As previously explained, I've enrolled in the University of Notre Dame's Satellite Theological Education Program (STEP) to pursue their Certificate in Doctrine. I am currently taking my third of the required courses: Ecclesiology. I'm now in the fifth week, whose topic is "The End of the Church."
Our assignment this week is to discuss (in that annoyingly short space of ~250 words, which I blew past this week, as usual) the following question:
Undoubtedly, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matt. 7:1) is among Jesus’s most famous sayings. How does this teaching square with the doctrine of the last judgment, which teaches that Jesus will “judge the living and the dead”? What is the meaning of this doctrine? How might it relate to the expectation of a new heaven and a new earth?
The famous phrase “Judge not, that you be not judged” appears in Matthew's account of the Sermon on the Mount. In context, it is obviously a command aimed at Jesus' followers and, by extension, the Church both today and for the last two Millenia. As such, it says nothing about God's right to sit in judgment on humanity.
Scripture makes clear that Jesus will sit in judgment on every human that has ever lived. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body” (2 Cor. 5:10) See also the Parable of the Nations in Matthew 25:31-46.
What I find more challenging is squaring Matthew 7:1 with numerous other biblical passages requiring members of the Church to exercise discernment. in James 5:19-20, for example, we are told that "if anyone among you should stray from the truth and someone bring him back, he should know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins." Likewise, in Galatians 6:1, St Paul commanded the Church that, "if a person is caught in some transgression, you who are spiritual should correct that one in a gentle spirit." So, clearly, we are expected to exercise discernment and the Church to exercise discipline over erring members.
Things become clearer, however, when we put Matthew 7:1 in context:
1 Stop judging, that you may not be judged.
2 For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.
3 Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?
4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye?
5 You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.
In context, Matthew 7:1 is not really about judgment so much as it is about pride arrogance, and hypocrisy. It is telling us that we should not exercise judgment about another unless we have first evaluated our own spiritual condition and our own relationship with God and His Church.
In addition, there may be an implicit reference in the second verse to Christ's exclusive prerogative to judge the eternal condition of someone's soul and to determine whether they are among the goats or the sheep of the Parable of the Nations. See John 5:22 (the Father "has given all judgment to his Son"). If we make usurp Christ's role and make such a judgment, we shall be judged by the same metrics as we applied. Better to leave that task to Christ.