Judgement: Law v Spirit

Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.


In our daily lives we use judgement all the time; in fact we couldn’t function at all without the ability. We would be immobile rocks without it. Sometimes we view it in terms of choices or preference or discrimination or options. Vanilla or chocolate, black or white, left or right, start or yield, etc. However, most of the time we use other words for the judgements that we make in everyday life and reserve the word “judgement” for the “big things” often associated with law of one kind or another. In our society, we have two broad categories criminal and civil and possibly a third for moral.

The Bible does not know or recognize these categories. It has Ten Laws and the about 613 explanations of what these laws look like when applied to daily life. They give us principles that have broad application not a check list of narrow statutory rules.

There is a level of societal compliance to the external demands of the law. This is summed up in the story of the rich young ruler.

As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.

Mark 10: 17-20

External compliance is our definition of a “good citizen”. Any of us can judge people at this level. We know about stealing, killing, adultery, etc.

However, the story does not end there. God looks at the heart not just at external things.

Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me. ” But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.

Mark 10: 21-22

Jesus then speaks to his disciples.

And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” They were even more astonished and said to Him, “Then who can be saved?” Looking at them, Jesus said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”

Mark 10: 23-27

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount contains a multitude of examples showing that external compliance is not enough. God cares about the attitude and condition of men’s hearts. Below are selections from
Matthew chapter 5. (Quotes used from New American Standard Version of the Bible)

“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

“It was said, ‘Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce’; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

Radio listeners were once asked, “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!”

In real life, God knows and he left us instructions so that we might be able to discern to some degree the condition of men’s hearts. Basically, the New Testament asks us to compare a man’s walk with his talk. Back in the day, my Baptist friends used to comment about fruit inspections and that is certainly one analogy used in the Bible.

If you claim to be a Christian and habitually break the Commandments then we have reason to doubt the sincerity of your profession.

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 bringeth forth evil fruit.

Matthew 7:15-17

If you claim to be a believer but never have consequences for your disobedience then we have reason to doubt the sincerity of your profession.

For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

Hebrews 12:6-8

In some things we are told to walk apart from others

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?

2 Corinthians 6:14-15

Jesus said, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” Matthew 10:16

Clearly we are commanded by Jesus to judge and use discernment in this world, not with arrogance and pride but gentleness and love. God’s Word is the Standard of judgement. The law serves not just the purpose of keeping civil order but also shows us our inadequacy and need of God.

But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster [to bring us] unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

Galatians 3:22 – 3:25

On the topic of judgement, please don’t forget that not all justice is meted out in this life.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

2 Corinthians 5:10

Sometimes we are to leave room for God to act on behalf of His people.

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

Romans 12:19

We are expected by God to judge based on His Law as revealed in His Word not to condemn the world but to walk in it with wisdom. Further we are to proclaim His Word to those around us as we go. Our prayer should always be that our walk is in harmony with our talk and that it is seasoned with salt.