I used to love to watch the People’s Court. I think my favorite character on there was Rusty the Bailiff. I always thought Judge Wapner had a real good sense of character and could get at the truth of what happened and make a judgment. The funny thing is, I’ve never once heard a liberal christian complain “Who is he to judge? You know what it says in Matthew 7:1.” In fact, the only time I’ve ever heard a liberal christian use this verse is when a Christian is proclaiming truth from God’s holy word that the liberal christian deems to be unloving. As we looked at this verse last time, we observed that it does not preclude a Christian from any judging given the immediate context. As we will see in I Corinthians 5, neither does the broader context of the New Testament suggest that we should not judge in some instances.
Now, just to sort of remind us here, the word in question that we’re looking at is the Greek word krinete (2919). The word can mean to judge in a positive or negative light and can also mean to evaluate or consider. In other words, it doesn’t just mean to judge in a legal or judicial sense although it is used in that context. Paul is writing in this chapter how he has heard reports of sexual immorality among them that isn’t even heard of outside of the church. Instead of recognizing this behavior as sinful, they were proud of the fact that they were such a loving church that they didn’t judge anyone but instead could love them anyway.
Paul’s response is pretty pointed and he doesn’t mince words here. He says in I Corinthians 5:3 that “I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (kekrika-2919) him who has so committed this, as though I were present.” Now, if Jesus in Matthew 7:1 means that we as Christians are never supposed to judge and that doing so is sin, then why is Paul not repenting of his judgment in the case of this incestuous relationship he has heard about? Why would God allow Paul to include his sinful judgment of this sin in a letter to a church where Paul was having to deal with problems anyway? The only possible reason for Paul to make this statement using the same Greek word (in a different tense) is for him to say he was judging this sin. And, notice, he didn’t just pass judgment and declare the verdict, he in verse 5 gives us his sentence. We read in I Corinthians 5:5 “I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” That isn’t the sugar-coated, cotton candy approach we find our liberal christian friends would like us to take. No, no, no, my friends, Paul didn’t say “Go set these people in the Thinking Chair over in the corner. They’ve just earned them selves a time out”. Nope, he said he has delivered them over to Satan. Now, it’s beyond the scope of this blog post to go into exactly what that means but suffice it to say it doesn’t sound pleasant. I would conclude, then, that Paul was judging in this case. But does that make it ok for us to judge?
That is a fair question. I mean, I don’t know, maybe Paul got some sort of special badge that said he could judge so that the liberal christian could say “Woah, now hoss. I’m not like Paul. I can’t go judging. I don’t have any business doing that. He was an apostle. I’m just plain ol’ Joe Schmoe over here.” However, look at what Paul writes just a few verses later.
I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler--not even to eat with such a one.
Paul says for them to separate from someone who, through unrepentant sin, demonstrates that he is not really a Christian. In order to do that, you’re going to have to determine if the behavior is sinful which will involve judging. Then, in verse I Corinthians 5:12, he asks a rhetorical question:
For what have I to do with judging (krinein-2919) outsiders? Do you (his audience) not judge (krinete-2919) those who are within the church?
Folks, there is nothing in the immediate context of Matthew 7:1 nor in the broader biblical context as we seen in I Corinthians 5:1-12 that would preclude our judging in appropriate times and places. Therefore, that verse does not mean that we are NEVER to judge in ANY circumstances. You might ask “Well then, what does it mean?” We’ll get into that next time.