ANSWER: The verse you are referring to is, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Mt. 7:1 NKJV). Two excellent Bible teachers, William MacDonald and H. A. Ironside, have clearly explained this verse in books they have written. Let’s see what they say:
William MacDonald, in his Believer’s Bible Commentary: “This command not to judge others includes the following areas: we should not judge motives, as only God can read them; we should not judge by appearance (Jn. 7:24; Jas. 2:1-4); we should not judge those who have conscientious scruples about matters that are not in themselves right or wrong (Rom. 14:1-5); we should not judge the service of another Christian (1 Cor. 4:1-5); and we should not judge a fellow believer by speaking evil about him (Jas. 4:11-12).
“Sometimes these words of our Lord are misconstrued to prohibit all forms of judgment. No matter what happens, people piously say, ‘Judge not, that you be not judged.’ But Jesus is not teaching that we are to be undiscerning Christians. He never intended us to abandon our critical faculty of discernment.
“The New Testament has many illustrations of legitimate judgment of the condition, conduct, or teaching of others. In addition, there are several areas in which the Christian is commanded to make a decision, to discriminate between good and bad or between good and best. Some of these include:
- When disputes arise between believers, they should be settled in the church before members who can decide the matter (1 Cor. 6:1-8).
- The local church is to judge serious sins of its members and take appropriate action (Mt. 18:17; 1 Cor. 5:9-13).
- Believers are to judge the doctrinal teaching of teachers and preachers by the Word of God (Mt. 7:15-20; 1 Cor. 14:29; 1 Jn. 4:1).
- Christians have to discern if others are believers in order to obey Paul’s command concerning an unequal yoke (2 Cor. 6:14).
- Those in the church must judge which men have the qualifications necessary to be elders and deacons (1 Tim. 3:1-13).
- We have to discern which people are unruly, fainthearted, weak, etc., and treat them according to the instructions in the Bible (1 Th. 5:14).
In Matthew 7:2 Jesus warned that unrighteous judgment would be repaid in kind: ‘For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged.’ This principle of reaping what we sow is built into all human life and affairs. Mark applies the principle to our appropriation of the Word (Mk. 4:24) and Luke applies it to our liberality in giving (Lk. 6:38).”
H. A. Ironside, in his Notes On Matthew:
“‘Judge not’ refers to a question of motives. There are circumstances when the people of God are commanded to judge (1 Cor. 5:12), in the sense of dealing with offenders against the Christian standard of morals, even to excluding them from church fellowship (1 Cor. 5:3-5,13).
“But we are not to attempt to sit in judgment upon the hidden springs of action. We are so easily prejudiced and our snap judgments are so often wrong. We cannot read the heart or discern the thoughts. This is God’s prerogative alone. If we disobey this command we need not be surprised if others pass judgment on us in a similar way.”
We hope the comments of these two Bible teachers help you to understand this verse well enough to apply it in your own life and explain it to your friends.
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org