By John MacArthur, Crosswalk.com
The following is a transcribed Video Q&A, so the text may not read like an edited article would. Scroll to the bottom to view this video in its entirety.
When Jesus says “judge not lest you be judged” he is reflecting upon the leaders of Israel who rendered final judgment on people, who literally anathematized people, who thought they were the final court. That is what he is talking about. He is not saying, “you can’t look at peoples lives and make a determination.” Because he says in the same breath, “by their fruits you shall know them”. People don’t want to talk about that.
You can look at someone’s life and see by the fruit of their life whether they have spiritual life. So, on the one hand he says you can’t render the final verdict, you can’t put yourself in the position of the Judge. “Vengeance is mine,” says the Lord, “I will repay.” God is the Judge. You are not the Judge. You cannot finally label people, and that is what those leaders in Israel did. And they did it to the people they deemed to be outside the kingdom—the tax collectors and the sinners with whom Jesus spent His time.
However, he immediately says, “but by the fruits you shall know them.” And then he goes on to talk about a bitter fountain and a clean fountain and a fruit-bearing tree and a barren tree. Of course, we can look at somebody’s life and discern.
It can be as simple as this; this is how it comes out in the Scripture. Three things indicate true salvation. First, Joy. That is obvious that the joy of the Lord is the portion of a true believer, because his eternity is settled. I talked to an 81-year-old man the other day, a new Christian, who said “I have been studying the Bible and reading the Bible, and you know my favorite verse? It’s Philippians 4:4, (rejoice always and again I say rejoice).” I said, “that is evidence of God transforming your life.”
Second, Love. “By this shall you know my disciples, that you have love for one another.” If you love him, he will demonstrate that love through you by loving others.
And third, obedience. If you have a longing and a hunger and a desire to obey the word, that is a true believer. That is what you are looking for a heart of love, a heart of joy, and a heart of obedience. And that is the fruit that you should see. But even that is not the final judgment, that is for God to make.
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