Can the Church Judge?

“J” of Shadows of WCG wrote a reply to a particular question in “DOUB – A Matter of Personal Faith.” In it, he/she in turn asked a question as part of the answer.

In reality, Romans 14 clearly asks “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant”. The writer states “He who regards one day as special does so to the Lord”. [emphasis J’s]

The point, of course, is once again that tired cliche, taken out of context, that any day is as good as another. Leaving aside for the moment that the real subject is personal opinions about one day being better than another, especially in regards to fasting (v 6), the question about judgment does deserve an answer.

“J” goes on to say how the Church was wrong for disfellowshipping someone for not attending a Holy Day observance. Now, without any other facts I cannot rightly say if the Church was correct or not, or if there extenuating circumstances. However, there is the statement that the “member did not sin by not attending a holy day”. Not only is it implied that the Church has no right to judge such matters, but “J” states he/she “would not want to be in their shoes” when judgment by God is done.

Of course, that begs the question of discernment. Discernment is all about judgment. One has to determine right from wrong in order to live, even. Discernment is the application of judging right behavior by what’s contained within the Bible and applying it to your life.

Then again, Romans 14:4 is quoted. “The writer” of Romans, of course, is Paul. You know, the same one that wrote at least 2 letters to the Corinthians.

3For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, (1 Corinthians 5:3, King James Version)

Hmmm, seems like Paul is breaking his own rule here.

Or, is he?

Looking at the context of Romans 14, it is speaking of “doubtful disputations”. One person was vegetarian. One person fasted. And, they looked down on others for not following their practices. They were judging one another for trivial matters. They were looking down on other brethren. They were judging people, not behavior and not by the Bible, which is the standard.

However, it is evident that the Church has the right to judge. Not only did Paul command disfellowshipping of the person committing incest at Corinth, but later he says:

1Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?

2Do 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?

3Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? (1 Corinthians 6:1-3, King James Version)

Paul even made a reference to delivering someone “unto Satan” (1Ti 1:20), a reference to being disfellowhipped (cf 1Co 5:5). Paul told the Church at Thessalonica to part company with the disorderly (2Th 3:11-15).

It becomes immediately evident that there is a right form of judgment and a wrong form of judgment. However, more to the point, the Church has the right to judge in certain cases. It has a right to worship in peace and without disruption and division.

One thing that should be clear, though, is that we are each responsible for working out our own salvation. We are each responsible for our own relationship with Jesus Christ. The Church does not have control over our faith (2Co 1:24); that is our responsibility.

Yet, as we read Paul’s instructions to Timothy, it is evident that a pastor does exercise control over the congregation, that order should prevail at services and that leaders should be of good report.

It is impossible to lead and not judge. We should not presume to judge intent or the heart. It is evident that the Church is to judge actions and not the person. The Church does sometimes have to take action according to the New Testament. It is an obligation to the members to do so.

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