It is practically impossible to condemn sin in the lives of people or to expose the errors of false teachers without being met with the acclaim, “Judge not, that you be not judged!” (Mt. 7:1). It is by this means that they seek to relieve themselves of the burden of scripturally defending their practices or doctrines. This verse is for them a convenient means of averting this responsibility. They believe we are in error for judging them to be guilty; yet they have no qualms whatever about judging us to be guilty of violating Matthew chapter seven and verse one.
The judging of which Jesus warned in Matthew 7:1 is not merely the recognition, reproving, and rebuking of sin. This is obvious from the fact that judging in the sense of discerning sin and rebuking it is commanded rather than forbidden.
Judging Is Commanded
There is a kind of judging which is commanded. Jesus very plainly commanded, “Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24). Unless one takes the position that Mattew 7:1 and John 7:24 contradict each other (and Bible-believers know this cannot be the case), he must admit that the kind of judging discussed in Matthew is of a different nature than that which is discussed in John. It is obvious that there is a kind of judging which is right, and there is a kind of judging which is wrong. I believe the context of John 7:24 proves that the judging of that passage entails the fair examination of a man’s practice in the light of the scripture to determine whether or not his practice is in harmony with the scripture. Thus, when it is discerned by a study of scripture that a person is in the wrong, one is obeying the commandment to judge ‘Righteous Judgment’.
In fact, Jesus demanded that we beware of false teachers (Matt. 7:15-20). We cannot beware of false teachers unless we are able to determine which teachers are false. Jesus said that such a judgment can be formed on the basis of their fruit. Paul warned Christians to beware of dogs and evil workers, thus clearly implying that we have the ability to recognize spiritual dogs and evil workers (Phil. 3:2). Another passage which demands this type of judging is Rom. 16:17-18. In order to mark and avoid the false teachers referred to in this passage, we must be able to discern that these men are indeed false teachers. Additionally, there are a number of passages instructing Christians to reprove and rebuke sin (2 Tim. 4:2 f, Eph. 5:11, Lk. 17:3).
Jesus did say, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” His point was that our judgment invites judgment upon ourselves. In verse 2 He explained the reason for this warning: we can expect to receive judgment in accordance with the judgment that we dish out. Thus, verse 2 makes it evident that the kind of judging Jesus was warning against is the kind of judging which we would not be guiltless of ourselves. Therefore, if a Christian condemns fornication, yet is committing fornication, he shall be judged with the same measure he condemns another. Preachers and teachers are held to a higher standard and thus must live an impeccable life if they want any credence in preaching the Word of God. Paul said it this way, “ You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples” (Rom 2:21,22)?
Jesus went on (verses 3-5) by the illustration of the mote and the beam, Jesus demonstrated that before trying to correct the sins of others, we must first correct our own sins first (cf. Rom. 2:13). He did not condemn our trying to get the mote out of our brother’s eye, as some have imagined. He simply taught that we must get the beam out of our own eye first. In other words, if you are going to teach against sin, stop sinning yourself.