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What the Bible says about Condemning
(From Forerunner Commentary)

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

John 8:2-11

Condemnation would have meant the death penalty because "the wages of sin is death." Jesus provides us an example of righteous judgment under the terms of the New Covenant. First, let us consider who He is, so that we can see His authority. He is Immanuel—"God with us." If anybody understood the application and administration of the law of God for the church under the New Covenant, it was Jesus of Nazareth. In addition, He is not only Immanuel, He is also the Head of the church.

Why does He make this judgment? Under the terms of the New Covenant, the church is not a civil entity, meaning that it has no civil authority to carry out the death penalty. But does this mean that the law of God is done away? No. Romans 6:23 still says, "The wages of sin is death." Death for sin is merely delayed under the New Covenant. The sin and the death penalty are still there, but the church is in a peculiar position in relation to law. The law of God is not administered by the church as it was by Israel when they made the Old Covenant with God. Both covenants have the same laws, but different administrations.

Are adultery and lust (two sins involved in this episode) still sins under the New Covenant? Absolutely! So is the breaking of the other eight commandments. But the church, out of necessity, has to administer it differently. Forgiveness of this woman is implied, as Jesus, Immanuel, said that He did not condemn her. Even though it is not stated directly, He forgave her.

But did He say, "Go, and don't be concerned about committing adultery again"? Certainly not! As the Head of the church, He said, "Go, and don't break that law again!" He justified her in relation to this one law, and warned her, "Don't break it." His forgiveness did not do away with the law! It is ridiculous, on its face, to conclude that, when grace clears us and brings us into alignment with God and His laws, that it eliminates the law! Only when there is a clear statement or example in God's Word that a law has been put aside should we make such a determination.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Four)

John 8:10-11

Consider that this woman caught in adultery is indeed an obviously sinful woman; she had a reputation as a loose woman. The Pharisees had caught her in the very act of cheating on her husband, and that was probably only one of her many sins. We would likely not be wrong in calling her a wicked woman.

In every way opposite to her is Jesus Christ, sinless and perfect. The Pharisees, themselves sinful, attempt to force Him, a Man of unimpeachable character, to condemn a sinner—to them, a foregone conclusion: "And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?" (John 8:3-5). However, Jesus' approach to the situation is poles apart; His reaction and attitude throughout this vignette is completely contrary to that of the Pharisees.

In their reading of the Old Testament law concerning the punishment for adultery (Leviticus 20:10-11; Deuteronomy 22:22), this was an open-and-shut case: The woman had been caught in the act, they had two or three witnesses, the law was clear, so there should be a stoning! This appears to be unequivocal. The law does indeed prescribe the death sentence by stoning. What more proof does Jesus need?

Despite everything weighing against the woman, Jesus approaches the matter differently. He clearly understands that the woman had sinned. He realizes there were witnesses to that effect. He knows the law and the penalty, but He does not leap to a verdict of condemnation.

Recall that, for some time, He does nothing but write on the ground (John 8:6). He lets the matter simmer. While the carnal Pharisees agitate for answers and demand action, Jesus patiently waits. God works with us in the same way. We can become infuriated when God fails to answer us immediately after we say, "Amen," but giving us time for things to work out is a consistent pattern with Him. We can be certain that He does this when we are accused before Him, even when we are guilty as charged, as the remainder of the passage in John 8 shows.

Because we are so familiar with the character of Jesus, we can appreciate how shocking His statement in John 8:11 is: "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more." One would expect a just God to say, "This is the law. This is your infraction, so this is your punishment." But we understand that God is love and that He is gracious and merciful, so when He does not say, "I condemn you to be stoned," we tend to pass over it without thinking.

However, first-century Jews would have been astounded to hear such a thing! They may have been the most judgmental people who have ever lived on the face of the earth. One little infraction of the law was enough to condemn a person. Excommunication was so common a practice that people stood in great fear of the Pharisees (see John 9:22). What Jesus says was a radical concept, one that contradicted everything they had been taught.

Moreover, Jesus had every right—as God in the flesh, to whom the Father had committed all judgment (John 5:22)—to condemn her to death, but He shows mercy. He does not react in anger to reinforce how bad her sin was. He does not even preach at her. He simply commands her not to sin like this anymore, and He lets her go to work it out for herself.

However, He does not pass up an opportunity to teach the crowd: "Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life" (John 8:12). He teaches that He, being that Light, has given us an example to follow in situations like this. A sinner condemned to die produces nothing. Only with further life and light will he or she have the chance to repent and grow in character.

That is how God works with us, and are we not happy that He reacts to our sins with patience and mercy? So we should forbear with our brethren (Colossians 3:12-13).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh

James 1:22-25

An old Yiddish proverb reads, “Der Spigel iz der greste farfirer,” meaning “The mirror is the greatest deceiver.” We find this statement especially true when we use mirrors that distort the image. How many of us have:

  • seen mirrors at amusement parks that make us look taller or fatter than we really are?

  • tried to shave or perhaps to insert contact lenses using those stainless steel mirrors at Interstate highway rest areas?

  • tried to judge whether to pull out into traffic using a side-view mirror with the warning etched onto it, “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear”?

Jesus' brother, James, advises us that looking into God's law—“the perfect law of liberty”—and becoming a faithful doer of the Word is the only accurate and reliable mirror to evaluate spiritual progress (James 1:22-25). But many of us prefer to judge our spiritual progress by making comparisons with one another, something the apostle Paul points out in II Corinthians 10:12 as being unwise.

Human nature, very standardized and predictable, seems to have a blind spot to its own faults and shortcomings. Like the car mirrors mentioned above, human nature distorts what we see in ourselves. This mirror is the great deceiver when we apply it to ourselves, but so clear when observing the faults of others.

Jesus' admonition in Matthew 7:1-5 reflects this principle:

Judge not, that you be not judged [Jesus refers to condemning or passing sentence, something we are not authorized to do]. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me remove the speck from your eye”; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

In Romans 2:19-24, the apostle Paul gives a parallel warning to Jewish religious leaders for hypocritical condemning:

. . . and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law. You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” as it is written.

In both instances, the topic of judging is ancillary to the egregious evil of tolerating sin in oneself. In other words, the anger both Jesus and Paul express is far more intense against concealing or tolerating sin in oneself than against judging. As we learn in the first chapter of Amos, the sins of Israel's enemies were hideous and disgusting, but the concealed hypocritical sins within Israel—from the people who allegedly made a unique covenant with God—produced a more noxious stench in God's nostrils.

Other people's sins do and should make us angry. But the things that intensely annoy or anger us about other people's behaviors should serve as warning indicators of the very things that God finds offensive in us.

David F. Maas
Specks as Mirrors


 




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