JUDGING BIBLICALLY AND TAKING ACTION
by Jeff Hagan
(Tacoma, WA, USA)
2 Corinthians 6:14-18:
“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, 'I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.'”
One of the things Christians most often hear is that we are not suppose to judge others. We hear this from fellow believers and we hear it from unbelievers who usually offer up the advice so they can continue to live how they want without feeling guilty. But is it true? As Christians are we never suppose to judge another person? Is there a blanket command against every sort of judgment?
Scripture tells us in one place that we are not to judge unless we want to be judged ourselves, yet in another it tells us to judge those who repeatedly continue in their sin as well as to judge the teaching of those who are placed in leadership over us. So which is it? At first glance the untrained eye may view this as contradictory, but it isn't at all.
What the Bible clearly teaches throughout is that we are not to judge hypocritically or self-righteously. We are not to consider ourselves better than another. It also tells us we are not to judge the salvation of another as that is something only God can truly know. However, the Bible also clearly teaches that we are suppose to judge the teaching of those placed in authority over us in the church. It also teaches us not only TO judge, but also to take action against those who would continue to twist the Scripture and teach heresy.
When a person clearly refuses to repent and continues to pervert Scripture and reject it's truth, we do judge and we do take appropriate action. Let's take a look at some passages that give us instructions on how to deal with these situations:
1. Romans 16:17 - “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.”
Here we are instructed to keep our guard up. Not only are we to keep our guard up, but we also need to identify who they are, “watch out for...”.
2. Matthew 7:15-16 - “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?”
Again, we are to identify them as can be seen by instructions on how to recognize them. When this happens we then need to test them. We need to see if their fruits align with the fruits of the Spirit. This requires judging.
3. Ephesians 5:11 - “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.”
1 Timothy 5:20 - “As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.”
In these two passages we see the need to both expose them and to rebuke them. Rebuke means to admonish or reprimand.
4. Titus 1:13 - “...Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith,”
Again we see the word “rebuke.” But notice the reason for the rebuke. It's not something we should be enjoying, it's not something we should be developing some kind of power trip over. The reason we are to do this is so that they can repent and remain “sound in the faith.”
5. Titus 3:10 - “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him,”
Here we have instruction to reject the person. If one continues to cause division and refuses to repent after given ample opportunity, then we are to reject them. It says we are to “have nothing to do with him.”
6. 2 Thessalonians 3:6 and 2 Timothy 3:5 give the same basic instruction. These passages tell us to “turn away,” “avoid,” or “keep away from” those that we have been discussing.
7. 2 John 10 - “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house,”
Right away this verse makes one wonder what teaching “this teaching” is. Well, reading the short letter of 2 John in it's entirety makes if very clear. It's simply referring to the teaching of Christ, to true biblical doctrine.
The directions in this verse go so far as to instruct one not to even fellowship with one like this. It says not to even let them in your house.
Well, there we have it. The New Testament is not just full of lovey, touchy, “why can't we all just get along?” passages. Truth be told, I was a bit uncomfortable writing this. However, we can't avoid portions of Scripture just because they make us feel uncomfortable. If we are to believe and live sola sciptura then we must include those passages that carry some discomfort with them. We must preach and teach the entire Word of God, not just the portions that make us feel good.
It's important to remember though that passages such as these are first and foremost for the purpose of correction and restoration. The intent and hope is that those who are teaching heresy, or are living divisively, will come to repentance through such judgment.