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Monday, 7 March 2011

Do Not Judge, But Watch Out For False Prophets, Matthew 7 Explanation

Edited 21st Aug 2011 (see section in bold for the edited part)

In Matthew 7 Jesus started by saying "judge not that you be not judged" "for the measure you use, it will be measured unto you". He finishes by saying "watch out for false prophets".  At first glance (without studying it properly or comparing scriptures in context) it may seem like a contradiction in terms.

I mean, how can you watch out for false prophets without judging them?

Actually, there are many words we use (in English) which give a similar meaning to judge, but judge (in its severest sense) is much more than assessing another person. it is what the Crown Court might do. We use many words similar to judge: assess, examine, test, have opinion against, analyse, weigh up etc. In fact, we are told by John to "test the spirits  to see whether they are from God" and goes on to say "for many false prophets have gone out into the World" 1 John 4:1.   Is this not a form of judging?  We see the NT church exercising discipline  regarding wrong practice in the church. How can this be done without a form of judging take place?

So we need to consider the context of what Jesus was actually saying when He said "judge not that you be not judged"

We need to
keep a sound balance regarding Matthew 7.  Incidentally, does anyone know the Greek word used in the original manuscripts for "judge" in Matthew 7:1-2 and what it means?

In any case, if we compare Matthew chapter 7 with chapter 6 and compare with Luke 11, I think we can get to the bottom of that word judge. If we also consider who Jesus was talking to and the time in which He was teaching.

He had not yet died for our sins and had not yet fulfilled the Law. He was often referring to the pharisees and the Mosaic Law in His sermons. He spoke woes to the scribes and pharisees who were preventing people entering the kingdom of God through their heavy burdens. Maybe Jesus was referring to the pharisees as the hypocrites who were judging and removing specks. Jesus (basically) is saying that they should get right with God first and then their judgement of individuals would come from a better heart.

Matthew 6 and Luke 11 both contain the Lord's prayer which states "forgive others as you would want the Lord to forgive you". Judging should come from a heart which has been forgiven by God , cleansed and humbled. It is out of a forgiving heart that we exercise compassion (not judgement) of others.

So the specks that we all contain are to do with faults and imperfections in our lives. As only God knows the heart, we are not permitted to pass judgement on the condition of their heart.

Jesus said (in another place) that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. So with this in mind, Jesus goes on to talk about False prophets who are known by WHAT THEY SAY, not what they do. We are not to judger actions but we ARE to test what they say. If they teach heresies we are allowed to expose it.  I believe this is the distinction we should use.

We are NOT to strain at a gnat and then swallow a camel. The gnat are the finer points of the law but false teaching could be considered as a much larger issue (camel) that needs to be rejected.

We are not to judge the conditions of people's hearts and their actions because we do not know what is going on in their lives, minds or the reasons behind their actions. Only God klnows the intentions of the heart.

However, the scriptures are CLEAR that those who reject Jesus as the Way the Truth and the Life ARE going to hell. It is NOT wrong for us to make that judgement. We should not judge over grey areas, but we are to warn (another way we judge) people over the consequences of rejecting Jesus or following wrong paths.

We have been told to watch out for false prophets. To watch out for is a form of exercising judgement too.

I believe Jesus is referring to what a judge does in a law court, by passing a sentence on the actions of people. We are told that we should not pass out sentences, because only the Lord has that power. We cannot know (with certainty) if a CHRISTIAN is born again or not, so should not judge them to be unsaved.

However, if a person has not believed in Jesus as the only way into Heaven, it is clear (from the Bible) that they are condemned until they receive him.

John 3:18
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son

So it is not right to say that we cannot judge those of other religions who do not believe that Jesus is the ONLY way. The Bible states they are already condemned!

Of course, any individual may repent, turn to Jesus and believe in Him later on in life. If they do, they will obtain eternal salvation and will go to Heaven. So, although they (at present) stand condemned by following a false way, they may not follow it all their life. Only God knows who will repent and who will not.

Therefore, we cannot say that a person is definitely going to hell (judging them) because God may convert their soul before they die. But .... we can say that they will go to hell IF they don't repent and turn to Jesus.

Edited 21st Aug 2011 (edited part in bold)

Also we should not judge another Christian regarding their personal walk with God, because only God knows if they are serving Him or serving themselves. Only God knows their hearts. We cannot always judge what a person's motives are. 1 Cor 4:4-5 says:

"My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts"

However, if we see them caught up in a specific sin, we ARE told that a spiritual brother should seek to restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. How can they do this unless they judge. I believe the key is our attitude. If we are condescending, destructively critical, or "holier than thou" then THIS is being judgemental and is unhelpful. But if we can come alongside such a brother with a spirit of compassion, then exercising judgement in trying to be helpful is surely okay.

But when it comes to FALSE PROPHETS or FALSE BROTHERS we are allowed to expose their false teachings and their deceptions for the sake of saving, loving our brethren from the lies and deception.


Tony Cox said...

Hi John

Another gret article I plan to share with others (I also shared your last piece with others as well).

I need your help again. I have spoke with you previously about a friend of mine. The other day she says to me "if a muslim or hindu or one from any faith has a good heart and lives well then - how can God send them to hell!"

My response was - I am not God and cannot confidently answer how He will judge those people - BUT - what is the use of the gospel then? Why spread it at all? If we subscribe to the he/she has a good heart and lives well then Jesus didn't really need to walk the earth at all? Did He? Can someone really make it to heaven if they deny Jesus as Lord and deny his divinity regardless of how they were raised?

I am certainly not looking to condemn anyone but would like your help on this one. I think you may be able to help others also in responding to my questions.

I am also somewhat confused as many of my relatives who have passed away were devout Catholics - now - I left the church several years ago because it is a false one - but my confusion is that many of my relatives who have died as devout Catholics have led a much more pious life than I. By NO means am I giving the church any credibility at all.

Keep up the GREAT work!

John Chingford said...

Hi Tony

I am always so glad to get your feedback.

There is nothing wrong with your answer. What you stated is the whole crux of the matter. Jesus walked this Earth and died for our sins because we could not save ourselves. Without the intervention of God through Jesus all of us would go to hell.

God stated that our righteousness is like filthy rags in His sight. This does not mean that God disregards any good we try to do, but He is pointing out that whatever good we do cannot measure up to the first human's righteopusness before he sinned. Adam was made with a perfect human nature and was able to have a perfect relationship with God until he succumbed to satan's temptation to be disobedient.

Rom 3:23 says "all have sinned and FALLEN SHORT OF GOD's GLORY", ie no-one measures up to the requirement and standard for Heaven. Whatever good we do (in our own understanding of good) is well short of what goodness really is.

That is why we need God's mercy and forgiveness. Without being cleansed by Jesus blood NO-ONE absolutely NO ONE will make it to Heaven. Praise God for Our Lord Jesus who took our place on the cross and IS the way to Heaven.

So no religion or good lives are enough. It is ONLY Jesus who can save us.

In fact, if we reject Jesus and follow other ways, we are actually rejecting God who gave us Jesus. Why would God accept anyone into His heaven if they reject his way of salvation.

It is God who sets the boundaries and the rules - not man!

It doesn't matter how pious we are, if we reject God's way of salvation, it is all a waste of time.

In humility we need to accept that we are helpless sinners who cannot save ourselves by good works or piety and need Jesus. You say that you do not bring credibility at all. At least you are humble enough to acknowledge that you do not deserve mercy. Praise God that He saves sinners - not the righteous.

In fact it is a good sign to be aware of your dependence on Christ. Paul wrote that he believed he was the chiefmost of sinners. Actually he wasn't, but God's love and mercy upon him caused him to realise how much he had let God down and it grieved him.

If you feel you are letting the Lord down, you need to come to Jesus in prayer (where you are) confess your sins, believe in Jesus and trust in Him that He has removed your sins from you. You do not need to feel guilty any more because you are forgiven (if you are a believer).

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness". Leave your helplessness in God's hands. He will work in your life to change you to become more and more like Jesus.

Some believers feel so unworthy because they believe they have failed the Lord greatly. We ALL fail the Lord, many times but God's mercy is with us always, if we trust in Him. You may not "feel" like you are being changed, but that is only according to your finite mind's way of looking at things.

God SAID that He is changing us. His Word can be trusted. What He says is more important than what we think.

"all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose".

For those who follow other religions. If you REALLY love God you will follow His Son Jesus. If you do not follow Jesus, you show that you do not love God.

Anonymous said...

Hi John

I struggle with God forgiving me. I have communicated to you privately many times with some of my troubles - so you actually know details - I won't bore the rest with any details - i decided to "put it out there" should you decide to publish as there may be some out there just like me - that need your help. I have had a few battles with prescription painkillers in my life. At times when some major life changes take place - the addiction can rear it's ugly head and I fall to it. My problem is - How can God forgive me for doing something I KNOW I should not do? I know there are NO excuses for problems in one's life that should cause me to be disobedient. I feel so ashamed it is like I feel I do not deserve forgiveness. I am racked with this over and over everyday. It took alot for me to put this out there - but I feel there may be others out there like me - it doesn't have to be an addiction - it can be many things - where a person just doesn't know how to accept forgiveness for things they have done because they KNOW that their actions were willfully sinful and disobedient.

John Chingford said...

Thanks Anonymous. That was courageous of you to confess in public. However, I decided not to show your name as I felt it shouldn't be made too public ie not for the whole world to see who wrote this.

But, because you want to help others, I have published upon your request as "anonymous".

I have an article which may help you. It also tackles what the Bible says regarding "wilful sin" and what it actually is. Please read:

"Why True Believers Are Eternally Secure In Their Salvation" on

Pshdsa said...

The one caution that I believe is appropriate is that we need to be careful we do not quench smoking flax. What I mean is that some new born babe may hang on the words of a false teacher, the Spirit having used the small truth he taught to call her. Separating her from the false teacher takes wisdom from the Lord. For example, Catholics reverence Mary beyond what they should. Best to get them saved, and as they follow the Lord they will discover the truth. If we are premature we could ruin a great many things God is trying to do. We need to do all things by the Spirit. Fighting false teachers in the flesh is called losing.

John Chingford said...

I ask those who get my automatic updates to give your own replies to Pshdsa's interesting thoughts. For now, I will make first stab at responding.

Hi Pshdsa

Thanks for contributing.

I hear what you are saying and understand your concerns. However, I believe we should never be worried about the thing which concerned you. I will give my reasons.

The scriptures teach that:
"all those the Father calls WILL come to Me" and "all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day"(Jesus)

John 6:36-40 "all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose"

Rom 8:28 "He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion until the day of Christ" Phil 1:6

The scriptures throughout are clear that we are simply mouthpieces of God's message. We cannot save anyone. Only Jesus saves through the work of the Holy Spirit

"when He (the Holy Spirit) is come He will convict the world concerning sin, righteousness,and judgement"

"Therefore He (Jesus)is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them." Hebrews 7:25

It is our duty to present people to Jesus, but we cannot save them. Jesus saves them and then keeps them. However, it is our duty to protect them from false teaching.

The Bible is clear "come out from amongst them" Full text follows:

"Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

“Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord." 2 Cor 6:14-17

I accept thatr a new born babe in Christ needs proper nurturing. However, they will only be fed poison from a false teacher. If we are informing a babe about false teaching it is ALSO our duty to disciple them OURSELVES (those who are mature in Christ) teaching them truth and helping them to grow. DO NOT leave them in that precarious position. Although (as said) the Holy Spirit will be their teacher anyway IF they are truly born-again.

God bless

Very Interested said...

Dear John

Thanks for this article. I saw an article on another blog addressing this issue. May I copy my answer here? My answer is very applicable.

"I do not disagree with you regarding various meanings (in scripture) of fruit. My main contention is regarding the context behind Jesus words ie "by their fruit you will know them".

Elsewhere it says "fruit of lips" Hebrews 13:15 regarding our worship. Also "this people worship me with their lips but their hearts are far from me" and "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks"

So it is true to say that our lips produce fruit, good or bad, but what is spoken comes straight from the heart. Only God knows the condition of our hearts. A person may speak error or explain things poorly leading to misunderstandings, but their intention may be from a genuinely pure heart.

Therefore, we cannot always judge what a person's motives are. 1 Cor 4:4-5 says:

"My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts"

The context is regarding the condition of people's hearts. Jesus DID tell us to watch out for false prophets, but He also said "do not judge".

Therefore, in context, bearing in mind everything else, Jesus must have been referring to the false teachings and false prophecies by those who misrepresent the Word Of God, rather than their actions. If we are not to judge their hearts (because only the Lord can do that) we can only judge what they say. For example the fruit of the Spirit is hidden within individuals. Only God knows whether their fruit is of Him or counterfeit. It is impossible to know for sure.

Even WoF or Latter rain preachers (using just 2 examples) can appear to show the fruit of the Holy Spirit eg love, joy, peace (from a distance) but we can tell they are false teachers/prophets by the clear heresies of their lips.

Your recent Justin Peters videos reinforce this."

John Chingford said...

Thanks "Very Interested".

I believe you are SPOT ON. I agree with you.

Anonymous said...

The term "ravenous wolves", (Matt. 7:14-16) seems to describe character, too, which includes actions.

John Chingford said...

Thanks Anon

I would say that the intentions of "ravenous" wolves is to devour the sheep because they are very hungry to satisfy their own "bellies" or fulfill their appetites for self glory, power and riches (that does indeed indicate character).

So how do false prophets devour the sheep?

I would say they devour the sheep by deliberate false teaching and "brainwashing" in their teaching. This would include techniques like hypnosis, whipping up emotions etc. They devour by usurping, manipulating, dominating, possessing etc, until the hearers are controlled, ie "completely devoured" by false teaching - taken over.

It is true that ravenous could involve actions, but in reality (example Word of Faith and Latter Rain preachers) they devour mostly through their messages, but also use the above techniques in delivering their message.

See my article "Qualities Of True Biblical Leadership Compared To the False Teachers" which say something more relating to the character of false leaders: