Who Art Thou That Judgest Another Man's Servant?
Updated March 11, 2008 (first published June 10, 1997) (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, firstname.lastname@example.org; for instructions about subscribing and unsubscribing or changing addresses, see the information paragraph at the end of the article) -
The following is from the book JUDGE NOT! IS IT LEGALISM TO JUDGE SIN AND ERROR? This book is a reply to 21 of the most common charges that are brought against a fundamentalist Bible approach to Christianity. These are the challenges that every fundamentalist Bible-believing Christian must learn to deal with, because there is no part of the world so remote that the believers there will not be confronted with this thinking. This very practical material would make a good series of study for Sunday Schools at the Junior High level or above or for Youth meetings or Bible Institutes. The sections of the book are as follows: The Bible Says We Should Not Judge; Love is Nonjudgmental and Tolerant; Being Strict about Biblical Issues is Legalism; Fundamentalists Are Pharisees; Jesus Told Us Not to Forbid Others; Why Don’t You Follow Matthew 18? We Should Heed Gamaliel’s Advice; We Should Leave the Tares until the Harvest; We Should Not Touch the Lord’s Anointed; If We Don’t Stand Together We Will Hang Separately; The Christian Army Shoots Its Own Wounded; God Does Not Look on the External Appearance; We Will Be in Heaven Together; The Christian Life Should Be Liberty and Fun; We Should Be All Things to All Men; Denominational Divisions Should Be Erased; It is Not Possible to Know That Your Doctrine Is Right; Loving Jesus Is All that Is Important; Fundamentalism Is a Belief in the Five Fundamentals; We Should Limit Our Message to Broaden Our Fellowship; We Should Be Balanced. 108 pages. $4.50, available from Way of Life Literature via phone or the newly redesigned online catalog: 866-295-4143, http://wayoflife.org
The following are some of the key passages on judging that are widely abused today:
MATTHEW 7:1-5 -- Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.”
First, if we examine the context of this passage we see that the Lord Jesus is not condemning all judging; He is condemning hypocritical judging (Mat. 7:5). To forbid something in another person that I allow in my own life is hypocrisy, and it is a great and deep-seated sin among men. For a parent to tell his children not to listen to rock music when he listens to Country-Western music is hypocrisy. To tell my children not to smoke when I smoke or to attend church when I don’t attend church, or to be serious about God’s will when I am not that serious about His will, or to be kind to others when I am not kind to them or to their mother, or to obey me when I don’t obey my husband is hypocrisy. This is the type of thing that Christ was warning about.
This is not to say, though, that Christ forbade judging in general. That He is not condemning all judging is evident from the context. In the same sermon He warned about false prophets.
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit” (Mat. 7:15-17).
It is impossible to beware of false prophets without judging doctrine and practice by the God’s Word. How can I know who a false prophet is if I do not measure preachers by God’s Word?
That Christ is not condemning all judging is also evident by comparing Scripture with Scripture. In other passages we are commanded to judge. The Lord Jesus Himself said we are to judge righteous judgment (Jn. 7:24).
We are to judge sin in the church (1 Cor. 5:3, 12). “For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, ... For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?”
We are to judge matters between the brethren (1 Cor. 6:5). “I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?”
We are to judge preaching (1 Cor. 14:29). “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.”
We are to judge those who preach false gospels, false christs, and false spirits (2 Cor. 11:1-4). “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.”
We are to judge the works of darkness (Eph. 5:11). “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.”
We are to judge spirits (1 John 4:1). “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”
We are even to judge all things (1 Cor. 2:15-16). “But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.”
The spiritual man does not judge things by his own thinking but by the mind of Christ in the Word of God. He knows that he lives in a fallen world filled with lies and error and spiritual deception and he knows that he has the light of God in the Scripture and he thus judges all things by that.
ROMANS 14:4 -- “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.”
This passage is frequently abused by those who have the ecumenical philosophy. It is said that this verse forbids us to expose sin and error and compromise. The verse is also used to support the doctrine that Scripture can be divided into fundamental or essential and non-fundamental or secondary doctrine. One pastor wrote to me and said:
“Romans 14 is probably the most violated passage by those of us who call ourselves ‘fundamentalists’ (note that I include myself). We have either skipped over that chapter or given it a sinfully surface interpretation and danced around its powerful mandates for dealing with differences over ‘secondary’ doctrine within the church. By ‘secondary’ I do not mean ‘unimportant.’ I must be 'fully persuaded' about all Scriptural issues, though I must welcome and neither judge nor look down on those who differ on some of them.”
To this I gave the following reply:
Romans 14 is an important passage, but it has nothing to do with the idea that there things in Scripture of secondary value in the sense of how we are to deal with them. The two examples plainly given by the apostle are eating meats and keeping holy days. These are matters about which the Bible is silent. There are no divine requirements upon the New Testament Christian in these matters.
Thus, Romans 14 is discussing how we are to deal with matters NOT CLEARLY TAUGHT IN SCRIPTURE. In matters in which God has not plainly spoken, I am to give liberty.
On the other hand, in matters in which God has plainly spoken, the only liberty is to obey. People use Romans 14:4 to defend many areas of plain disobedience, such as worldly music, long hair on men, immodest dress on women, etc. Since the Bible has spoken plainly about these matters, it is a misuse to apply Romans 14:4.
You are missing the mark by a great distance in your understanding of this passage.
1 CORINTHIANS 4:3-5 -- “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.”
Paul is not saying that believers should judge nothing at all and should leave all judgment to God. This would be contrary to many other passages in the same epistle (i.e., 1 Cor. 2:15; 5:3, 12; 6:2-3; 14:29).
He is saying, rather, that believers are not to judge ministers by their own human thinking as to what a minister should be and how he should teach and act, but they are to judge righteous judgment according to God’s Word. He is talking about being judged by “man’s judgment” (1 Cor. 4:3). It is not required that a minister suit men and bend to their thinking; it is required that he be faithful to God, and this is the only proper standard by which he can be judged.
Paul, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is also saying that ultimate and final judgment belongs only to the Lord; therefore, we must be humble and cautious in our judgments in this present time (1 Cor. 4:4-5). Even though we have the Word of God and we are obliged to judge everything on the basis of God’s Word, we must not think that we are infallible. We have to walk in the light that we have and live our lives and exercise our ministries on that basis, but our knowledge is very imperfect in this present world.
We can know if a man’s teaching is false and we can know enough, therefore, to mark his error and to avoid it, but we do not know the secrets of men’s hearts and we do not know all of the things that will be brought to bear and come into play when God judges men in that perfect light of a coming day.
JAMES 4:11-12 -- “Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?”
Like Matthew 7:1, Romans 14:4, and 1 Corinthians 4:5, James 4:11 is frequently misused by the ecumenical crowd to support the false doctrine that Christians are forbidden to judge doctrine and practice. To make these verses teach that Christians can never judge, though, throws the Bible into confusion. There is a right judgment and a wrong judgment. Many verses command us to judge righteous judgment (Luke 12:57; John 7:24; 1 Cor. 2:15). We are to judge preaching (1 Cor. 14:29), sin in the churches (1 Cor. 5:3), issues in the churches (1 Cor. 6:5), sin in our own lives (1 Cor. 11:31), false teachers (Mat. 7:15; Rom. 16:17); spirits (1 John 4:1), etc.
When, then, is James forbidding? The context clarifies the matter.
First, James is referring to speaking evil (Jam. 4:11). Proper judging is to speak the truth in love. The truth is not evil and speaking the truth in love is not evil. The type of judging condemned by James is judging in the sense of tearing down, tale bearing, and slander. It is judging with an evil intent. When one judges sin and error scripturally, it is never with a desire to hurt people. The Pharisees judged Jesus in an evil manner (Jn. 7:52). The false teachers at Galatia and Corinth judged Paul in the same manner, trying to tear him down in the eyes of the churches (2 Cor. 10:10). This is what James forbids.
Second, James is referring to judging in a way that is contrary to the law of God (“there is one lawgiver,” Jam. 4:12). This refers to judging others by human standards rather than divine, thus setting oneself up as the lawgiver. The Pharisees did this when they judged Jesus by their traditions (Mat. 15:1-3). On the other hand, when a believer judges things by God’s Word in a godly and compassionate manner, he is not exercising his own judgment; he is exercising God’s judgment. When, for example, I say that it is wrong for a woman to be a pastor or it is a shame for a man to have long hair or those who love the world are adulterers, this is not my judgment or law; it is God’s (1 Tim. 2:12; 1 Cor. 11:14; Jam. 4:4).
For more on verses misused by the ecumenical movement see the commentaries in THINGS HARD TO BE UNDERSTOOD on 1 Sam. 24:4-10; Matt. 7:1-1; 18:15-17; Mk. 9:38-40; John 13:35; 17:21; Acts 5:38-39; James 4:11-12. This book if available from Way of Life Literature.
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