By Erich Olsen
“Judge not, lest you be judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged.”
“He who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one”.
-Paul the Apostle
Two very different, seemingly contradictory statements. One says, ‘do not judge’. The other says, ‘judge everything’. How do we reconcile the words of these two men? First we must ask, what was Jesus referring to in his statement, and what was Paul referring to in his?
Immediately following Jesus’ words, He compares bad judgment to trying to remove a speck of dust from someone else’s eye, when I have a plank in my own. As is often the case with Christ’s words, He is speaking to an attitude of the heart. This one says, “I am better than you, or smarter or more spiritual than you, so I am able to tell you where you are wrong”. It’s a condition of false superiority that elevates me over someone else, and tells me that I am a qualified ‘speck remover’, that in fact speck removal is my spiritual calling. The fact is, I am probably trying to make the 2×4 hanging out of my own eye feel smaller by making someone else’s speck seem bigger. Jesus says to me, “Go take care of your 2×4, and then you’ll be able to see clearly what you now perceive is a problem with another. Now, He is NOT saying to remove my plank, and then I’ll be able to criticize others more effectively. He is saying that the attitude of the heart that seeks to condemn another IS the plank in my eye! The Pharisaical hypocrisy that makes me think I am qualified to pass judgment on another is, in fact, what is blinding me, and it must be removed.
Then I will be able to see the size of my own shortcomings compared to those of others. And what Jesus says, leads seamlessly into what Paul says later: once we’ve dealt with our fallen nature that judges in the natural, then and only then are we able to rightly judge things with the truth of the Spirit.
It is here that we cross over from ceasing the wrongful kind of judgment, and we begin to ‘judge all things’ according to the Spirit, or as Paul also calls it, ‘the Mind of Christ’. So, what then are all these things that the Spirit-minded are called to judge? The scripture reads, “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, nor can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one”. So, we are to judge between what the world calls foolishness, and the voice of the Spirit, which we discern with the Spirit-given Mind of Christ.
The natural man, that is, the man whose mind has not been renewed by the resurrection power of Christ, will always see things in the natural, and will always therefore be blind to spiritual truth:
“…that which is born of the flesh is flesh,
and that which is born of the Spirit, is Spirit.
You must be born again”. –John 3: 6&7
If any man is to walk in the Spirit of truth, he must be reborn and resurrected with the mind of Christ. And this renewed mind is to discern, or to judge between those things that are from the Spirit of God, and those that are from the spirit of the natural man without Christ. This is Godly judgment, and it comes only after the mind of Christ has been birthed in us by grace, and we learn to walk with Him in His resurrection wisdom and power.
So we have the two judgments. The Lord tells us to flee from the condemning, self-exalting kind of judgment. And Paul makes it clear that we who are spiritual are to ‘judge all things’, ‘test’ all things, he says elsewhere. And it is here that the truth begins to sting. Although we are never to judge with a heart of condemnation, we are also never to suspend our spiritual moral judgment. ‘All things’ are to be weighed with the mind of Christ. With the leadership of the Spirit of truth, we are commanded not only to judge the foolishness of the world, but, to bring the light of truth to bear:
“Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness,
but rather expose them”. –Ephesians 5:11
Scripture is very clear that we must walk carefully when admonishing and reproving each other, “lest you yourselves be made to stumble”. But if the Spirit of truth is silenced, the foolishness of the natural man flourishes. We are called to be light in a world of spiritual darkness, “exposing, reproving and exhorting one another”. Our fallen nature, the ‘natural man’, is always trying to resurface. And wherever he does, we who are Spiritual are admonished to speak the truth in love.
The modern Body of Christ is suffering immeasurable harm because of this lack of understanding. Many professing Christians now stand with the world in saying, “don’t judge me”, often misusing the words of Jesus concerning wrongful judgment to condemn those who stand up for Biblical righteousness. Sadly, we see the Word itself used as a license to practice all manner of sin, as if somehow thinking that if the words of scripture concerning sin are not spoken, that we can escape the wrath that lawlessness brings. But the truth calls out:
“for the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven
against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,
who suppress the truth in unrighteousness”. –Romans 1:18
Let us always be quick to love and forgive each other, but ready to be truth speakers and never truth suppressors, lest we become partakers in the coming wrath of our Holy God.
Blessed be His Name.