Man judges the physical realm according to appearance, not truth.
Jesus authorized Peter and the disciples to exercise judgment and sentence over sin in John 20:23, but before He told them this, Jesus spoke extensively about judgment.
Jesus used the word judgment in Matthew 5:21 and 7:1-2. The definition in both instances is to make a decision. The translators infer that the decision referenced here will go badly for the one involved. Therefore, the impression that most readers get is that judgment means condemnation, not decision.
Matthew 5:21 (NKJV)
You have heard that it was said to those of old, You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.
“judgment” - Strong’s NT:2920; decision (subjectively or objectively, for or against); by extension, a tribunal; by implication, justice (especially, divine law) KJV - accusation, condemnation, damnation, judgment.
Matthew 7:1-2 (NKJV)
1 Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.
“judgment” - Strong’s NT:2919; properly, to distinguish, i.e. decide (mentally or judicially); by implication, to try, condemn, punish KJV - avenge, conclude, condemn, damn, decree, determine, esteem, judge, go to (sue at the) law, ordain, call in question, sentence to, think.
The word judgment used in Matthew 5:21 states that the offender would be in danger, implying or inferring guilt. However, it could be read, “in danger of an unfavorable decision regarding the charges of murder.” Matthew 7:2 could be read “for what decisions you make to decide guilt or innocence will be applied to your own life.” This warning is articulated by Jesus because man is nearly incapable of rendering true or unbiased judgment. Unlike God, man does not have all of the facts, and Jesus is clear about this distinction in John 8:15-16.
15 Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man. 16 And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me.
Man spends his time in the physical world. Consequently, his senses are tuned to it and are incapable of discerning or judging the difference between good and evil. This discernment has to be taught or learned through spiritual or Godly wisdom. Man judges the physical realm according to appearance, not truth. Jesus spoke about judging and judgment in the spiritual world, not the physical world. The senses of man must be realigned to not only discern the physical world but the spiritual world as well. The knowledge of the presence of good and evil that Adam and Eve brought upon mankind is not enough. Exercise of spiritual senses is required to properly discern good from evil.
The book of Hebrews presents a contrast between “milk” and “strong meat” as it relates to spiritual principles and understanding. Milk is for babies who are not mature because they are still developing and growing. Strong meat on the other hand, is meant for the mature body that is developed and needs fuel to replenish and sustain its activities. This contrast relates to spiritual activity and maturity in the same way.
Discernment of good and evil is considered to be an activity of depth, much like strong meat is a complex nutrient. It only comes with the exercise or repeated use of spiritual senses as explained in Hebrews 5:12-14.
Hebrews 5:12-14 (NKJV)
12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
This passage in Hebrews makes a point to discuss the spiritual skill of the individual. The Greek word translated as unskillful in Hebrews 5:13 means inexperienced or ignorant.
“unskillful” - Strong’s NT:552, inexperienced, i.e. - ignorant.
The way to overcome being unskillful is to apply oneself to education and training. In spiritual things, this comes from studying the words that God gave to us in the Bible. Understanding the application of these words is how man’s senses are exercised to discern both good and evil. The spiritual baby can only use the milk of God’s word, the basic spiritual precepts of God’s kingdom. To the non-spiritual person, these are really big things, but God considers them just to be milk for babies. They are identified in Hebrews 6:1-2 as repentance, salvation through Christ, faith in God, baptism, praying for people, the resurrection of the dead, and an eternal hell.
Hebrews 6:1-2 (NKJV)
1 Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
Understanding also allows the individual to move on to perfection in Hebrews 6:1-2, which is rendered from the Greek word meaning mental or moral completeness.
“perfection” - Strong’s NT:5047; completeness (mentally or morally)
The words that are contained within the Bible are very important as spiritual growth depends upon them. Jesus was very specific about the words that He used. He clearly stated in John 12:47-50 that He did not speak His own words but spoke the words of the Father that sent Him.
John 12:47-50 (NKJV)
47 And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him — the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. 50 And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.
Jesus was saying that He is a conduit through whom God speaks to man. He specifically stated that He did not come to judge or make determinations on the world. He came to save the world. He further declared that if a man rejected Him and His words, he would be rejecting the words of His Father, God. Jesus further stated that neither He nor God will judge. He said that the way a man acts upon the words that Jesus spoke will judge or make a determination upon each man’s heart in the last day. In other words, a person’s own actions will serve as his or her judge.
Judgment regarding how each person deals with Jesus is not up to religions or other men. The responsibility for that judgment, which is a determination and weighing of evidence based on the Words of Jesus, resides only with God. This is why Jesus said that even He would not judge those who rejected Him. The words that He spoke do the judging because they are the parameters and foundation of truth.
Jesus did, however, tell us to look at the way people conduct them- selves. He said that we should be “fruit inspectors” in Matthew 7:15-20. We are not to make decisions or evaluations related to the hearts of men because only God knows their innermost thoughts toward God and Jesus.
Nevertheless, Jesus did instruct us to beware of those who produce no fruit or evil fruit. It is evident that Jesus was speaking about the actions of people. In Matthew 7:15-20, it appears that if there is any good fruit, the tree is not completely corrupt. If there is only corrupt fruit or no good fruit, then the tree is corrupt and will be destroyed by fire.
Matthew 7:15-20 (ERV)
15 Be careful of false prophets. They come to you and look gentle like sheep. But they are really dangerous like wolves. 16 You will know these people because of what they do. Good things don’t come from people who are bad, just as grapes don’t come from thornbushes, and figs don’t come from thorny weeds. 17 In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, and bad trees produce bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 You will know these false people by what they do.
This parable is obviously comparing the tree to men, and the fruit to the actions of men so that those with understanding and discernment will not allow themselves to be influenced and led astray by deceivers.
Jesus took these same warnings in Matthew 12:35-37 and applied them directly to men. He made the concept very clear indeed but then took it to a new level. He stated that men will be judged based on their own words. Another way to say it is that we will condemn ourselves with our evil words, but we will be justified or made righteous by our words of agreement and acceptance of God’s Word and of Jesus.
35 A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. 36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. 37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.
Matthew 12:35-37 (ERV)
35 Those who are good have good things saved in their hearts. That’s why they say good things. But those who are evil have hearts full of evil, and that’s why they say things that are evil. 36 I tell you that everyone will have to answer for all the careless things they have said. This will happen on the day of judgment. 37 Your words will be used to judge you. What you have said will show whether you are right or whether you are guilty.
Armed with this perspective and the neutral interpretation of the words judge and judgment, this passage can be seen more clearly and lead to a more thorough understanding. The context of the words used, coupled with the character of the one issuing the words, removes preconceptions and allows the Word of God to reveal the intent behind its words. This approach will yield a more thorough understanding of the words in use.
God is not judging you or pronouncing a sentence upon you. Sin does that. Your own sin judges you and demands a verdict. However, God in His wisdom and mercy has provided a way through Jesus to avoid eternal jail time.
A deeper understanding of the terms judge and judgment, condemn, and sentence may put the question, “Who Is Judging You?” posed in Chapter 12 of Ideolatry, in a much different light.
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