The Error of the Wicked (2 Peter 3:17) — Judging, What Does it Mean?

(This article was originally printed in June, 2009.)
By Frances Swaggart –

J. Swaggart Ministry

Just recently, I received a letter from a pastor who was upset because of what I had written in my article in the May Issue of our Evangelist Magazine.  I was pointing out how the ministers of today have no problem misusing Passages of Scripture to support their own agendas.  I am alarmed at how loosely preachers treat Scripture today.  There seems to be no fear or concern as to whether or not the Scripture verses used remain true to the original context of the Bible.  Many times preachers try to use Passages that do not relate at all to the point of their writings and messages, so they will exegete the passage in such a way to make it appear to say one thing when it really says something else.  Modern ministers have actually become quite adept at this, twisting and perverting Scripture to the point that the original meaning is totally lost!  Instead of making their message line up with the Word, they attempt to make the Word line up with their message.  Yet, if anyone speaks out about such abuse of the Scripture he is harshly judged and attacked on a personal level.  Nobody wants to evaluate content anymore to find out if Scripture is being misused, perverted, or twisted by the preacher quoting it.  Instead, they would rather attack, and often viciously, the person that speaks up and says that a particular Scripture is not being used accurately!  Too many would rather defend a preacher than God’s Holy Word.


Romans 2:1 is always used in an attempt to silence those who speak out:  “Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whosoever you are who judges (presents this segment as directed to the Jews):  for wherein you judge another, you condemn yourself (in effect, says that God judges one who judges another in the same manner in which he himself has judged, hence, ‘condemning himself’ [Mat. 7:1-2]); for you who judge do the same things (in effect, says that the Jews were no better than the Gentiles, whom they constantly berated).”  But, does Romans 2:1 mean that we are never to judge?  Does Romans 2:1 mean that we are to ignore blatant mistreatment of God’s Word?  Of course not, because John 7:24 states, or I should say commands, that we are to judge righteous judgment, which is judgment based upon the Word of God:  “Judge not according to the appearance, (in effect, says, ‘if you think you have not violated the Sabbath in Circumcision, then how can you think I broke the Sabbath when I healed one of you who had been helpless for thirty-eight years?’), but judge righteous judgment (says that judgment must be rendered according to the whole Word of God, and not merely by taking a part and perverting it to one’s own satisfaction).” 

Only when judgment is made in another way, a way other than by the standard of God’s Word, is it a violation of Matthew 7:1, which states:  “Judge not, that you be not judged (this statement made by Christ harks back to Verses 25 through 34 of the previous Chapter; the idea is, God may permit poverty to test His Child, but fellow Believers are not to err, as Job’s friends did, and believe the trial to be a judgment for secret sin; as well, the word, ‘judging,’ as used here, covers every aspect of dealing with our fellowman).” 


A faithful Christian must always discern (a word not often used in the modern church).  It is one of the Gifts of the Spirit. “Discernment” means to discern whether or not what you are hearing is the Spirit of God, human spirits, or evil spirits.  Example after example of discernment is given in the Bible.  In this very same Chapter, which says, “Judge not, that you be not judged,” Verse 15 goes on to say:  “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves (‘beware of false prophets’ is said in the sternest of measures! there will be and are false prophets, and are some of Satan’s greatest weapons).”  So, you see, we are actually instructed to discern and judge.  How else would we know a false prophet from a true man of God?  We must judge every minister by the Word of God, and if he is misquoting, misusing, perverting, or setting his doctrine apart from what the Scripture says for his own advantage, then he is a false prophet.  How do we know we have judged them according to Scripture?  The answer is right there in the same Passage.  Remember, every Scripture Verse must be read in its context if we are to properly understand the true meaning.

Verses 2 and 3 of Matthew 7 say:  “For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged (whatever motive we ascribe to others, such motive will ultimately be ascribed to us):  and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again (a double emphasis is given here in order to proclaim the seriousness of the Words of our Lord; when we judge others, we are judging ourselves).  And why do you behold the mote that is in your brother’s eye (the Believer is not to be looking for fault or wrongdoing in the lives of fellow Believers), but consider not the beam that is in your own eye?  (We have plenty in our own lives that needs eliminating, without looking for faults in others.  The ‘mote’ and ‘beam’ are contrasted!  The constant judging of others portrays the fact that we are much worse off than the one we are judging.)” 


Going on to Verse 4:  “Or how will you say to your brother, Let me pull out the mote out of your eye (the seriousness of setting ourselves up as Judge, Jury, and Executioner); and, behold, a beam is in your own eye?  (Once again draws attention to the fact that the person doing the judging is in far worse spiritual condition than the one being judged.)”  Now, it is becoming more evident that Verse 1 refers to hypocritical judgment.  A person who has a beam in his own eye is certainly not capable of judging another who may have a mote in his eye.  The total lesson of these verses is plain; you cannot accurately judge one for his sin while you have sin dominating your own life.  Verse 5 of Matthew 7 goes on to tell you what the Lord says about the person that judges in this way:  “You hypocrite (aptly describes such a person), first cast out the beam out of your own eye; and then you shall see clearly to cast out the mote out of your brother’s eye (the very fact that we do not address ourselves, but rather others, portrays the truth that our personal situation is worse; when we properly analyze ourselves, then, and only then, can we ‘see clearly’; this is speaking of character assassination and not the correction of doctrine).” 


The letter I received from this minister said, and I quote, “I was greatly disappointed when I read how Mrs. Swaggart referred to Joel Osteen as false teaching.  Saying he misquoted scriptures, etc.  I have known Joel Osteen since he was 10 years old . . . took him fishing; know him very well.  I know of no more humble and loving man.  He and I both are amazed at the favor God has given him.  She may say she was only attacking his teaching, but I saw it as an attack on him personally.”  This minister quotes Romans 2:1 (as mentioned earlier), and then he quotes Ephesians 4:29 which says, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may Minister Grace unto the hearers.”  Now, the truth is that this man is judging me personally, while at the same time quoting Romans 2:1 to me.  See the double standard?  He first says we are not to judge, but then he turns right around and judges me, saying I am attacking someone on a personal level when I am not.  I am only pointing out the error in his teaching.  In this minister’s letter, not once does he mention the verse of Scripture that was being perverted and whether I was right or wrong in what I had said in my article about it.  So, the minister does not even himself discern the true meaning of the verse.  Instead, he quoted another verse of Scripture to me (Eph. 4:29), which, again, had nothing to do with the statement I made in my article.  Ephesians 4:29 refers to slander.  I, in no way, slandered anyone in my article.


Besides, how can Grace be ministered if Scripture is misquoted?  It is only when the Word of God is properly used that Grace and Healing can be ministered.  If God’s Word is distorted, it will do nothing for any individual.  He then closes out his letter with this statement:  “This article did not edify me nor did it minister grace to me.”  If he felt that way about my article, he should have pointed out to me where I had misused or twisted Scripture, but he didn’t because I didn’t misuse any Scriptures.  It was Joel Osteen who failed to minister Grace to his people with his improper use of Scripture, not me when I used Biblical discernment.  I would say this to this pastor:  “For do I now persuade men, or God?  (In essence, Paul is saying, ‘do I preach man’s doctrine, or God’s?’) or do I seek to please men?  (This is what false apostles do.) for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the Servant of Christ (one cannot please both men and God at the same time)” (Gal. 1:10).  In fact, the whole First Chapter of Galatians would be beneficial to read.


Another point I want to make pertains to his feelings for Joel Osteen.  Certainly, it is only right and normal to love our friends, and it is only right to not want to see them misrepresented in any way.  But, whether someone is humble and loving or whether he is the opposite is not the issue here.  The issue is:  was Scripture misused or misrepresented?  If it was, then we cannot protect our friends no matter how nice his personality.  We have to love God and His Word more than we love our friends.

If our friends err in their use of Scripture, then we must obey II Thessalonians 3:6 which states:  “Now we command you, Brethren, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Apostle is saying that what he is telling the people is ‘the Word of God,’ and must be heeded!), that you withdraw yourselves from every brother who walks disorderly (literally means, ‘to walk out of the ranks of the Word of God’; in abbreviated form, it means we should withdraw fellowship from those who teach something other than the Cross; it does not speak of excommunication), and not after the tradition which he received of  us (after the teaching which Paul had given, which was definitely from the Lord; ‘tradition,’ as it is used here, does not mean ‘unwritten doctrines,’ as this word normally means; the Apostle is referring to what the Lord had given him, which he had faithfully taught to the people).”

If we really and truly love our brothers, then we must stand true and faithful to the Word of God, because ultimately it is the pure Word of God that will bring them blessing as well!  II Timothy 4:2 says, “Preach the Word (refers to the whole body of revealed Truth, which means the entirety of the Word of God); be instant in season, out of season (presents the idea of the Preacher holding himself in constant readiness to proclaim the Word); reprove (the Preacher is to deal with sin, both in the lives of his unsaved hearers and in those of the Saints to whom he Ministers, and he is to do so in no uncertain tones and terms), rebuke (a suggestion in some cases of impending penalty); exhort with all longsuffering and Doctrine.  (This tells us that the ‘reproving’ and the ‘rebuking’ must be done with gentleness.  As well, the ‘longsuffering’ refers to a gentleness that continues even when the Message is met with rejection.  However, the ‘Doctrine’ is not to change, even though it is rejected.)” 


Paul warned the Galatians about those who “pervert the gospel of Christ.”  Galatians 1:6 through 9 says, “I marvel that you are so soon removed from Him (the Holy Spirit) Who called you into the Grace of Christ (made possible by the Cross) unto another gospel (anything which doesn’t have the Cross as its Object of Faith):  Which is not another (presents the fact that Satan’s aim is not so much to deny the Gospel, which he can little do, as to corrupt it); but there be some who trouble you, and would pervert the Gospel of Christ (once again, to make the object of Faith something other than the Cross).  But though we (Paul and his associates), or an Angel from Heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you (Jesus Christ and Him Crucified), let him be accursed (eternally condemned; the Holy Spirit speaks this through Paul, making this very serious).  As we said before, so say I now again (at sometime past, he had said the same thing to them, making their defection even more serious), If any man preach any other gospel unto you (anything other than the Cross) than that you have received (which Saved your souls), let him be accursed (‘eternally condemned,’ which means the loss of the soul).” 


It is sad to say that today’s modern church is preaching a perverted gospel.  We are told that we must cooperate with such modern teachers in Evangelism and other Christian works, but the Bible teaches, instead, that we must expose the false prophets.  If we do not, we have betrayed Christ and His Gospel!  The entirety of the Bible abounds with examples of false prophets who are named and exposed.  All of this modern talk about “love” is used as an excuse for not exposing error, but such is not really Biblical Love at all.  Biblical Love tells the Truth.  Hebrews 5:14 says, “But strong meat belongs to them who are of full age (refers to those who are mature in the Lord), even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.  (Such a person is walking after the Spirit.  This refers to placing one’s Faith in the Cross and not after the flesh, the flesh refers to depending on other things [Rom. 8:1-2, 11]).”  A person who is able to discern between good and evil has at least one of the major marks of Spiritual Maturity.  Vine’s Expository Dictionary says that the meaning of “discern” is to examine, scrutinize, question, determine, decide, test, or prove.  Judging is translated “discerning” of spirits, judging by evidence whether evil or good.  Those who are unwilling or incapable of discerning and/or judging between good and evil are revealing either their disobedience or their immaturity in the things of God.

2 thoughts on “The Error of the Wicked (2 Peter 3:17) — Judging, What Does it Mean?

  1. I am extremely blessed having listened to “gaining the soul” never heard it this way, God bless you so much and keep teaching this even if it is not popular. Do you have a website where I can follow these teachings? Am a Pastor in Uganda, East Africa.

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