Matthew 7:1 says, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” This passage is known by many people, but it is a very misunderstood passage. Many have the mistaken idea that if we do not agree with them on certain Bible questions or their manner of life, we should not say anything about it. If we point out sin and error, according to many we have done wrong as we have judged them and have violated Matthew 7:1. Matthew 7:1 does not teach, as some seem to think, that it is improper for the Christian under any circumstance to point out the wrongdoing of those who are involved in doctrinal error or even immortality. Certainly, a close look at Matthew 7:1 and the idea of “judging” is needed.
To begin with, there are various ways in which Christians are to judge. John 7:24 says, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” This verse helps us to see that there are some ways in which we are to judge and other ways in which we are not to judge. Righteous judgment would be judgment in which the standard of God’s Word is used. Hebrews 5:14 helps us to see this concept also as it says we are to discern between good and evil. Certainly some judgment is required to discern between good and evil.
Consider Galatians 6:1. This verse says those who are spiritual are to restore those who are overtaken in a fault. It would certainly take some judgment concerning a fallen person’s action to restore him. Also, how can we restore such a person without telling him he is in error? Would a person be guilty of judging, as condemned in Matthew 7:1, for carrying out the responsibility enjoined in Galatians 6:1?
There are various occasions in the Bible where sin was pointed out. Galatians 2:11-14 reveals that on one occasion Paul rebuked Peter “before them all” for a sinful attitude he had. If Matthew 7:1 were interpreted then as many interpret it today, someone would have told Paul, “Paul you have no right to judge him. You are not God.” However, Paul had every right to rebuke Peter as he was guilty of sin. Paul also rebuked the people of Athens because they were worshiping idols (Acts 17:16-34). Paul was not judging in the wrong sense (as spoken against in Matthew 7:1) but was carrying out God’s Will in exposing error. In the same way, Aquila and Priscilla were not guilty of judging when they took Apollos aside and taught him the truth about the baptism of John (Acts 18:24-28).
II Timothy 4:2 tells us we are to “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.” How can one accomplish this without some sort of judging? Today, if we "reprove" and "rebuke" many would say we are wrong because we are guilty of judging. Yet, we would be doing exactly what God said to do.
What about Matthew 7:1? Does God’s Word contradict itself? Obviously, it does not. The solution is found in a closer look at the context of Matthew 7:1. Verses 3-5 shows us the kind of judging under consideration is hypocritical judging. These verses speak of one who has a beam in his eye condemning another who has a speck in his eye. The text does not justify the beam or the mote but is simply teaching that the one with the beam should not condemn the one with the mote. This person is told to take the beam out of his eye, and then he can see clearly to take the mote out of the eye of someone else. Thus, Matthew 7:1 does not condemn all judging, but instead, it speaks against hypocritical judging.
When we point out a person’s error, we must have an attitude of love and always conduct ourselves properly. However, to use Matthew 7:1 in such a way to say one person must not point out sin or false teaching to someone else is to misuse the passage. The Bible is the standard we go by, and Christians have a responsibility to teach others.
By Mike Johnson
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