Judging the brethren



Jesus said: “Judge not ….” (Matthew 7:1 – NKJV). It is clear therefore that we must not judge our brothers. But what does it mean not to judge our brothers? I will answer this question through the Scriptures.

● Paul says to the Corinthians: “Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God” (1 Corinthians 4:1-5 – NKJV). Now, some of the believers in Corinth had judged Paul to be inferior, in the sight of God, to Apollos and Cephas, for some of them said that they were of Apollos and others said that they were of Cephas, but there were other believers who had judged him to be superior to Apollos and Cephas because they said that they were of Paul. Then Paul admonished them and among other things he said to them: “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord”. In this way Paul explained to them that judgement belongs to God and it is God who will judge him to be inferior or superior to Apollos or Cephas, while they (the believers in Corinth) could not judge him because they did not know all the counsels of his heart nor did they know all the counsels of the heart of Apollos and Cephas. Therefore, he commanded them not to judge anything before the time, until the Lord comes, who will reward each one of His sons according to his own labor but also according to all the hidden things (both good and bad things) done or said or thought by him. It is evident therefore that from this point of view we cannot judge a brother by saying that he is greater than another or by saying that he will receive a bigger reward than another or by saying that God will make him sit nearer to the Lord than another, because only God knows all thoughts, all works and all words of each one of His sons.

● Paul said to the Romans: “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. 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. ….. But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way” (Romans 14:1-6, 10-13). From these words we learn that if a brother has a certain opinion about foods which is different from the opinion of another brother - for instance, he thinks that he should abstain from eating meat, while the other brother is convinced that he may eat all things - he must not judge him who has a different opinion. Why? Because God has received both him who eats only vegetables and him who eats all things. Both of them, even though they have a different opinion about meat, act in that way to the Lord, for they give thanks to God, therefore he who is weak in the faith (he who eats only vegetables) must not judge him who is strong in the faith (that is, him who eats all things). On the other hand, even he who eats all things must not despise him who eats only vegetables. As far as days are concerned, we need to say the same thing; if a brother esteems one day (Saturday or Sunday, etc.) above another and thus he observes it to the Lord, he must not judge him who esteems every day alike. And he who esteems every day alike must not despise him who esteems one day above another. In other words, the sons of God must receive one another just as God also received them in Christ and must not pass judgement on disputable matters. In this case, each one must be fully convinced in his own mind before God and must not grieve the other because of his different opinion. Therefore, no matter what is the opinion of a brother about a particular food or day, we must respect him. That’s how we must conduct ourselves toward a brother who has a different opinion than ours about a certain food but he does not command the others to conform to his opinion. However, if a brother says that everybody must abstain from this or that food, then he must be rebuked harshly because he teaches a doctrine of demons for “every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4-5 – NKJV).

● James said: “Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?” (James 4:11-12). First of all, bear in mind that James wrote his epistle to believing Jews who were part of the diaspora, for at the beginning of his epistle he wrote: “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting” (James 1:1). Therefore, he wrote to persons who knew the law and still observed some precepts of the law (not in order to be justified by the law). Probably among those brethren, who were Jews by birth, some thought that they did not have to keep any longer some of the rites of their forefathers and spoke against or judged those who kept them. - Let us remember that in Jerusalem, at the time when Paul returned from his third apostolic journey, there were thousands of believing Jews who were zealous for the law (Acts 21:20), therefore we should not be surprised if among the Jews who were scattered abroad there were some believing Jews who were zealous for the law. - Then James found it necessary to write to those brothers, exhorting them not to speak against (that is, not to judge) one another, because by so doing they would speak against or judge the law. That’s how we must interpret these words of James.

At this point someone may ask: ‘Are we forbidden to judge brothers under any circumstance, according to the Word of God, then? Not at all, because there are some other Scriptures which affirm that we can, or rather, we must judge. Let us look at the circumstances in which we are allowed to judge.

We can judge a dispute between brothers. For, concerning the fact that in the Church of Corinth some brothers went to law against some other brothers before unbelievers rather than before the saints, Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?” (1 Corinthians 6:2-5). As you can see, we, who are the saints, are allowed to judge a dispute between believers. Therefore if a believer has a dispute with another believer, he doesn’t need to take it before the ungodly for judgement but he must take it before the saints because the saints are able to judge the things of this life.

We can judge those believers who have committed certain sins, which are particularly serious, by handing them over to Satan and by expelling them from among us. For instance, Paul judged that man who lived in Corinth who had his father’s wife; here is what he wrote to the Corinthians concerning that man: “For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 5:3-5). Paul judged in this way also Hymenaeus and Alexander, for he wrote to Timothy: “Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme” (1 Timothy 1:20). That’s why Paul told us: “For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13), because we have, as Church of God, authority to judge the wicked (fornicators, covetous persons, idolaters, slanderers, drunkards and swindlers) and expel them from among us.

There are other Scriptures which attest that we, as believers, can judge. For instance, Jesus said to the Jews: “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24 – NKJV), and also: “Yes, and why, even of yourselves, do you not judge what is right?” (Luke 12:57 - NKJV). And Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “I speak as to wise men: judge for yourselves what I say” (1 Corinthians 10:15 – NKJV), and again: “Judge among yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?” (1 Corinthians 11:13 – NKJV), and again: “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge” (1 Corinthians 14:29 – NKJV). Therefore, as believers, we can judge, but not according to appearance but with righteous judgement, also the teachings of a minister of the Gospel, prophecies and revelations. And obviously we will be able to judge with righteous judgement if we fear God and know the Scriptures.

Now let me give you a few examples of prophecies and people judged with righteous judgement.

These prophecies are false, because they are inconsistent with the Scripture.  ‘Thus says the Lord, You want to know if the commandment concerning the veil (1 Corinthians 11:10) is still mandatory; well, know this, it has passed away.’ ‘Thus says the Lord, You want to know if you, as a divorced man, can remarry, as long as your wife is alive; well, you can, so do not be afraid to marry the woman you love.’ These other prophecies also are false, because they strengthen the hands of the wicked, so that they do not turn from their evil ways to save their soul, ‘Thus says the Lord, the Roman Catholics are Christians, for they have been born again through water baptism and they also heed my Word, so do not be afraid to accept them as brothers and sisters.’ ‘Thus says the Lord, those who affirm that you, as sons of God, must abstain from going to the beach, watching television, and telling jokes, are trying to deceive you, so do not listen to them.’

Those prophets who are greedy for money, sensual, arrogant, sexually immoral, and who lie against the truth and make false predictions, are false prophets, ministers of Satan who transform themselves into ministers of righteousness. Why do we say this about them? Because they bear bad fruits. For Jesus said that a tree is known by its fruit, and thus, just as we can recognize a good tree so we can recognize also a bad tree (Matthew 7:15-20; 12:33-35). And these persons who call themselves prophets are bad trees because the fruit of their mouth and their works are evil. Therefore if the Scripture calls them false prophets we must call them in this way. Likewise, those teachers who are lovers of money, who are presumptuous, self-willed, who speak evil of dignitaries, who carouse in the daytime, who are slaves of the pollutions of the world, who teach damnable heresies, are false teachers; for their words and works are evil, and thus we judge them to be false teachers. Don’t be deceived by the smooth and flattering words of some (who have been believers even for many years) who refuse to expose these impostors in order to avoid persecution.

Those sisters who wear miniskirts, or low-necked dresses, or jewelry, or trousers, or make up, etc., do not perfect holiness with propriety. We are not judging them unjustly because we don’t pass judgement on them according to appearance but according to real facts.

Those brothers and sisters who say ‘Yes’ to the worldly lusts love the world and don’t have the love of the Father in them: we don’t judge them unjustly, for the facts speak for themselves; they love the world and the things which are in the world.

Those preachers who charge a certain amount of money for every sermon or for every prayer for the sick or for every prophecy serve Mammon and not the Lord Jesus; we are not judging them unjustly but righteously, according to their wicked conduct.

To conclude I want to say this: many pastors, not wanting to expose the worldliness which exists in the midst of the Church (lest they make enemies), cite the biblical passage which says that we must not judge according to appearance, and thus they accuse us, who judge those brothers who say ‘Yes’ to worldly lusts to be carnal, of judging people according to appearance. Now, brothers, I speak as to wise men, judge for yourselves what I am going to say. Tell me this: ‘If one tells you that he has planted a cherry tree in his field and that tree bears plums and you say that that tree is a plum tree, could you ever accept his reproof according to which you must not say that that tree is a plum tree but a cherry tree? I don’t think you would accept such a reproof. Why then, in seeing some believers who love the fashion, make up, jewelry, television, soccer, money, who love to go to dance, to the beach and to the amusement parks, who love to fornicate, to commit adultery, to practice falsehood and duplicity, should we be accused of judging them unjustly or according to appearance because we say that they don’t have the love of the Father in them and they live for themselves and not for the Lord? Is it not true that their fruits bear witness that they love the world rather than the Lord? Is it not true that these people do not bear good fruits to the glory of God? Is it not true that they walk after the flesh and not after the Spirit? Why then should we say that they are spiritual? Should we call them spiritual just because they attend a place of worship on which it is written ‘Pentecostal Church’ or because they speak with other tongues or because they prophesy? And why should we call some ‘servants of God,’ when they live a rebellious life for they have a heart trained in covetous practices and give themselves over to the lusts of the flesh? Should we call them ‘servants of God’ because they have ‘a piece of paper’ and are able to make a speech by quoting a verse of the Bible after another? How can we call them ‘servants of God’ when everybody can see that they serve their belly rather than God? And besides this, why should I not expose the worldly lusts, when God commands me to expose them? Should I refrain from exposing them to please those who say ‘Yes’ to them and thus to avoid persecution? Certainly not, because it is written that if I still pleased men, I would not be a servant of Christ.

So, brothers, in the light of what the Scripture teaches, I tell you to beware of all those pastors who tolerate worldliness, for in so doing they deceive themselves and the hearts of the simple.