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Can We Judge Unbelievers?

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Before you start to read this article, I can guarantee that many will either misunderstand what I say, or come to it with preconceptions. Prove me wrong!

I find it very strange indeed. Most Christians think we must not judge another person. This is bad biblical theology, for God Himself commands us to judge those who are saved! Others, afraid to sin, also say we may not ‘judge’ unbelievers, even when what they say or do is wicked. This is a simple matter of ignorance, but it tends to colour the way they approach the matter of wicked people.

They tend to use 1 Corinthians 5:9 to justify their stance concerning unbelievers. But, their interpretation of the text is wanting. I will deal with that later.

The topic of judging those who are saved has been dealt with elsewhere (as in O-011), so in this very short paper we will only look at ‘judging’ the unsaved. Hopefully, I will show that the problem is one of not knowing the biblical facts, rather than one of rejecting scripture; using the word correctly puts everything in perspective. What I wish to show here is that whilst we may not judge the unsaved as we do the saved, we nevertheless have a duty to judge them in another way.

The matter is all the more important because the ‘world’ is literally hounding Christians in the hope of destroying them. They abuse themselves and others in the process, mislead and seduce our children, and are godless in the extreme. We cannot, as believers, allow this to happen without challenge/judgment, as I hope to show below. And we cannot withhold judgment just because we have a misperception that owes more to personal preference than to biblical truth. (‘Judging’ is the act of looking at evidences and coming to a right conclusion).

Unfortunately, most Christians tend to believe whatever they wish. Others are duped by bad teaching and wrong interpretation. Today, this kind of activity is found mainly amongst charismatics and those affected by them. Others prefer to rely on their emotional responses rather than on actual scripture.

It is also said that judging others is Old Testament, so it does not come into play in the New Testament. There is gross misunderstanding here, for they are saying that Old and New are apart and the Old has no value today, or even in the New Testament accounts. Already, then, we have several major biblical errors!

Genesis 19:9

Given the fact that the largest-influence (but small in size) group of atheists in modern days are homosexuals, it should come as no surprise that we begin this brief study with them. Marauding crowds of wicked men and women wanted to sexually assault the angels entering Lot’s house (which, in essence, they now do today in principle), but they hated Lot for standing between them and his guests. To the evil perversely-sex-mad crowd he was “a judge” and they warned him to stand aside.

Most Christians misunderstand what ‘judge’ means. The word ‘judge’, shaphat, includes the meaning of ‘discrimination’! How modern is that? But, in this case, the meaning is to plead (to leave the guests alone). Frankly, this scenario is enacted time and again in our day, as homosexual atheists press forward to do what they please. They hate anyone who stands in their way, claiming that their critics are shaphat – discriminating. YES, OF COURSE THEY ARE! And rightly so. (See article on discrimination, A/543, which is a proper Christian activity).

Every true parent discriminates every day to protect their children. Every true husband discriminates at time of trouble to protect his dear wife. Every true Christian discriminates against sin, to protect his own faith, his own family, and his own local church, as well as the name of the Lord in the world in general.

Note that it is the offenders who ‘accuse’ Lot of discrimination, not God! When God ‘discriminated’ (more correctly, He judged), He brought down showers of hail and brimstone and destroyed them all! Indeed, He had planned this even before Lot was attacked by the wicked crowd. So, Lot saying ‘No’ was as nothing by comparison! See how the frenzied crowd said they would deal harshly with Lot for refusing to comply. Just like today!

I know that many do-good Christians today think Lot was wrong to offer his daughters to the crowd, rather than let the angels be mauled and probably killed afterwards. This, of course, is a judgment! They have no idea what it is like to be faced with a bloodthirsty mob, and have no idea how THEY would respond to their demands. Probably, today, they would hand the angels over to them just to save their own skin. But, it is quite possible that Lot was afraid for the crowd to attack angels, God’s envoys. Our first concern when judging, always, is God, not us.

Leviticus 19:15

“Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: [but] in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour.”

The verse is preceded by: “fear thy God: I am the Lord.” We must judge our neighbour “in righteousness”. Our ‘neighbour’, ‘amiyth, is a relation, someone who lives close by, an associate, or just ‘a fellow’. Thus, a neighbour is anyone with whom we associate, whether saved or unsaved. In this text shaphat means to act as judge, to decide controversy, and to apply a penalty. In other words, we must act wisely and see if what people are doing is against God, or in obedience to Him. If not, we must act accordingly and not just sit passively by as they destroy everything before us.

The same kinds of judgment, legally, are found throughout scripture. In the Old Testament judges sat at the city gates, judging both the faithful and the unfaithful. Note that they did not judge a man’s eternal state, only what he said and did on this earth. However, where pertinent, they did apply spiritual laws to earthly problems. This is how we must judge today. Only fools refuse to judge what is evil.

It is a simple fact that everyone ‘judges’ in their hearts, even if they say nothing. Jesus said that the thought is just as powerful and culpable as the action. Therefore, we may as well say what we think (within certain boundaries, such as decency, etc).

In Numbers 35:24, the whole ‘congregation’ (Church and nation) must judge “between the slayer and the revenger of blood”. If we did this today, and judged homosexuals with passing on AIDS, how many would dare to be so public? They are just as murderous as first-degree killers in the days of Numbers… who must also be put to death, even today.

Deuteronomy 1:16 commanded all judges to judge righteously between every man and even strangers. Both saved and unsaved! Joel 3:12 says “Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about.” He judges the heathen! And so should we. If you say only God can judge, then think again, for He specifically commands us to judge others. If we do not then we actively condone what the wicked do, and have no compassion for those they act against.

Matthew 5:25

“Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.”

The direct meaning applies to those who owe money, but the principle applies to all situations. (And note that there is no indication that the ‘adversary’ in the text is a believer. This is because God set authorities over everyone, both saved and unsaved). It says that others may judge us… which is why we are warned to judge each other before this happens. God scoffs at those who say we must not judge:

“[Ye] hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?

Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?“ (Luke 12:54-57)

In context, ‘discern’ is dokimazō, meaning to examine, to prove, to test, to scrutinise (as genuine or not) and to approve. If we go back two roots, we come to the verb, dokeō... one of its meanings is – to judge! This is linked to proper thinking.

We can judge because we see and hear what wicked men do:

“And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, [thou] wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow:” (Luke 19:22)

In this text ‘judge’ is krinō, which is essentially the same kind of word as ‘discern’... to separate to pick out, to select, to approve, to esteem, to come to an opinion – to judge in order to see if someone is right or wrong after examining the facts. Note that it was the ‘wicked man’ to whom this applies, and NOT the ‘austere man’, who, by implication, is right.

Though the man in the text is not a ‘wicked’ man per se, the same principles apply, as if he were wicked. Do you think this suggests we can just forget what wicked men do? We know what God says, and that His laws are irreversible and true. So, why do we ignore them and allow the wicked to act and speak without opposition? It is certainly true that God Himself will judge the wicked at the Day of Judgment, as will all the saved in Jesus Christ. If it is wrong to judge unbelievers NOW, how can it suddenly become righteous and right when we judge on Judgment Day? Can you see the lack of logic in the ‘do not judge unbelievers’ idea here?

This, however, does not mean we just sit back and let evil wash over us and the world without murmur. Today, for example, homosexuals want to have our children, to teach them perversity, to engage with homosexuals and to enter into untamed sexual situations, which themselves are made more dangerous by HIV and AIDS. Do we just shut up and say or do nothing? Or, do we judge them to be wicked and warn others to stop them? If we do not judge them, what do you think God will think of US?

1 Corinthians 5:9-on

“I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:

Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.

But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.”

This is followed by verses 12 and 13:

“For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?

But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.”

The idea that we cannot judge unbelievers is usually based entirely on this single text (verses 12 and 13). Paul said he taught that Christians should not become friendly with open sinners, whether they are Christian or not. The word ‘But’ beginning verse 11 is not saying that Paul has now changed his mind! Rather, it is the conjunction, de, which can be translated as ‘moreover’, ‘and’, or ‘also’, that must be taken into account. Thus, Paul was adding to what he had warned before, expanding his treatise, not replacing it with something different. In other words, he now asks us to concentrate on brethren who act sinfully and to shun them until they repent.

The word starting verse 12, ‘For’, is another conjunction, gar. Like other conjunctions, it is used to join the previous verse or verses to it, in meaning and content. That is, it contains the same spiritual injunctions as before. The term ‘without’ (Greek=exo, as found in, say, exoskeleton) is a metaphor for the outward man or physical frame, or ‘out of doors’. Another example is found in 2 Corinthians 4:16. It does not, then, literally mean someone who is an unbeliever. Rather, we may use it as such by extension, not as a literal translation, but as a further metaphor, indirect.

‘Within’, on the other hand (amongst other meanings), is different because it is a direct application, and can refer to the inner man or soul/conscience. Because of this reference to the inner man, we may legitimately apply a similar spiritual meaning to ‘without’, but more directly. If this verse did not contain such a reference we would have no reason to suppose it referred to an unbeliever.

What is Paul saying here? Is he saying we may not judge unbelievers? No, he is not, at least not in its whole context. He is simply saying that we have our hands full judging ourselves and each other, so leave judging of unbelievers to God (verse 13), because the huge majority of people are unsaved. Now comes the conundrum if you think we may not judge unbelievers! For Paul then says “Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person”. Now can you see what is being taught?

He is saying that we must leave the man to his own devices and to God, so that we can devote our time to our brethren. But, note the big problem for the notion of ‘do not judge unbelievers’... we must put them out of the local church, because they are wicked! What does that tell you? It tells you that you must judge what he is saying or doing! How else can you logically, biblically, or otherwise, cast him out? To do so requires thought and decisions... judgment! In those days most believers attended synagogues, so any unbelievers amongst them were probably unfaithful Jews, but could be unfaithful others. As in most churches today, so long as these ‘outsiders’ (without) did not present with obvious sins, they were allowed to remain in the congregation.

So, those who say we must not judge unbelievers, are mixed up, allowing their personal preferences (emotion and false ‘love’) to change the word of God. They also say that we cannot judge unbelievers “because they do not benefit” from it. This is sheer humanism, and has no basis in scripture. God’s word is not about men having benefits, it is about men obeying the Almighty, whether they benefit or not. This is fundamental teaching. We find similar reasoning in the treatment of murderers, where untaught Christians claim that we should not apply the death penalty “because it does not stop murder”. This is a false argument, for what matters is NOT how the murderer reacts, but that he is put to death according to God’s word, which is absolute. That the killer learns nothing is irrelevant.

(Further note: We all, without exception, judge unbelievers, in our minds and hearts. This is a fact we might not like to face, but it exists. Today, unbelievers are doing such wicked acts that we cannot ignore them. And there is a growing trend to murder and attack Christians. If you believe we do not judge, what is in your mind concerning ISIS murderers? What of serial killers? What of rampant homosexuals who destroy families, children and millions of others with AIDS, and who openly hate God and Christians? Would you not judge if any of these enemies attacked you personally? What if they attack your family?

As always, Christians can, and do, judge behaviour and words! It is simply not possible for Christians to ignore unbelievers who do us harm! But, to comply with perceived interpretations in their churches, they pretend to follow the ‘party line’ by saying we cannot judge unbelievers! But, in their heads and hearts, they certainly do! The plain teaching by Paul is this – you must judge your brethren (because we are ‘as one’), but do not judge unbelievers. Precisely, he meant we cannot judge their spiritual state, but we can and do judge what they say and do. Otherwise, can you explain why you will avoid evil-doers? Why you do not employ a blatant thief? Why you do not want your child to bother with paedophiles? You are using your God-given ability to discern! And this is an act of judgment! (To use a modern saying – get real!).

God does NOT judge so that men can have benefits. When He judges it is usually to their discredit, dishonour and punishment! This is because God is the measure of all things, not mankind. We MUST come to honourable and just decisions (judging is to come to a decision based on facts). The thing we CANNOT do is judge a man’s spiritual status, present or future. What we DO judge is what he says and does. And we do this almost automatically, unless we are brain-dead (no, that is not a joke). As the thought is as potent as the act, we judge whether or not we vocalise it.

If we say we cannot judge an unbeliever in any way, then, by the same principle, this would deny the command to preach the Gospel to them. How? Because we preach to those we judge to be unsaved; we go to the sick not the healthy, as Jesus said. If we cannot judge (an impossibility anyway) then we cannot perceive a man to be unsaved, and so we need not preach to him.

1 Corinthians 5:12,13

“For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?

But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.”

Let me repeat from above - those who are unsaved, God will judge… but note the next phrase: “Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.” How do you ‘put away’ someone who is not even saved? It means to cast out of fellowship. Thus, we have not judged his eternal state, but only what he says and does. This also applies to ANYONE who affects the churches and the saved. And that means to oppose, blame and judge. It is possible that the ones Paul refers to (verse 10,11) are brazenly sinful believers. On the other hand, they may be unbelievers within the church. Either way both are ‘without’ in terms of their sins, which cause the local church to cast them from fellowship. Christians can sin in these ways, because their ‘inner man’ has not ripped itself from past evils. We have all known professing Christians who have fallen head-first into a pit of sin. When in this condition, they are just the same as unbelievers. Therefore, when Paul speaks of those who are ‘without’ who is he referring to? Christians who sin badly, or unbelievers who adopt the persona of Christian faith?

‘Without’ is about those who are ‘out of doors’, ‘out of’. If someone is ‘out of’ it can imply coming out of a Christian church, but if ‘away from’, it might imply never having been a member of that local church (because of unbelief). So, is Paul saying that we have enough on our hands to tackle sin within the churches, so cast out those who are exhibiting blatant sin and who will not repent? Thayer translates this as “emission out of, as separation from, something with which there has been close connection”. This suggests that the people who are ‘without’ are those whose public sins make it impossible for them to remain ‘within’ the fold of a local church, and so must be handed over to God to change them and to admonish them, after being cast out for a season (believers). (Or, more ominously, to Satan, who will kill them; something that would cut short their sins so that their spirits may be untouched).

Note: The root of exō, ek, (upon which exō is founded), suggests a starting point from within! Whereas, apo suggests a starting point from without. Ek is therefore more emphatic than apo. Having said that, in many cases the idea of ek meaning ‘out of’ cannot be found. Thayer gives examples of instances where ek means ‘from within’, or external to, but he does NOT include the text in 1 Corinthians 5. In other words, the root, ek, in this text, probably refers to those believers who had to be cast out for a season, so that they did not trouble Christians in the local church. What this short explanation proves is that those who oversimplify the text without reference to the original Greek are being superficial.

1 Corinthians 6:2, 3

“Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?

Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?”

We must judge things that “pertain to this life”! And, if not, it is to our shame (verse 5). The text specifically refers to brethren – but what if we judge, say, an homosexual in a local church, who then takes us to court? Do we remain silent? Then why should we remain silent when it comes to any homosexual, who sets out to do us harm? There is a failure in logic in the churches!

Later in the same chapter we are told that certain types of people will not enter Heaven. Those types are listed as examples, and include those who fornicate… which includes homosexuals. (I use this as an example because homosexuals are the greatest threat to modern Christians in the West*). The fact that God will judge evildoers does NOT mean we may not ourselves judge actions of the unsaved to be wrong. We do so inwardly anyway! (*We can now add Islamists).

Ezekiel 33:8,9

Here we have a potent reason why we MUST warn and oppose the wicked: to allow him time to repent. If we just stay silent, we do not warn him and his blood is on our hands. The words were about Israel, who included both ‘saved’ and ‘unsaved’:

“When I say unto the wicked, O wicked [man], thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked [man] shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.

Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.”

Then, in verses 14,15:

“Again, when I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right;

[If] the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die.

None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him: he hath done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live.”

Note that we must ‘mention’ his sins to him so that he can turn back to truth and purity. He will not do so unless we speak out. The very preaching of the Gospel to the unsaved implies, as a prelude, that they are judged, by God and us, to be unbelievers, damned by their sins! And ‘mentioning’ their sins must be outright and blunt, not hidden behind false ‘love’ or excuses.

Habakkuk 1:4-7

In these texts we see the terrible result of allowing wicked men to proliferate without murmur. Does it not describe our own modern day?

“Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth.

Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvellously: for [I] will work a work in your days, [which] ye will not believe, though it be told [you].

For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, [that] bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwellingplaces [that are] not theirs.

They [are] terrible and dreadful: their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of themselves.”

Ephesians 6:16-20

Paul HAD to speak out… is our responsibility any the less? Even preaching the Gospel is a judgment!!

“Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;

And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,

For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”

So, after wearing the whole armour of God, Paul went out and did verbal battle! How nice (cowardly?) it is for ministers of the Lord (and others) to sit back and say that only the Lord must deal with the wicked! No, we must speak boldly! And the moment we open our mouths it must be in judgment of what we see, hear and experience!

In the above texts I have shown that we may not judge another man’s eternal state, even if his sins cloud the issue, but we have every reason to judge what he says and does, whether or not he is saved. If we do not speak out against the wicked, then we are guilty of the same wickedness and therefore will receive penalties. (I could here list any number of examples of not speaking out, thus allowing great evils to occur and proliferate).

When wickedness arises we MUST speak out righteously, whether or not it is emitting from a Christian or an unbeliever. Or, we bring the wickedness upon our children and children’s children, allowing them to suffer the evils of the day, under the guise that “God will deal with the wicked”! We thereby allow evil to enter the churches, and to destroy life, allowing the wicked to dictate what is true, good and biblical, to our eternal shame and earthly trouble.

1 Timothy 1: 9,10

This text clearly denounces the wicked and their sin:

“Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers,

For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;”

The law is not applied to the saved but to the unbeliever, who is lawless. Saying this very thing is to judge him! (It also applies to faithless Christians whose actions and words reject God’s word... and there are many of these in our churches today).

The Decalogue – Universal for All Time, or Temporary?

Those who say the Old Testament laws no longer apply, inadvertently (?) deny the ongoing, universal application of the Decalogue. It only takes one proof to break a rule. If the Old Testament no longer has a place, then why do the very same critics fondly quote the Ten Commandments?

In truth, the Decalogue is for all of this earth’s time. If you check the ten commands you will find each one of them listed in the New Testament, too. In other words, the list given in the Old Testament carries on through to the New, and beyond. Who does the Decalogue speak to? It spoke to the Jews primarily, and, secondarily (but equally forcefully) to every other person who is not a Jew, whether Christian or not. This is why we find its various demands preached to Christians and to every man and women ever born. They apply to unbelievers whether or not they accept them, or ‘benefit’ from them.

This is because God’s commands are greater than human wishes and their fickle desires. Do you think that because an unbeliever does not wish to subscribe to God, that God says “Oh well, okay”? Of course not! And Christians know very well that they stand judged by God. And we who belong to God must apply the same judgment given by God, otherwise we contradict Him.

Now, if the Decalogue applies to the unbeliever, then its inherent judgments also apply to unbelievers. They have to, to make any sense. To take the matter of only having one God – this is universally true throughout the ages. Those who do not accept this fact, unbelievers, are therefore judged for their sin (as well as being judged for the sin they were conceived in). Take the issue of murder; murder is murder in every age, no matter who commits it. Thus, the penalty of death applies to each murderer.

These issues demand that we judge others, even the ungodly unbelievers. This is why we have magistrates, who we must obey (when they do not oppose God). And so on. Each command has its equivalent in the New Testament. In terms of God’s will, unbelievers are not a law unto themselves, nor may we dismiss what they do with the excuse that we cannot judge them. To do so is blatantly unintellectual and unbiblical! Scripture is not a collection of differing ideas and opposing doctrines. It is unified as a whole, displaying God’s revelation throughout the ages until the both Testaments were completed. The New completes the Old, as Jesus said. It is He Who said He did not come to demolish the Old Testament.

Examine Your Hearts!

This paper is but an introduction. Examine your hearts and attitudes! It is not wrong to judge what people do – indeed, we do this anyway, every single day of our lives, if only in our heads and hearts! (2015 Note: Is it not true to say that as you watch what is happening in the Middle East today and around the world, the awful murders committed by wicked men of Islam, that you judge them for their atrocities? If you do not admit to it, then I call you a liar, or grossly unable to use your God-given intellect and discernment).

Many Christians agree superficially and smile benevolently, but harbour hatred or anger in their hearts. They have very definite anger towards the heathen who act against them, but pretend to ‘give it all to the Lord’. It is cowardly and hypocritical to pretend one thing and say another.

Also, many who say we must simply ‘hand it over’ to God are safe in their quietude, because the enemy has no reason to attack them! Their fortitude, then, is all in the mind. They speak of being soldiers of the Lord, but never go forward into battle! It is true that we must ALWAYS pass on these things to God to handle, but, very often, the Lord uses us to act out His commands. Read the Psalms!

Perhaps all this is frightening to those who have never had occasion to oppose evil; I know I am an ‘old war horse’, used to battle, but perhaps others are too afraid to enter the fray (I am often afraid, but must conquer fear).

I can only counsel that prayer is effective ONLY when the one praying is righteous before the Lord and serving Him boldly. And, even then, God might require him to make a stand publicly. Scripture is replete with examples of this, as is life itself. We can judge words and actions, but not the eternal state of a man (though we can judge if the actions and words are not consistent with salvation: this is what discipline is all about and what scripture tells us).

Note on Discernment

Judging involves God-given discernment. Christians who are unable to use this faculty may not be Christians at all, for God gives every believer this ability. Discernment IS judging. Hebrews 5:12-14 tells us this:

“For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.

For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.

But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”

Every day I have contact with Christians who insist on getting spiritual food through milk, not strong meat, which, in a long-standing Christian, means ‘easy believism’. Such milk-drinkers remain weak and badly formed. I have actually been told by ‘mature’ Christians that they leave study to the pastor! These people need to be taught again, as the text says! They are not mature at all.

Being untaught in the deeper aspects of scripture (and being influenced by bad denominational teaching; which today is mainly charismatic and heretical), these folks are not skilled in the Bible, though they think they are. And, sadly, Bible schools are churning out men and women deficient in truth and the ability to think clearly and biblically, so that they are prejudiced against genuine doctrine and poisoned by what is bad. Truly mature Christians, on the other hand, “have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil”, whether this good and evil is found in fellow believers or in unbelievers.

Discernment does not magically shut off just because the person speaking to you is an unbeliever. And, frankly, on many occasions, we might be unaware that a person is an unbeliever until many words and years later, such is the power of deception by Satan. It is discernment that enables us to tell the difference between good and evil, believer and unbeliever. In this context ‘good’ refers to all that should define biblical Christianity.

‘Evil’, kakos, describes what is bad by nature – wicked, wrong, troublesome, what injures others, destructive. Therefore, we use discernment to know what is sound and what is sin. That is, we judge words and actions! It does not matter who we speak with – saved or unsaved – because discernment tells us what is godly and what is not. Evil is the antithesis of kalos – what is good by its nature – and is mainly found in... unbelievers. By rejecting this need to judge them you are liable to accept their sins and wrong thinking.

Then, what of Luke 12:56,57?

“Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?

Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?”

Jesus calls those who pretend not to judge, ‘hypocrites’! He says that they can easily discern or judge what the weather will be doing, but they cannot (or will not) discern what is happening in their own city, or amongst wicked men! Not so! They KNOW what is good and evil but choose to pretend to be ignorant, thereby allowing wicked men to proliferate and destroy society and the churches. Note that in the text both words (discern and judge) are used at the same time, as descriptions of judging! In the text no distinction is made between saved and unsaved.

The same discernment is used to distinguish who is righteous and who is wicked, in Malachi 3:18. To judge, we need to discern what they say and do, and this includes observing the wicked. How else can we avoid them, shun them, or speak against their evils and heresies?

And in 1 Corinthians 11:29, we see that we need discernment to know when we are acting in holy fashion at the Lord’s table. If this applies to the saved, it especially judges those who are unsaved and yet take communion. Later, in 12:10, we see that we need to judge spirits, to see if what a person says and does is of God. In this text, the word for discerning, diakrisis, refers to the act of distinguishing... or, judging. This shows us who is saved and who is not, who speaks truth and who does not. If we cannot judge what an unsaved deceiver says, then we are in serious trouble!

It is about time that Christians, or those calling themselves Christians, told the truth! We ALL judge unbelievers, whether formally or informally, or even in our heads. But, typically, many Christians, thinking it is wrong to judge, pretend not to judge. They fear admonishment from their peers, for not believing the same things! They are untaught. They do not speak openly. They do not think clearly.

Please take note – we cannot judge an unbeliever’s future state, though we know that, at the moment, he is spiritually dead. In itself this is a judgment, based solidly on what scripture tells us. What we CANNOT judge is his future. However, when the unbeliever acts abominably and wickedly, we have no option but to judge his words and behaviour, if only for our own safety and spiritual purity.

Remember the words of Paul in Galatians: “there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ” (1:7). These troublemakers are even found within the churches, and might easily be teachers well-loved by those with itching ears. These are accursed! (v8). Note that these men are unsaved, unbelievers! Yet, Paul is judging them. What is he judging? Not their final state, because only God knows that, but what they say and do. Not their thoughts which can be slippery or hidden, but things that can be seen and heard.

And what of a definite proof that we MUST judge unbelievers? Try 1 Corinthians 16:22, where, without a shadow of doubt, Paul judges them:

“If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.”

The conclusion is plain: we cannot judge a man’s eternal end, but we can, and MUST judge what he says and does openly. And, to be precise, when a man claims to be a Christian, but he speaks and acts like an unbeliever, we are commanded to treat him AS an unbeliever – warn him to repent, and if he does not, cast him from fellowship and shun him. How can we do this if we pretend not to judge?

I honestly believe that many Christians are misled by their pastors, preachers and teachers, whether in speech or publications. Part of this deception is to say we must not judge unbelievers... when, every moment of every day, we do just that!

Understand What ‘Judgment’ Is!

‘Judgment’ must be properly understood in both its biblical meaning and its context. It must also be realised that judgment is an everyday occurrence, and that it can include the remedy for what is wrong – ranging from verbal rebuke to the death penalty, depending on the words or activity being judged. It is one reason we have magistrates. The fact that we can judge unbelievers is provable, unless the Christian adheres to unbiblical principles or avoids genuine Christian examination of texts and situations.

So, to ‘judge’ is simply to examine the facts and come to a conclusion. In Christian terms, it means to reach a godly conclusion. Nothing in scripture prevents this. True judgment, then, is not always about rebuke; it is simply about coming to the right conclusions. How urgent it is for all Christians to properly understand the terms they use so flippantly.

Does God’s Law Apply to Unbelievers?

It is argued by some, even Christians, that God’s laws do not apply to unbelievers. This is an incredibly untaught thing to say! God’s word and commands apply to everyone who was, is and will be born. We see this especially in the matter of salvation. Biblical logic tells us that if God’s laws do not apply to the unbeliever, then there is no point in preaching the Gospel to anyone! After all, EVERY man and woman who is saved, was originally unsaved – unbelievers. Therefore, using the same logic, to be saved, unbelievers need God’s word and command. Rather obvious, really! ALL men are called to repent, to receive salvation, and it is unbelievers who need this form of repentance, not believers, who have already repented unto salvation!

It is not our concern that many refuse to repent and remain unbelievers. It is simply our duty to preach truth to them. The truth is for them to obey whether they want to or not, whether they are convicted of sin and are saved, or not. This is because God is supreme and He expects everyone, saved or not, to obey Him. We are, after all, creatures to be disposed of or given benefits as God wills (re The Potter). Again, this is a painfully obvious point to make, yet many Christians ignore it.

Everyone Is Under the Law

EVERYONE who sins breaks God’s law. This is why EVERYONE comes under that same law and is accused by it. To say that God’s law does not apply to unbelievers is, then, not just absurd, but unfathomable. It is amazing to me that so many Christians do not understand this most basic of teachings.

Daniel spoke about this (9:11) when he said that all Israel transgressed God’s law by not obeying His voice and commands. It is a fact that not all in Israel were of Israel, meaning that many within God’s chosen people were unbelievers. Yet, the whole nation was judged by God because of these unbelievers.

The simple fact, is that God’s laws apply to everyone, saved and unsaved. It is unthinkable that as very few are actually saved, that God would allow the unsaved, the majority, to just run riot and rule His world as they wish. Such an idea is wicked.

The law of God applies to all unbelievers, but Christians are not under the law! Everyone must observe the law, but only unbelievers are condemned by it. As everyone is conceived in sin, the law MUST apply to everyone in the world, whereas salvation only applies to the very few elected by God in eternity. This is why, in 2 Corinthians 6:14 we are warned never to be unequally yoked to unbelievers; this is because they will bring believers down with their weight of sin, and their lives would become darker and dimmer.

Many within our churches today (which has always been the case) are unbelievers masquerading as believers. But, when everyone is resurrected, Jesus will identify them and throw them into hell. He will say “I never knew you” because they are workers of lawlessness. In ancient Israel unbelievers were to be put to death: “That whosoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.” (2 Chronicles 15:13). These belonged to the chosen people; nationally, they were Israelites. Yet, they were also unbelievers, whom God said should be put to death if they refused their God. Does this not tell us in plain terms that God’s word applies to unbelievers?

The Gospel itself is very relevant to unbelievers, for God sent His Son to save unbelievers who were elect (John 3:16). Therefore, God’s word applies to unbelievers with immense power and force. And, in 2 Corinthians 7:12-16 we find that a Christian husband should not divorce his unbelieving wife, for very compelling reasons. This means unbelievers, though unsaved, are under God’s law and commands. God does not, however, listen to the prayers of unbelievers – they have no communication link to Him. There are many texts in scripture warning us to steer clear of unbelievers, and we cannot do this unless we know who unbelievers are, what they stand for, and why God still bothers with them.

Note, too, that when Jesus returns He will resurrect both saved and unsaved. All will be judged by God. So, it is nonsense to say that God’s word has nothing to do with unbelievers. Throughout His earthly days, Jesus had to combat the Pharisees and scribes; if they had nothing to do with God’s laws, then He would not have bothered!

Let me put all this in simple format:

  • God made mankind pure and holy, without sin.
  • Mankind then trashed the holiness given by God.
  • This made all of mankind sinners. In post-New Testament parlance – unsaved.
  • By their own words and actions, unsaved sinners are unbelievers.
  • The Old Testament commands by God applied to ALL men. We know this, because Israel consisted of true believers and unbelievers. Yet, they ALL had to comply with God’s sacrificial requirements.
  • The Gospel came through Jesus Christ, Who came to call ALL Jews to repentance. This was His sole intention. He preached to both unbelieving and believing Jews.
  • After that Paul and Peter preached to unbelievers.
  • The churches became infested with unbelievers, who detracted from truth. These were condemned. But, they were also commanded to repent and be saved.

 The above facts show that God’s word applies to all men, including unbelievers. It is illogical to say otherwise. Also, large tracts of scripture would be meaningless if the above is not true.

© December 2011 (updated in January 2015)

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Bible Theology Ministries - PO Box 415, Swansea, SA5 8YH
United Kingdom