November 2012 • Volume XIV, Issue 7
Judge Not! (1)
In our day, there is a very popular, but terribly wrong,
interpretation of Matthew 7:1: "Judge not, that ye be
not judged." This means, many say, that absolutely all
judging is wrong. You must not judge religions or
churches or doctrines or people or principles. For did
not Jesus say, "Judge not, that ye be not judged"?
According to this view, one cannot say that pagan
religions are idolatrous (Ex. 20:3; I Cor. 10:20),
abortion is murder (Ex. 20:13; Ps. 139:13-16), free will
is false doctrine (John 6:65; Rom. 3:11) or
homosexuality is an abomination (Lev. 18:22; Rom.
1:26-27). "Judge not, that ye be not judged"! In fact,
the only thing that is wrong is judging that various
things and people are wrong, and the greatest virtue is
tolerance of everything. "I’m OK and you’re OK!" There
are no absolute standards, everything is relative and
only judging is forbidden. In fact, judging is sin—if
there is such a thing as sin any more!
This view and this interpretation of Matthew 7:1 is
foolish and logically contradictory. If all judging is
forbidden, then it is also forbidden to judge someone
for judging! After all, judging someone for judging is
also forbidden by this (false) interpretation of Jesus’
words, "Judge not, that ye be not judged"!
Moreover, the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7)—in which
this text is found—requires judging. Consider our
Saviour’s words in Matthew 5. He condemns murder and
even being angry with one’s brother without a cause
(21-26); adultery, even looking on a woman to lust after
her (27-30); divorce, except for fornication (31-32);
and various sorts of sinful swearing (33-37).
Judging is also required in order to obey Christ’s
instruction in Matthew 6 concerning alms or charitable
deeds (1-4), praying (5-15) and fasting (16-18), for one
must not do these things, like the Pharisees, in order
to be seen. The Lord Jesus judges the following as
sinful behaviour: laying up for ourselves treasures on
earth (19), trying to serve God and money (24), and
worrying about our earthly needs (25-34).
Matthew 7 is similar. In order to obey Christ’s
prohibition of casting our pearls before swine, we need
to recognize the people whom He characterizes here as
"dogs" and "swine" (6). And how can we heed Jesus’
warning against false prophets, if we are not to judge
them by their fruits, as He requires (15-20)?
There are many other situations in which (proper)
judgment is required. I Corinthians 6:2-3 tells us that,
at the last day, believers will judge the ungodly world
and angels. From this, Paul encourages the saints in the
church to judge rightly now (1, 4-5). Obviously Christ’s
word, "Judge not, that ye be not judged," does not
Magistrates are called to judge in civil affairs. A
murderer is arraigned before the court or a thief is
brought to trial. It will not do for someone to stand up
in the gallery and shout, "Judge not, m’lord!" appealing
to the false view of Matthew 7:1!
Parents, too, must judge. Was their son’s or daughter’s
behaviour sinful (according to the principles of the
Word of God)? What is the most appropriate form of
loving discipline in this case? Verbal admonition? Or
does it warrant physical chastisement?
Church consistories or sessions are also called upon to
judge righteous judgment. A member goes the way of
Matthew 18:15-20 with another member. Sadly, the brother
does not repent after being frequently admonished. So
the matter is brought to the elders, according to the
procedure laid out in the Church Order.
Congregations are called to judge church leaders
biblically. The church at Ephesus was commended by
Christ for condemning false apostles (Rev. 2:2). The
congregation at Thyatira was rebuked by the Saviour for
tolerating a Jezebel who taught and seduced the saints
Each believer is commanded to judge himself or herself
according to the Scriptures, as I Corinthians 11:28
commands, "But let a man examine himself ..." This is
especially our calling as we prepare for the Lord’s
Supper, as the context in I Corinthians 11 shows (Belgic
Confession 35; Heidelberg Catechism, Q. & A. 81).
In fact, the child of God is commanded by his heavenly
Father to judge in various capacities and ways. The
believer is, after all, a prophet, priest and king. As
kings, we must judge, exercising righteous judgment in
conformity with the mind of Christ, as revealed in
Martin Luther famously declared, near the start of
The Bondage of the Will, his celebrated rebuttal of
the humanist Erasmus, that a professing Christian must
judge (in accordance with biblical standards) or else he
reveals that he is not a believer. "To take no pleasure
in assertions is not the mark of a Christian heart;
indeed, one must delight in assertions to be a Christian
at all. Now, lest we be misled by words, let me say here
that by ‘assertion’ I mean staunchly holding your
ground, stating your position, confessing it, defending
it and persevering in it unvanquished ... And I am
talking about the assertion of what has been delivered
to us from above in the Sacred Scriptures ... Take away
assertions and you take away Christianity. Why, the Holy
Spirit is given to Christians from heaven in order that
He may glorify Christ and in them confess Him even unto
death—and is this not assertion, to die for what you
confess and assert?" Then Luther asks Erasmus (and all
modern, politically-correct sceptics), "What is this
new-fangled religion of yours, this novel sort of
humility, that ... you would take from us power to judge
men’s decisions and make us defer uncritically to human
authority? Where does God’s written Word tell us to do
that?" Where indeed!
The Christian judges according to his position or
station in life (e.g., parent, magistrate or elder),
taking due cognizance of the facts (on both sides), with
mercy (allowing for mitigating circumstances), in love
(for the Triune God, for His truth and for his
neighbour), in humility (as a servant not a lord) and
according to scriptural principles.
Next time, Lord willing, we shall consider the (sinful)
judging that our Lord forbids and in which we must not
engage. Rev. Stewart
Did Moses Sin in Killing the Egyptian?
"And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was
grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on
their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an
Hebrew, one of his brethren. And he looked this way and
that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew
the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand" (Ex. 2:11-12).
"And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him,
and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the
Egyptian: for he supposed his brethren would have
understood how that God by his hand would deliver them:
but they understood not" (Acts 7:24-25).
A brother asks, "Was it right of Moses to kill the
Egyptian in the light of Acts 7:24-25 or was it murder?"
The question is an interesting one and has some elements
to it that are of special significance.
The first point of interest, though only indirectly
related to the question, is the fact that the
instruction Moses received from his parents, when still
only a small child, was used by God to protect Moses
spiritually in all his years in Pharaoh’s palace. It
could not have been more than four years after Moses’
birth that he went to live with Pharaoh’s daughter. And
he was in the palace for almost forty years. Yet he
remained faithful to Jehovah. Hebrews 11:24-26 makes
that clear: "By faith Moses, when he was come to years,
refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter;
choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of
God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;
esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the
treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the
recompence of the reward."
Undoubtedly, his parents taught him when he was a baby
or little child that Israel was God’s chosen people and
the object of His love; that Jehovah would deliver
Israel from the bondage of Egypt some day; that God
would fulfil the promises He made to Abraham, Isaac and
Jacob, and that he (Moses) was destined to play an
important part in Israel’s deliverance (Heb. 11:23).
That instruction, though given when he was a child,
persisted in Moses for nearly forty years and kept him
faithful. This certainly underscores for us the
importance of covenantal instruction for our children
from the time they are born.
Moses’ act of killing the Egyptian, therefore, was not a
sin. He knew his calling was to lead Israel from Egypt
and the bondage of Pharaoh. He knew that the warfare he
and the nation had to fight was the destruction of the
enemies of Israel. He knew that this would involve the
destruction of the Egyptians. And so, his act of killing
the Egyptian was not murder but an act of faith. That
is, he thought that he would begin his work when he saw
one of his brethren wrongfully misused.
Acts 7:25 is clear. Moses was expressing his faith
described in Hebrews 11; he was to defend his brethren,
one of God’s people. He "avenged" his brethren by
smiting the Egyptian because he knew Jehovah Himself
would destroy the Egyptians, for he understood the
principle laid down by Isaiah many years later: Zion is
redeemed through judgment (Isa. 1:27). Thus, I consider
the killing of the Egyptian to be an act of faith.
Nevertheless, there is sin involved. Moses’ sin was not
the killing of one of Israel’s oppressors, but his sin
was taking matters in his own hands and not waiting for
Jehovah to perform the work. After all, God had
specifically said that He would deliver His people (Gen.
Whatever may have gone through Moses’ mind is unknown to
us. Maybe he could not bear any longer the oppression of
his beloved brethren. Maybe he mistakenly thought that,
now that he was forty years old, he ought to begin his
work of delivering Israel. It seems from Acts 7:25 that
he thought his brethren would understand that he was
signalling the beginning of the revolt that would lead
to Israel’s deliverance. Maybe he was impatient and
thought that God was waiting too long, and that he ought
to take matters into his own hands. And maybe, even, he
had too high an opinion of his own ability to lead
Israel out of bondage.
But whatever may have gone through his mind, he failed
to do what Scripture tells us we ought to do: Wait on
the Lord (cf. Ps. 27:14). The work of delivering Israel
had to demonstrate that deliverance is wholly God’s
work. How crucial that was for Moses and is now for us.
The deliverance of Israel from Egypt was a type of the
deliverance of all God’s people from the bondage of sin.
To understand this, all we need to do is read the
introduction to the law, which law is still valid for
us, and in which the Most High reminds His people: "I am
the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the
land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage" (Ex. 20:2).
Only God can do that. He may be pleased to use a man, as
He did with Moses. But He does not need any human help
in this great work. He can do it all by Himself if He so
wishes. What can Moses do? He needed deliverance as much
as all Israel. If Jehovah were pleased to give Moses a
minor role in this great drama of the ages, even the
role Moses would fill could be carried out by him only
through the power of faith.
Thus we read in Hebrews 11:27: "By faith he forsook
Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he
endured, as seeing him who is invisible." Although the
king sought to execute him for killing an Egyptian, that
did not frighten Moses nor cause him to flee. He now
understood that it was not yet God’s time to deliver
Israel and he was not spiritually ready for such a task.
So God sent him far away to Midian so that for forty
years he could be moulded and prepared to fulfil his
calling when Jehovah Himself would perform His mighty
work. Finally, God even had to become angry with him to
force Moses to go to Egypt to start his work (Ex. 4:14).
When Moses shrunk back from the heavy responsibility of
God’s role for him, then Moses was ready to play a part
in the Lord’s work. What powerful lessons for us!
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