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Preaching and Judging

Jesus’ instruction, “Do not judge” (Matthew 7:1), seems to be His most popular command these days. We who preach are sometimes charged with violating it simply by proclaiming God’s word, whether we are speaking about His requirements for salvation, His moral standards, or what He demands in various relationships. Anytime we say something is wrong, we are accused of judging.

I would encourage any who would make such a charge to take another look at the three inspired letters to preachers: 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus.

Paul, the author, identified many problem areas: men who teach strange doctrines (1 Timothy 1:3; 6:3), teachers who don’t know what they are talking about (1:7), people who don’t live according to the gospel standard (1:9-11), those who fall away from the faith in their beliefs and conduct (4:1-3), the arguments of what is falsely called knowledge (6:21), persuasive deceivers who captivate the weak (2 Timothy 3:6), intellectuals who can never decide on the truth (3:7), rebellious men and empty talkers (Titus 1:10), those who profess to know God but deny him by their conduct (1:16), Christians who become forgetful about how they are to be living (3:1-2), do-nothing Christians (3:8), and so on. Identifying problems is not inherently the judging Jesus condemned.

Timothy and Titus had much to do. In addition to positively preaching the gospel message of salvation in Jesus, they were to correct the false teachers (1 Timothy 1:3-4), point out their errors to the brethren (4:6), rebuke those who continue in sin—including church leaders (5:20), guard the truth (6:20; 2 Timothy 1:14), remind the brethren (2:14; Titus 3:1), severely rebuke and silence deceivers (Titus 1:10-13), while preaching the conduct befitting sound doctrine (2:1-10). Correcting problems is not inherently the judging Jesus condemned.

Preachers must be careful though. In all this activity, Paul insists that they keep a good conscience (1 Timothy 1:19), conduct themselves as they ought (3:15; 6:14), be examples (4:12, 16), interact with others rightly (5:1-2), be willing to suffer (2:3; 4:5), be kind, patient, and gentle (4:24-25), stay in the Scriptures (3:14-17), and preach with all authority (Titus 2:15) without becoming argumentative (3:9; 2 Timothy 4:24). They must “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12).

Let’s all remember Paul’s summary (2 Timothy 4:2-5): “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers according to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

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