Judge not


Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 25 October 2020


Sermon synopsis: Often when a Christian speaks out against sin, some variation of Matthew 7:1 might be quoted to them by someone who informs them that they’re not supposed to judge. In the same way that most drunks know nothing of the Bible other than that Jesus turned water into wine, this verse is predominantly quoted by non-Christians or nominal Christians who know little or no other Scripture.
The implication is that they believe Jesus was instructing us to universally accept or condone any lifestyle or teaching.
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Matt 7:1-5 (NIV) “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”


Often when a Christian speaks out against sin, some variation of Matthew 7:1 might be quoted to them by someone who informs them that they’re not supposed to judge. You might say something like “Homosexuality is sinful” or “Buddhists are lost” and have someone respond, “Judge not, or you will be judged”.

In the same way that most drunks know nothing of the Bible other than that Jesus turned water into wine, this verse is predominantly quoted by non-Christians or nominal Christians who know little or no other Scripture

The implication is that they believe Jesus was instructing us to universally accept or condone any lifestyle or teaching.


People seem to think that it doesn’t matter what you believe – as long as you believe something sincerely.

But the Nazis believed something sincerely and the result was that six million Jews died

Atheists believe something sincerely and almost 32 million Christians * have been martyred in the last 2 millennia as a result

Muslim terrorists believe something sincerely enough to die for it. As a result they are prepared to fly jet-liners into skyscrapers or blow up innocent bystanders along with themselves in suicide bombing attacks.

You can be sincerely wrong!


Jesus taught that truth matters (“the truth will set you free”). If you believe a lie, there are consequences to face.

Imagine telling the traffic officer who stops you for speeding, “You mustn’t judge”. Do you think that would alleviate you of any consequences for your actions? If not, how can we believe that God’s Law can be violated without consequence?


Many non-Christians even quote the words of Jesus, “the truth will set you free” without realizing that it is from the Bible. But the quotation in context is:

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32, NIV)


Further on in the same chapter – after telling us not to judge - Jesus tells us to do something that requires making judgment:

Matt 7:15-16 (NIV) “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.”

We are told to judge whether a person is a false prophet by their ‘fruit’ – in other words some assessment of the way that they live is necessary.

Judge (verb): form an opinion or conclusion about


So Matthew 7:1 has been misunderstood, misapplied and generally taken out of the context of the overall teaching of Scripture. People have used it to their own advantage in an attempt to remove all discrimination between good and evil.

Jesus’ words don’t mean that we should not - on the basis of God’s word - call sin ‘sin’. On the contrary we are taught that at times we are required to judge and at other times we must “judge not”.

But when are we Biblically allowed to judge and when should we refrain from passing judgment?



Jesus has been given jurisdiction and authority to judge by the Father:

John 4:27 (NIV) And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.

John 5:22 (NIV) Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son...

In certain cases we too have been given authority by God to judge.

Jurisdiction (noun): the official power to make legal decisions and judgements.


When Jesus says we must not judge, he is not prohibiting the civil judgment of courts on criminals and lawbreakers, for this is condoned throughout the Word of God. He is not prohibiting the judgment of the church leaders, or of parents in the family and employers with employees, for this is likewise approved of in Scripture.

He is first and foremost instructing us not to judge where we have no jurisdiction or authority. An example is seen in the US federal system. The local police force have authority within their own state but not in other states. In cases where a crime has been committed across state borders or in multiple states, the police have no jurisdiction and have to hand the case over to the FBI.


The governing authorities have God-ordained authority to judge the citizens in the country where they have rule:

1 Pet 2:13-14 (NIV) Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. [cf. Rom 13:1]

Slaves are instructed to obey their masters (Col 3:22, Eph 6:5) even though slavery is frowned upon (1 Cor 7:23, 1 Tim 1:10). In the modern context, an employer has authority to judge in the area where he has jurisdiction i.e. the running of his business.


Wives are instructed to submit to the authority of their husband (Col 3:18, Eph 5:22-24).

Similarly children are instructed to “obey your parents in everything” (Col 3:20, Eph 6:1-3) Thus parents have authority over their children and will need to exercise judgment within the confines of the family.


Elders (overseers) have spiritual authority over their congregation. They are instructed to ‘govern’, ‘direct’, ‘keep watch’ and ‘oversee’ which necessitates making judgments. (Acts 20:28, 1 Pet 5:1-2, 1 Tim 5:17, Rom 12:6-8)

Paul rebukes the Corinthian church for not putting out of fellowship a brother who is in sexual sin. They are instructed to “judge those inside” their church.

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? ... “Expel the wicked man from among you.” (1 Cor 5:12-13, NIV).


Paul also rebukes the Corinthian Christians for taking other Christians to court. He instructs them to appoint judges within the church for these matters:

1 Cor 6:1-6 (NIV) If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? ... Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother goes to law against another - and this in front of unbelievers!


We saw in Matthew 7:15 that Jesus cautioned us to “Watch out for false prophets.” We are also told to judge the spiritual gifts exercised in the church:

Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. (1 Cor 14:29 - NASB).

John also wrote, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1, NIV)


In 2 Cor 11:26 and in Gal 2:4 Paul refers to “false brothers”. In 2 Cor 11:13 Paul speaks of men who are “false apostles” and John commends the Ephesian church for ‘testing’ the claims of these men (i.e. making a judgment):

Rev 2:2 ... (NIV) I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.

One of the areas where an overseer must ‘judge’ is the area of doctrine:

Titus 1:9 (NIV) He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.


Peter cautions us against both false prophets and false teachers. We need to make judgments in these areas.

2 Pet 2:1-3 (NIV) But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them - bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up...


In Ephesus, Timothy is instructed by Paul to “command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer” (1 Tim 1:3). Determining what is false doctrine or not requires judgment.

We judge ministry using the Word of God as the standard:

Acts 17:11 (NIV) Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.


In terms of jurisdiction:

A government can govern its own affairs but its courts have no jurisdiction in another country.

A parent has the right to judge their own children – but not the children of others.

Likewise a husband has authority over his own wife, but not over women in general.

Overseers (elders) can judge their own affairs in the local church but have no authority over other churches.


Christians can judge matters within the church but not outside the church – that is God’s jurisdiction:

1 Cor 5:9-13 (NIV) I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people - not at all meaning the people of this world… In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. …


When it comes to judging yourself, you have jurisdiction. We are told to judge ourselves (not others) before partaking of communion:

1 Cor 11:28-29 (NIV) A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.

If we judged ourselves we’d be less inclined to judge others:

Right now I’m having so much trouble with D. L. Moody, that I don't have time to criticize my friends. (D.L. Moody)



Before passing judgment, ask yourself, “Do I have authority or jurisdiction to judge in this situation?”

Rom 14:4 (NIV) Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls …

James 4:11-12 (NIV) Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you - who are you to judge your neighbour?


Do not pass judgment on disputable matters e.g. judging a man by the day he worships on:

Rom 14:1-13 (NIV) Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does... One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. 


Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind... You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat... Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another.

We have only partial knowledge on disputable matters so reserve your judgment:

1 Cor 4:5 (NIV) Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.


We judge by outward appearances. There is a saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” When God sent Samuel to anoint the new king of Israel, we have the following account:

1 Sam 16:5-6 (NIV) Samuel ... consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed stands here before the LORD.”


1 Sam 16:7 (NIV) But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”


Another example of judging by appearances is given by James of people who gave preference to a man “wearing a gold ring and fine clothes” over “a poor man in shabby clothes” coming to the same meeting. also comes in. James writes, “have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:4, NIV)

Yet we judge someone by their clothes or even the colour of their skin. We don’t know a man’s thoughts, his motives, his circumstances. Jesus said that this is an unrighteous judgment:

“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (John 7:24, NIV)

Before criticizing a man, walk a mile in his shoes

Pray don’t find fault with the man who limps Or stumbles along the road Unless you have worn the shoes that hurt Or struggled beneath his load There may be tacks in his shoes that hurt, Though hidden away from view Or the burden he bears, placed on your back, Might cause you to stumble, too. Don’t sneer at the man who’s down today Unless you have felt the blow That caused his fall, or felt the same That only the fallen know.

You may be strong, but still the blows That were his, if dealt to you In the self-same way at the self-same time, Might cause you to stagger, too. Don’t be too harsh with the man who sins Or pelt him with words or stones, Unless you are sure, yea, doubly sure, That you have no sins of your own. For you know perhaps, if the tempter’s voice Should whisper as soft to you As it did to him when he went astray, ‘Twould cause you to falter, too.



1 Cor 4:5 (NIV) Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.

What Jesus forbids is self-righteous, officious, hasty, unmerciful, prejudiced, and unwarranted condemnation based on human standards and human reasoning... [He condemns] the judgment of motives, which no mere human being can know of another, and to judgment of external forms. (John MacArthur)


Our souls may lose their peace and even disturb other people’s, if we are always criticizing trivial actions - which often are not real defects at all, but we construe them wrongly through our ignorance of their motives. (Teresa of Avila)


Heb 4:13 (NIV) Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

1 Pet 1:17 (NIV) Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.



The words of Jesus in John 8:7 are often used to tell people that you must never pass judgment.

In this passage the teachers of the law and the Pharisees had caught a woman in the act of adultery and reminded Jesus that the Law of Moses said that she be stoned to death.


John 8:6-7 (NIV) They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”


John 8:8 (NIV) Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.


John 8:9 (NIV) Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said.“

Even though he alone was without sin and thus in a position to “cast the first stone” what Jesus did do is forgive her.

“Then neither do I condemn you.” (John 8:10, NIV)


Jesus did not condone the woman’s action but called it ‘sin’. He also commanded her to discontinue this lifestyle of sin:

“Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11, NIV)

In other words Jesus passed judgment on her sin and instructed her to “sin no more”, but at the same time showed mercy and forgiveness.


In Luke’s record of Jesus’ sermon on the level place (not the same as the Sermon on the Mount) Jesus gives a similar teaching to that of Matthew 7:1, but the context used here indicates that we must show mercy.

Luke 6:36-38 (NIV) “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”


The former passage (“Give, and it will be given to you”) is usually misquoted to apply to giving money. However the context is judging others and showing mercy.

When we judge others by one standard, and ourselves by another standard – we are normally far more generous to ourselves than others.

“We judge others by their behaviour. We judge ourselves by our intentions.” - Ian Percy

If we must judge, let us first use the mirror on our own wall for practice.


Unless you have never been tempted, don't pass judgment on someone who has yielded.

This type of double-standards was demonstrated in David’s reaction to Nathan’s story which was actually a parable about his own actions. David quickly condemned the man’s sin, even though he had been oblivious at that point to his own even greater sin (2 Samuel 12).


Oh, how horrible our sins look when they are committed by someone else! (Chuck Smith)

This year, or this month, or, more likely, this very day, we have failed to practise ourselves the kind of behaviour we expect from other people. (C. S. Lewis in “The Case for Christianity”)

Rom 2:1 (NIV) You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.


Whenever we assign people to condemnation without mercy because they do not do something the way we think it ought to be done or because we believe their motives are wrong, we pass judgment that only God is qualified to make. (John MacArthur)

Most harsh judgment arises from those who are self-righteous, as we see with the Pharisees of Jesus’ day:

None are more unjust in their judgments of others than those who have a high opinion of themselves. (Charles Spurgeon)


In both the teaching of Matthew 7 and Luke 6, Jesus said “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (v 16)

So Jesus does not prohibit the judgment of others but requires that we judge others by the same standard that we ourselves would like to be judged by.


Jesus was merciful to the adulterous woman and sought to restore her:

James 2:13 (NIV) because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!

The Biblical instruction is gentle restoration for the repentant sinner.

Gal 6:1 (NIV) Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.


The purpose of our judgment should not be punitive, but restorative:

The nature and end of judgment or sentence must be corrective, not vindictive; for healing, not destruction. - John Owen (Source: A Puritan Golden Treasury

The law of Jehovah is perfect, restoring the soul (Psa 19:7). Most laws condemn the soul and pronounce sentence. The result of the law of my God is perfect. It condemns but forgives. It restores - more than abundantly - what it takes away. (Jim Elliot)


The practical side is that while employers have authority to judge their employees, a Christian employer is instructed:

Col 4:1 (NIV) Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you now that you also have a Master in heaven.

While parents are given authority to judge their children, Christian fathers are commanded:

Col 3:21 (NIV) Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.


And while husbands are given authority to judge within the family unit, they are likewise told to “love your wives and do not be harsh with them.” (Col 3:19)


While elders in the church have authority to judge within their local congregation, they are instructed to not be overbearing or quick-tempered. (Titus 1:7)

1 Pet 5:1-3 (NIV) ... Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers... not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.

You need to bear in mind that you will ultimately be judged:

You need to bear in mind that you will ultimately be judged:

By the Word of God

John 12:48 (NIV) There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.


By your own words

Luke 19:22, (NIV) “I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant!”

Luke 12:36-37 (NIV) But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”


By your judgment of others

Matt 7:2 (NIV) For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

So there is the option for JUSTICE or MERCY.

Which measure would you like God to use with you?

Then use that same measure with others.


Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations are taken from:

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Other Scripture quotations taken from:

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved

The New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission

The New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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