Judging Those Who Claim To Be

Christians

The idea of judging people will be a shock to some. Jesus said, “Do not judge”. We studied that in which in the section on Jesus said we are not to judge noting that Jesus did not issue a blanket ban on judging. In fact, He told us to judge. For example, in that same context, “Watch out for false prophets” (Matthew 7:15). We have also seen that the Bible draws a distinction between judging those outside the church (which we are not to do although judging is different from warning) and judging those who claim to be fellow believers (which we are to do.) We will not repeat all of that material. Here we can focus on what it means to judge those within the church. Primarily, that is about church discipline and concern for the individual. Jesus reserved His strongest condemnation for those who claimed to be God’s people. Jesus hated hypocrisy. When, for example, the Pharisees claimed to represent God and to be paragons of law-keeping, and yet were actually far from God and were leading people away from God rather than towards Him, Jesus was angry and not slow to point out their errors. Matthew 23 is the classic example. The whole chapter is a denunciation of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law but there are many other examples of Jesus’ anger towards them. It is not the role of the church to punish people in society for their sin. That is God’s prerogative and is a role delegated to those who govern (Romans 13:1-5 especially v.4). But the church is to punish those who claim to be Christians. In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul dealt with an issue of sexual immorality in the church. A man was having sex with his father’s wife (v.1). Paul described this as immorality that not even the pagans would tolerate (v.1) and expressed disbelief that the Corinthians church was proud of this (v.2)! Unbelievable! The church should, instead, have been distressed that such a thing should happening and should have expelled the man from their fellowship (v.2). Paul explicitly said that he had “already passed judgement in the name of the Lord Jesus on the one who [had] been doing this” (v.3). Note that he had not only judged but felt very confident to link that judgement to the name of Jesus. This was a godly, Christian act. Paul had done this in his absence but he instructed the church to actually do it when they were assembled. But note again the motivation. This man was to be handed over to Satan “for the destruction of the sinful nature so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord” (v.5). In other words, Paul’s hope, and his reason for judging, was that the man might ultimately be saved. If he was allowed to stay within the church, the message would be that all was OK and he would have had no reason to repent. Expelling him so as to make him face the church’s condemnation of his sin, was a loving act. The same principle is taught in… 2 Thess 3:14-15 14  Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed.  15  Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer. The motivation here is clear. Again, the church is not to associate with anyone who disobeys but the goal is that the sinners may feel ashamed. They are not to be seen as enemies. The response of the church is not hatred. Rather it is grief and love that causes them to warn, with the implied hope that the rebels might be restored. Fellow believers are to be warned of the consequences of their sin. Later in 1 Corinthians 5, Paul made it clear that the church was to judge those inside the church. 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people – 10  not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11  But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. 12  What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?  13  God will judge those outside. ‘Expel the wicked person from among you.’ The “judging” here is dissociation. The punishment is the cessation of fellowship. Christians are not to withdraw from the people of the world because of their sin. They are, however, to not associate with those “who claim to be fellow believers” (v.13) but are sexually immoral, greedy, idolaters or slanderers, drunkards or swindlers. It was not his business to judge those outside the church. That is God’s job, but he explicitly states (using a rhetorical question) that it is the business of the church to judge those inside. So, what shall we say? While we are often told that Christians must not judge, the Bible says the opposite and especially in relation to those who claim to be fellow believers. The church has a responsibility to, firstly, be clear about the teaching of the scriptures and, secondly, to discipline those who claim to be Christians but who persist in sin.

Related pages

© 2017 Peter Cheyne
A Christian’s Guide To Homosexuality
Truth In Love
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Judging Those Who

Claim To Be Christians

The idea of judging people will be a shock to some. Jesus said, “Do not judge”. We studied that in which in the section on Jesus said we are not to judge  noting that Jesus did not issue a blanket ban on judging. In fact, He told us to judge. For example, in that same context, “Watch out for false prophets” (Matthew 7:15). We have also seen that the Bible draws a distinction between judging those outside the church (which we are not to do although judging is different from warning) and judging those who claim to be fellow believers (which we are to do.) We will not repeat all of that material. Here we can focus on what it means to judge those within the church. Primarily, that is about church discipline and concern for the individual. Jesus reserved His strongest condemnation for those who claimed to be God’s people. Jesus hated hypocrisy. When, for example, the Pharisees claimed to represent God and to be paragons of law-keeping, and yet were actually far from God and were leading people away from God rather than towards Him, Jesus was angry and not slow to point out their errors. Matthew 23 is the classic example. The whole chapter is a denunciation of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law but there are many other examples of Jesus’ anger towards them. It is not the role of the church to punish people in society for their sin. That is God’s prerogative and is a role delegated to those who govern (Romans 13:1-5 especially v.4). But the church is to punish those who claim to be Christians. In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul dealt with an issue of sexual immorality in the church. A man was having sex with his father’s wife (v.1). Paul described this as immorality that not even the pagans would tolerate (v.1) and expressed disbelief that the Corinthians church was proud of this (v.2)! Unbelievable! The church should, instead, have been distressed that such a thing should happening and should have expelled the man from their fellowship (v.2). Paul explicitly said that he had “already passed judgement in the name of the Lord Jesus on the one who [had] been doing this” (v.3). Note that he had not only judged but felt very confident to link that judgement to the name of Jesus. This was a godly, Christian act. Paul had done this in his absence but he instructed the church to actually do it when they were assembled. But note again the motivation. This man was to be handed over to Satan “for the destruction of the sinful nature so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord” (v.5). In other words, Paul’s hope, and his reason for judging, was that the man might ultimately be saved. If he was allowed to stay within the church, the message would be that all was OK and he would have had no reason to repent. Expelling him so as to make him face the church’s condemnation of his sin, was a loving act. The same principle is taught in… 2 Thess 3:14-15 14  Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed.  15   Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer. The motivation here is clear. Again, the church is not to associate with anyone who disobeys but the goal is that the sinners may feel ashamed. They are not to be seen as enemies. The response of the church is not hatred. Rather it is grief and love that causes them to warn, with the implied hope that the rebels might be restored. Fellow believers are to be warned of the consequences of their sin. Later in 1 Corinthians 5, Paul made it clear that the church was to judge those inside the church. 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people – 10  not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11  But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. 12  What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?  13  God will judge those outside. ‘Expel the wicked person from among you.’ The “judging” here is dissociation. The punishment is the cessation of fellowship. Christians are not to withdraw from the people of the world because of their sin. They are, however, to not associate with those “who claim to be fellow believers” (v.13) but are sexually immoral, greedy, idolaters or slanderers, drunkards or swindlers. It was not his business to judge those outside the church. That is God’s job, but he explicitly states (using a rhetorical question) that it is the business of the church to judge those inside. So, what shall we say? While we are often told that Christians must not judge, the Bible says the opposite and especially in relation to those who claim to be fellow believers. The church has a responsibility to, firstly, be clear about the teaching of the scriptures and, secondly, to discipline those who claim to be Christians but who persist in sin.

Related pages

© Peter Cheyne 2017.
A Christian’s Guide To Homosexuality
Truth In Love
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