A Gracious Judgment

A Gracious Judgment

Please join with me in a prayer for the reading of God’s word. Father, we desire to love your law that it would be our meditation all the day. We ask that your commandments would make us wiser than our enemies, that they would be ever with us, that you would give us more understanding than our teachers, that your testimonies would give us more instruction than the aged. We ask that you would enable us to keep your law, that it would hold back our feet from every evil way. That you would cause us to follow your word more and more and not to turn aside. Father, that we would find that your words are sweet to our taste, sweeter than honey to our mouth. Father, we ask that you would work that out in our lives as we come before your word this morning. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen. Indeed, as we continue to work through the sermon on the mount, I have the honor of taking us through Matthew 7:1-5, this is the word of God. Judge not that you be not judged, for with the judging you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, Let me take the speck out of your eye, when there is a log in your own eye? You hypocrite. First, take the log out of your own eye, then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. The word of our Lord, you may be seated. Let me pray for the preaching of God’s word. Father, as my words are true to your word, may they be taken to heart. But if my words should stray from yours, may they be quickly forgotten. I pray this in the name and in the power of Jesus Christ. Amen. Well, a curious thing happened to me this week in my preparation for this sermon. I had finished reading Martin Lloyd Jones’s Sermon on the Mount, a commentary on these verses, which he breaks into two separate sermons, and then I moved on to read another scholar. And suddenly, I was struck by what seemed incredibly familiar. Hadn’t I just read that? I scanned for footnotes.

There were none. I looked for a citation. There was none. I grabbed Jones’s. I looked at this work, and I read two paragraphs side by side. Incredible. I called out, shouted, I think, plagiarist. I literally did. I hope I was the only one in the office at the time. I couldn’t believe that this scholar, whom I respect, had pilfered so much. I was adamant. I searched on shock and disbelief. I turned to the front and in the acknowledgment, read this. This is how we started. When people ask me which book influenced me most outside of the scriptures, my answer is Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones, Sermons on the Mount, and his next five sentences continued his tribute. Turning back to my text, I read, Judge not that you not be judged. I blew it. It’s easy. It’s pretty easy to pass judgment on one another, as I had so quickly done on my brother. And when I thought about it even more, I feel like my guilt was even compounded, as I realized that I too would concur that apart from the scriptures, Jones’s work, Sermon on the Mount, has been one of the most significant in my own life and clearly of my understanding of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount.

In fact, this sermon is heavily influenced by his work. I highly recommend Jones’s bookon the sermon on the Sermon on the Mount. Who was I to judge my fellow brother and superior scholar? Instead, I ought to have remembered that because God, in his grace, has placed his judgment of me upon his son, I must not stand as judge over anyone. As we began to unpack the text this morning, note that it begins with a bold and succinct prohibition. Judge not. I appreciate Dr. Dan Doreani’s reminder that chapter six ends with a prohibition. Do not worry or do not be anxious. Or if I could add, do not be wrongly focused on yourself. That’s how chapter six of Matthew ends. And Jesus begins chapter seven with, do not judge or be wrongly focused on others. The remedy, Dorianne suggest, is found one verse earlier, Matthew 6:33, seek first his kingdom and his righteousness. That, of course, is more than a remedy for our daily bread. It is, in fact, the key to the whole Sermon on the Mount, indeed, for all of Christian living. His kingdom, his righteousness, and then all of these other things, our troubles and our neighbors’ shortcomings begin to melt away.

So our text this morning shows us both in practical and theological ways how in this area of judging, we can begin to train ourselves to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness. Our first point is to look at the what of do not judge. I will tell you that some suggest that this command, and it is a command, is to be taken in its most literal sense, that we, as forgiven believers, must never judge others. We must refrain from all and every critical thought. We must never make a fuss about others teachings or actions or attitudes. Some scholars actually suggest this, and indeed, our culture pulls us in this direction. Society exhorts us not to judge. They would love, our culture would love us not to have any contrary opinions to what is currently acceptable on any front. I thought it was fascinating how Martin Lloyd Jones writing decades ago noted this, We are uncomfortable with a confident man who stands firmly in his or her convictions, end quote. I would suggest that we are still uncomfortable with confident people. We are uncomfortable with authoritative statements, with absolute statements. This is why you feel that there are many out there who might silence you, suggesting that the Christian should never voice their conviction about another’s action, belief, or attitude.

The trouble with this notion is that scripture won’t support it. You’ll notice if you have your Bibles open, that the very next verse, verse 6, outside of our text, demands a a judging. There, Jesus tells us that the followers of Christ were commanded, do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you. Here, clearly, the brother or sister in Christ is to engage in serious discernment and judgment. Is this person like in some sense a dog or like in some sense a pig? Will they simply trash what is holy and wise and attack me instead of benefiting from what I believe I have to offer them? That calls for judgment. Or nine verses later in chapter seven, verse 15, where Jesus again warns us, Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. In the very next verse, Jesus tells us, You will know them by their fruit. Here, Christ calls us to judge both their teaching and their fruit, and he tells us that it’ll be even more complicated because they will be in disguise.

So there’s an extra scrutiny that Christ is asking for us to engage in. Surely you can think of dozens of other examples which call for a discernment and even at times, confrontation with others. Some of those passages are directed to us as individuals, and some are given to leadership in the local church. But in every case, judgment is called for. And yet here is Jesus commanding us, Judge not. Look at the second part of that verse that you not be judged in a few moments, but perhaps it would be helpful to make a few observations about this whole passage, these whole five verses. First, you’ll notice the use of the word brother in verse three and on suggests that Jesus is referring to our interactions with other believers, Christian brothers and sisters. Second here, as in similar passages, which you can find in Romans 14, Luke 6, 1 Corinthians 4, and James 5, there’s a declaration in all of these that we will be judged. Next, while it’s only implied here, Romans 14, James 5, 1 Corinthians 4, they make it very clear that God is the judge in that case. Furthermore, our actions and our attitudes with respect to our brother will impact and affect God’s judgment on us, which shows us, lastly, that while this text does speak with our interactions with one another, the central focus of this is our relationship with the Lord.

That is what is in mind here. And as we think of that, as we begin to see this judgment that Christ is prohibiting, we begin to realize that what he’s speaking about is an overly critical, an arrogant spirit against other believers. The situation in which we rationally evaluate what we see or think we see and then blindly ascribe to that individual motives, we’ve decided that they meant or intended something. As we look at this portion, we’re wise to be reminded that every portion of the sermon on the mount is in context of the sermon on the mount. It’s best understood as a whole. And when you think about that, you realize that Jesus is opening our eyes to the true magnitude of the law. You’ve heard, I tell you. He’s showing us the monumental and impossible task of perfectly obeying God’s law, as well as revealing the glorious reality of that fulfillment in Christ’s own life and his provision of his life for us. This sobering realization of our inability to follow God’s law ought to temper our own critical spirits towards one another. I appreciated Martin Lloyd Jones’s test here. He said, If we wonder if we have that prohibited critical spirit against another brother, he suggests read 1 Corinthians 13 in the negative.

If in your heart you are not patient or not kind, if there’s any boasting in you in any way or if you’re finding yourself rude or irritable, then with respect to that person, that situation, you’ve got that critical spirit. And when you notice that, then this command is speaking directly to you. Do not judge lest you be judged. It may be helpful to look at what judgment we are liable to. One might be tempted to think that the simple meaning here is do not judge others or they will judge you, like a golden rule at one level. And certainly that’s a true statement. The more you judge, the more you will be judged by others. Several scholars have noted what we all anecdotally know to be true, it’s easier to be critical of people who are critical, right? Another scholar noted that people who most often criticize are also many times those who receive it poorly. We know this in our own lives, seen it in other people, of course. And while it’s obviously a true statement, it’s not the proper interpretation of this passage. When we take into account those similar passages in Romans and Luke and James and 1 Corinthians, there it’s expressly stated that God is the one doing the judging.

And then we realize we need to look a little deeper. Well, the Bible speaks of judgment in three primary ways. A first is the great and final judgment. This is where Christ will separate the sheep from the goats on that final day. Many passages which speak to that. I read our own confessional language from the Westminster, chapter 33, paragraph two, our church states it like this, The end of God’s appointing this day is for the manifestation of the glory of his mercy in the eternal salvation of the elect and of his justice in the damnation of the reprobate who are wicked and disobedient. For then shall the righteous go into everlasting life and receive that fullness of joy and refreshing which shall come from the presence of the Lord. But the wicked who know not God and obey not the gospel of Jesus Christ shall be cast into eternal torments and punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power. Strong words in an age that doesn’t like strong words, but that’s our confessional statement. That is the great and final judgment in which the world will be divided into sheep and goats.

And that Christ talks about many times, but it is not the judgment he is referring to in this passage. There’s a second type of judgment that is the judgment of God’s discipline of his children. You see an example of this in the warning at the Lord’s Supper, the Lord’s table, where Paul warns us that if anyone eat or drink without discerning the body, they eat or drink judgment upon themselves. And then Paul says, That is why many of you are weak and ill and some have died. But if we judge ourselves truly, we would not be judged. The type of judging there is a corrective and loving judgment from the Father. You can also see that in Hebrews 12:5 and following, where there the picture is of God treating us like sons, sons and daughters who are disciplined in the love of the Father with the best interest of the child in mind. And it is possible that that is the type of judgment that Jesus is warning us about. There’s a third use of judgment in the scriptures as well. You see it in many places, especially in the New Testament. Some call it the judgment of works, others the judgment of rewards.

1 Corinthians 10:10 and following. That’s a passage that speaks about, are you building with wood, hay or stubble? Or are you building with gold and silver elsewhere? Are you building on sandy ground? Or are you building on solid rock, reminding us that if our work survives the trial by fire, to use the language of 1 Corinthians 3, we will be rewarded. Romans 14:12 refers to this judgment when it says each of us will give an account of himself to God. There appears to be a type of judgment that Jesus is referring to. Are we, as believers, will be subject to that, a review of our lives in Christ? The scripture doesn’t specifically give a lot of instruction on that, and we would be careful to read in too much on our own. But clearly, something is happening. And we read from the text here and those other places that I mentioned that if we act with an overly critical, judging spirit against our brothers and sisters in Christ, we incur more of that judgment. And Jesus gives us three reasons why we ought not judge like this. The first reason we’ve already talked through, it’s seen in verse one, and it’s simply because as we engage, I’m just going to call it, mean-spirited criticism, we are ourselves judged by God.

It is implied that the more we judge, the more God will judge our works. There’s a second reason, though, that Jesus gives us that’s in verse two, and that’s that when we judge others, we set the standard of how we will be judged. That’s what our text tells us. And Luke 12:48, Jesus shares the principle that to whom much is given of him, much will be required. And then in that text, Jesus gives us a picture of two servants, one who knew the master’s will and disobeyed, and one who didn’t know the master’s will and did the wrong thing. Jesus wonders which one receives the severe beating, and he tells us what we already know, the one who knew better. Do you not see that every time you open your mouth to criticize another person’s action or beliefs, you are claiming you know better. And Jesus says, Beware. Beware. You are setting the standard by which your own judgment will occur. If that’s not enough, if we need another reason, Jesus gives us a third and humbling one. We ought not judge, he tells us in verses three through five, because we are incapable of judging rightly.

This is an incredible analogy, a credible story and picture of a speck, which is either a splinter of wood or a fleck of straw and a log, which is more literally translated beam or rafter. And Jesus is helping us understand this situation clearly. First, we can’t see our brother clearly because we have a log in our eye. Second, we can’t see our own sin very clearly. That’s evidence in the fact that we have a log in our eye that we seem to be unaware of. And finally, Jesus calls us a hypocrite, precisely because we are more interested in being the one to rebuke our brother with their tiny flaw than we are in taking care of the massive structure of our own sin in our life. And that’s the third reason, and praise the Lord, he has given us a remedy. We are first to remove the beam in our own eye. And once we do that, and with that, Jesus is declaring that it is possible to remove the log in our own eye, then we will see clearly. And when we can see clearly, then the implication is we can take the spec out of our brother’s eye.

It’s small and insignificant, but anybody that’s had anything in their eyes knows. It’s irritating and it’s distracting. And we can be invited to help take that out. New Testament scholar, Kent Hughes notes, There was nothing wrong with the brother’s diagnosis. There evidently is a speck. It’s just that it would be impossible for him to remove it, burdened by his own log. Dorianne concurrence, Jesus wants us to help one another when plagged by sin. But first, we must deal with our own sin. I love Jones on this point, and I’ll quote him at length here. He says, quote, The procedure for getting a moat, what he calls a speck, out of the eye is a very difficult operation. There is no organ that is more sensitive than the eye. The moment the finger touches it, it closes up. It is so delicate. What you require above everything else in dealing with it is sympathy, patience, calmness, coolness. That is what is required. Transfer all that into the spiritual realm. You are going to handle a soul. You are going to touch the most sensitive thing in man. How can we get the little moat out? There is only one thing that matters at that point, and that is that you should be humble, that you should be sympathetic, that you should be so conscious of your own sin and your own unworthiness that when you find it in another, far from defending, you feel like weeping.

This is where we realize that the Sermon on the Mount is the context in which this command to prohibit an arrogant, presumptive criticism. This is where we remember that blessed are the poor in spirit, that blessed are those who mourn, that blessed are the meek. This is where we remember that the Lord has forgiven us the greater debt, that the guilt of our sin was born on the cross by the very author of these words, Judge not that you not be judged. This is where we consider Jesus. Not only did he die in our place for the beams in our own eyes. It’s the same Jesus that says to the paralectic, Your sins are forgiven. To the woman weeping in Simon’s house, Your sins are forgiven. Of Jesus, Isaiah declared, A bruised reed he will not break. So when you see a speck in your sister’s eye or your brother’s eye, should we then judge? This is where we ask ourselves carefully. Can 1 Corinthians 13 describe my need to correct my brother? Can I love her in this way, patiently? Can I love him with this truth, kindly? Do I feel a need to boast about this?

Have I rejoiced in any way in their wrongdoing? A careful and critical reading of 1 Corinthians 13 in our lives is what’s needed here, and it’ll go a long way to honor our Lord’s command. Do not judge, rather, seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. Let us pray. Father, indeed, in Your word, you tell us to judge not, and you show us examples in which we are to judge. And so we ask for wisdom, knowing when and when not. I want to. And Father, teach us Your voice that we would hear the prompting of Your spirit in our lives to check ourselves and to check ourselves against Your word, that we would only do so in a loving, kind, patient, sympathetic way. Father, we ask for that wisdom, and we know how prone we are to judge one another. So Father, forgive us. And thank you that you have forgiven us. Lord, we rejoice in the love you’ve lavished upon us. We are thrilled that you have forgiven us. Help us to forgive one another. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Disclaimer: Automated Sermon Transcription