SPECIAL TOPIC: SHOULD CHRISTIANS JUDGE ONE ANOTHER?
A. In 1 Corinthians 5:12 Paul and the church must deal with members (v. 12 expects a "yes" answer), but believers must allow God to deal with non-members. Believers must not judge one another (cf. Matt. 7:1-5,15-20; Rom. 14:1-15:13), but
1. we must examine each other's fruits for leadership positions (cf. 1 Cor. 6:1-3; Matthew 7)
2. we must exercise church discipline when the reputation of the church is at risk
This is often a fine line! By implication Paul is asserting that the sinning man of 1 Corinthians 5 must be placed in the realm of God's judgment (i.e., outside the church).
One wonders how this context relates to modern societies where believers and non-believers have an opportunity by voting to regulate social norms. Should believers vigorously participate in the political process? This context is limited to judgment relating to church discipline and not western, modern democracy. Believers are citizens of two realms with obligations and privileges in both! God's Spirit, God's will, and God's Book help us as believers find our way in this fallen world, but unbelievers are exploited and manipulated by sin, self, and Satan. They need our witness and compassion, not our judgmental self-righteousness. They are not capable of understanding our motives, purposes, and actions.
The problem of when and how Christians should "judge" each other caused several Greek manuscripts to alter this text.
1. The very early papyrus manuscript P46 (about a.d. 200) as well as the Bahairic Coptic translation (3rd century) and Peshitta Syriac translation (5th century) just omit the negative and translate the sentence as an imperative, "Judge ye those who are inside [the church]" (cf. Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, p. 551).
2. The Sahidic Coptic translation (3rd century) puts the negative with the preceding sentence, "For what have I to do with judging those who are outside and not those who are inside? Judge those who are inside" (Metzger, p. 51).
3. The UBS4 text does not even acknowledge the possibility of these variants as original.
B. This issue must be dealt with in two ways.
1. believers are admonished not to judge one another (cf. Matt. 7:1-5; Luke 6:37,42; Rom. 2:1-11; James 4:11-12)
2. believers are admonished to evaluate leaders (cf. Matt. 7:6,15-16; 1 Cor. 14:29; 1 Thess. 5:21; 1 Tim. 3:1-13; and 1 John 4:1-6)
Some criteria for proper evaluation may be helpful.
1. evaluation should be for the purpose of affirmation (cf. 1 John 4:1 – "test" with a view toward approval)
2. evaluation should be done in humility and gentleness (cf. Gal. 6:1)
3. evaluation must not focus on personal preference issues (cf. Rom. 14:1-23; 1 Cor. 8:1-13; 10:23-33)
4. evaluation should identify those leaders who have "no handle for criticism" from within the church or the community (cf. 1 Timothy 3).
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