Drinking Deeply

Friday, October 28, 2005 at 11:45 PM

Judge lest ye be judged (3)

Another typical "don't judge me passage" is Romans 14, which is entitled by the ESV "Do not pass judgment upon one another"

Romans 14
1As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master[a] that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
Oftentimes v. 4 is cited (or the entire passage is): "Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand."

The key to understanding this verse is in defining the term "pass judgment." It's very easy to say to someone "stop judging someone" thinking that this passage applies, but this passage isn't exactly about the judgment that we use when we talk about "an opinion based upon evidence" (or even, an opinion not based upon evidence!).

If we understand this verse as "don't pass judgment. Don't say something is better, or worse, don't view someone's faith as weak or strong," then we're stuck, for the whole passage is about not judging someone whose faith is weak. In that sense, Paul has already judged someone's faith as weak (they abstain from foods that the Lord has sanctified and made clean... so on). He knows that a proper interpretation of the Lord's commandments allows him to eat these foods, but some abstain because they don't have that interpretation. In that sense, their faith is rightly judged as weak.

So what does "pass judgment" mean then? I think the key lies within the first verse:

1As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.

1st:
Paul is asking them to practice proper judgment in discernment over seeing if someone's faith is weak. This is important later in the passage as well, where he is telling the church at Corinth not to cause another to stumble. How are they to know what stumbles someone without practicing discernment and judging if their faith is weak in one area or another?

2nd:
The passage starts off "welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions." Contrast "welcome him" with "passing judgment" and we see immediately that the context of judgment in this sense is breaking fellowship.

Paul is saying, "there are some things not worth breaking fellowship over. These people have a weaker faith, and they think they're still glorifying God in abstaining from some meats. You know better, but don't let your greater knowledge make you withhold fellowship from them. God is working in them too. They will be upheld because God will uphold them."

Notice the key is that the person weak in faith thinks it's glorifying to God. They are convinced by Scripture that it is glorifying to God. However, if the person is being sinfully unrepentant about something, basically that they know it isn't glorifying to God but engage in it even after rebuke, they cannot protect themselves from proper judgment (in terms of church discipline a la Matt. 18) by this verse.

In short, this verse does not say that it is wrong to say (or think) that someone is of weaker faith, in fact, it is necessary to practice proper discernment (Might I point us back to Matt. 7?) in determining who has weaker faith in order that we might not cause them to stumble. In this verse, passing judgment is contrasted to welcoming them, so passing judgment in this sense is most likely seen as equivalent to "withhold fellowship from."

***Edit*** John Piper is addressing this passage in his last message here I agree with him completely and do see that I placed undue emphasis on the "witholding fellowship" when it's clear that despising the brother is another issue here.

Links to this post:

Create a Link

Drop a thought