Judge not, that you be not judged.…
In warning against hindrances to holiness, our Lord begins with judging; for in this young converts too often expend the zeal which is given them for better uses. The text admonishes us -
I. THAT THERE IS A JUDGMENT TO COME.
1. This life is under judicial rule.
(1) There is a Divine providence in human affairs.
(2) The sense of justice in human nature expresses this.
(3) Sin returns upon the head of the sinner.
2. But the judgments of this life are not final.
(1) They are incomplete. Virtue is often rewarded. But it is often trampled. Vice is often punished. But it often prospers.
(2) A future judgment is therefore necessary. Moral discrepancies and contradictions must be compensated and adjusted.
3. Revelation makes this clear.
(1) It sets before us the pomp and circumstance of a great assize. The Divine Judge. His throne of white light. tits myriad retinue. The assembled universe.
(2) It sets before us the final awards. The rewards of the righteous in heaven. The punishment of the wicked in hell.
II. THAT DIVINE JUSTICE IS RETRIBUTIVE.
1. In its principles.
(1) "With what judgment ye judge," etc. "He shall have judgment without mercy that hath shown no mercy."
(2) "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy."
2. In its sanctions.
(1) "With what measure ye mete," etc. The severity of our dealings with our fellows will react upon us.
(2) History abounds with illustrations of this principle. Witness Ishmael (see Genesis 16:12). Adonibezek (see Judges 1:7). Witness the crucifixion, at the destruction of Jerusalem, of the children of those who crucified Christ and imprecated his blood upon themselves and their children. (See Alison's 'Europe' for many remarkable examples of punctual retribution.) Witness the prophetic doom of the mystical Babylon (Revelation 13:10; Revelation 16:6).
(3) But there is the "greater measure" of an eternal retribution.
III. THESE FACTS SHOULD INFLUENCE OUR CONDUCT.
1. The injunction "judge not is conditional.
(1) It cannot be construed to teach tolerance to falsehood or wrong. Scripture cannot contradict itself (cf. Isaiah 5:20; Ezekiel 13.). Our Lord cannot contradict himself. He clearly authorizes righteous judgment" (see also Matthew 23:14, 33).
(2) It cannot be interpreted to condemn judicial decisions in courts civil or ecclesiastical.
2. We must not judge rashly.
(1) To pro-judge is to judge rashly.
(2) We are quick to see the failings of others (the mote), while we overlook formidable evils of our own (the beam). The way to righteousness is the reverse of this.
(3) We judge rashly by indulging evil surmises.
(4) We judge rashly in precipitate decisions.
3. We must not judge harshly.
(1) To pre-judge is harsh as well as rash. By such judgment we become so interested in the success of our prediction as perhaps to procure or facilitate its fulfilment. We should evermore hope for the best.
(2) To condemn severely is to judge harshly (cf. Luke 6:37; Romans 2:1-3).
4. There is a sphere in which we must not judge.
(1) We have no jurisdiction over the consciences of our fellows. Here the words "judge not" express a direct and positive prohibition.
(2) We must not denounce to perdition as heretics those who differ from us.
(3) Nothing provokes more surely the judgment of God than the sufferings of his martyrs.
(4) We nave no magisterial authority over our brother (see James 3:1; James 4:11). - J.A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: Judge not, that ye be not judged.