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Who Is the Judge?

“But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.
(1 Corinthians 2:15 KJV)

“Do not judge lest you be judged.  For the way you judge you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you… You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to the speck out of your brother’s eye.”  (Matt. 7:1-2,5 NASB)


     At first glance these verses may seem paradoxical.  On the one hand, we are told that we who are spiritual “judge all things” and on the other hand we are told not to judge.  It may seem as though since the Matthew 7 passage was stated before the cross, it would be negated by the 1 Corinthians passage which was given after the cross.  Following this logic could cause a Christian to feel they have a right to cast judgment on all things and everyone and not be judged by anyone.  This misconception can lead to a release of a critical spirit in the body of Christ that ruptures unity and fuels self-righteousness and deception.  The key to clearing up this misconception is found in investigating the word “judge” and in observing the Scriptural context.  In doing so, we will discover that there is no paradox but rather the discussion of two different issues.

The Word Meanings

     The Greek word used in 1 Corinthians 2:15 is a different word and is only used a few times in the New Testament.  It is the word “anakrino.”  According to Strong’s, it means “to scrutinize.”  It implies “to investigate, interrogate, determine – ask questions, discern, examine,”  Though it has the same root word as the word “judge” in  Matthew 7, the prefix ,”ana,”  changes the meaning.  Recognizing this, the NASB translates “anakino” as “appraised.”  This is a more accurate translation of the word for our modern understanding. 

     Since we see how the words differ in meaning, we must take the next step in understanding the Holy Spirit’s intention in these verses.  This is done by observing their contexts.

The Words in their Scriptural Contexts

     Matthew 7 is part of Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount.”  Here Jesus is teaching His disciples and others who gathered from all parts of Israel and Syria, the “gospel of the Kingdom” (Matt. 4:23-25).  In this sermon,  Jesus challenges their tendency to hold others at a higher standard than they live themselves.  This is an attitude that leads to criticizing and condemning others while overlooking one’s own faults. 

     Jesus admonishes them and us not to condemn others but rather deal with our own faults and frailties.  He likens these faults to a “board” that is in one’s eyes.  A board in an eye would impair one’s vision, therefore, preventing the ability to see clearly.  He likens the faults in others as a “speck” in their eye.  It stands to reason that in order to take a tiny speck out of someone else’s eye one must first deal with that which is impairing one’s own vision.  He didn’t say criticize or judge the speck but remove it.  It is an act of compassion and kindness.  It will require patience and gentleness.  Galatians 6:1 admonishes us to restore those who are caught in a sin and to do it in “a spirit of meekness.”  If God allows us to observe a fault or even a sin in another’s life, it is for their restoration not condemnation or destruction.

      Whereas the Matthew 7 passage relates to how we respond to others, the 1 Corinthians 2 passage relates to how we respond to God.  Matthew 7 addresses relationship with others and 1 Corinthians 2 addresses the reception of revelation from God. 

     In 1 Corinthians 2:14-16, the natural man/woman and the spiritual man/woman are being contrasted.  The natural man is the unsaved person who consequently does not have the spirit of God.  The spiritual man is the one who is saved and yields to the Holy Spirit’s presence and control in his/her life (Eph. 5:18; Gal. 5:16).  The “natural man” cannot effectively evaluate the things of the Spirit of God.  He cannot discern nor appraise its value.  He cannot discern truth from error.  He cannot comprehend it, therefore, it is foolishness to him (1Cor. 2:14).

     In actuality, the things of the Spirit of God cannot be grasped, appraised, nor understood by the mind of human beings- saved or unsaved (1 Cor. 2:14; 3:1-3).  The human mind cannot handle the things from the mind of God.  In Isaiah 55:8, God says His thoughts are not our thoughts neither are His ways our ways.  He goes on to say that His thoughts and ways are higher than ours. 

     The spiritual man or woman is the one who has the Holy Spirit to lead, guide, instruct as well as to empower.  By the Spirit of God, “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16b).  Jesus said that one of the roles of the Holy Spirit would be to “guide” us in “all truth” (John 16:13).  He is the instructor and the discerner.  By His power, we can appraise or discern all things.  It is by His intellect not our own.  So, 1 Corinthians 2:15 is not giving us the license to judge people but to discern and comprehend spiritual truths.  By the same token, when 1 Corinthians 2:15b says the spiritual person is “appraised by no man,” it does not mean he is above correction.  It means that his ways cannot be fully evaluated by the natural mind.  It can only be done by the spirit of God who reveals as God wills.  When the Holy Spirit does it, even when He uses people, it is done in a way that reflects the nature of God.


     So who is the Judge?  It certainly is not us.  Only a holy and righteous God is fit to sit in that seat.  He alone knows the end from the beginning.  He alone has the perfect balance of lovingkindness, mercy, grace and judgment.  We have the privilege of receiving the revelation from the throne needed to cleanse, heal, deliver and change us into His likeness (Rom. 12:1,2; Col 3:16,17).   It is this truth that reveals the “board” in our eye and gives us the ability to overcome it as well as the compassion and discernment to assist others in overcoming the “speck” in theirs.  Let’s pray.


     Father, thank You for Your lovingkindness and mercy towards me.  I confess that I have tried to sit in your judgment seat.  Cleanse me of presumptuous ways.  I acknowledge that all truth comes from You and I humble myself to receive what You desire to send from Your throne.  I am Your servant.  The conduit of Your love and mercy.  To You be all honor, glory and dominion now and forever.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright © 2008-2015 Shermaine Jones

Reader Comments...
2011-07-05 19:25:48
"Shermaine, what a good reading. Your writing did explaine the 2 readings clearly. We talk about the Holy Spirit guiding us every Sunday now in our readings and Sermons. You did a great job. Your friend Carmen"
        - Carmen
2011-07-04 11:58:09
"To God be the glory for your profound and timely message pertaining to what is certainly destroying the Body of Christ; a critical spirit. I agree wholeheartedly that we must examine ourselves first in order to be healed and be a help to others. We can only bring healing and restoration to others by being compasssionate and meek. Thanks Shermaine for yielding to the Holy Spirit and speaking the truth and enlightening each one of us with these spirtual nuggets."
        - Roberta
2011-07-02 21:20:30
"Shermaine, I absolutely loved this word study! Thank you for clearing this up! It ministered to me. Can't wait to see you at the conference! Blessings, Dorena"
        - Dorena

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