I had heard for years that this scripture meant that you needed to pray with brothers and sisters in Christ for your prayer to be really effective. When I first learned the context of this verse I felt like the confusion was benign. What did it really hurt that church folk over-romanticized this?
After focusing on this, the longer I thought about it the more concerned it made me. There are two problems with getting this verse wrong. But first, what is it actually about?
The context of this verse is actually church discipline, when someone has backslid, brothers and sisters lovingly need to help pull one another out of sin.
First, you take your brother aside if they won’t listen bring two or three if they still won’t repent you bring them before the church. If they refuse to repent when the matter is shown them the third time, that is when they need to be removed from the congregation. Again, the heart is important, this needs to be done in love with a deep concern for the souls of the congregation and the individual in sin.
So, what’s the big deal about getting this verse wrong? First, suggesting that this verse means Christ is only with us when two or three are gathered is clearly a contradiction of other verses that say God is omnipresent. It also seems to say that we can manipulate God into doing what we want, so long as we say the prayer the right way.
The second and a more concerning point is the church disciple that is neglected. As churches move to watered down gospels, church discipline has disappeared. Due to this, many of the true believers are being hurt by the sinful conduct of false converts. True believers are also being neglected by church leadership, whose responsibility it is to confront sin.
Lastly, we need to remember that God’s Word is holy, it must at all times be treated as such. God’s Word is a light unto our path, let’s not muffle that light! Take the full counsel friends, not twisted scriptures used out of context to make things more comfortable.
“People tell me judge not lest ye be judged. I always tell them, twist not scripture lest ye
be like Satan.”
― Paul David Washer
There are many places in the Bible where it warns us to be careful not to take God’s Word out of context. This is no small matter, this is a deep concern.
We are told to be on guard, watchful of the untaught and unstable who will distort to the word. So what happens when the world of unbelieving church goers pick one verse and use it to their advantage? Chaos, confusion, manipulation, and even spiritual death. This, then, is truly a matter we must address. As believers, we’re given the wonderful blessing of the Holy Spirit, who, coming to make His abode within us, will teach us all things. Confusion on God’s Word need not stand, friends. Not when we have the Helper to clarify. Remember, Christ spoke in parables to the unbelieving multitudes, but in private He expounded the parables to his disciples. If we are true followers of Christ, we do not have to remain in darkness as to the truth of God’s Word.
Now that we are in the light we must be wary of false teachers, false preachers, and false gospels. There are men from within our churches who arise speaking perverse things. These men twist the scripture to fit their own desires.
One such scripture that is well known, and well used, is ‘Judge not lest ye be judged’. Whew…well, in that case, I guess we better let our brothers and sisters fall into sin without helping them back up. I guess we better not proclaim the Gospel to the world because in doing so we pronounce judgment over sin. You cannot hear the good news without first understanding there’s bad news.
Luke 12:57 Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?
Jesus is speaking here to the people about how they can discern the weather, but do not discern the time they were in. They are not judging for themselves what is right.
In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul even writes about how the congregation there should have judged one in sin, and how he had already judged the man and given him over to Satan that his spirit might be saved. Those are some stern words, however, Paul is speaking of salvation…is there a greater, or more weighty matter?
Luke 6:37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:
Here Jesus is speaking to his disciples, he gives many ‘blessed are,’ and ‘woe to them’, then he says…
“And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which do good to you, what thank have he? For sinners, also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? For sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye, therefore, merciful, as your Father also is merciful. JUDGE NOT, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.” Luke 6:31-37
Whoa…what a minute…did Jesus just tell us to judge not, then in John 7:24 contradict himself? Of course not. So, what happens when we take the full counsel of God?
Matthew 7 Jesus expounds on the point, to further explain what we are being required.
“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 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? 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.” Matthew 7:1-5
Are we told here that after we remove the beam from our own eye that we should ignore the speck in our brother’s eye? No, we’re told to work on our own sin so we can see better to help our brothers. This is judging righteous judgment, the command not to judge is referring to hypocritical judgment. Therefore, again, it is so important to take the full scriptures and not cherry pick the ones that fit your own agenda.
In Roman’s 2 Paul writes “Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for, in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.”
So we see this repeated over, and over again. Judge righteously. How? It’s the heart friends, it always comes back to the heart. God is the very one who judges our hearts, He sees why we judge one another. So often we pick the flaws out in others that are actually things we don’t like about ourselves. This is a small example, but it is true also for sin. Men living in the sin of adultery preach the loudest against, as to not appear guilty. This is the sinful type of judgment, to judge others while sinning yourself.
We should first deal with our own sin, confess it, repent of it, ask for forgiveness for it. Then, when God has granted us the strength to overcome that sin, we will see clearly to help others out of it as well. There is no better testimony than to throw down the shackles of sin, not by our strength but through God’s Grace.
As always friends, take the whole counsel of God’s Word.
Be good Bereans, and study to find yourselves approved.