

Paul castigates the Corinthians for taking each other to court for matters they should be learning how to judge and resolve among themselves. Yes, he says, we should be learning to judge now because we will one day make far greater judgments, but we have no power to do so now: "For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside [the church]? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges" (I Corinthians 5:12-13).

The future kings and priests of God must learn judgment in their own lives and inside the body of the church. Paul writes, "For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged [by God]" (I Corinthians 11:31). God is judging those in His church today: "For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God" (I Peter 4:17). He is also teaching us how to judge: "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment" (John 7:24; see Matthew 7:1-5). But He has given us no permission or commission to judge the world—those who are outside the church—at this time. That time will come soon enough if we learn to judge ourselves now.

Therefore, we should leave the matter of judging people for their crimes in the hands of the world's governments. God has allowed men to set up various governing bodies, and they have jurisdiction for now (Romans 13:1-4). Though we live in the world, we are not of it (John 17:11, 16), so we should not become involved in its judgments.

God commands His church to stay separate from the world: "Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord" (II Corinthians 6:17). Like dedicated soldiers during wartime, we have no time and it is not our place to become entangled in the affairs of civilian life (II Timothy 2:4). Like representatives of a heavenly government (II Corinthians 5:20), we have no business involving ourselves in matters of a foreign state, though we live here and enjoy its benefits.

Our commission is to pursue perfection in the sight of God during the short span of years allotted to us (Matthew 5:48; II Corinthians 7:1). We should be busy striving toward becoming "a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13). Christ, when He walked this earth, leaving us an example, did not judge the world. Neither should we.

Staff
Why Should Christians Refuse Jury Duty?


 

1 Corinthians 6:2

He is saying that, if we are going to have this great responsibility of judging the world, we should be practicing it in our own lives—judging our small, personal matters right now.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
What's So Bad About Busybodies?


 

1 Corinthians 6:3

These are promised offices or positions that we have. They are still future. We have not been given—just as Christ had not been given—the authority to judge during this physical life. Paul says that we have this to look forward to, but we have to use this physical life in preparation for it.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
What's So Bad About Busybodies?


 

2 Corinthians 13:5

We understand that we are to examine ourselves in the weeks preceding Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. Sometimes, however, we miss the purpose for the examination. Consider these two scriptures in relation to self-examination:

» Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Prove yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. (II Corinthians 13:5)

» For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. (II Corinthians 10:12)

If we are not careful in this, we can easily fall into two snares, both of which center on the self.

The most obvious one, expressed in II Corinthians 10:12, is that we will judge ourselves in light of other people. This fatal trap deceitfully provides us with self-justification for the way we are. The result is that we will not change or grow because we will be judging according to our own standards—and why change perfection? Self-examination by our own code produces self-righteousness.

The other dangerous snare occurs when our self-examination is so rigorous that we become very depressed and feel salvation is impossible. This is just as utterly self-indulgent as the other! This "woe is me" approach is a not-too-subtle blast against God's judgment and grace for calling us and making things so difficult for us!

Anyone who compares himself to others is not exhibiting faith in God. He is telling God that His Son's life means little to him. Likewise, anyone who feels so morose with guilt that he threatens not to take the Passover is not exhibiting faith in God. He is telling God that He is unable to forgive that much.

At Passover, our focus should be on the payment for sin through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. God in His grace is willing to forgive our transgressions on the basis of Christ's death. During Unleavened Bread, the focus shifts to overcoming sin and coming out of this world through God's power, which is also part of His grace. At Passover, it is the grace of God to justify us through Christ's blood. At Unleavened Bread, it is the grace of God to sanctify us as we move toward His Kingdom and glorification.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Christ, Our Passover


 

2 Thessalonians 1:7-10

The day is coming soon when God will punish those who break His laws and reject His Word. When Christ returns to stand upon the Mount of Olives, He will begin settling accounts (Matthew 25:19), bringing with Him both punishment and reward (Isaiah 61:2-3; Matthew 25:31-46).

Christ did not come to judge the world when He was born, lived, and died as a human 2,000 years ago. "He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead" (Acts 10:42) "will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom" (II Timothy 4:1). When confronted by the scribes and Pharisees with the woman caught in adultery, Jesus does not condemn her, but instead tells her to "sin no more" (John 8:1-11). His time as Judge of all had not yet come.

Later, He plainly tells the Pharisees, "I judge no one" (verse 15). Though they were guilty of hypocrisy and many other sins—which He severely castigated them for—He does not judge the Pharisees either. He made no move to stop them from continuing in their evil ways.

The Pharisees completely misunderstood His mission. They did not interpret the prophecies in Isaiah 61:1-3 and Malachi 3:1 to mean that Messiah must make two appearances on earth—at two different times, for two different reasons. When Jesus came the first time 2,000 years ago, He made it very clear that He would come again (Matthew 16:27; Luke 21:27; John 14:3).

In His first appearance, He came to deliver a message from His Father, the good news of the coming Kingdom of God on this earth (Mark 1:14-15). He also came as a Lamb to be sacrificed for our sins and make eternal life possible for us (I Peter 2:21-24). During this appearance, He refrained from judging the world before its time. At His second coming in power and glory as King of kings, one of His major responsibilities will be to judge the world and take vengeance.

Staff
Why Should Christians Refuse Jury Duty?


 

James 3:2-10

For years, I read these scriptures, and I always thought, "I'm not starting forest fires with my words. I'm not viciously devouring people like a roaring beast. I can take this in stride and not worry so much about examining this. After all, these examples are for the extremes: the Adolf Hitlers, the serial criminal minds, the hardened and bitter sinners who retreat from humanity. This isn't me!"

God sometimes focuses our minds on the things we are guilty of by allowing us to experience the same behaviors from others. David did not see himself as he was behaving and affecting others until Nathan described to him another man's behavior (II Samuel 12:1-4). David was so outraged by the man's gross actions and attitude that he, as king, declared the death penalty on him (verses 5-6). Had this been an actual individual, chances are David would have pursued the matter to see the man brought to justice! However, the man he judged as worthy of death was none other than himself (verse 7).

We experience similar lessons. We are at times brought into the company of people who are offensive to us, whose behavior hurts us, and whose words can cut us and wound us, because something in the experience will teach us what we need to learn. God is allowing us to experience ourselves.

We chuckle at times, observing how someone known for gossiping will howl in dismay when he is gossiped about, or how a person often critical of others is intolerant of criticism directed toward himself. We say about teasing, "Don't give it unless you can take it!" Similarly, we enjoy people who are warm and friendly, and we feel warm and friendly when we are around them. Happy people tend to attract other happy people, while bitter or angry people often find another unhappy person with whom they can share their complaints.

A deeper principle can be employed here: If we look at others' behaviors, we can learn to see ourselves. Job's friends had this opportunity. They saw Job going through his calamities, how miserable he was, and in their care for him, they did their best to find his fault and help him solve his dilemma. In the end, God simply dismissed these three friends and all their long-winded speeches because they failed to recognize the very thing God gave them opportunity to see: They failed to see themselves in Job.

Job was not singled out for this experience because he was Job. He represents mankind, blinded by himself and unable to see the reality of God. Even today, many centuries later, we examine the life and thoughts of Job in an effort to see ourselves in his shoes; we try to learn from his experience by exposing the same faults within us. This aids us by allowing us both to see what we might miss and to change what is incompatible with our Creator.

How often do these opportunities emerge for us to see ourselves in the actions of others? In the past decade, we have had many opportunities to witness the effects of deceitful men upon trusting and unsuspecting people. We have seen people shift allegiances and loyalties but deny doing so by their words. We have seen couples speak words of lifelong devotion only to cast them aside for a new attraction. We have seen friends and family who expressed the deepest of commitments to one another both deny those relationships and turn against one another. We have seen hearts broken by sarcasm and neglect. We have seen the crushing effects of criticism upon those needing reassurance and encouragement.

Most of us do not escape life without being deeply touched by such actions from others. But how incredibly sobering it is to see ourselves in these actions of others, to realize that we are guilty of the very things that may have hurt us deeply! We, too, are responsible for spreading the flames of a fire that devours and destroys all in its path. The evil of our tongues is as limitless as the evil James describes.

A sharp tongue is a weapon, no less as effective as a pointed spear or a sword honed to a razor's edge. A sharp tongue has no place among the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). It does not express love, spread joy or promote peace. It shows no patience, kindness or goodness in its words. It betrays faithfulness and gentleness, and most of all, it shows no measure of self-control.

My sharp tongue has been a contradiction to the convictions I have expressed nearly all my life. I never saw it until I had to come face to face with the jabs, slices, and pricks of other sharp tongues, and to feel the fires they started within me. I would beg the Father for understanding, of why such communication should exist and why I should receive it with such bitterness—until I finally saw, as David did, that I am the guilty one.

Staff
Are You Sharp-Tongued? (Part One)


 

James 4:11-12

Does not the law say to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39)? If we speak evil of a brother, we are indirectly impugning the law that commands us to love our brother. By doing so, we are actually passing judgment on the God who inspired the Bible to read, "Love your neighbor as yourself." God Himself is quite capable of passing judgment on those responsible for keeping His law!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Judging Our Brothers


 

Revelation 2:4

Note that each of these congregations—those in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea—was located in a Gentile city, and in all probability, each congregation's membership was primarily Gentile. It is quite likely that in each congregation the Jews were a minority.

Recall that the Romans ravaged Jerusalem in AD 70, and its Christians had to flee to Pella to save their lives. It is highly probable that none of these congregations had any communication with any survivor of the first congregation in Jerusalem. All of the apostles except John were dead, and he had been banished to Patmos. This circumstance was far different from the one in which the church was founded.

Were these Gentile congregations still part of the true church? Were they free of flaws and perfect in their character, attitudes, and doctrines? Would such a negative judgment eliminate them from being a true assembly?

Consider these further factors: Revelation 2:4 commends the congregation in Ephesus for doctrinal vigilance but castigates it for leaving its first love. Revelation 2:9-11 shows Christ commending Smyrna for being spiritually rich, but He also admonishes them to overcome. Despite His commendation, they are not a finished product.

Revelation 2:13-15 praises those in Pergamos for not denying their faith, but its members are doctrinally divided, and they permit heresy to continue. Revelation 2:19-20 presents Thyatira as growing in good works, but its members tolerate heresy and are guilty of sexual immorality.

Revelation 3:1, 4 exposes Sardis as spiritually dead, though it contains a few who remain undefiled, indicating that its members have virtually lost their faith and are capable only of dead works. Revelation 3:8, 11-12 reports that those in Philadelphia are faithfully enduring, but Christ admonishes them to hold fast and overcome. Finally, Revelation 3:15, 19 judges Laodicea as spiritually bankrupt and gives it no commendation at all. The congregation is strongly advised to be zealous and repent.

What does a composite picture of these congregations reveal?

1. All seven of them are admonished to repent, hold fast, or remain faithful.

2. Only two of them, Smyrna and Philadelphia, receive strong commendations and no listing of their sins and other shortcomings.

3. Two of them, Pergamos and Thyatira, receive a lesser commendation and fairly strong rebukes for sexual immorality and allowing deceivers into the congregation.

4. Two of them, Sardis and Laodicea, receive strong rebukes and no commendations.

In terms of a true church in a single corporate body, what do we see? Only sixty years or so following Christ's resurrection, we have a mixed bag as regards overall stability and righteousness.

Even so, is any one of them not a true congregation, an assembly of truly called-out ones? Does Christ in any way say that even one of them was no longer part of His church, His body of people? Not in the least. There are, however, warnings that, if they did not repent, some within their fellowship might not be within the Body of Christ in the future. Two things are sure:

1. Some of these congregations are clearly spiritually better than the others.

2. Some of them are decidedly awful, even though, using carnal judgment, they may outwardly appear good.

Since Revelation is an end-time book, the overview given in Revelation 2 and 3 is especially significant at this time. It is forecasting what things will be like just before Christ returns, and He uses these first-century congregations to illustrate His forecast for our time.

Remember that God is judging us individually within each group. An attitude that we should not allow to grow in us is to think that we are the only ones who retain a true-church identity. The other side of that same concept is that, even if we agree that others are still part of the true church, we are still better than they are—indeed, everybody else is Laodicean by comparison.

This unmistakably holier-than-you attitude is extremely destructive to true brotherhood and proper fellowship and unity. Luke 18:9-14 records this teaching of Christ concerning self-righteousness and its effects on these matters. Those who elevate themselves in their judgment of themselves as compared to their fellow members bring on themselves this condemnation. God does not justify them when they make this kind of judgment.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is There a True Church?


 

 




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