Judging accusations against others

So often in the work of the church we hear people saying they have been falsely accused or that they did not get an honest hearing when someone laid charges against them. There should be no place for such incidents in the church of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. How can we keep this from happening? How can we make sure that every man is heard in his cause and that Christians make wise decisions concerning one brother against another? Following the scriptures is the only way I know to be sure that every man has justice, judgment and equity.

In John, chapter 7, we read that Jesus could no longer walk among the Jews because they sought to kill him, so he walked in Galilee and did miracles and taught the people there. Even then he was criticized by his own brothers who did not believe in him. They mocked him saying, "Depart hence, and go into Judea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest. For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world," (John 7:3-5).

Later we see that the Jews sought to kill him at the feast. And there was much murmuring among the people,-some saying Jesus was a good man, and others saying he deceived the people. Both these reports could not be true. So which report was true? How would anyone know? Yet the Jews sought to kill him.

Another similar incident in the history of the early church shows Paul and his companions being falsely accused of seeking to destroy the goddess Diana along with the temple in Ephesus. We read about Demetrius the silversmith stirring up the crowd and causing near riot conditions for several hours before they finally caught Gaius and Aristarchus (Acts 19:24-28). No matter what the motivation, the statements made by Demetrius were partly true and partly false. Like many today, when the truth will not have the desired effect, additional (false) information is added to make the assertion "lather." Paul and his companions did teach that there were no other gods besides the one Heavenly Father, but they did not advocate Christians tearing down or destroying the temple of Diana. That addition to the truth was nothing but a blatant false accusation, which made their whole platform abominable.

As you know from reading accounts of the trials of the Apostle Paul, he endured many such accusations from the Jews and from brethren "so called." Fortunately the Roman government made an attempt at giving him justice even though the Jewish people did not. Sometimes the same thing is true of disputes today. A civil courtroom is often used to seek justice when the church has not judged in matters between brethren, but that is not the way it should be. What should we do? To whom should we go for judgment?

Nicodemus stated a universal truth, which many people in the church today ignore. "Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?" (John 7:50-51).

What did the OT Law say? How were the Jews supposed to judge Paul and his companions?

"Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God's: and the cause that is too hard for you, bring it unto me, and I will hear it" (Deuteronomy 1:17).

"If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, being matters of controversy within thy gates: then shalt thou arise, and get thee up into the place which the LORD thy God shall choose. And thou shalt come unto the priests the Levites, and unto the judge that shall be in those days, and inquire; and they shall shew thee the sentence of judgment: And thou shalt do according to the sentence, which they of that place which the LORD shall choose shall shew thee; and thou shalt observe to do according to all that they inform thee: according to the sentence of the law which they shall teach thee, and according to the judgment which they shall tell thee, thou shalt do: thou shalt not decline from the sentence which they shall shew thee, to the right hand, nor to the left" (Deuteronomy 17:8-11).

"One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established. If a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him that which is wrong; then both the men, between whom the controversy is, shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges, which shall be in those days; and the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother; then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you" (Deuteronomy 19:15-19).

"He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him" (Proverbs 18:13).

Under the New Testament law given by Christ, we also have commands to follow in judging any matter against a brother:

  1. "But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established" (Matt 18:16).
  2. "This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established" (2 Corinthians 13:1)
  3. "Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear" (1 Timothy 5:19-20).
  4. "Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee" (Jude 9).
  5. "He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses" (Hebrews 10:28).
  6. "Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men" (Titus 3:1-2).

Finally, even if we have sought justice and judgment and not found it, we may be comforted by the final days of Paul the Apostle, who endured prison, mockery, and trial after trial which never gave him justice, judgment or equity in his lifetime. The letter sent by Felix to the king states Paul's innocence plainly; yet Paul probably never knew freedom again because of his false accusers (Acts 25:14-27).

Paul never found justice in this world, and we may never find justice, but the Lord of all is watching and will reward on that Great Day. Meanwhile our hearts are being formed.

Beth Johnson

Published in The Old Paths Archive