Do you look at things according to the outward appearance? If anyone is convinced in himself that he is Christ’s, let him again consider this in himself, that just as he is Christ’s, even so we are Christ’s. (2 Corinthians 10:7, NKJV)
Things are not always as they appear. Certainly, we must be careful of our appearance and the influence we leave on others (1 Timothy 2:9-10; 4:12). But, that is not the subject of this passage. This verse warns us not to make judgments based merely on outward appearances. When we do, we are liable to be mistaken, and even deceived (John 7:24). By doing so we have forgotten a fundamental trait of God that ought to inform our discernment: God looks at the heart instead of outward appearances (1 Samuel 16:7). Here, some Christians were trying to undermine the apostolic authority of Paul. Using carnal tactics, they complained about the strength of his epistles versus his bodily presence (2 Corinthians 10:9-10). They suggested Paul was not fully an apostle (2 Corinthians 11:5-6; 12:11-12). They compared themselves with themselves and boasted in their faithfulness (2 Corinthians 10:12, 7). On the other hand, Paul would only boast in the Lord and the work he was given to accomplish (2 Corinthians 10:13-17). Let us be careful not to use outward appearances to compare ourselves to others. Remember, “not he who commends himself is approved; but whom the Lord commends” (2 Corinthians 10:18).
“My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality.” (James 2:1, NKJV)
Impartiality is a trait of God Himself; “God shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11). We must resist and reject the temptation to show favoritism in our judgments and our treatment of others. We cannot hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ and do otherwise. Partiality is motivated by appearance, which exposes its unjust nature (John 7:23-24). Partiality grants an undue advantage to one, while unjustly withholding that same advantage from another (see James 2:2-4). Impartiality is a mark of justice, while partiality is unjust. God was quite clear in His law to Israel to be impartial in their treatment of others: “You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor” (Leviticus 19:15). Did you catch that? Neither poverty, riches, power or nobility were to inform and influence their judgments. Righteousness was to direct their judgments and their treatment of others. Judges were charged not to show partiality in judgment (Deuteronomy 1:17). Showing favoritism and bestowing benefits based on appearance rather than truth is not love for one’s neighbor. When we show partiality in judgment we “become judges with evil thoughts” (James 2:4). Let us be just in all our dealings, without partiality.
4 In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. 5 They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (1 Peter 4:4–5, NKJV)
When you choose to no longer practice the excesses of immorality, those who live in lustful indulgence often respond negatively. They may mock you as an entertaining oddity – the odd ball who doesn’t want to “have fun.” They may speak evil of you – disgusted that you will not join them in their outpouring of selfish, sensual sins. We do not expect the faithless to encourage us to be faithful to the Lord; it is foolish to think they would (1 Cor. 15:33-34). Sinners hated Jesus because He exposed their sins (Jno. 3:19-20; 7:7). In the same way, when you choose to do the will of God, you will be laughed at and scorned – or worse. Those who treat you this way will answer to God for reviling what is good. And, answering to God for one’s evil conduct is nowhere you want to be. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). So, take heart, keep faith, and do not be discouraged. God will right every wrong you endure for His name’s sake.
Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way. (Romans 14:13, NKJV)
Understanding the context of a passage of Scripture is crucial to making proper application of it. Without respecting context, Scripture is twisted and perverted (2 Pet. 3:16). For example, some believe one should never render a judgment concerning another person. One appeal made to support this conclusion is today’s verse . Yet, Jesus said we are to “judge righteous judgment,” and, “Yes, and why, even of yourselves, do you not judge what is right?” (Jno. 7:24; Lk. 12:57). His inspired apostle said the local church must judge “those who are inside” it (1 Cor. 5:12-13). So, there are judgments we can and must make. The context of today’s verse concerns how to treat each other when differences arise over matters that make no difference to God (Rom. 14:1-5). It addresses matters that are not sin and error, since whether one practices it or abstains from it, God equally accepts both (Rom. 14:3, 6). This text concerns things over which God allows us to exercise personal liberty, since no sin occurs in such things (like eating meat or not, 1 Cor. 8:8). In context, Romans 14:13 forbids the critical condemnation of one another’s personal liberties. We must not demand that others conform to our own conscience when that matter makes no difference to God. To do so puts a stumbling block before another. It is binding where the Lord has not bound.
18 You shall appoint judges and officers in all your gates, which the Lord your God gives you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with just judgment. 19 You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality, nor take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous. 20 You shall follow what is altogether just, that you may live and inherit the land which the Lord your God is giving you. (Deuteronomy 16:18–20)
Our elected representatives are presently considering a nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. A righteous nation seeks to appoint judges who will judge among the people with “just judgment” (v. 18). Such justice requires impartiality – a judge who will not be bribed or swayed by the outward circumstances of either the plaintiff (seeking judicial relief) or the defendant. Poverty and wealth hold no preferential sway over the righteous judge. If it does, then injustice will prevail. Israel was told, “You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor” (Lev. 19:15). Impartiality is required if justice under the law is to prevail. The judgments of God’s law are “true and righteous altogether” (Psa. 19:9). Therefore, let us use them to “judge with righteous judgment,” without the bias of circumstance or the prejudice by emotion (Jno. 7:24).
19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:19–20, NKJV)
We live in an age when rebuking sin is viewed as unloving, judgmental treatment of others. Yet, with clarity and force, with lovely urgency, Jesus rebuked the Christians in Laodicea for their spiritual arrogance and apathy (Rev. 3:14-22). Sin destroys the soul! It must not be comforted; it must be rooted out of the heart. Only then will Jesus enter the heart and abide with us. You see, sin separates people from God, including Christians. We must accept the chastening of our sins that Jesus gives us in His word, and make the correction that must occur for Christ’s fellowship to truly exist. Remember, this is a passage spoken to Christians. Our hearts can become apathetic toward Christ, preventing Christ from abiding with us. We can turn away from Christ and close the door we once opened to Jesus. But the door of your heart does not have to remain closed. Fellow Christian, if you have turned away from Christ, then start listening to Him. He is calling you to repent. Open your heart to Him and do His will. He will come in, forgive you and bless you with His saving presence (Jno. 14:21, 23).
4 The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. 6 For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish.” (Psalm 1:4–6, NKJV)
We live in a time when we are told we should not, cannot, must not judge anyone. We agree with Jesus that we must not “judge according to appearance.” We also accept His teaching to “judge with righteous judgment” (Jno. 7:24). The “judgments of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether” (Psa. 19:9). Therefore, when we use God’s word to speak His judgments, we judge righteously and do not judge from our own heart. Today’s verse shows God’s judgment against the ungodly – those who live without God in their lives, lacking piety toward Him and obedience to Him. Here, the word of God says the ungodly shall not be vindicated in the judgment or have a place among the gathering of the righteous. God knows the way of the righteous, and He announces His judgment that “the ungodly shall perish.” Still, God offers us escape from sin’s death in His Son, Jesus (Rom. 6:23). Let us turn our hearts heavenward and live unto God, not unto self, sin, and eternal death.