Should Christians Judge Others Outside The Church?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Is it right for Christians to judge those outside of the church?

Church Discipline

The Bible teaches through the Apostle Peter that “it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God” (1st Pet 4:17)? We know that the outcome will be utterly horrible for them, and since “the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner” (1st Pet 4:18), but does this mean we’re to judge those outside of the church? We do know that we are to judge those inside the church when they are living in obvious sin like with sexual immorality. Jesus taught church discipline because He says we are to go to our brother or sister, and if that doesn’t work, try to bring someone else with you, but if that doesn’t make any difference, that’s when you bring it up before the whole church (Matt 18:17). Wouldn’t it trouble you if someone who was the church bus driver was seen drunk in public? What would that do to the witness of that church? Since they are part of the church, and other people’s safety depend on them (i.e., the children!), it is good and proper to remove a bus driver who has demonstrated a problem with alcohol. God has placed this heavy-duty responsibility upon the leadership, because they are charged with keeping the Bride of Christ as spotless as possible (1st Cor 5:13), so that the Bride, dressed in the righteousness of Christ (2nd Cor 5:21), can be presented to the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, as a chaste, pure, and holy Bride for the Holy Bridegroom.

The Church Judges the Church

The Apostle Paul was warning the church “not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one” (1st Cor 5:9-11). Paul wasn’t just wanting the church not to associate with the sexually immoral of the world” but those within the church who were “guilty of sexual immorality,” but also greed, idolatry, partying, drunkenness, or swindling people. Paul says don’t “associate with anyone” even if they bear “the name of” a brother in Christ! Paul takes this responsibility so seriously that he commands the sisters and “brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us” (2nd Thess 3:6). Treat them as you would anyone outside of the church (Matt 18:17). Since Jesus is the Head of the Church, and gave the church a format for disciplining church members (Matt 18:15-20), that shows that judgment does start in the house of God, but does it end there?

Do we Judge the World?

Can you imagine the Apostle Paul trying to go out in the street and try to convict people of their sins or tell them, “You’re going to hell if you don’t repent?” Paul did run his listeners down the Romans Road so that they would flee to the cross, but I don’t see where Jesus, or Paul, Peter, James, or anyone else went out into the world to judge the world. Jesus came not to condemn but to save (John 3:17). Let us do likewise. Judgment is coming. Paul seems very clear about judging those inside and outside of the church, asking, “what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you” (1st Cor 5:12-13). Paul’s focus is always on judging those within the church. This isn’t being judgmental; it is in trying to keep the Bride as pure as possible.

Who Convicts the World?

Who does the convicting of sin for those in the world? Is it us? I don’t think so. Who convicted you of your sins? For me, it was the Holy Spirit. Jesus, in speaking about the Holy Spirit, said, “when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment, concerning sin, because they do not believe in me” (John 16:8). If I am talking them into a conviction of their sin, then someone can talk them out of it. Remember those in the world cannot understand the things of God, at least yet, since “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1st Cor 2:14). I can’t talk someone out of their sin and into the kingdom, but I can tell them about the King of the kingdom. The Father must draw them to Christ (John 6:44) just as He did us. I make a poor imitation of the Holy Spirit. I can mess things up more than I can help them, but this doesn’t mean I can’t share the Word of God with them when I have the chance to.

Conclusion

As we have seen, judgment starts with the house of God and stays with the house of God. God judges or will judge those outside of the church, so clearly, we are not to judge outsiders or those outside of the church. God is their one and only true Judge, but just because we don’t judge others doesn’t mean we don’t witness to others. Our witness might plant a seed and open the door for the Holy Spirit to convict them. We don’t save anyone but God can use us as a means so save some. As has been said, it takes a person of God with the Word of God and the Spirit of God to make the children of God for the glory of God. It’s all about God, not about you or me. Let Him judge righteously. Let me first stand in front of the mirror because I’ve got enough to judge right there! Let’s you and I “drop the stone.” If I cast the stone, it would have to be at me.

Here is some related reading for you: What Does the Bible Say About Judgment?

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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