Why it is Imperative for Christians to be Critical; or Why Oswald Chambers was Wrong About Matthew 7:1

When Matthew 7:1 replaced John 3:16 as the most popular Bible verse to be ripped out of its context and misinterpreted, the conversation shifted from “Who is saved?” to “Why all judgments are prohibited.” The forgotten context of John 3:16 is Jesus teaching Nicodemus on the necessity of regeneration by the Holy Spirit. The context of Matthew 7:1 is the Sermon on the Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus heightens the standard for Christian living with a view to the kingdom of God (and the implied need for the grace of God from the Spirit of God!).

When one verse is isolated from its context, wrong interpretation leading to erroneous doctrine and bad theology is bound to happen. When someone tells you that Christians should never judge another person, based on Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 7:1, they are leading you astray from right understanding.

The Bible is filled with judgments by God and men. When God judges, His judgments are just because He is righteous and always does right. He even has the title, “The Lord, our righteousness” (Jer 23:6; 33:16). If Christians have an imputed, alien righteousness then it proves that our endeavors to secure right standing with God, by our inherent goodness or good works have failed (Rom 4:5; 1 Cor 1:30). This is an imperative truth to learn, know, and understand — with conviction — because wrong belief leads countless masses of humanity into the pit of hell for eternity (Mt 25:41, 46; Jude 7; Rev 20:14–15).

When people misinterpret the Bible, Christians must be critical of their methods to arrive at their wrong theological conclusion. Reprobate false teachers of false religion — or of the Bible — will never have the love of the truth as their motive. With no love of God in their hearts (Jn 5:42), the false teacher may be loving his or her bank balance, but he is not loving his neighbor (Lev 19:18; Mt 19:19; 22:39; Eph 4:15).

The Bible does not withhold its judgments against false prophets and false teachers (Ezek 34; 2 Cor 11:3–4; Gal 1:8–9), and in the case of those scathing criticisms recorded in the Bible, it was true prophets, Jesus Himself, and His true apostles who called others, “blind guides” (Mt 15:14), “brood of vipers” (Mt 3:7; 12:34; 23:33; Lk 3:7), “hypocrites” (Mt 15:7; 22:18; 23:14, 15, 23, 25, 27, 29), “children of the devil” (Jn 8:44; 1 Jn 3:10), “sons of disobedience” (Eph 2:2), “children of wrath” (Eph 2:3), “haters of God” (Rom 1:30, etc. In every case, judgment of others was necessary and courageously undertaken.

It is simply foolish to encourage Christians not to discern the spirits who are at work deceiving people. So, how do people twist Matthew 7:1? In explaining this, I do not apologize for criticizing the promotion of bad interpretation, doctrine, and theology. These practices must stop, and someone must speak up and say, “That is wrong.”

Oswald Chambers is wrong in his popular devotional, My Utmost for His Highest when he comments on Matthew 7:1… https://utmost.org/beware-of-criticizing-others/?fbclid=IwAR1XFnjfCCNCyn_nRfGS24VGIQ-4MhyGDUb37c_haJ-8zX6DjT3pBsZbsiw

First, he makes the classic error of isolating Matthew 7:1, and then offering commentary on the meaning of this one verse without a proper treatment of its context, “Judge not, that you be not judged (Mt 7:1).” Chambers claims that “Don’t” means simply “Don’t ever do it at all.” He immediately goes on to blame the “average Christian” for being “the most piercingly critical individual known.” In offering his scathing criticism of the average Christian, Chambers’ hypocrisy is stark. He tells us not to judge others, and what exactly is he doing in this very popular devotional commentary?

Chambers’ next judgment is that criticism accomplishes nothing in the spiritual realm. In the very next sentence, he attributes proper criticism to the Holy Spirit, who must not be working the spiritual realm because it accomplishes nothing!

The motive for telling Christians not to judge others is that he does not wish for others to be hurt or wounded. How do you think Peter felt when Jesus called him “Satan” to his face (Mt 16:23)? What was John Mark’s response when Paul cut him and Barnabas off from doing mission with him (Acts 15:37–40)?

Next, Chambers argues that critical Christians can have no fellowship with God. Really? Was Paul banished from fellowship with God or did the Holy Spirit leave him when he called out the treachery of the man at Corinth caught in unrepentant sexual immorality (1 Cor 5:5), Jannes and Jambres (2 Tim 3:8–9), Alexander the coppersmith (2 Tim 4:14), Demas (2 Tim 4:10), or the foolish Galatians (Gal 3:1)? Is the Scripture inspired? Because the Spirit opted to include these poignant criticisms, issued by the Apostle Paul, in the inspired text.

Chambers goes on to judge the Christian critic for thinking himself superior or self-flattered by issuing his criticisms. Is that the only possible motive or result? Does Chambers feel he is superior when he himself criticizes the Christian critic on the pages of his devotional commentary on Matthew 7:1?

Chambers further writes, “Jesus says that as His disciple you should cultivate a temperament that is never critical.” That is a flat out lie from Pastor Chambers. One must merely burden himself to read the context of the Sermon on the Mount to correct this wrong interpretation. Are we not to test the spirits to see of they are from God (1 Jn 4:1)?

As Chambers continues, he attempts to do this by writing, “If I see the little speck in your eye, it means that I have a plank of timber in my own (Mt 7:3–5).” Does it really mean that? Or does it say that one should first remove the plank before considering the speck in the eye of another? The difference is huge. Chambers held the interpretation that all criticism is hypocritical and prohibited, but a simple reading of the context, and one immediately sees that Jesus is not prohibiting the judgment of others. Our Lord was issuing a warning to be careful how one judges another.

Chambers continues his litany of questionable claims by writing, “Every wrong thing that I see in you, God finds in me.” Is that really true? Is everyone guilty of every jot and tittle of the Law? One breach of one precept makes one guilty of the whole (Jas 2:10), but has everyone committed every single possible sin? If the Bible claims that, I will repent of this particular criticism of Chambers’ criticism, but I have not read or interpreted that conclusion from any text of the Bible…and I am a believer in the total depravity of humanity!

Although there is much more to judge of Oswald Chambers’ poor interpretation of Matthew 7:1, I will end with his final statement, “I have never met a person I could despair of, or lose all hope for, after discerning what lies in me apart from the grace of God.” That sounds remarkably humble, but again, we ask, “Is that true?”

Did Pastor Chambers, in his life and ministry, ever encounter even one reprobate sinner (a person who would never receive the grace of God so as to be saved)? It is true that there is nothing good in any one of us (Rom 7:18), nor should any one of us put confidence in our flesh (Phil 3:3), but every one of us should boast in Christ Jesus, alone (1 Cor 1:31). Again, we inquire whether every person Oswald Chambers ever met and knew, who lived and died, received the grace of God unto salvation (Universalism)? I wonder how our hyper-critical friend, Oswald Chambers, would have answered these and other questions requiring an honest judgment.

David Norczyk

Spokane Valley, Washington

June 20, 2022

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David Norczyk

Some random theologian out West somewhere, Christian writer, preacher