DUNCAN/The justice of the kingdom, Part 1: To judge or not to judge?

DUNCAN/The justice of the kingdom, Part 1: To judge or not to judge?


Please turn in your Bibles to Matthew 7:1-5. Having addressed the issues of the Christian’s character, his influence, his righteousness, his piety, and his right ambition, the Lord Jesus now turns His attention to our heart attitudes in a series of relationships. This passage is a passage about our evaluation of other people, especially with regard to their faults. Our Lord Jesus gives us here in this passage three directions about how we are to conduct ourselves in regard to the faults of others.  First, Christians are not to indulge in a critical spirit towards others. Second, Christians are not to be hypocritical in their views of others.  And third, Christians are to evaluate and correct one another in a spirit of charity.  

I. Christians Are Not Indulge in a Critical Spirit Towards Others.  

In verses 1 and 2 we learn that Christians are not to indulge in a critical spirit towards others. Jesus says, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” Let me first say what Jesus is not saying. Jesus is not prohibiting judges to practice their trade in the courts of law. He is not speaking to judges. He is speaking to His disciples. He is not complaining about what is going on in the judicial system in Israel. He is concerned about how professing brothers relate to one another in their speech and in their attitude. Secondly, He is not saying that we may never form an opinion about someone or something else. In verse 6 of this passage, He makes it clear that believers must make a distinction between people who are open to hearing the Gospel, and between those who are obstinately opposed to hearing the Gospel. Jesus assumes there that we are going to make a judgment. The Lord Jesus is also not saying that we may not form an estimation of a person’s spiritual condition. Why? Once again in this very passage, the Lord Jesus expects His disciples to do at least a little bit of basic assessment of where people are spiritually. The Lord Jesus is not making a blanket condemnation of any of these things.

Well, what is He saying, if He is not prohibiting those things? What is He prohibiting? Well, in a word, the Lord Jesus is prohibiting being hypercritical. He is prohibiting being a person who judges others harshly or quickly, or unfairly, or destructively. Jesus gives a warning in verse 2 as to why we ought not to indulge in a critical spirit. He says, for all of those of you who love to be critical, remember there will be a day when God Himself will be critical of the world. There will be a judgment day. He is reminding us that in our evaluation of others, we must remember that there is a coming day of judgment in which God will evaluate us, and our charity in judging others will reflect whether we have experienced the charity of God towards us in judgment. If God has forgiven us much, we will be slow to rebuke and patient when wrong. But if we ourselves have not experienced the mercy of God, we may find ourselves trying to justify ourselves by being critical of others. And the Lord Jesus is warning against that.

II. Christians Are Not to Be Hypocritical in Their Views of Others.  

Now the Lord Jesus also teaches us a second thing in this passage, and we find it in verses 3 and 4. He teaches us here that Christians are not to be hypocritical in their views of others. We read in verse 3 and 4, “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?” 

Jesus is saying that we must be careful of a fault-finding spirit. If we have a tendency to be critical, the Lord Jesus is asking us to think about that tendency to be critical and ask ourselves the question, “Is this a sign that I have not found myself the forgiveness of the Heavenly Father?” For if we have been forgiven our great sins, should we not be able to forgive the sins of others?

Isn’t it interesting that the Lord Jesus speaks of the faults of others in terms of specks, but our faults in terms of logs or beams. The Lord Jesus knows that our tendency is to think other peoples’ faults are big. And ours are just little mistakes. Other peoples’ faults, especially when they have been directed at us, are horrible. And then, going along with this, He calls us to judge ourselves more strictly than we judge others. 

III. Christians Are to Evaluate and Correct One Another in a Spirit of Charity. 

This leads to a third thing that the Lord Jesus teaches in this passage. He teaches that Christians are to evaluate and correct one another in a spirit of charity. The Lord Jesus teaches here in verse 5 that we ought to practice loving mutual discipline. He says, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” We are to be concerned to up build our brothers in their walk.

What do we say then, by way of application from these truths? We ought to be quicker to find the beams in our own life than we are to find the specks in the lives of others. Jesus gives us here a three-fold pattern for how we can do that. First, Jesus says to examine ourselves. First take the log out of our own eyes, then repent. It is implicit in the word that the Lord says. How do you do that? Full repentance. You repent of your own sins. Second, you seek to have a broken heart for the sin of others. We must come to weep for the sins of others. Then, we must seek to correct them. And third, the Lord Jesus teaches us then to correct or reprove the brethren with a view to building them up, not to tearing them down. With a view to making them stronger, not to making yourself seem more holy or wiser, or in the position of authority, or moral superiority. The Lord Jesus gives these instructions as the way we are to go about assessing one another and reproving one another. May the Lord give us a spirit of rescue and restoration as we engage in what he calls us to as brothers and sisters, mutually encouraging one another in the faith. 

The Rev. Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III is Chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary.  He can be reached at 601-923-1600 or by email at jhyde@rts.edu.

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