In my last post, we see from Scripture that the Bible does not say that we are not to judge others. In fact, Jesus encourages us to repent from our sin, and then see clearly enough to lovingly point out the sin in others.
Here is the second principle we learn from Scripture:
2. Believers are Called to Judge other Believers.
Paul wrote to a body of believers in Corinth which was dealing with a lot of immorality in their midst. When he wrote 1 Corinthians, it was evidently not the first time he had corresponded with them:
9 I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11 But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.
1 Corinthians 5:9-11
The Corinthian churchgoers misunderstood Paul—they thought they had to withdraw themselves completely from unbelievers, which, as Paul says in verse 10, would mean they would have to leave the planet.
What Paul meant was that they were not to associate (Greek sunanamignumi—to mix up with) those who call themselves believers but choose to willfully remain in sin. Paul calls those in the church to be careful of mixing up with these people—to keep oneself from be influenced by them. In this context, to “associate” means to be in close relationship with.
Those so-called brothers who remain unrepentant after being warned and yet continue in a persistent pattern of sin should not be part of Christian fellowship. Please do not misunderstand this as ignoring them or not interacting with them. But to treat them as the rest of the world, as we pray for their repentance and hope that they will turn from their sin.
And it’s here that Paul explains the responsibility of the believer to judge:
12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.”
1 Corinthians 5:12-13
Paul makes it clear in verse 12 that believers are to judge those who are inside the church, those who are in fellowship and call themselves brothers and sisters.
There are few things that are clear here:
We cannot tell a non-believer how to live.
Scripture tells us here: God will judge those outside. If people outside the church are in sin, we believers do not judge them. We leave that to the Lord.
We are called to evaluate the actions of (so-called) believers in the community.
It is also clear that it is the responsibility of the body of Christ to judge those who are inside the church. The purpose of this is that we in close Christian community should be spurring each other on, encouraging and challenging each other to live lives that are pleasing to God.
Pastor John MacArthur says:
It is not that everyone in the church must be perfect, for that is impossible. Everyone falls into sin and has imperfections and shortcomings. The church is in some ways a hospital for those who know they are sick. They have trusted in Christ as Savior and they want to follow Him as Lord—to be what God wants them to be. It is not the ones who recognize their sin and hunger for righteousness who are to be put out of fellowship, but those who persistently and unrepentantly continue in a pattern of sin about which they have been counseled and warned. We should continue to love them and pray for them that they repent and return to a pure life. If they do repent we should gladly and joyfully “forgive and comfort” them and welcome them back into fellowship.
-(The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, 1 Corinthians)