The Judge who was Judged In our place; Main emphasis on judgementalism and Matthew 7 verses 1-6

This Week we have two English Theologians namely Colin Gunton commenting on Karl Barth (my tutor in the final year at King’s College London and William Tyndale who was martyred for his faith (16th Century)

We sometimes take our freedoms for granted.  William Tyndale (the Martyr) reminds us that some freedoms such as reading Scripture is worth dying for.  At the end of this blog, I give his view on Matthew 7 verses 1-6.   Later on, we will also be looking at Matthew 7:1-6 and we will be considering what our Lord Jesus said about judging others (especially within the Christian community.)

What is judgment?

There are many definitions in the English language:

‘The ability to judge, make a decision, or form an opinion objectively, authoritatively, and wisely, especially in matters affecting action; good sense; discretion’ (From;

Actually, there are many definitions for judging and this one was the second meaning (from the above web site).  The definitions I have seen tend to be very simplistic and usually the word is explained in a positive light (making good judgements).  We know differently because a lot of the time we can get it wrong.  In life we make judgements a lot of the time from the perspective of how it can ‘make me look better’.  When a person goes for a job, there can be competition and if one gets the job there is a feeling of elation but not for the one who failed the interview.  Unfortunately, in this world some interviewees will cheat to put themselves in a better light, or the interviewers have already chosen the candidate beforehand (which is illegal, but I am sure it goes on).

In God talk we know that the Judge is God.  We also know that our Lord Jesus in Christian confessions is both fully God and fully man (which is what I believe as I am Trinitarian).  For example, John 1 says:

 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1 From NASB Olive Tree software

In the passage we are going to look at Colin Gunton is going to explain Karl Barth’s Metaphor of Christ as Judge who was judged in our sinful place.  This is found in book four; volume 1 of the Church Dogmatics:

“That section of Barth’s Church Dogmatics has to be understood in the context of Volume IV as a whole. In it, the atonement—or reconciliation as Barth prefers to call it—is understood as the threefold action of God’s self-humbling, humankind’s elevation to true humanity and the mediating action of Jesus Christ as both God and man. In our section, Barth argues that God exercises his function of judgement by taking to himself ‘the lost cause of man’ (p. 3). That human lostness is itself understood in terms of the primary metaphor to mean that, after the manner of Adam in Genesis 3, ‘man wants to be his own judge’ (p. 220). We stand in judgement on our neighbour in the attitude which for Barth encapsulates human sinfulness. We want to be ‘godlike’ and to convince ourselves that we are in the right and everybody else in the wrong. In response to our demonic self-divinisation God refuses to exercise a like judgement of superiority, but instead himself undergoes the judicial process. But just as our victories are really defeats and God’s defeat on the cross really a victory, so it is here. The refusal to exercise judgement is the way by which the judge of all things does effect his righteous rule.

How is this exercise of divine judgement to be understood? First of all, by means of an apparent paradox: ‘to show His grace in the execution of His judgement, to pronounce us free in passing sentence, to free us by imprisoning us, to ground our life on our death, to redeem and save us by our own destruction’ (p. 222). The paradox, however, is resolved in a twofold way by, so to speak, unpacking and expounding the metaphor. We have already seen that one of the functions of metaphor is to reveal hidden features of the human condition by carrying over meaning from one sphere of reality to another, and so it is here. To understand the cross as a judgement is to hold that just as a court decides and so declares a verdict of guilt, so the cross lays bare certain aspects of our condition—for example, the pride of our standing in judgement on others. But it is not simply a matter of showing something to be so. Because it is the action of the eternal Son become man, it is also a redemptive action taking place at the heart of our lostness:

  The ‘for us’ of His death on the cross includes and encloses this terrible ‘against us’. Without this terrible ‘against us’ it would not be the divine and holy and redemptive and effectively helpful ‘for us’ in which the conversion of man and the world to God has become an event. (p. 296) The judgement of which Barth speaks is a kind of death sentence, the metaphorical but real execution of the sinner:

 For the fact that God has given Himself in His Son to suffer the divine judgement on us men does not mean that it is not executed on us, but that it is executed on us … That Jesus Christ died for us does not mean, therefore, that we do not have to die, but that we have died in and with Him, that as the people we were we have been done away with and destroyed. (pp. 294f) God exercises his justice by revealing our sin, by bearing it and by destroying its power.

Colin E. Gunton, The Actuality of Atonement: A Study of Metaphor, Rationality, and the Christian Tradition (London; New York: T&T Clark, 2003), 110–112.” From

The reason I wanted to look at the metaphor of the Judge (our Lord) who was judged is because here in Matthew 7 Jesus talks about judging.  We find God doing something very special for us as Gunton says:

…the threefold action of God’s self-humbling, humankind’s elevation to true humanity and the mediating action of Jesus Christ as both God and man.  That is amazing that God humbled himself and this was the only way for humankind to be brought closer to God and this can only happen through Christ. Remembering that Jesus is fully God and fully human we now turn to Matthew 7 and read his special words on judging others:

1 “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2 For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

6 “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. Matthew 7:1-6

The basic meaning of judging and not judging is relatively simple to understand but there are a lot of things going on here in the text that we could miss.

  1. The basic meaning of the text
  2. Jesus our Lord the great Judge was judged in our place, and he is saying these words (Karl Barth on election)
  3. The log and the speck make me think that this example perhaps was taken from the carpentry shop in which our Lord probably helped Joseph. The Word commentary comments that the speck is really a piece of ‘saw dust’
  4. He talks about the ‘hypocrites’
  5. He makes a contrast between holy and unholy
  6. There is an indirect allusion to Judgement (‘tear you to pieces’)
  7. What we can learn.

Verse 1

Jesus here is talking to his disciples.  We know he is speaking to more than one person because there are plenty of second person plurals in the Greek.  Do not judge! literally in the Greek you(plural) do not judge! so you should not be judged (second person plural and future). 

These are important facts because it fits well with the beatitudes and the future state (heaven) that we will be in.  Although God as the Judge is not mentioned here, we have to accept that the text takes it as a given.

Verse 2

Our Lord gives us a warning that we ought to be careful what verdicts we give in this life.  We will not get away with a false verdict in the future state (eschaton). God is the perfect Judge, and his measure is always correct.  However as human beings we make mistakes many times.  For those in authority it is even more pronounced especially when someone goes to prison for a false verdict or even worse in some parts of the world the death sentence for a false verdict.  In our relations let us love God and love our neighbour and focus on love rather than finding fault with others.

Verse 3-4 the Log and the splinter (saw dust)

In this example of the log and the splinter Jesus Our Lord makes this example very personal.  The verbs switch from plural to singular.  Even in a very simple verdict such as a log and a splinter we personally can make serious mistakes. Before we can even sort out our brother or sisters’ mistakes, we need to first sort ourselves out.

Here we also see a great Jewish Rabbi (Our Lord) use hyperbolic language to make a point.  We know this because here our Lord is using metaphorical language.  A log is literally a beam of wood that is used for holding up houses! In contrast Our Lord also used the smallest (speck).   How can a log fit into someone’s eye? Obviously, it is nonsense.    The evaluation is made though our faults can be very big, and our brother’s fault can be very small.  Let’s be careful how we give verdicts.

Verse 5 (Hypocrite!)

The above word in the Greek is in the vocative singular.  It is singling out anyone who is judgmental and gives false verdicts.  

These are some verses earlier on in which the word hypocrite is used:

“So, when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honoured by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. Matthew 6:2

“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. Matthew 6:5

“Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. Matthew 6:16 (verse taken from olive tree Bible software)

Up to this point our Lord does not point out who the hypocrites are but later on in the Gospel we find the finger pointing to the Pharisees and the Sadducees who were also those who were the religious leaders of Judah at that time.

This is why the beatitudes are so important for the believer.  The beatitudes hone in on our bad attitudes and values in light of the Last Judgement.

Verse 6 (the Judgement)

6 “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. Matthew 7:6

This has all the features of Hebraic Parallelism as used in the book of proverbs:

  1. Do not give what is holy to dogs  
  2. do not throw your pearls before swine
  • or they will trample them under their feet
  • and turn and tear you to pieces. Matthew 7:6

In Judaism dogs and swine are seen as unclean animals and they would not be eaten:

Holy and dogs are opposites and so are pearls and pigs

The judgement is that those who abuse holiness (the hypocrites face Gods judgement).


Jesus our Judge

Jesus our Lord taught us about humility through his life’s work. Karl Barth and Colin Gunton shows us that the God of glory became a human being and died in our place on the cross.  O what humility from God! Our Mediator the Lord Jesus Christ is explaining to us about showing love in our relationships with other believers. 

The thing I like about this judging metaphor is that our Lord uses it from the world of carpentry.  Jesus our Lord was indeed a carpenter!

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?” Mark 6:3

 Jesus takes this metaphor straight from his human world of work.  Our Lord probably mended some of those fishermen’s boats as well as roofs of houses such as the one that had a hole in it to let the paralytic down to be healed:

Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying. Mark 2:4

Jesus possibly before starting his commissioning probably at the workshop, made beds, chairs and various fittings for his customers.


We need to be careful though, not all Pharisees were bad (Nicodemus).  When we look at this section, we need to read it in light of what has already been said.  Jesus our Judge lived out the beatitudes absolutely perfectly and his goodness took him to the cross on which he was judged for our sins! Karl Barth is certainly onto something here!

The meaning of the text

I agree with the Word commentary series because Jesus is not saying ‘don’t judge at all’.  It is talking about attitudes towards others that we shouldn’t be so arrogant but through love speak the truth.  However, there is a warning and we noticed there was also an allusion to the ‘Lord Day’ at the end of time.  Jesus will speak more of this later on in Matthews Gospel.  Judgement starts with the household of God (the Church).


Anyhow I continued reading and I came across William Tyndale (The Martyr for the English Bible). This is what he says.  I’ve included his translation.  The truth is that the majority of the New Testament that came to be known as the King James Version (1611) was his work!

 “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For as ye judge, so shall ye be judged; and with what measure ye mete, with the same shall it be measured to you again. Why lookest thou on the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, and markest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how canst thou say to thy brother, Let me pluck out the mote out of thine eye, and, behold, there is a beam in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, pluck first the beam out of thine own eye; and then thou shalt see clearly to pluck the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

THIS is not meant of the temporal judgments;* for Christ forbade not that, but oft did stablish it; as do Peter and Paul in their epistles also. Nor here is it not forbidden to judge those deeds which are manifest against the law of God; for those ought every Christian man to persecute, yet must they do it after the order that Christ hath set. But when he saith, “Hypocrite,* cast out first the beam that is in thine own eye,” it is easy to understand of what manner of judging he meaneth.”

William Tyndale, Expositions and Notes on Sundry Portions of the Holy Scriptures, together with the Practice of Prelates, ed. Henry Walter, vol. 1, The Works of William Tyndale (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1849), 112.  From

The Greek Tyndale (Tindal) used was that by Erasmus.  This Greek was also the basis for the German Bible that Luther translated. If one wants to parse the personal pronouns of the Greek New Testament just follow the King James version.  Tyndale did a great job.  When, he translated it, it was not only for accuracy but that it would sound good too when it is read out loud.  The Finnish Bible too used Erasmus’ Greek. 

  • Roman Catholic Erasmus New Testament Greek          1516
  • Roman Catholic Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples New Testament  in French  1523
  • Protestant Tyndale translated New Testament in 1534
  • Protestant Agricola translated New Testament in 1548
  • Protestant Luther translated New Testament in 1522


William Tyndale was murdered (1536) for his work on the New Testament and his beliefs.  His work and his legacy in the English-speaking world changed the world for ever.  It was because of his work that in Britain we have free speech.  Today it seems to be fashionable to attack Christian faith in the workplace.  The very freedoms that are taken for granted today came out of the Bible. 

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