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"Judge Not": Is It Wrong to Rebuke Sin?

Judging others and rebuking sinWhen sin is rebuked, some people quickly say, "Judge not." Does the Bible say we must not warn others about sin?

First, we must understand that the Bible contains many passages showing that rebuking sin is something Christ did and Christians should do. 

(1) Not only did Jesus rebuke sin, but He also commanded His disciples to rebuke sin. 

His apostles and disciples throughout the New Testament did condemn sin with His approval. One does not need to have lived all his life without sin in order to rebuke others. Jesus knew His disciples had committed sins, yet he still ordered them to rebuke sin. Consider these passages:

Luke 17:3 - If your brother sins, rebuke him (cf. Matthew 18:15).

Ephesians 5:11 - Do not have fellowship with sin, but reprove it.

2 Timothy 2:24-26 - The Lord's servant must correct those who have been taken captive by the Devil.

2 Timothy 4:2-4 - Preaching the word requires us to "reprove and rebuke" - this means to tell people when they are wrong.

Titus 1:9-14 - Elders must sharply reprove people who teach things they ought not.

James 5:19,20 - We should seek to convert those who go into sin and error.

Proverbs 28:4 - Those who keep the law, will contend with the wicked. (Cf. Proverbs 28:23; 24:24,25.)

[Study also 1 Timothy 5:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; Titus 3:10; 2:15; Galatians 6:1; Proverbs 19:25; 25:12; Jude 3.]

Clearly, people do not need to live a sinless life in order to rebuke sin. In fact, if we fail to rebuke others when they sin, they we ourselves have committed the sin of disobeying the above passages!

(2) The Scriptures do not forbid all judging of sin, but in fact they require us to practice it. 

John 7:24 says, "Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment." This is a "judge not" passage, but note that not all judging is wrong. Rather, we are required to judge "righteous judgment."

Matthew 7:1-6,12 is another "judge not" passage. It is probably the most common passage some folks quote saying we should not judge. But again the context condemns certain kinds of judging while commending other kinds.

The context says we should not condemn others while we practice a similar sin. How can you help a neighbor get a mote (a speck of sawdust) from his eye, when you have a beam (log) in your own eye (vv 3,4)? God is repulsed by hypocrites who condemn everyone else's sins, but never see their own (Romans 2:1-3,17-24). This kind of judging is what Matthew 7:1-5 condemns.

Does this say we should always overlook a brother's sins? Not at all. Verse 5 expressly tells us to help a brother remove his mote - it does not say to keep quiet about it. But we should do this only after we have corrected our own lives! Note that verses 6 and 15-20 also require making judgments. 

When we study what the Bible teaches about rebuking sin and what it teaches about judging, we learn that the Bible forbids certain kinds of judgment, but it also requires us to rebuke sin in order to help people please God and be saved.

For more information about rebuking sin, please visit our Bible Instruction web site at /instruct/ and study our free article about opposing the sins of others. 

(c) Copyright David E. Pratte, 1/30/2006

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