Speak not evil one of another, brothers. He that speaks evil of his brother, and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law…
I. WHAT IS HERE FORBIDDEN. It is speaking evil of, and judging our brethren. It is bringing charges against, and passing sentences on, our fellow-men, and especially our fellow-Christians, for they are the brethren here referred to by the apostle. It is depreciating and denouncing them — their actions, motives, designs, characters.
1. As to speaking. "Speak not evil one of another," that is, from a spirit of enmity or envy, from the lusts warring in the members, do it not except under necessity, with some such sanction as we have referred to; in which case it is but uttering the truth, bearing a faithful testimony, not speaking evil in the ordinary and bad sense of that expression.
2. As to judging. We are repeatedly warned against such judging (Matthew 7:1, 2; Romans 14:3, 4; 1 Corinthians 4:5). We must often pronounce on conduct, and the Scripture has laid down the rule according to which we are to decide. When it is applied, certain inferences as to character and state are legitimate, inevitable. But here we are to proceed with the greatest caution. Are the actions such as they are represented, or appear to us as being? Are we not regarding them with prejudiced minds, with jaundiced eyes, under some perverting or obscuring influence? Are we not mistaken? do we know all the circumstances? Then, though they may be wrong, are they not partially explained by the peculiar position, temperament, and temptations of the parties? Can they not be accounted for without supposing a radical want of sound principle, of Christian spirit? Then let us never forget our own feeble powers and narrow views, our tendency to limit the range of Christian faith and practice; to make a great deal of some elements, and little or nothing of others, which yet may be as prominent, or even more so, in Scriptural representation and requirement. Let us also remember that there is a region which we cannot enter, and where much may be concealed of which we can take no cognisance — a region where all the springs of action, the principles of conduct lie, that of motive. "We are not to ascend the throne, we are not to usurp the Divine prerogative of judgment.
II. WHY IT IS FORBIDDEN.
1. Because it involves a condemnation of the Divine law. The law here is the moral law as animated, unfolded, regulated by the gospel. Now, speaking evil of a brother is speaking evil of the law, for the brother may be all the while keeping it, and the conduct condemned may be exactly that which it demands, dictates. When the charges made are false — as in such cases they so often are — when the dispositions or actions found fault with are not wrong but right, when they are prompted and regulated by the very law itself, then abuse of the one is abuse of the other.
2. Because it amounts to a usurpation of the office of the only Lawgiver. One acting thus does not apply it to himself, and regulate by it his own speech and behaviour. He withdraws from its control, he goes directly and flagrantly in opposition to its authority; for it forbids and condemns this way of dealing with our brother.
Parallel VersesKJV: Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.
WEB: Don't speak against one another, brothers. He who speaks against a brother and judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge.