"Judge Not, That Ye Be Not Judged"
The title above is a quotation of the words of Jesus Christ as he taught the Jews. "Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." (Matt. 7:1-2.) Christ was warning these Jews against pronouncing hypocritical judgment against other men as verses 3-5 show. They had, in many things, substituted their own traditions for the law of God, and were, therefore, as guilty of sin as any Gentile. (Matt. 15:8-9, Mark 7:13.) Regardless of this fact they felt free to offer their own judgment in condemnation of sins of which they themselves were guilty, and by their own mouths, were judged with what judgment they judged. This is why Paul told the Jews, "Therefore, thou art inexcusable, 0 man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things." (Rom. 2:1.) In short, they condemned sins in others of which they themselves were guilty, and in so doing declared themselves to be sinners.
This type of hypocritical judging is what Christ was referring to in the sermon on the mount. However, in this age of religious ignorance characterized by a spineless doctrinal indifference that most wish to refer to as "tolerance" the words of Christ have been twisted and misapplied. People who do not have and are not interested in Bible authority for what they teach and practice do not want to be examined in the light of what the Book teaches. With the arrogance and pomp which characterizes any "stuffed shirt" they subscribe to the popular idea that everyone is entitled to his own belief and all others are to stand in servile reverence of it because, after all, he is so sincere! The popular notion seems to be that individual belief (opinion) is sacred ground, and that no one else has a right to walk upon it or stand against it. And when someone who has greater regard for Bible teaching than for popular opinion dares be uncouth and ignorant enough to question a point of religious doctrine the "stuffed shirt" will usually puff up like a toad, glare down his nose, and declare, "Don't you know that Christ said, 'Judge not, that ye be not judged'?"
The person who so replies probably never read these words for himself and could not tell anyone in what part of the Bible they are found. Nonetheless, it is a well known fact that these words are "in the Bible". What seems to be much less known is that Christ never intended them for a hiding place for those who are afraid to examine or to have examined their religious beliefs. On the contrary, by precept and example Christ taught his disciples to aggressively oppose any doctrine that does not measure up to God's word.
In the same chapter that the "judge not" warning is recorded Christ also taught men to "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles. Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringing forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore, by their fruits ye shall know them. (Matt. 7:15-20.) It would be interesting to hear one who uses the verse, "Judge not, that ye be not judged" to mean "speak against no one and nothing" explain how he could hold such a view and at the same time "beware of false prophets" and "know (identify) them by their fruits". Obviously no man has a right to judge hypocritically or by mere human judgment, but every child of God has the responsibility to judge all things with which he comes into contact by the word of God — and he is not told to spare false teachers from that judgment.
Having told his hearers to beware of false prophets, identifying them by their fruits, Christ further explained the standard of judgment by which these fruits were to be judged. "Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." (Matt. 7:21.) Teaching that is not in accord with the will of the Father is evil fruit born of a corrupt tree, a false prophet, which shall be hewn down and cast into the fire. Christ said to beware of them, identify them by their fruits, judge them in the light of God's word!
To this precept is added the example of Christ as he walked among men and unflinchingly met the false teachers of his day. It is significant that at the end of the sermon on the mount, Matthew records the fact that . . . the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes." (Matt. 7:28-29.) The power and force with which he taught was certainly different from the teaching of those tradition bound Jews — and a far cry from the weak-kneed, philosophical, apologies for preaching offered from most pulpits today. Christ taught with authority! When the scribes and Pharisees condemned him for breaking the "traditions of the elders" Jesus bluntly refuted their charge, showed the falseness of their teaching, and exposed them as hypocritical false teachers. (Matt. 15:1-9.) When the. Sadducees who taught "that there is no resurrection" attempted to ensnare him by asking whose wife the woman who had had seven husbands would be in the resurrection, Jesus exposed their error and its cause saying, ". . . Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage . . ." (Matt 22:23-33.) According to current popular religious standards Jesus was judging unlawfully. Who could believe it? He did not violate the "Judge not, that ye be not judged," rather, by the authority of the word of God he demonstrated the "Beware of false prophets . . . know them by their fruits ..."
This is the command and example of Christ to his disciples. He expects Christians to meet false teachers wherever and whenever they are found, wielding against them the "sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" with faith, force, and courage. Those who arrogantly, even if ignorantly, oppose the word of God and falsify its truths must be met, exposed, and stopped. Christ commended the church at Ephesus because the people there ". . . tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and ... found them liars." Rev. 2:2. When Christians, by the authority of God's word condemn false teaching and expose its teacher they are not judging unlawfully. Rather, they are executing a responsibility which is laid upon the shoulders of every faithful child of God.