IS IT RIGHT TO JUDGE?
Pastor David L. Brown, Ph.D.
1996 David L. Brown
Is it right to judge? Many claim it is not! Have you ever heard these phrases? -- "You shouldnt judge others" or "Judge not that you be not judged." Still others are accused of being legalists or Pharisees if they dare speak out against the sin or worldliness of another Christian or Christian organization. In fact, Charles Swindoll in his book Grace Awakening, characterizes those who dare discern as "squint-eyed legalists spying out and attacking anothers liberty (p.94). A mission president accused Christian fundamentalists of "Christian Phariseeism" in an effort to tarnish the character those who dared to expose the worldliness and compromise going on within the mission and church association and other compromising ministries. In fact, he turned to outright coercion and in an effort intimidate those within the ranks who might be inclined to do the same. In a memo sent to those in the mission he embarked on a diatribe, aligning those who had pointed out worldliness and compromise within the organization with those who abuse and bash their "wife, child, husband, even [their] animal." He says, "Improper hermeneutics have whipped lashes upon the backs of fellow believers...unbridled abuse and bashing have come out of the closet. Pastors in this system...have joined the gangs. Their pens are poison. Their guns are loaded."
He goes on to say that it seems that they have developed "specialized Swat Teams" and "religious tabloids that are dedicated to mitigating [sic] (showing the compromise) people or organizations." He says, "they inhabit the slums of despair and suspicion near the cemeteries of death." After spewing out this rhetoric, the mission president writes, "This Pharisaic testimony and spirit can no longer be tolerated or accepted." (Information taken from Association of Baptists For World Evangelism -- Pastors Memo: Tip #112 -- Abusing and Bashing
When I read his memo I it was clear case of "the pot calling the kettle black!" It was the mission president who was doing the abusing and bashing!
The question still remains, Is it right to judge? Many say, "No!"
But, what does the Bible say?
The purpose of this report is to examine judgment from a Biblical perspective. Then, and only then, will we know if we are to judge, when we are to judge and who or what we are to judge. In short, we will find out if it is right to judge.
WHY THE AMBIGUITY ABOUT JUDGMENT
Why is there so much confusion and disagreement among Christians when it comes to the issue of judgment? One reason is because there are so many different judgments in the Bible. There are at least eight different judgments in the Bible that do not even relate to what we are talking about in this study. (Some examples: Bema Seat Judgment; Great White Throne Judgment; Divine Judgments Through The Cross; Judgment of Israel; Judgment of the Nations, etc.) None of these directly relate to the type of judgment we are looking at.
So, what is our focus? Our focus is how we are to judge men, their teachings and actions. This is what Christ was dealing with in John 7:24 -- Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. The Greek word translated judge and judgment is krinate (krino, kree'-no; 2919). It means to judge, to form or give an opinion after separating and considering the particulars of a situation. This verse makes it obvious that there is a wrong and right kind of judgment. On one hand we are told not to judge and on the other hand we are told to judge. Still confused? Perhaps the following quote will help.
"Judgment is an ambiguous word, in Greek as in English: it may mean sitting in judgment on people (or even condemning them), or it may mean exercising a proper discrimination. In the former sense judgment is depreciated; in the latter sense it is recommended."
F. F. Bruce
TWO KINDS OF JUDGMENT
For clarity I will use the words discern and criticize to explain the judgment issue.
We will only take a brief look at this kind of judgment. I will elaborate more in our next study on this aspect of judgment.
Discernment is the kind of judgment God directs believers to use. Paul told the Christians at Thessalonica, Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 1 Thessalonians 5:21. The word prove is dokimazete (dokimazo, dok-im-ad'-zo; 1381) which means to test, examine, discern. It has the notion examining something and judging whether it is worthy or not.
What A. W. Tozer said about this may prove helpful --
Look at 1 Corinthians 2:15, the first half of that verse -- But he that is spiritual judgeth all things... The Greek word for judge in this verse is a compound word -- anakrinei (anakrino, an-ak-ree'-no; 350) which means to scrutinize carefully in order to make a judgment. We are back to the same root word, krino, that we saw in John 7:24 earlier.
A Christian is to exercise judgment (discernment) in all things.
Pride-filled Criticism is the kind of judgment that God declares inappropriate.
Matthew 7:1-5 Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. 3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? 5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.
It is important to note that we are dealing with the same Greek word as we looked at in John 7:24 and 1 Corinthians 2:15 -- krinete (krino).
I believe what is in focus here is the pride-filled criticism of a hypocrite who is critical of another person in order to make himself look good or justify sinful behavior or beliefs in his own life! He points out others faults when he has bigger faults of his own. This kind of judgment is wrong!
The Parable of the Pharisee and Publican illustrates this kind of judgment. Turn to Luke 18:9-14 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
Those who criticize others to make themselves look good, to justify their own sin, to slander someone they dislike or to attract attention to themselves are engaging in unrighteous judgment which God condemns.
There is another aspect that comes into focus here as well. We cannot judge the heart or motives of any person. That is up to God. Romans 2:16 says, In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel. 1 Corinthians 4:5 says, Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.
Note the Matthew 7 passage carefully. It is not a comprehensive injunction against any judgment, just against the wrong kind of judgment. In fact, Every believer has the obligation to test others by their fruits. Matthew 7:15-20 says, Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Finally, two final quotes relating to Matthew 7:1-5. One author notes --
Matthew Henry says this about this passage
In the next chapter, we will take an in depth look at the Judgment God Commends.Chapter 2
Gods Guidelines For Judgment
There can be not doubt that God expects believers to judge or be discerning. Turn to Hebrews 5:14. This verse indicates that believers are expected to judge between good and evil. The verse says, But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
But as we have already pointed out, there is judgment that God commends and judgment that God condemns. Therefore it is important that we know -- GODS GUIDELINES FOR JUDGMENT so we can "...judge righteous judgment." John 7:24b
ERRONEOUS BASIS FOR JUDGMENT
Before we look at the proper bases for judgment I want to point out those that are improper, faulty or erroneous.
Our Judgments are...
John 7:24 Judge not according to the appearance....
Things arent always as they appear. A good illustration of this is found in 1 Samuel 16:1-13. Samuel is told to anoint a new king over Israel from the house of Jesse. The one that looks like the man for the job is Eliab. But note Gods response -- 1 Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart. In fact, God rejects all the sons that are present! Then, in verse 11 Samuel asks Jesse if hes got any more sons and come to find out there is one more, the youngest -- David. David was Gods pick!
Our judgments are...
John 8:15 Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man.
Jesus tells the Pharisees that their judgment was faulty. They made their judgments based on human passions and personal preferences. When Jesus says, I judge no man He is not saying he does not judge. He is saying he does not judge in the same carnal manner as they do.
People often make bad decisions, wrong choices or incorrect judgments when they are based on feeling or the passion of the moment. Several years back Debby Boon popularized a song entitled You Light Up My Life. As she sang about passionate love between a guy and a gal she sang, "how can it be so wrong when it feels so right?" Many young men and women have followed the path of passionate feeling and discovered that it lead them down the slippery slope to fornication. Things can be wrong, and often , despite the fact that they feel right.
Perhaps we should look at another application. Words spoken or judgments made in the heat of anger are often wrong. We read in James 1:20 For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
My point is simply this, judgment should not be made after the flesh, that is based on human passions.
Our judgments are...
Proverbs 18:13 He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.
I think Gills commentary is correct when he says, making a judgment is foolish when a person "returns an answer at once, without weighing and considering, and thoroughly understanding, what is said."
Hasty judgments are often careless judgments. Judgments made based on insufficient information are frequently wrong. (Prov. 18:17)
To summarize what we have covered this far, our judgments are not to be made based on... 1) Outward Appearance, 2) Human Passions and Preferences 3) Hastily Based On Insufficient Facts
Now that we have looked at some of the things God does not want us to base our judgments on , we need to consider what His guidelines are --
GODS GUIDELINES FOR JUDGMENT
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
The Word of God divides between truth and error, right and wrong, fact and fiction. If we are to judge righteously we need to judge by the righteous standard of God's Word. It is there we find "instruction in righteousness." This inspired Book, this standard of righteousness, is the medium for "reproof" and "correction." 2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
As I have said to you so many times... The Bible shows us whats right, whats not right, how to get right and how to stay right. We need to be like the noble Bereans who "...searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Acts 17:11
1 Corinthians 11:31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
Basically what this verse is saying is be sure you are right with God before you come to the Lords table. That is the context of this passage. Yet there is an important application here Dr. Earnest Pickering puts it this way --
"Human nature being what it is, we are often quick to judge others, but reluctant to judge ourselves. We must always remember that there are many things wrong with our lives and ample reason for us to pass judgment on ourselves before attempting to do so with others."
Make sure your own life is in order before you try to straighten out someone else. Be sure you are your are right with God before you tell someone else they need to be. This is the focus of Romans 2:1-2 deals with this -- Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. 2 But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. We see this emphasis later on in this chapter. Look at Romans 2:21-24 Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? 22 Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? 23 Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? 24 For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.
God takes this principle very seriously. We see another application of this "judge yourself before you judge others" principle when we consider Church leadership. The Bible says that a man should not be a pastor or deacon who does not rule his own house properly and have his children under control. 1 Timothy 3:5 says, For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?
God expects us to be right with Him, be living in fellowship with Him, to judge ourselves before we judge others.
1 Corinthians 2:15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.
Heres what this verse is saying -- "The spiritual person understands the things of the Spirit and has wisdom, but the people of the world cannot understand the spiritual person." Let me explain. A "spiritual" believer is one who is filled with [controlled by] the Holy Spirit. The spiritual man is a man of discernment and is able to judge and evaluate things with Gods insights. Why? Because the spiritual person has the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16; Phil. 2). This means that the Holy Spirit of God, through the Holy Word of God, helps the believer think as Jesus thinks. This is true wisdom. The people of the world have a great deal of knowledge, but they lack spiritual wisdom.
Lets put it all together now. We have learned --
In our final chapter on judgment we will be focusing on...
Areas Believers Are Commanded To Exercise Spiritual Discernment and To Make Judgments.Chapter 3
Areas Believers Are Commanded to Exercise Spiritual Discernment and to Make Judgments
This is the third in the series on judgment. One more will follow. I have stated that there are two kinds of judgment, judgment that God commends and judgment that God condemns. As believers we are to be sure that we "... judge righteous judgment." John 7:24b. In order to exercise righteous judgment or biblical discernment we must know the Word of God. Thats why Paul wrote, Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15. As believers become familiar with the Word of God they become better equipped to judge righteous judgment.
THE DANGER OF ENTHUSIASM
|Judge Between Right & Wrong||Moral Judgment||Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. I Thes. 5:21|
|Judge Between Truth & Error||Doctrinal & Philosophical Judgment||Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1|
|Judge Between Worldliness & Godliness||Practical Judgment of Issues Related to Daily Living||Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Titus 2:12|
|Judge Between Order & Disorder||Body Judgment Related to Compromise or Inciting Division Within The Body of Christ Contrary to The Bible||Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. 2 Thes. 3:6|
Isaiah 5:20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
Listen friends, we live in a culture that has inverted values. Biblical values are viewed as Puritanical, narrow and unrealistic. Fornication, adultery, homosexuality, lesbianism, abortion, euthanasia are acceptable, politically correct and considered as viable options. One Bible teacher put it --
"Those who practice sin depict those who practice righteousness as biased, intolerant bigots. In the face of such ethical relativism, we must defend and live out the moral absolutes mandated by God. We must resist the pressures of Hollywood and Madison Avenue to accept life as a situation comedy, full of sexual lust and devoid of moral accountability. We must ethically evaluate the media which impacts our lives, relationships, families and churches."
In fact, as 1 Thessalonians 5:21 says, we must "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good" get rid of the rest! We must judge between right and wrong and choose right!
1 John 4:1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
There are numerous passages in the Bible that warn us to beware of those who teach false doctrine & philosophies.
Colossians 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
Hebrews 13:9 Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.
2 Peter 2, the entire chapter, warns of those who teach false doctrines and philosophies.
Christians are told to identify and repudiate false teachers and their teachings. Paul did just that. If you will look at 2 Timothy 2:16-18 & 2 Timothy 4:14-17 you will see that he actually identifies them by name.
2 Timothy 2:16-18 But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. 17 And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; 18 Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.
2 Timothy 4:14-17 Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works: 15 Of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words. 16 At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. 17 Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.
One of the jobs of the pastor is to be able to repudiate false doctrine according to Titus 2:10-14. He is to "by sound doctrine both exhort and to convince the gainsayers..." (v. 9). But, this is not just the pastors responsibility. Ephesians 5:11 applies to all believers -- And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. The word reprove is the Greek word elegcete (elegcho, el-eng'-kho; 1651) which means to expose the wrong and refute it. To do this it is necessary to pass judgment on individuals and their teaching. This is not wrong. It is a responsibility given to us by the Lord.
Lets review, we have learned that knowledge of the Word of God and exercising discernment will keep us headed in the right direction in the Christian life. Further, we have seen that we are commanded to judge between right and wrong and truth and error.
Lets look at other areas we are responsible to judge.
One of the areas that generates a great deal of heated discussion is the area of "worldliness." There are many in Evangelical circles that maintain it is wrong to question another Christians "liberty" so called. They claim it is a persons "Christian liberty" to listen to rock music, partake of alcohol, participate in questionable entertainment, dress or groom themselves however they see fit, and any number of other things. And if you dare question their liberty you run the risk of being branded a legalistic, dogmatic, rigid, grace-killer. They assert "you have no right to judge other believers!" They cite 1 Corinthians 10:29b-30 as their support -- ...for why is my liberty judged of another man's conscience? 30 For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks? (Perhaps those who use verse 29 to support questionable activities should read verse 31 -- Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.)
I would certainly agree that there are areas in which God allows for differences of opinion. Just a reminder, the context of 1 Corinthians 10 is eating meat offered to idols. Romans 14:1-6 also points out that there is latitude in certain areas. We are told Christians have the latitude to be either vegetarians or eat everything. The same goes for the holidays we celebrate. The key element is pointed out in verse 6 -- He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. Romans 14:6. Whatever we do is to honor the Lord. Because a believer is free to eat meat or not eat meat does not mean a believer is free to dress immodestly, listen to rock music or watch the Playboy channel. Perhaps the words Dr. Ernest Pickering will be helpful here --
But, one says, what about Romans 14:13: "Let us not therefore judge one another any more . . .?" Does not this prohibit judging? The theme of Romans 14 is found in the first verse. "Him that is weak in the faith, receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations" (Rom. 14:1). "Doubtful disputations" refers to "disputable matters," or as someone has rendered it, "quarrels about opinions." One is to have charity in dealing with other believers who may differ on points of minor importance. The question, however, that confronts us... is, what points are disputable and what points are not disputable? For instance, if a girl wishes to wear a bikini swim suit to the church youth activity, should that be viewed as a "disputable" action, thus free from any adverse judgment on the part of the youth leaders? Since no Scripture specifically condemns bikini bathing suits are we free under grace to allow them? Many, on the basis of Scriptural teaching regarding holiness of life and sanctity of body, would seek to prohibit the wearing of such attire. (Are Fundamentalists Legalists? p. 11)
I should note that there is most certainly a clear Biblical principle that relates to modesty -- 1 Timothy 2:9 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety... As the one who must give account to God for what takes place on "my watch" I had better not allow something sensual and provocative to be warn. But that brings me to the broader picture -- worldliness. Believers are to judge between worldliness and Godliness and follow Godliness. Titus 2:11-12 makes this evident enough -- For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
There are three other verses that I want to bring to your attention --
James 4:4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
1 John 2:15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Is there any question as to the fact that worldliness is to have no part in the believers life?
Yet perhaps you are still wondering, is it right to judge worldliness in another persons life? To answer that question turn to 2 Timothy 4:10 For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica.
Demas was Pauls associate. He had assisted Paul in missionary work. But Paul says Demas had forsaken him. The Greek word translated forsaken is egkatelipen (egkataleipo, en-kat-al-i'-po; 1459), which means to desert or leave in the lurch. But Paul does not stop there. He makes a judgment. He says the reason Demas left him in the lurch was because he loved this present world.
We have every reason to believe that Demas was a believer, though a worldly believer. Paul did not take the attitude, "well, I have no right to judge Demas worldliness because that is his Christian liberty." On the contrary. He pointed it out and wrote a letter to young Pastor Timothy who no doubt shared it with his congregation.
You see, it is not wrong to judge worldliness. In fact, we are to identify those who are using their Christian liberty maliciously (1 Pet. 2:16) and warn others not to follow in their footsteps.
Depending upon the context of the verse, the term "world" has four basic meanings in the Bible --
1) It is used to speak of nature, of the earth and all things therein--man and animals, land and sea (Acts 17:24).
2) World is used to refer to the people who live on the earth. This is the meaning of the term "world" in John. 3:16 which says God so loved the world and gave His only begotten Son to die for it. It is not man's wicked societies and inventions that God loves, but man himself.
3) It is used to refer to civilizations and societies. It was this world which Satan offered to Jesus (Matthew 4:8). This is the world which hates Christians (John 15:18,19), which is to hear the Gospel (Mark 16:15), and into which false teachers are entered (2 John 7).
4) World is used to refer to the wicked system which rejects Christ and is headed by Satan & operates based on human desires. Further it refers to the wicked things men do. 1 John. 2:15-17. Here are two other descriptions of the "world." a) The world" can also designate all that is hostile, rebellious, and opposed to God. b) All that belongs to this life that is opposed to Christ. It is Satans system, society opposed to God and taking the place of God.
As you can see, number 3 & 4 are connected. And it is these last two that I am referring to in this message. So then, what is worldliness? I like how David Cloud describes it --
"The earth is still populated with sons of Adam, all going about their self-willed ways to build their own comfortable societies apart from the true and living God."
Worldliness is simply doing your own thing or following your "old nature." A WORLDLY Christian is one who follows the fleshly ways of the world instead of the holy ways of the Lord (Titus 2:12).
The Bible warns believers not to love this world system and the evil things in it (1 John 2:15-17). To love this world is to be the enemy of God (James 4:4). Satan is the ruler of this world in that he controls the lives of all unsaved men (2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians. 2:1-3; Rev. 12:9). The whole world lies in wickedness (1 John 5:19), and the Christian must be careful not to imitate the evil ways of the world (Romans 12:1,2; James 1:27). Jesus Christ warned that a man cannot serve both God and the world (Mat. 6:24). Christ died to deliver the believer from this present evil world (Galatians 1:4). The Christian is not of this world (John. 15:19; 17:16); he is crucified unto the world (Galatians 6:14).
There is no doubt that Christians are to judge between worldliness and Godliness and follow the latter. Dont be a Demas!
Finally, believers are commanded to...
This is another area that ignites heated discussion in many Christians circles. In fact Dr. Earnest records the words of one preacher who criticizes the call to judge and separate from Christians that "walk disorderly" or compromise in matters essential to the spiritual health of the Body of Christ.
"Why that is absolutely ridiculous! Theres not a line in the Bible that justifies separation from another Christian brother. We are all one body in Christ and members one of another. The only kind of separation that can be defended is separation from apostates--those who deny the faith. All other separation is spurious." (Should We Ever Separate From Christian Brethren?; by Earnest Pickering; Central Press; p. 1)
The above quote is indicative of the beliefs of many Evangelicals and an increasing number of those who call themselves "fundamentalists" today. But is it true that the Bible never calls us to judge and if need be separate from disorderly and compromising believers? The answer is no! We are clearly commanded to withdraw from believers who are walking disorderly. In order to do that we must make a judgment first! Lets look at the passage --
2 Thessalonians 3:6 & 14 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. 14 And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.
You will note that a believer is focus here for it says "every brother that walketh disorderly." When another Christian compromises the Word of God we are not to ignore it because they are brothers in Christ but we are to confront it. If there is no change then as the late Dr. David Nettleton said, "there are occasions when a brother should separate from a brother..." (From: Jailed for Secondary Separation; Fundamentalist Journal, November, 1984, p.13).
The Great Baptist preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, came to the point where he felt compelled to withdraw from the Baptist Union of Great Britain because they were not following Scriptural principles. These were born-again men but compromisers. He was strongly criticized for the stand he took. But, he declared at the time of withdrawing --
"With deep regret we abstain from assembling ourselves with those whom we dearly love and heartily respect, since it would involve us in a confederacy with those with whom we can have no communion in the Lord." (Spurgeon quote taken from The Baptist Bulletin, November, 1957; p.7)
We are commanded to judge between order and disorder, steadfastness and compromise. This is not an option it is a command. When a believer is set on following the path of disorder or compromise then we are to withdraw from him or her.
The Apostle Paul nearly separated from Peter over a situation like this. We read the account in Galatians 2:11-21. The key verse is Galatians 2:11 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I (Paul) withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. The word "withstood" means to stand against, oppose. In other words he confronted Peter personally about his compromise! Had Peter not repented he would have separated himself from him there is no doubt.
Other Bible Passages That Show The Same Principle
You should know that there are other passages in the Bible that teach the very same principle, the principle of judging between order & disorder (steadfastness & compromise).
Romans 16:17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark (to take aim; point out) them which cause divisions (dissension) and offenses (things that offend) contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid (shun) them.
There are a number of things that the Bible says God hates. One of those things according to Proverbs 6:19 is the person "...that soweth discord among brethren." This is often the result of personality conflicts. Paul deals with this issue in Philippians 4:2. The fact is personal squabbles are to be settled privately. Along the same line the human tendency to exalt one person over another have no place in the church 1 Corinthians 1:10-15. The Word of God condemns such behavior and, if a person continues to perpetuate the sowing of discord over such issues we are to separate from them. This is exactly what Titus 3:10-11 is saying -- A man that is an heretic (causes divisions) after the first and second admonition reject; 11 Knowing that he that is such is subverted (has warped values), and sinneth, being condemned of himself.
Judging between order and disorder, steadfastness and compromise is a must according to the Bible. But, as we move toward the end of this Age of Grace it is even more necessary. Heres why -- 2 Timothy 3:13-14 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. 14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them.
Dont be a deceiver. Dont be one that is being deceived. Continue in the Word! Exercise Biblical judgment. May God grant you His Wisdom to exercise biblical judgment.