Ekklesia – The Judicial Branch

Continued from last blog post;

The Judicial Branch

Working in harmony with the legislative branch, the main purpose of the judicial branch is to release the judgments of God. This can take the form of decrees over families, congregations, cities, states, regions and nations. As part of the judicial branch, Moses sat to judge civil cases between individuals. When the load became too great, he chose men to help. In the New Testament, we see Paul fulfilling the function of the judicial branch—disciplining a congregation in 1 Corinthians 6.

Judging and judgments are referenced throughout the Bible, not just regarding people unwilling to repent, but toward the domain of darkness, evil spirits, and spiritual forces in heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).

Finally, we see judgment as a prophetic act, such as when Joshua marched the children of Israel around the walls of Jericho and then blew the shofar. The walls tumbled down under the judgment of God.

However, there is a pervasive misunderstanding in the Body of Christ today concerning judgment, as evidenced by the many times we are taught never to judge. Indeed, the blanket avoidance of judgment has actually perverted our outlook and stunted our discernment, growing into an inferiority complex where people preface every observation they make with “I’m not judging, but…”

Certainly, judgment is a touchy subject, but it doesn’t need to be. While nobody likes to be judged, the simple fact is that we do it every day, all day long. We make necessary judgments about what to wear, what to eat, what we put in our coffee in the morning, about people, the weather, what is true and what is not. You name it, we judge it. Judging is part of our nature, and it should be no surprise that it is also part of God’s nature. He is the Great Judge, and there will be a Day of Judgment at the end of this age. The Bible refers to a courtroom setting with God as Judge, Jesus as a lawyer-advocate, and all mankind standing before Him for judgment (Revelation 20:11-15, 1 John 2:1). If that is not enough, we also have an entire book of the Bible called “Judges,” and no, these people are not going to hell because they judged. God placed judges over Israel for His justice to be released and righteousness to prevail.

The problem is that we equate judgment with wrath and punishment, but this is not a fair association. While judgment often has a negative context, it can also be a positive experience. When a judge makes a judgment in the courtroom, it is negative for one party but positive for the other. You see, judging is not the problem; judging with evil motives is the problem. Jesus never condemned judgment; He only condemned hypocritical judgment (Matthew 7:1-5). While we are told not to judge unbelievers, the Bible makes it very clear that we are to judge believers.

For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church?But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.                                                                                                                                                           1 Corinthians 5:12-13

Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life? So if you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren, but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers? 1 Corinthians 6:1-6

In light of these and other scriptures, we cannot deny that judging is biblical—an essential part of our identity and purpose as the ekklesia. There are cases that need and should be resolved within the ekklesia. Further, there are times when we need to be involved in the world’s justice system, as there are many cases that cannot be handled within the ekklesia at this time. This is why we are to pray for the earthly rulers over us.

In Matthew 18, Jesus refers to the ekklesia judging a legal matter.

“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church [ekklesia]; and if he refuses to listen even to the church [ekklesia], let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”                                                                                                                       Matthew 18:15-20

Here, Jesus gives the ekklesia a process for dealing with a brother (or sister) in sin. We see a brother who has sinned, and we are told the role the ekklesia is to play in his restoration. Jesus gives general directions for dealing with sin in the assembly, and explains when a judgment must be made. If it were true that we are not to judge, then we could not obey this teaching from the Lord Himself.. Even to confront our sinful brother, it is necessary that we make a judgment.

Of course, judging should always be done in a spirit of gentleness with humility for the purpose of redemption and restoration, never for revenge, anger, or self-righteousness. To judge righteously, the ekklesia must possess a Christ-like character. Love is the law of the Kingdom of God and should always be our motivation for all that we do, especially when it comes to judging. James 2:13 says that mercy triumphs over judgment. However, when there is no response to mercy, judgment must be made. Judgment is essential to the proper function of the ekklesia.

Joe Nicola

My book can be purchased here: Ekklesia; The Government of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth 

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