If a Christian teacher says that “false teaching” is occurring in a congregation of which he is not a member, would this be considered “judging?” Would it violate a church’s “autonomy?” There are actually two elements of this question that require consideration.
Somehow, many folks assume that all judging is wrong (yet they are not reticent to judge those whom they feel are judging). But all judging is not wrong. Hypocritical judging is wrong, I.e., condemning someone of the very thing that you are practicing.
(Matt 7:1-5) “Judge not, that you be not judged.
2 “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.
3 “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?
4 “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye?
5 “Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
(Rom 2:1) “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.”
Superficial judging, ie. Judging on the basis of mere appearance, is evil as well.
(John 7:24) “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”
On the other hand, Jesus commanded us to judge righteous judgment, which is a judgment (pronouncement) consistent with Scriptural teaching. Paul rebuked the Corinthian Christians because they were flaunting their differences before unbelieving authorities, rather than “judging” these matters within the confines of the congregational environment.
(1 Cor 6:1) “Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?”
And so, a certain type of judging is not only not wrong; it is positively required.
The second aspect of the question deals with what one may or may not criticize relative to the affairs of a neighbouring congregation. If the subject under consideration has to do with an issue of mere expediency, it is not appropriate for the members of one congregation to be harshly negative toward the activities of another congregation. Expediencies are matters of personal judgment, and ought not to be targets for hostile barbs.
Having said that, the notion has some involved in the thinking of many that a congregation may practice virtually anything it pleases—no matter how much of a departure from the truth—and no one, who is not a member of the congregation, is at liberty to offer any censure. Such view is far from the truth.
When Paul wrote First Corinthians to the church in Corinth, he was living in Ephesus, (1 Cor 16:8) “But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost.” where he laboured for approximately three years. (Acts 20:31) “herefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.”
While in Ephesus, the apostle received reports of various happenings in Corinth. Accordingly, he wrote First Corinthians to address problems within that congregation. That congregation was divisive in spirit, (1 Cor 1:11) For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
The Corinthian saints retained a fornicating brother within their fellowhip (1 Cor 5:1) “It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.”
Some were litigating their differences before heathen judges; others were abusing spiritual gifts, (1 Cor 12-14). Some of them even denied the future resurrection of the body, (1 Cor 15:12) “Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?”
It apparently never occurred to Paul that he was “meddling” in the affairs of a congregation of which he was not a member. A Christian has the right to oppose error—wherever it may be. We would respectfully suggest, however, that it is not a reflection of maturity and balance to virtually consume one’s time in monitoring the problems of other congregations. When one virtually makes a career of “policing” the brotherhood, he reveals that he does not have a responsible view of what Christianity is about.
Written by Wayne Jackson