A viewer asks: “When one dies, at what point do they go to heaven? Is it immediately or at the resurrection?” This is a question, among many other related subjects, that has piqued the interest of believers throughout time. The scriptures are very clear that heaven is the ultimate destination of those who are “in Christ” and that hell is awaiting those who reject Him. Do we reach either of these destinations at the moment of death or after the second coming of Christ and the end of time as we know it? If the latter is true, what occurs in the interim? In this broadcast of Let the Bible Speak, we look at these questions in view of various passages of scripture that seem to lift back the veil and let us glimpse at life on the other side.
The first broadcast of Let the Bible Speak was on October 20, 1963 on KY3-TV in Springfield, MO. Then 27-year old Ronny Wade was the preacher and he would continue in this role for the better part of 45 years. This particular broadcast dates back to approximately 1965 and was on 16mm film. The Cook Brothers Gospel Quartet sang on the program in those dates and consisted of Clovis Cook (passed away in 2010), Travis Cook (passed away in 2011), Leo Cook (passed away in 1990’s), and Homer A. “Sonny” Gay, Jr. (passed away in 1976). Enjoy this rare look at the past and a sermon entitled “A Cheap Religion.”
Welcome to Let the Bible Speak. It’s great to have you with us, as always. I’m joined today by a special friend of mine, brother Jimmy Cating. Jimmy has been preaching the gospel now for about the same length of time as I have, about twenty-five years or so. And we’ve known one another for about that long. He has worked with churches in Oklahoma and Texas. He is originally from Indiana. He is a great gospel preacher and has been holding a gospel meeting at my home congregation where I labor here in Alabama.
I wanted to have Jimmy as a guest today because he has an interesting story that I believe will serve to illustrate some of the truths of the Bible concerning the New Testament church, specifically God’s plan and pattern for how the church is to worship.
Kevin: We come from very similar backgrounds. We actually began preaching the gospel about the same time. We were raised among churches that adopted the ideas of the Restoration Movement, meaning the restoration of New Testament Christianity. Sometimes as you go through life, however, and you study the Bible, you come to understand that maybe in your own life, the restoration is not yet complete. You’ve come to understand things that you were not taught as a child; maybe what you were taught was contrary to what the Bible actually teaches. That was the case with both of us. For a lot of people, when they find themselves in a situation like that, they struggle with questions like, what do I need to do about this? It sometimes calls upon us to make very difficult choices–to leave something we’ve known our entire lives and embrace what we know from God’s word to be the truth.
We’ve talked about this numerous times on the program down through the years. Many of the practices that are used that are adopted within churches of Christ are NOT biblical. Rather, they are modern innovations of man, as opposed to following the pattern that the Lord Jesus and His apostles gave in the scriptures. One such case is the Lord’s Supper and how it is observed. Tell me a little bit about your journey and how you came to understand the truth of what the Bible teaches about a congregation using one loaf and one cup containing fruit of the vine in the observance of the Lord’s Supper.
Jimmy: First of all, thank you for having me. It is my privilege to be here and to share a little bit about myself, as well as some things from the scriptures. That’s really our standard and what we must go by. As you said, we do have a similar background. I was raised respecting the doctrines of the church, the doctrines of Christ. My family and I were members of a very loving and what many would consider a very conservative congregation. In 1992, on one particular Sunday morning, as we were getting ready for services, I went into the living room where my grandmother was bedfast, and I turned the television on for her. As we visited for a few minutes while I was waiting to leave, we came across a broadcast called Let the Bible Speak. This was many years ago now, and there was a different host. His name was Irvin Barnes. We were attracted to the familiar doctrine and were very impressed with the use of scripture to support his points. We also liked the a cappella singing. We became fascinated fans of that T.V. program and started a new routine of watching every week. One Sunday morning, as we watched the program, we heard something that we’d never heard before: the importance of using one cup in the distribution of the fruit of the vine and of using one loaf in the Lord’s Supper.
Kevin: That was the typical practice, not only of the churches of Christ down through the centuries, but also of most religious organizations for a long, long time. About a hundred years ago or so, in 1915, brother G.C. Brewer, who was a prominent preacher amongst churches of Christ, introduced the practice of individual communion cups in a church in Tennessee. It spread from there among the churches of Christ.
The point that I want to make is this: a few generations ago, there were a lot of people who were familiar with this controversy. In fact, many of them had been in congregations that had used one cup, but those churches changed somewhere along the way. Now that generations have passed, there are multitudes of people out there-just like you, me, and others-who at one time had never heard this. Who just take it for granted, they were raised using modern innovations. I assume there are even people watching this program–maybe someone for the first time–thinking, what in the world? There are people who believe in using one container?
Jimmy: That was us. We had never heard of that before. Of course, because it was new to us, we were very cautious, but as we studied, we realized that it wasn’t new in the scriptures. At the same time, we didn’t want to be too dismissive of it. We wanted to investigate because we know that the Bible warns against being gullible and being deceived. The Bible also warns about the blinding power of preconceived ideas. So, we wanted to study the scriptures to see whether or not it was so.
Kevin: So, this began a process of studying the Bible about this issue. Of course, the authority is in the word of God. It’s in the teachings of Christ and the apostles; not in what you or I say, or what anybody might try to teach us—it’s what the Bible says. So, let’s go back to some of the very things that you began to study and examine, and I, likewise, a little before that. What are some of the things that stood out to you as you read through the biblical accounts that made you realize, hey, there’s something to this. This is what the Bible actually teaches?
Jimmy: Well, first of all, we had to determine whether or not there was a pattern for the Lord’s Supper. We began to look at scriptures like I Corinthians 11:23-25 where Paul reiterated the Lord’s Supper and reminded the Corinthians of what the Lord had said.
1 Corinthians 11:23-25 “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.”
Paul had told the Corinthians earlier in this chapter to “keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you” (verse 2). That indicates that there IS a pattern for the Lord’s Supper and it must be followed. A pattern would indicate that the Lord wanted it to be done a certain way. Like you said, most churches of Christ today recognize that there is a pattern to some degree; the question some have is whether or not one cup is part of the pattern.
Kevin: How do we determine what is incidental to the establishment of the Supper and on the other hand what Jesus intended as part of the pattern that the church from there forward was to abide by?
Jimmy: You go back to the examples and teachings of the gospels. Most people would be surprised that the Lord’s Supper is only mentioned four times within the New Testament. I think it’s worthy of going back and looking at what the New Testament teaches concerning the Lord’s Supper in these accounts, beginning with Matthew.
Matthew 26:27-29 “And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
Here we find that Jesus picked up one cup. Most lexicographers agree that this was a literal drinking vessel that Jesus picked up. He gave thanks for one cup, He gave His disciples one cup, and He commanded that they drink from the cup that He gave them.
Kevin: That’s a point that people oftentimes miss: there is a command involved. Not just merely a record telling what He did; He attached a command to that.
Jimmy: That’s exactly right, and if Jesus were here and He handed you a cup and said, “Drink from it,” I think you would agree that it would be disobedience to pick up your own cup or something else besides what He gave you. Let’s look at Mark’s account.
Mark 14:22-23 “And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body. And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it.”
So, we have Matthew recording the command of Jesus, and Mark giving the example. The disciples followed the command and they all drank from it.
Kevin: When we were in bible studies and discussions with brethren on the other side of this issue during the time of our conversion, we made the argument that I have heard countless times since, that when the Bible says “cup” it has nothing to do with the drinking vessel, but is a metonymy referring to the contents of the cup, which makes the drinking vessel itself immaterial. Now, metonymy is sometimes used, but is not always figurative. So,how did you come to understand that that was a fallacious argument?
Jimmy: We have to understand that in order for metonymy to work, the thing named has to represent something else, but the thing named must be present. I understand the argument; I used to think of those kinds of arguments as well when I was on the other side of the issue. But in order for the fruit of the vine to be referred to as the cup, it must be IN a cup. Of course, you drink the cup by drinking the contents of the cup. You don’t go the store and ask the clerk, “Where is your cup?” and the clerk know that you are referring to grape juice.
Kevin: If the account had said that Jesus took the cups, would there be any doubt in anyone’s mind that He was referring to drinking vessels? Everyone would point to that as an authority for using more than one.
Jimmy: Absolutely, yes. The fact that He used one cup and used the language “one cup” indicates that He intended for this to be a part of the pattern. It’s not just that Matthew gives the command and Mark gives the example, but there is spiritual significance also attached to the cup itself.
Kevin: I was going to go to that point next. Yes, there is an example that Jesus did it this way. But at what point did you stop and say to yourself that this is more than merely an example, but stands out as something very important to follow? That there is a spiritual significance behind doing it this way?
Jimmy: Let me answer that by going first to Luke’s account.
Luke 22:20 “Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.”
We see here that Jesus took a literal cup and said, “This cup is the new testament in my blood…” When we consider what Jesus did on the cross, three things occurred: His body was given, His blood was shed, and a new covenant was ratified. In the Lord’s Supper, we find Jesus recognizing and placing spiritual significance on each of those three events. The bread represents His body that was given, the fruit of the vine represents His blood that was shed, and the cup represents the new covenant that was ratified by the blood of Christ.
Kevin: The covenant and the blood are NOT the same thing. They have an inseparable relationship in that the covenant would not have been in force without the shedding of Christ’s blood, but the covenant itself is not the blood.
Jimmy: Exactly right. Often, folks who want to defend individual cups will say that the fruit of the vine is the same thing as the cup, or that the cup that Jesus took really refers to the contents and not to the container. But, if that’s the case, you have the fruit of the vine representing two different things, being the blood AND the covenant, insinuating that the blood and the covenant are the same thing. That’s simply not the case. God makes a distinction throughout the old covenant, the Old Testament, between the covenant itself and the blood that ratified it. So it is with the new covenant. Jesus had a covenant that would be ratified and would provide forgiveness for sins, but He would also ratify that covenant by the shedding of His blood. The blood that ratified the covenant is not the same thing as the covenant itself.
Kevin: Right. Jesus never used words on accident, and neither did the apostles. The scriptures are given by inspiration of God. They are the breath of God (II Timothy 3:16). There are no words in the scriptures that are there incidentally or by accident; the Spirit chose them. I would challenge anyone who wants to study this issue to go through all four accounts of the Lord’s Supper and read them very carefully. You will never find the statement “this cup is my blood.” You will also never find the statement “this fruit of the vine is the new covenant.”
Jimmy: That’s a good point. I think this shows the wisdom of God, how He designed a memorial that would represent the covenant and the blood, two mutually dependent items, meaning that without the blood of Christ there would be no covenant and without the covenant, Christ’s shed blood would not have satisfied its purpose. So, in the cup of the Lord, we have two elements: the fruit of the vine and the container that holds it. They are mutually dependent on one another.
Kevin: That’s right, Now, it’s fairly easy to see, especially if you have been raised to observe the Lord’s Supper, that the bread represents the body of Christ. There is an obvious symbolic relationship there. The fruit of the vine represents His blood. But some people may have never thought about this: what relationship would everybody drinking from a container have with the new covenant? And by the way, the new covenant doesn’t refer to the Bible, but what is revealed in the New Testament: the agreement between us and God. But, what is the significance of a congregation sharing one container and the new covenant?
Jimmy: That’s a good question and a good point to be made. Answering the question reveals a beautiful picture. Just as with every other aspect of the Lord’s Supper, you have represented in the bread the unity of the body of Christ—typically, figuratively, and spiritually speaking. When a congregation of believers meets to worship the Lord and to remember what He has done, we are reminded of the unity that should exist among the body and of Christ’s sacrifice. When the cup of blessing is shared, we are reminded that in the same covenant or agreement, we all have a relationship with God and each other, and we all share in the blessings that are provided under that covenant.
Kevin: The communion is a common union, a joint participation. I think that is the root of the issue going back a number of generations now. I think that somewhere along the way, we allowed ourselves to lose sight of what communion is. There are those who have the view that communion is merely something between me and God; it’s something that I, by myself, can even partake of because it’s just a special moment between me and the Lord. While spiritually He IS present when we commune, communion is about a congregation of people coming together and sharing something, isn’t it?
Jimmy: Exactly. That’s why the emphasis is placed on the church coming together and staying together while they communed. It’s not just something you do with the Lord; it’s something that you do with other Christians.
Acts 20:7 “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them…”
Often, churches of Christ go to that verse as an example to show that the Lord’s Supper is to be done on the first day of the week, and rightly so. But, equally emphasized in that passage is the fact that the disciples “came together.” Communion is a joint participation that we don’t do by ourselves, between us and God or heaven, but between us and the brethren, our church family.
Kevin: One argument that I’ve heard many times and even made myself at one time, is if that’s the case, why wouldn’t all believers everywhere have to come together and share one loaf and one cup? The answer is that communion is a congregational activity. The only organized and visible manifestation of the church operating in joint activity is the congregation. There is nothing larger than each local congregation. We see in the book of Acts that the church came together and did this, and Paul refers to it in the book of Corinthians. This was something that each congregation came together to do and each one is to follow the pattern within itself.
Jimmy: And in the institution of the Passover, we see a supper that the whole nation observed, but it was actually observed on a household level.
Kevin: Right. And God said one lamb per house, and if they had more people than could consume the lamb, they were to go somewhere else.
Jimmy: Yes, you don’t change the meal to fit the house—
Kevin: You change the circumstance to fit the pattern, obviously.
Jimmy: That’s right.
Kevin: Unfortunately, in regards to this issue and many other issues, what we see today are people trying to change the pattern to fit the circumstance or to agree with modern ideas of religion or the modern culture. But when Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, He commanded, “This do in remembrance of Me.” He didn’t say to do something like this. He didn’t say that this was just an idea that they were to develop further. He said, I’m setting an example. You do what I have done with you, going forward.
Jimmy: I might just add, to come back to where we began, this was a very difficult change for my family. We loved the congregation we were attending, but we had to study the scriptures.
Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.”
Proverbs 14:12 “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”
We had to put the Lord first and what His will and His way was. As difficult as it was, we understood that if we learned the truth, it was going to bring about a change in some of our relationships and how we worshipped.
Kevin: That’s right. Well, we’re out of time. God bless you, brother. Thank you joining us today.
Jimmy: Thank you so much.
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In 1992, a young man and his family were watching Let the Bible Speak, then hosted by Bro. Irvin Barnes. Bro. Barnes was preaching on the scriptural pattern for the observance of the Lord’s Supper. What he had taken for granted for a lifetime was challenged by what he heard the bible saying about this ancient memorial. In this broadcast of Let the Bible Speak, Bro. Jimmy Cating joins Bro. Kevin Presley to discuss the things that caused him to reconsider how the Lord’s Supper is to be observed.
What is one of the most well-known and beloved passages of scripture in the Bible today? Well, it used to be John 3:16, but I don’t think that’s the case anymore. There is a passage that more people today can quote than perhaps any other. In fact, many of the irreligious always seem to have this passage on the tips of their tongues in case they ever become involved in a discussion over the moral or doctrinal controversies of our time. I’m talking about the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Not only do many people know this passage by heart, but it is also one of the few scriptures they believe can and should be taken literally, and applied dogmatically.
Matthew 7:1-5 “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. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
Is Jesus telling us to mind our own business, keep our thoughts to ourselves, and don’t dare speak disapprovingly of someone else’s choices, beliefs or lifestyle? Is it wrong to judge the beliefs and behavior or other people, because if you speak up and speak out and say that something is wrong or sinful, someone will always say, But Jesus said not to judge! Well, they don’t have a clue as to what this verse is saying. Today, we’re going to turn to the word of God for the answer to the question: Is it wrong to judge others?
The new religion in our world today is the religion of tolerance. At least, that is the claim. In fact, the only sin that we’re really allowed to call a sin today is the act of calling something a sin. Tolerance is actually not a bad thing, but a good thing. What is tolerance? I’m afraid we have a false concept of it today. The dictionary definition is to recognize and respect other’s beliefs and practices without sharing them; to bear up or put up with someone or something not liked.
Well, I’m glad that we’re not forced to believe or renounce something, aren’t you? I’m glad that someone else cannot come along and forcibly constrain me to believe and practice something against my will. I’m glad I have that freedom, and I’m glad that you have that freedom, too, regardless of what you do or don’t believe. I’m thankful that we don’t live in a theocracy. I’m thankful that the government doesn’t tell us what we must believe, what we can and cannot preach, or how we must or must not worship. I’m glad that that’s left up to my conscience to dictate in accordance with what I believe the word of God to teach.
Now, I believe that there is one way to heaven. I believe that the Bible teaches that. I believe that there is one truth to be believed, and that’s what is contained in this holy book, the Bible. Anything contrary to that is wrong. Now, that’s what I believe, and I don’t mind anyone knowing that’s what I believe. But now, if you don’t believe that, you certainly have the civil freedom to reject that. You may disagree, and I may believe that you’re in error and you may believe that I am wrong. That doesn’t mean that both of us are right, and it also doesn’t mean that I would deny you the civil and legal freedom to believe what you choose to believe. You see, that’s tolerance. We can live in a civilized society together despite our disagreements.
But, today, we have embraced a NEW form of tolerance that says, You can’t say I’m wrong. You can’t say that something is wrong because you disagree with it. You can’t say or even believe, with any amount of conviction, that any given lifestyle is sinful, because that, we’re told, is being intolerant. Well, is that what Jesus was teaching when He said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.?” Is it hateful and Pharisaic to adjudicate and judge spiritual and moral issues? It would seem that that is what Jesus was saying, IF we simply take this verse of the chapter at face value. But what He said extends far beyond the first verse. It was part of a larger context.
Three basic rules of correct Bible interpretation are as follows:
- Understand the meaning of the words originally used. Understand what the words chosen by the speakers in the Bible and understand what those who wrote their words down meant.
- Examine the surrounding context.
- The rule of harmony. That is, all truths run in parallel lines, and if one supposed truth contradicts another supposed truth, then that tells us that at least one of these supposed truths is NOT the truth. To put it another way, if I interpret a verse of scripture in a way that contradicts what other verses say, then I have misinterpreted the scriptures because the truth does not contradict itself.
Well, let’s apply those three rules here. First of all, what does the word judge mean, when Jesus used it? The word that Jesus used that is translated judge was the Greek word krino. Now, that word has various shades of meaning and it’s used in different contexts throughout the New Testament. Overall, it simply means to separate or select or determine. But, it has various applications. For example, it can mean to condemn someone, such as when Jesus used it in this passage.
John 12:48 “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.”
The word is also used that way in Acts 13:27 and Romans 2:27. But it can also mean to govern or administrate. Jesus used the word this way in this passage:
Matthew 19:28 “And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
Then again, the word judge can simply mean to form an opinion or analyze a matter. For example, in this passage, when Jesus told the parable of the two debtors.
Luke 7:40-43 “And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.”
So, the basic definition of the word is the same but it can be used in different ways. Now, in this case (Luke 7), Jesus called upon Simon to make a judgment, then He commended him for making the right judgment. That alone should tell us that it is not always wrong to judge, depending on how the word is used and the circumstance surrounding the judgment.
Secondly, in order to understand what Jesus was saying in our text passage (Matthew 7), we have to look at the context, which we will do in just a moment. Thirdly, if we properly understand Jesus’ prohibition on judging, it cannot contradict other things that Jesus and His apostles said about judging; we have to harmonize all of these passages.
Here is where many people get off track. They get all mixed up about what Jesus was saying in Matthew 7. Notice carefully: Jesus could not have been saying that it is wrong for Christians to judge the behavior and beliefs of other people because besides this one verse where Jesus forbids one kind of judging, we can read numerous passages where the Bible actually commands Christians to judge in other ways. You don’t have to read very far—just five verses down.
Matthew 7:6 “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”
Wouldn’t that require some kind of judgment or discernment? Wouldn’t we have to look at the other person, and by their words or their behavior, make some kind of evaluation or spiritual determination about them? But, the post-modernist in effect says that there is no such thing as a dog. There is no such thing as a hog, because we all supposedly have a right to our own version of truth. So there would be no such thing as a dog or swine, as Jesus refers to them. Unless, of course, it is a person who denies the tenants of post-modernism; then they might be worse than a pig or a dog.
Read on just a little farther.
Matthew 7:15-16 “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?”
Let’s think about that. How could we ever identify and beware of a false prophet, if we are never to judge the beliefs and conduct of another person? You see, it just doesn’t make any sense. The apostle John would later warn in this way:
1 John 4:1 “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”
We could never do what the Bible commands us to do if Jesus was saying in Mathew 7:1 that it is wrong to distinguish truth from error and righteousness from sin.
In even plainer language, the apostle Paul rebuked the worldly church at Corinth because they were harboring a man in their congregation who was guilty of fornication, and not just fornication–this man was actually living in an incestuous type of relationship. He had his father’s wife, the Bible says. Here’s a man who is openly living in sin, and the church is essentially turning a blind eye, acting as though nothing was wrong. They were just overlooking this man’s sin. That’s the way most people today believe that a church should operate. They believe it’s terrible that any church would call a person a sinner. They think that it’s reprehensible that any church would refuse fellowship to someone because of their sinful lifestyle. Haven’t you heard people say, But, we’re ALL sinners. Or, Who are WE to judge someone else? Or, they’ll shake their finger and say, Ah, ah, Jesus said, “Judge not.” I dare say there are many people who rarely, if ever, open a Bible and read it, but who can readily quote Matthew 7:1, and who are not even aware that this teaching in I Corinthians 5 is even in the Bible. Paul told the church how to deal with this man who was living in this illicit lifestyle. He was unrepentant; he refused to give up his sin. Look what Paul told them.
1 Corinthians 5:9-13 “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.”
Without refers to someone not in the kingdom, but out in the world; within refers to someone in the kingdom, the church. Paul tells them to put that person away from the church. This is a pretty pointed passage of scripture. Paul is talking about accountability and the exercise of church discipline. He is saying that the people of the world are already lost, because they’re outside of Christ. So, it’s not up to the church to pass some kind of judgment on them; they’re already judged by the fact that they’re outside of Christ. But, the church had a responsibility toward this man, for his sake AND for theirs. Paul says that they were to withdraw from him. They were to refuse to eat with him until he repented of his sin. He said that it was up to the church to judge this man’s behavior. It was up to the church to take corrective action, and it was not an option that the church could exercise, but it was a process that Paul commanded them to exercise. It was to be done in order to try to save this man from his error and wickedness, while at the same time protecting the church from his weakening, leavening influence. Paul tells them to pass judgment upon this man.
Now, if Jesus was condemning ALL forms of judgment in our text, then what do we do with 1 Corinthians 5? What do we say about Paul’s command to preachers in this passage:
2 Timothy 4:2 “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.”
Paul said that we are to reprove sin and rebuke sin. Well, how could we do that if we don’t discern between good and evil? How could we do that if we did not in some manner of speaking pass some form of judgment?
You see, Matthew 7:1 has been used as a refuge for all kinds of sin, immorality and digression from the truth in an attempt to keep preachers and others from condemning error. But that simply CANNOT be what Jesus was saying if the Bible is true. And if a person says the Bible is NOT true, then what are they doing quoting Matthew 7:1 anyway? What makes that verse true and everything else false?
There IS such a thing as righteous judgment. That’s the difference. Jesus told the Jews this, about judging:
John 7:24 “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”
Here, Jesus commands them to judge. Then He tells them to do so according to righteousness. What does that mean? It means to adjudicate the matter using truth, using the word of God. Not my opinion or my philosophy, not make a careless and rash judgment, but to very carefully apply the truth and make a logical and righteous judgment.
When the Bible says that something is wrong, it’s wrong. Not because you or I say it’s wrong; because the Bible says it’s wrong. And the Bible very plainly condemns immorality. The Bible condemns adultery. The Bible condemns fornication. The Bible condemns homosexuality. The Bible condemns stealing, lying, covetousness, idolatry…the Bible describes all of these things as works of the flesh. The Bible does not mince words. The apostle Paul enumerated all of those sins and others.
Galatians 5:19-21 “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Now, that’s what the Bible says. That’s God’s transcendent and eternal truth. That’s not what I say; that’s what the word of God says. Therefore, when we take the word of God and apply it to a given situation, in essence, that’s not our judgment. Rather it’s simply pointing to God’s judgment in the matter. What God has already revealed in His word.
So, what kind of judging was Jesus forbidding in Matthew 7:1? Obviously, some kind of judgment was prohibited. “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” What could He have been talking about? The context plainly shows what kind of judgment He was condemning. Again, an important rule of proper Bible interpretation is to look at the surrounding verses, instead of isolating the passage. So, what did Jesus go on to say in the passage?
Matthew 7:2-5 “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
Clearly, Jesus is talking here about hypocrisy. People who are busy examining and analyzing and looking for the faults in other people. These are hypercritical people with no concern over their own faults. He’s talking about gross hypocrisy at that. He’s not saying that one must be flawless or perfect before he can sincerely warn someone else about their sin; that’s not what He’s saying at all. He’s talking about people who are puffed up with self-righteous pride, who will pick and parse to discern some minute fault in the life of someone else, while they themselves have some glaring sin protruding from their own lives. Jesus is saying that the judgment that you apply to someone else is going to apply to you, so you had best beware.
Paul, in his letter to the Romans, said that the disobedient Jews were no better off than the heathen Gentiles. Romans 1 is a lengthy dissertation by Paul, showing the immorality and Godlessness of the Gentiles, the pagans. Anybody with any spiritual sense who reads that passage would recoil at the horrible way Paul describes these people. That’s what the Jews did, as well. They looked down their noses at the Gentiles, considering them as dogs or subhuman. But Paul issued a stinging rebuke to these self-righteous Jews:
Romans 2:3 “And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?”
You see, the Jews did the same thing the Gentiles did; they were guilty of the very same sins. But they didn’t see themselves as sinners, simply because they were Jews. That changed everything in their eyes because they had the blood of Abraham coursing through their veins.
Romans 2:21-22 “Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?”
Now, I want to ask you something: Was Paul saying that there is nothing wrong with stealing? Of course he wasn’t. Was Paul saying, Oh, it’s fine to commit adultery.? No, he wasn’t saying that. Paul condemned adultery. We already noted that in the letter to Corinth, he told those brethren how to deal with the man who was guilty of sexual immorality. Paul is not saying that it’s fine to commit adultery. Was he saying that no one should ever criticize another person for participating in idolatry? No, he wrote to the Corinthians about that as well, and condemned them for trying to eat at the table of the Lord and sit at the table of demons also (1 Corinthians 10). He is saying, Make sure you’re not the one who needs to be corrected first.
Friend, it’s not wrong for a Christian to judge. In fact, you wouldn’t be my friend if you saw me on the road to hell, and you didn’t care enough to warn me of where I was headed. That’s the worst kind of hatred that I can think of. If you knew that I was living in such a way, with no regard for God’s truth, in violation of His law, and that I was going to be lost, and you didn’t care enough to warn me about that, you don’t love me. I wouldn’t love you, if I refused to warn you of condemnation. But make sure you’re doing it because you care. Make sure that you’re leading me to heaven, not just pointing the way while you yourself walk the road to hell. That’s what Jesus was telling us in Matthew 7. He was speaking about people, who themselves were on the road to hell while they were pointing to other people, the road to heaven. Jesus says to get yourself on the right road. You lead people to heaven. Get the beam out of your own eye before you go trying to find the little speck that is in their eye.
Don’t judge hypocritically, with an unholy motive, out of pride, self-righteousness or a feeling of self-sufficiency or superiority. Judge righteous judgment. Let the word of God be the standard. Love the souls of men. Desire for the souls of men to be right with God, and to be saved. Judge righteous judgment, and thus, lead your fellow man down the road that leads to eternal life. It’s not wrong to judge; it’s wrong to judge unrighteous, hypocritical judgment. But Jesus told us to be sure that we judge righteously.
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