Jesus’ comments in John 8 are confusing. When Jesus says in John 8:15, “I pass judgment on no one,” it sounds contradictory to His comment in v 16 “If I do judge…” & v 26 “I have much to say in judgment of you.” Does Jesus mean that He is only speaking forth His Father's judgment (which is what He appears to be saying in v 50b "...and He is the judge" (referring to His Father in heaven)?
ESV - 15 You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.
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In my opinion, when Jesus said, "I judge no one" in John 8:15, he was referring to the type of judgment (judgment "according to the flesh" as Jesus characterized it) exercised by the Pharisees, who did not accept Jesus as the Messiah because He was not fulfilling their expectations or beliefs as to how the Messiah should or would act. However, as indicated earlier in John's gospel (John 3:17) the primary purpose of Jesus' first coming as the Messiah was not judgment or condemnation, but making salvation possible. (Jesus expressed this same refusal to judge in passages such as Luke 12:13-15.) Nevertheless (as Jesus indicated), if He DID judge (as He someday will), His judgment would be accurate, because it would reflect the carrying out of God's role as judge, which the Father had entrusted to the Son. And, as noted in John 8:50, those (like the Pharisees) who refused to recognize and honor Jesus in that role would be judged for that refusal -- of which there would be ample evidence (the "much to say" that Jesus referred to in John 8:26) -- by the Father.
The referenced verse 15 is part of an entire chapter in John dealing with judgement. Before looking at some of the accounts in detail I want to try and make clear what Jesus means when he talks about judgement. Any justice system begins with a series of laws that determine what is unacceptable behaviour. The nation of Israel has the Old Testament Law. The judge or jury hears all the evidence for and against the accused. Justice is served when potential crimes are investigated by police, the prosecution lays charges and a trial is held. During the trial evidence is presented, including witness testimonies. Based on the evidence a verdict is given of innocent or guilty. If the verdict is guilty, there will be a subsequent hearing in which the judge pronounces the sentence of punishment. That is, how many years in prison based on the severity of the crime and any extenuating circumstances.. When Jesus refers to judgement, sometimes he is talking about the accusation of a crime. In other cases he is talking about punishment for the guilty. We know that Jesus came the first time to bring salvation, so we know the judgement he is talking about is not punishment. But he has much to say to the Jewish religious leaders, accusing them of sinning against the law and of leading the people into sin. These types of accusations are intended as warnings, convicting the leaders of their sins, so they will turn toward God in repentance. At Jesus second coming, the court of heaven will sit and God will judge each person according to what they have done. Every person who Jesus identifies as one of his sheep, will be acquitted for all their sin because of their faith in Jesus as their saviour. Every person who is identified by Jesus as a goat will face the white throne judgement of God and will be sentenced to eternal punishment in hell based on the specific evil deeds done in their lives. Now back to John chapter 8. In verses 1 to 11, the pharisees and teachers of the law are trying to trick Jesus into judging the woman caught in adultery. He says that the person who has the right to judge her is anyone who has never sinned. They all walk away. Jesus has the right to judge her (ie he is sinless) but offers her grace and forgiveness if she is willing to repent. In verses 12 to 30 Jesus is giving testimony about who he is. The Jewish leaders are sitting in judgement on him and he is providing his own personal testimony that he is the |Messiah. His Father in heaven is also testifying through the miracles that Jesus is doing. This is sufficient testimony to prove that Jesus is who he says he is. In verse 15 Jesus says that if these leaders don't believe that Jesus is the Messiah, then they will indeed die in their sins. In verses 31 to 59 Jesus is making the astounding accusation that these religious leaders are actually children of the devil. They are not Abraham's children (people of faith) at all. He provides several examples (evidence) that proves his point. They try to argue back that he is wrong - that he is the one who is demon-possessed. Jesus sums up his arguments beautifully in verses 42 to 46. Examples are: If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don't you believe me?Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God. In Matthew 23:1-39 Jesus issues his strongest accusations against the Pharisees and teachers of the law. This passage is commonly referred to as the Seven Woes. These are extremely harsh judgements by Jesus against Israel's religious leaders. Why does Jesus speak so strongly against the sins of these religious leaders. Because he wants then to repent and stop leading the people astray. Jesus first coming is all about salvation and reconciliation. At his second coming Jesus will judge all believers and reward their faithfulness for eternity.
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