Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Called Judge? (2 of 4)

In Part 1, a brief introduction was given to Matthew 7. The passage discusses judgment in the midst of the Sermon on the Mount – a sermon about living within the Kingdom of God filled with warnings of hypocrisy.

So, in Matthew 7, who is Jesus talking to? Everyone? No. He is talking to His disciples then and now (see Matthew 5.1). Or whom we might consider – the family of God. And, of course, the crowds that were nearby too. So what is it Jesus is saying in these verses? I think Jesus is saying two main things in these verses.

First, those that wish to follow Jesus are to realize they are not to judge the world, but they help others avoid a greater judgment – after being deemed righteous themselves.

The word judge (Greek – krino) is used in several times in the New Testament. But consider the context of Jesus' message. If we are seeking the Kingdom (Matt 6.33 - two verses prior to Matt 7.1), then the King is the true judge, not us. So what are is whole plank & speck example about?

I have heard people preach on this before, and the comment is talking about one person's sin being bigger than another's. This may be true, but who is the judge of that? Both parties would likely feel the other person has the bigger issue, so a third party must be the judge. Well, again, Matthew 6.33 provides the answer. The judge is The KING! Seek first His Kingdom and His RIGHTEOUSNESS and all these things will be added to you. This can't be overstressed. Unfortunately, most look at this statement as reflecting on the "these things "that God will give us from the preceding verses (shelter, clothing, etc). But few ever look forward to see if these words apply later. (Consider Matthew 7.7-11!!! These verses will be explored in Part 3.)

Consider how the Pharisees must have heard these words from Jesus. The Pharisees were the judges of the day – at least from a religious perspective. Ultimate authority was at the hands of the Roman empire (i.e. the governor of the region). The trial of Jesus provides insight here. The Chief Priests found Him guilty, but really couldn't do anything except take Him to the Romans. Eventually, the Romans were the ones who exacted judgment.

Its the same thing here. The Pharisees were condemning everyone for minor infractions (specks). Were they infractions? Yes. But the Pharisees were guilty of a greater infraction. They needed to get the plank out of their own eye first. How? Confess their sins to God. The unrighteousness of the Pharisees did not allow them to judge others correctly. They judged by their law, not the King's. But if they were to get right with the King (if they were to become righteous before God), then their eyes would be opened and they would see enough to help others who needed help. I believe this is the greater message of these verses. Yes, the sin of the Pharisees may have been greater, but the sin was truly believing they were beyond the need of judgment.

The problem was made worse by the fact that their sin of judging and oppressing people stood in contrast to what they should do, The Pharisees, as religious leaders, were to help the people become who God wanted them to be. Thus, Jesus' warning in v. 2 is that because they oppressed others, their judgment would be harsh.

One other point on the log and speck must be made. The log is our sin against God. The speck is another's offense against us. We may feel that someone has offended us greatly, but our sin against God is far more offending to a holy and perfect God, than any issue we might have with others. Therefore, if we go to God to have our log removed, we might find out that the speck we thought we saw in another's eye, really isn't a big deal at all.

Many people quote Matthew 7.1 because they don't want to be judged. But the passage actually does say we are to judge, however we must do so out of righteousness. Verse 5 says we can help take the speck out, but only AFTER having your issue resolved before the king. Verse 6 says we are to be discerning – not giving holy things to those that are not holy.

The fact is, if we get right with God (have our log removed), we will be able to help others. We will be able to discern the holy from the unholy. But we must always seek to remain holy – not allowing our pride, or anything else, make us think that it is our judgment, and not God's, that matters.

In Part 3, Jesus reminds us that God is more than King and more than Judge, He is our Father – who gives good things.

Finally, in Part 4, four very practical questions will be listed that will be beneficial to ask ourselves before approaching another in judgment.

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