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Wordwise Insight, Issue #016 -- Christian service, judging others,
April 14, 2006

WORDWISE INSIGHT is the free, informative monthly newsletter of


BIBLE INSIGHTS. two items on serving the Lord, an important study on "Truth in Our Trials"

READER Q & A. Is it ever right for Christians to "judge" others?

IDEAS FOR YOUR CHURCH. A plea of more expository preaching

NEWS & REVIEWS. An excellent book of illustrations


Truth About Suffering


Question: In Matthew 7:1 Jesus says, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” Does this mean it is always wrong for Christians to judge others?

Answer: This is a favourite text of those who, like Pilate, would wash their hands of any responsibility to evaluate and challenge what others are doing. (“He’s the Lord’s servant, so we mustn’t judge him you know.”) However, the statement of Jesus must be seen in its context. It is not any and all judging the Lord condemns, but self-righteous judgment that ignores personal faults (vs. 2-5). The warning is similar to what we have in James: “Let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment” (Jas. 3:1).

When it is prefaced by a thorough self-examination before God, spiritual believers are prepared to be discerning (vs. 5). Some we will “judge” to be spiritual “dogs” or “swine,” ill-prepared to appreciate the truths of God. (These were unclean animals to the Jews, animals that often showed little discrimination in their diet, feeding on garbage and even their own vomit, cf. II Pet. 2:22.) Others are going to be dangerous “ sheep’s clothing” (false teachers) revealed to be such by the fruit in their lives (vs. 15-16). While we are to show love to all (Matt. 5:44), we are not to waste resources trying to present the truths of God to those not ready or willing to receive them.

In Ephesians 5:11 God’s Word exhorts us to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose [reprove and rebuke] them.” The words of Jesus are not intended to forbid sound, righteous judgment (cf. Jn. 7:24), and spiritual discernment (I Thess. 5:21-22), and even the rejection of those who are sinning or in error (cf. Rom. 16:17-18; I Cor. 5:11; II Thess. 3:6, 14; Tit. 3:10-11). Note how Paul passed judgment on ministers of the gospel (Phil. 1:15-17) and urged others to be discerning as well (vs. 9-10). Paul even opposed Peter when he saw the latter behaving hypocritically (Gal. 2:11-14).

What Christ is warning about in Matthew 7:1 is not spiritual discernment and the exercise of proper godly judgment. It is what we might call a judgmental spirit or judgmentalism. A judgmental person sets himself up as superior, and as being above the faults of others. In so doing he is blinded to his own (often similar) sins. A person like that will often gloat over the failure of others (as the Pharisees seemed to), because it increases his opinion of himself. The Lord is condemning the superficial, self-justifying judgment of the Pharisees who saw everyone’s faults but their own. Those who were judging others needed to realize they too would be judged (vs. 2). They needed to take steps to deal with their own sin first, before condemning others (vs. 3-5). But note that afterward action is to be taken to deal with the fault of the other person (vs. 5).

Church leaders are to protect the flock from enemies of the truth, whether they come from outside the church or from within it (Acts 20:28-31). Discernment followed by appropriate action is the Christian’s responsibility. “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life” (I Cor. 6:2-3). We are to reprove and rebuke those who sin (II Tim. 4:2; Tit. 2:15), on the basis of God’s Word which is “profitable for reproof [and] for correction” (II Tim. 3:16). The final goal, when a Christian brother or sister is involved is not punishment but rather restoration (Gal. 6:1).

Next Month: Barbara asks how she can help her teen-aged children. The family lives in a rural area where are few options for church attendance and little programming for youth. What should she do?

NEW BIBLE STUDY: Available now on the Wordwise website is a discussion Bible study on the Lord's Prayer. Why not check it out at The Lord's Prayer.


1) “Preach the Word!”
This is a simple plea directed especially to pastors–though Sunday School teachers and Bible study leaders need to give heed as well. Too many churches today have opted to study books about the Bible, with little but an occasional proof text from God’s Word here and there. I know of one church where the pastor chose to “preach” through Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. One attending a service said there was very little Scripture in the message, though this professes to be a Bible-believing church.

There are many good books available, but there is only one inspired Word of the living God. It is not John Bunyan or some other author that transforms lives–insightful as they may be–it is the Spirit of God working through the Word (Jn. 17:17; Eph. 5:25-26; 6:17; II Tim. 3:16-17; Heb. 4:12). Paul’s exhortation to young Timothy needs to be heard afresh today: “Preach the Word!” (II Tim. 4:2). God’s Word: correctly interpreted, clearly explained, creatively illustrated, and carefully applied. Make every effort possible to nurture people with the Scriptures.

And let me go a step further. There is certainly a place for topical preaching. I have done it myself on occasion. Series on basic Bible doctrines, on prophecy, on the grace of God, on dealing with emotional depression, and so on. But I am convinced what helps people the most is the careful exposition of the Scriptures, verse by verse. That is the way to expose a congregation to the flow of biblical thought. Likely it is also the way they will be handling the Bible in their daily devotions, verse by verse, chapter by chapter.

With this in mind, exhort your people to bring with them the same Bible they use at home, and encourage them to mark their Bibles as you preach. The simple underlining of a word, or adding basic definition in the margin, will be of help to them in future time in their own study. For example:

1) You might invite those before you to underline the repeated and terrifying words of Romans Chapter 1, “God gave them up” (vs. 24, 26), and “God gave them over” (vs. 28), explaining the significance of this.

2) When dealing with First Thessalonians Chapter 2, you might have folks underline “as a nursing mother” (vs. 7) and “as a father” (vs. 11), explaining how Christian ministry is to have qualities exhibited by both parents.

3) Next to the word “blessed” in Psalm 1:1 I have written a definition which I find helpful: “Enriched, contented, and fulfilled.”

4) Having folks jot down a cross reference next to a verse can also be helpful. For instance, next to Luke 16:15 I have written Deuteronomy 12:30-31, next to Psalm 71:18 I have Acts 13:36.

Prepare a sturdy box which can stand up to reuse. One possibility is to purchase a good-sized lunch pail for the purpose. You could paint Mystery Box on the side of it, or perhaps scattered question marks. Inside the lid of the box, glue the following instructions.


God has designed the physical world around us to be full of illustrations of spiritual truth. Everything from rainbows to rocks, wind to weeds, and more, is used in the Bible to teach important lessons. For example, Proverbs says, “Go to the ant, you sluggard [you lazy person]! Consider her ways and be wise” (Prov. 6:6). In the verses that follow, ants are used to teach the importance of hard work and careful preparation for the future.

Using this principle of comparison, we can illustrate many valuable lessons using objects we find around the house. Think! What lesson might by illustrated with a mirror, or a postage stamp, or a glass of water, or a packet of seeds? Here is your assignment–something the whole family can work on together:

1) Choose a familiar small object. It should be something recognizable to the pastor and to most of us in the church, or the lesson may be lost.

2) Decide on a good lesson that can be illustrated by the object. Discuss this together. You could ask your family and friends for ideas. Some clues: Ask yourself what the item is used for. What are its characteristics? What would happen if you didn’t have one? And how is something here like what we have, or need, in our Christian lives?

3) Place the object in the Mystery Box, and bring it to church. Wrap it carefully, if it is something that could spill or get broken.

4) During the morning service, the pastor will take a quick look at the object, and try to come up with a lesson that could be illustrated by it.

5) If you stump the pastor–if he can’t think of a good less from the object you brought–you can share a lesson you came up with.

In introducing this project, the pastor himself should choose the items for several weeks, so everyone understands what is required. Then, he can ask for a volunteer–either an individual or a family– to take the box home and come up with something themselves. You could do this for several weeks, and then take a break from it. Use your own judgment. Don’t let the activity become stale.

The objective behind this little game is to teach the use of analogy. Much of the wisdom of Proverbs uses this technique. By being observant and using some imagination, we can find wonderful illustrations of spiritual truth all around us. This should become a habit!

3) The best Bible study tool ever! At least, the best one I have ever discovered, is fully described on the website. Strictly speaking, this is not an idea for your church program but for you, personally. However, if you try it, you may want to share it with your Sunday School class or Bible study group. If a number of you begin using it and trading insights, you may be amazed at what will happen! See Best Bible Study Tool.

4) Is your church thinking of purchasing A NEW HYMN BOOK? Check out Choosing a Hymnal for Your Church on the website, for nearly three dozen excellent tips and ideas to help you make your choice.

5) Check out a Wordwise Bible study series to help seekers, or new Christians! A wonderful "review" for long-time believers as well! The free 10-part series is now available at Exploring Christianity.


The Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations
There are many good books of sermon illustrations, but this one is extensive (as the title suggests), not only in the number of stories provided, but in the breadth of the subjects covered. The work has nearly doubled in size since its original publication nearly thirty years ago. This is an enjoyable book to browse through, as well as using it for sermon preparation. Paul Lee Tan’s collection is a great investment for any pastor or Bible teacher. Recommended. See more at Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustratrions.

If you have a question or an idea to share, please go to the Wordwise website and use the question form.
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