In this first in depth look into the subject of judging, I believe that it is necessary for us to examine two words in the scriptures that are, in a sense, precursors to judging, correction and reproof. The moment that we bring to the attention of one of our brothers or sisters in Christ some area of their lives that is not in adherence to the Word of God, we encounter the possibility of judging them outside of the Scriptures, and so all correction must be in accordance with Gods inerrant Word. Any of our own opinions would be just that, opinions, our own perception of the situation present before us in our brother’s actions, and the way we believe they would be best addressed. This must be avoided at all times.
Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ have lost their fellowship with some in the congregation because of self-righteous words, self-opinionated beliefs that found no basis of truth within the Word of God. We must always remember that if our words have no foundation in the Scriptures, then they will be seen as our opinion, and therefore judgmental, and not given as they should have been, for the spiritual growth and maturity of the hearer. Read with me here 2 Timothy 3:16 “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, for instruction in righteousness.” All Scripture my friends, not some.
Many thru the ages have decided the best course of action for their lives when they feel the pin prick of the Holy Spirit within them about a spiritual issue He is attempting to convict them of is to search within the Scriptures for a verse, usually one completely out of context, that will make them feel better about the particular situation they are being prompted to address. This is how our Lord has almost always worked in this area, we have been given in His word commandments that we are to obey, not suggestions. When there is rebellion on our part against His will, He attempts to correct us through His Spirit indwelling within us. Correction, in a sense, when it is a prompting from the Holy Spirit, is like an officer of the law, reminding us of the law, and our responsibility to adhere to that law. Our response to this remembrance, the truth of God’s word, in this first correction, will determine whether we will find mercy from the Righteous Judge because of our repentance of these actions immediately, or whether we will need further correction from a different source of His choosing. To pick and choose at our own discretion certain verses from the Scriptures is to try to find reasons for our actions within the Word of God, and not the correction for ourselves that we should be seeking in the entirety of the Scriptures.
Our Lord nearly always chooses a child of His who is mature in the area that His other child is not yet mature in for the one who is either misunderstanding of His will and word in the area in question, or in open rebellion to it. Here is where we start to see problems arise, and these problems are almost always based in pride. As the brother that our Lord has sent to the one who is either offending or misunderstanding in an area of Scriptures is approached with the truth, we will begin, sadly, to see hesitation on their part to accept the truths being given to them. Even when the correction is given in love, using verses that are applicable to the situation at hand, even when the only intent of the heart of the giver is for his brother to renew a right relationship with Christ, to see the path of truth and return to it for the glory of God, many times the hearer will not have ears to hear. The sinful nature within them will set up an interior defensive shield of self-righteousness, excuses will abound as to their reasonings for why they are not being submissive to the will and word of God, and more likely than not, before the conversation has come to an end, you will be compared to the pharisee in Luke 18:10-14. You will be seen as judgmental, and they will be the only righteous person standing there, pushing further the conviction of the transgression that the Holy Spirit put into their heart earlier deeper down, but it will still be there, and the children of our Lord that are disobedient to His will are always chastised, for He loves us.
As some of you have, I too have been placed in a position by our Lord of being sent to correct a fellow believer who has erred in the truth, and speaking for myself here, it is not something that I look forward to, in fact I have many times asked if perhaps there was someone else He could send. When we are sent by our Lord to address these issues in one of our brothers or sisters, very rarely should we expect them to have memorized, much less applied Prov. 9:8 “rebuke a wise man and he will love thee”; Prov. 10:17 “he that refuses reproof errs”; Prov.12:1 “he that hates reproof is brutish.” In most cases, I have been the one that was rebuked, even ostracized from the congregation of a church. It is in these times of correction that we truly learn who we serve, for even after we have prayed diligently, sought out whether these are truths or rumors surrounding the individual, searched fervently into the truths of God’s word, always in context, and the proper way to approach our brother with these truths, very rarely will we feel the firm handshake in thanks from a repentant brother.
If the church that you attend is following the proper paths laid out for us in Scripture, then the course is clear (Matt. 18:15-17), another brother must be sought out, and the transgressor, if it is a serious matter, must be approached again, if he remains unrepentant, then the entire fellowship must address the issue, the desire to bring him in love back into a right relationship with the Lord, if He refuses, he must be told to step out the door and not return until he repents. All this my friends from just one small inner prompting in a man’s heart from the Holy Spirit and his refusal to address it and submit in repentance. The need for correction and reproof originates within us, it begins where all rebellion starts, the sinful lusts of our own desires. If we do not address it, God will.
We must also address here those that are incorrect in proper discernment of the word of God, and of this subject there would be no end, for in it we find the reason behind the thousands, perhaps millions of different religious organizations around the world, even the myriad of different Bible translations. Because of our sinful natures and man’s consistent falling into the traps of Satan, millions cannot agree on who God is, or even if He is. How are we to correct someone who has been taught lies their entire life, has believed everything that a false religious organization has given to them, and has no desire whatsoever to have the knowledge of the truths in the word of God, the answer is simple, we do not.
This is where we must understand that it is Jesus Christ that we are following, if we try to make our own trail, we will get lost and fail. We are to hide the word of God in our hearts so that we do not sin against Him (Psalm 119:11), and if we are not sent, if we do not search out a matter diligently, if we try to correct and reprove without the word of God and proper knowledge of the situation, if we just dive in without proper discernment and much prayer, we will be heard as judgmental, and we ourselves may possibly fall into a situation that we will then need to be corrected on. “Wherefore let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” (1st Cor. 10:12)
When we are correcting a fellow believer we are judging, not us though, but the word of God, and so much care, great caution and a firm grasp of the truths of God’s word in each individual situation must be strictly adhered to, we are to judge righteous judgement (John 7:24), there must be no log in our own eye when it comes to the matter at hand (Matt. 7:3). Our one main purpose in this life is to glorify God, to lift up the name of Jesus in our lives to all that will listen, this must be our focus when we are called to correct and reprove our brothers and sisters in Christ. In doing so, we will help them to return to the path of obedience to the will and word of God in their lives, and then they also can glorify His Holy name. Love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8), approach them always in love and humility, but always with firm truth, correct in kindness and love, and you may win your brother back, he then in turn can assist others and so glorify God. Leave yourself out of the situation, let God do the work, but be prepared always to be the instrument that he is making you into.