“The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” (Psalm 19:9, NKJV)
God’s judgments are “true and righteous,” reliable and trustworthy, unbiased by error and untainted by the stain of prejudice. We must resist the temptation to pronounce judgment upon those who would speak God’s judgments to us. When someone speaks to us the truth of the gospel we must refrain from the defensive, futile deflection that says, “You’re just judging me!” It is ironic (not to mention, hypocritical) that those who charge others with “judging” them are doing the very thing they condemn in others. Yes, let us speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). Yes, let us correct sinners with humility as we call them to repentance and salvation (2 Tim. 2:24-26). But let there be no mistake, we are not “judging” the sinner when we identify their sin and error from the Scriptures. We are teaching God’s word to help the sinner turn from sin and be saved. By doing so we are sharing God’s judgments, not rendering our own. “With my lips I have declared all the judgments of Your mouth” (Psa. 119:13). God’s true and righteous judgments are revealed in His word. By hearing His judgments (His word) we can turn from sin, turn to God, and conform ourselves to His judgments (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:20-24). May we never condemn someone for telling us the truth (Gal. 4:16). Instead, may it be said of us, “I have chosen the way of truth; Your judgments I have laid before me” (Psa. 119:30).
1 Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. (Matthew 7:1–2, NKJV)
This is not an unqualified indictment and prohibition of all judgment. Jesus would later expose those who judged Him by appearance by urging them to use “righteous judgment” instead (John 7:24). On another occasion Jesus rebuked as hypocrites those who judged weather signs but would not discern that the Messiah was among them. He said, “Yes, and why, even of yourselves, you do not judge what is right?” (Lk. 12:56-57). Today’s passage warns us not to be hypocritical in our judgments of others. Too easily we succumb to the temptation to condemn others while failing (refusing) to see similar (and other) sins in ourselves (Rom. 2:1-2, 21-24). “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” (Matt. 7:3). By first removing our “plank” (sin) we are able to empathetically and more precisely help our brother remove the speck (sin) from his life. By this we become better adept at avoiding harsh, hurtful, and harmful judgments of one who struggles with or have been overtaken by sin. Truth, wisdom, impartiality, mercy, and gentleness are among the qualities that enable us to judge righteously (Jas. 3:17-18; Gal. 6:1). And, surely these are the qualities by which we want to be judged (aren’t they)?
3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God. (1 Corinthians 4:3–5, NKJV)
Paul faced unrighteous judgments. Yet, he understood some things about judgment that helped him withstand that pressure. Understanding what he knew will help us, too. 1) Paul did not overvalue human judgments of himself. He knew human judgments can be flawed with bias, incomplete information, and other variables. Human courts are not always accurate and just in their judgments. Do not give greater value to the judgments of others than they properly deserve, or you will become a people-pleaser instead of a God-pleaser. 2) Paul did not judge himself. He knew his evaluation of himself could be flawed with bias, incomplete information, and other variables. He was not aware of anything incriminating against himself, but that did not make him innocent before God and men. We can think we are innocent, but that does not mean we are. 3) Paul trusted in the Lord’s judgment. God’s judgment will be timely, truthful, thorough, and telling. When we live for the judgments of others, we seek their praise. When we judge ourselves, we invariably praise ourselves. But, when the Lord judges us righteous, our praise will come from God.
3 But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand. 4 So when the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet justice does not allow to live.” 5 But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. 6 However, they were expecting that he would swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had looked for a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god. (Acts 28:3–6, NKJV)
The islanders showed them unusual kindness when Paul and the other 275 souls were shipwrecked on Malta (Acts 27:37; 28:1-2). How they reacted to Paul’s snake bite reminds us how important it is not to jump to conclusions before being adequately informed. Things are not always as they seem. They drew the false conclusion that Paul was evil and divine justice had overtaken him. In truth, bad things happen to good people, and to judge a person blameworthy because of a present trouble is very wrong (cf. Job; Jno. 9:1-3). When Paul did not die they concluded he was a deity. They swung the pendulum too far the other way. Jesus had promised such signs to confirm the gospel when it was preached, and it happened on this occasion (Mk. 16:15-20). When we yield to the temptation to make rash judgments we expose our own folly and shame (Prov. 18:13). Rendering righteous judgments that are guided by truth must be our constant endeavor (Jno. 7:24).
1 Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things.” (Romans 2:1–2, NKJV)
The fear of being labeled “judgmental” can keep us from judging with “righteous judgment” (Jno. 7:24). It is true that we must be very careful and accurate in the judgments we make. Jesus’ warning to “judge not, that you be not judged” is understood by His explanation that how we judge will be the measure of our own judgment: “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (Matt. 7:1-2). By doing so, He exposed the sin of hypocritical judgment (Matt. 7:5). Today’s passage is a clear condemnation of holding others to moral and religious standards to which we refuse to hold ourselves. The Jews were “inexcusable” to condemn the Gentiles while practicing the same sins (Rom. 2:17-24). Christians who condemn the sins of others while committing the same sins are hypocrites, and will not escape God’s judgment of truth. “And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?” (Rom. 2:3). God’s judgments are “true and righteous altogether” (Psa. 19:9). We can help others follow God’s judgments by holding ourselves to His judgments of truth (Matt. 7:3-5; Gal. 6:1-2). When we don’t we run the real danger of hindering the salvation of others (Matt. 18:6-7; Rom. 2:21-24).
30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world. (1 Corinthians 11:30–32, NKJV)
The spiritual condition of many of the Corinthian Christians was in jeopardy. The terms “weak,” “sick,” and “sleep” have spiritual (not physical) significance. These were without spiritual strength, some were spiritually ill, and some were already dead. (See John 11:11-13, where Jesus used “sleep” to mean Lazarus was dead.) We must judge our eating of the Lord’s supper in order to avoid such spiritual demise (which, by the way, shows Christians can indeed sin and be lost). This context shows we must judge our heart and our conduct in the Lord’s supper by using the Lord’s instructions about the supper (1 Cor. 11:23-26, 27-29). Such personal examination helps us avoid divine judgment, as well as condemnation with the world (v. 31, 32). Paul’s rebuke of their sin in this matter was the Lord’s discipline, to correct their error and preserve their souls. Eating the Lord’s supper is not a mindless ceremony. It is not a liturgical sacrament by which the mere partaking of it God grants sanctifying grace to the worshiper. It is a moment of solemn, proclamation and reverential remembrance of the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Christians who turn it into anything else expose themselves to condemnation, not glory.
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. (Revelation 20:11, NKJV)
Often referred to as the “great white throne scene,” John’s vision of Judgment Day begins with the image of the majestic presence of God’s appointed judge seated upon His throne (2 Corinthians 5:10). His throne is “great” (signifying His mighty power of His rule) and “white” (signifying the holy purity and righteousness of His judgment, Romans 2:5). As all people of every nation are gathered before Christ’s judgment seat (according to Matthew 25:32), our material habitation (“the earth and the heaven”) will be no more. In John’s vision they have “fled away” – having served their purpose, they are dissolved from existence, no longer to be found (2 Peter 3:10-12). God has appointed a day of judgment for the world, and He has ordained Jesus as the judge (Acts 17:31). All who believe God’s word will repent of their sins and follow Jesus (Acts 17:30). None will escape the judgment of God (Romans 2:3). Therefore, the gospel persuades us to prepare for that day (2 Corinthians 5:9-11). Are you ready? If not, the gospel tells you how to get ready (2 Peter 3:9-14).