Is It Right to Judge?

by
Franklin G. Huling, M.A

The question “Is it right to judge?” is one that puzzles many sincere Christians. A careful and open-minded study of the Bible makes is clear that concerning certain vital matters, it is not only right but a positive duty to judge. Many do not know that the Scripture commands us to judge.

The Lord Jesus Christ commanded, “…Judge with righteous judgment,” (John 7:24). He told a man, “You have rightly judged,” (Luke 7:43). To others, our Lord asked, “Yes, and why, even of yourselves, do you not judge what is right?” (Luke 12:57).

The Apostle Paul wrote, “I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say,” (Corinthians 10:15). Again, Paul declared, “He who is spiritual judges all things,” (1 Corinthians 2:15). It is our positive duty to judge.

FALSE TEACHER & FALSE TEACHING

“Beware of false prophets!” (Matthew 7:15) is the warning and command of our Lord. But how could we “beware” and how could we know they are “false prophets” if we did not judge? And what is the God-given standard by which we are to judge? “To the Law and to the Testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them,” (Isaiah 8:20).

Christ said, “You will know them by their fruits,” (Matthew 7:16). And in judging the “fruits,” we must judge by God’s Word, not by what appeals to human judgment which are false to the Word of God. The Apostle Paul admonished believers, “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you have learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple,” (Romans 16:17-18).

This apostolic command could not be obeyed were it jot right to judge. God wants us to know His Word and then test all teachers and teaching by it. Notice also that it is the false teachers who make the “divisions,” and not those who protest against their false teaching. And these deceivers are not serving Christ, as they profess, “but their own belly,” or their own “bread and butter,” as we would put it. We are to “mark them” and “avoid them.” “Come out from among them, and be separate, says the Lord” (2 Corinthians 6:17, read verses 14-18). “From such people turn away,” (2 Timothy 3:5). “Withdraw yourselves,” (2 Thessalonians 3:6). “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them,” (Ephesians 5:11).

It would be impossible to obey these injunctions of God’s Word unless it were right to judge! Remember, nothing is “good” in God’s sight that is not true to His Word. The Apostle John wrote, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but try (test, judge) the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world,” (1 John 4:1).

Again, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh (one example of false doctrine)… If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house, nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds,” (2 John 7, 10-11).

This Scripture commands us to judge between those who do, and those who do not bring the true doctrine of Christ. Whenever a child of God contributes to a denominational budget that supports Modernist (liberal, ecumenical, compromising) missionaries or teachers, he is guilty before God, according to this Scripture. He thereby becomes a “partaker” with them of their “evil deeds” of spreading soul-damning poison. How terrible, but how true! Arouse yourself, child of God. If you are guilty, ask God to forgive you and help you never again to be guilty of the blood of souls for Christ, we can readily see the truth of God’s Word on this tremendously important matter. “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him,” (2 Timothy 2:12).

MISUNDERSTOOD & MISUSED SCRIPTURE

One of the best known and most misunderstood and misapplied Scriptures is “Judge not” (Matthew 7:1). Let us examine the entire passage: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged: and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you again. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, Let me remove the speck from your eye; and, look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye; and then you will see clearly to remove the speck of your brother’s eye,” (Matthew 7: 1-5).

Read this again carefully. Notice that it is addressed to a hypocrite!; not to those who sincerely want to discern whether a teacher or teaching is true or false to God’s Word. And instead of being a prohibition against honest judgment, it is a solemn warning against hypocritical judgment. In fact, the last statement of this Scripture commands sincere judgement; “then you will see clearly to remove the speck of your brother’s eye.”

If we take a verse or a part of a verse out of its setting, we can make the Word of God appear to teach the very opposite of what it really does teach. And those who do this cannot escape the judgment of God for twisting His Word (see 2 Peter 3:16). Let this be a warning to us never again to take a text of Scripture out of its context.

Many who piously quote, “Judge not,” out of its context, in order to defend that is false to God’s Word, do not see their own inconsistency in thus judging those who would obey God’s Word about judging that which is untrue to the Bible. It is tragic that so much that is anti-Scriptural has found undeserved shelter behind a misuse of the Scripture just quoted. The reason the professed church of Christ is today honeycombed and paralysed by satanic Modernism is because Christians have not obeyed the commands of God’s Word to judge and put away and separate from false teachers and false teaching when they first appeared in their midst. Physical health is maintained by separation from disease germs. Spiritual health is maintained by separation from germs of false doctrine.

The greatest peril of our day is not too much judging, but too little judging of spiritual falsehood. God wants His children to be like the noble Bereans who “searched the Scriptures daily, to find out whether these things were so,” (Acts 17:11). Romans 2:1-3 is also addressed to the religious hypocrite who condemned himself because he was guilty of the same things for which he condemned others. James 4:11-12 refers to an evil spirit of backbiting and fault finding, not to judging whether teachers of teachings agree or disagree with God’s Word. The Bible never contradicts itself. To understand one portion of Scripture we must view it in the light of all Scripture. “… No prophecy of Scripture is of any private (isolated) interpretation,” (2 Peter 1:20). “Comparing spiritual things (words) with spiritual,” (1Corinthians 2:13).

The “Wheat and Tares” parable of Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43, is much misunderstood. First of all, our Lord is talking about the world, not His Church; “the field is the world.” He goes on to say that “the good seeds are the children of the Kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one,” (Matthew 13:38). They are the two groups in the world; children of God; those who have received Christ (John 1:12), and the children of the devil; those who reject Christ (John 8:44). When any of the “children of the wicked one” get into the professed church of Christ, as they have always done, a definite procedure for God’s children is set forth in His Word. First, it is their duty to tell them that they have “neither part nor portion” in Christ (see Acts 8:21-23 and context). If the children of the devil do not leave voluntarily, as is generally the case, God’s children are commanded to “purge out” (1 Corinthians 5:7) these unbelievers. But God’s people have disobeyed His Word about this, and so unbelievers (and disobedient brethren – 2 Thessalonians 3:6,14-15) have gotten into control, as is now the case in most denominations.

Therefore, those who purpose to be true to Christ and His Word are commanded to “come out from among them, and be separate, says the Lord,” (2 Corinthians 6:17), regardless of property or any other considerations. When we obey God’s Word, we can trust Him to take care of all the consequences of our obedience.

OTHER MATTERS TO BE JUDGED

The immoral conduct of professed believers in Christ is to be judged. 1 Corinthians, chapter 5, tells a sad story and closes with the Apostolic injunction, “Therefore put away from yourselves the evil person,” (1 Corinthians 5:13). Disputes between Christians concerning “things that pertain to this life,” (1 Corinthians 6:3) should be judged by a tribunal of fellow Christians instead of going before unbelievers in the civil courts. The whole sixth chapter of 1 Corinthians makes clear God’s plan for His people in this regard.

And some startling truths are here revealed: First, “The saints will judge the world.” Second, “We shall judge angels,” (1 Corinthians 6:2-3). Beloved, are we letting God prepare us for this high place? We ought to judge ourselves. “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith; test yourselves,” (2 Corinthians 13:5). “For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened (child trained) of the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world,” (1 Corinthians 11:31-32).

What a change and what a blessing it would be if we would judge our own faults as uncharitably as we do the faults of others _ and if we would judge the failings of others as we do our own! And Christians could save themselves much chastening of the Lord if they would judge and confess and cease their disobedience to God. And, oh, how much dishonour and lack of fruit would our blessed Lord be spared!
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LIMITATION OF HUMAN JUDGEMENT

Not as to scruples of conscience concerning matters of which the Bible does not directly speak. God forbids our judging our brethren concerning the eating of certain kinds of food, keeping of days, etc. Romans, chapter 14; 1 Corinthians 10:23-33; and Colossians 2:16-17 cover this subject. Not as to the motives of others. See 1 Corinthians 4:1-5.

Only God can see into the heart and know the reasons why unbiblical actions are taken or false beliefs proclaimed. These “counsels of the heart” will be judged by the Lord at His return. Not as to those who are actually saved or not. “The Lord knows those who are His,” (2 Timothy 2:19; Acts 15:7-9).

We cannot look into anyone’s heart and say whether or not they have truly accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour, if they profess that they have trusted in Him and they have not by their testimony denied the Faith. But we had better test ourselves according to 2 Corinthians 5:17: “If any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” If this change has not taken place, our profession is vain.

TWO ELEMENTS IN JUDGMENT

The New Testament Greek word that is most often translated “judge” or “judgment” is “krino.” On the one hand, it means to distinguish, to decide, to determine, to conclude, to try, to think and to call in question. That is what God wants His children to do as to whether preachers, teachers and their teachings are true or false to His Word.

The Apostle Paul writes: “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and in all discernment (judgment); that you may approve the things that are excellent,” (Philippians 1:9-10). A wrong idea of love and lack of knowledge and judgment causes God’s people often to approve things that are anything but excellent in God’s sight.

The epistle to the Hebrews tells us that mature believers, that is, those who are of “full age,” are “… those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil,” (see Hebrews 5:11-14). On the other hand, the Greek word “krino” [judge or judgment] means to condemn, to sentence and to punish. This is God’s prerogative for He has said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord,” (Romans 12:19).

GUARD AGAINST A WRONG ATTITUDE

Christians should watch against the tendency of the flesh to assume a critical and censorious attitude toward those who do not share our opinions about other matters than those which have to do with Bible doctrine and moral conduct. Rather than “pick to pieces” our brethren in Christ, it is our privilege and duty to do everything we can to encourage their spiritual edification. We ought to love and pray for one another and consider ourselves lest we be tempted. (See Galatians 6:1.)

A FINAL WORD

If you are saved, my reader, let us not forget that “We must all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ,” (2 Corinthians 5:10). It will be well with those who are studying God’s Word, walking in the light of it, living for Christ and the salvation of souls. It will go ill with those who have accepted Christ but who are living for the things of this world. If you are a mere professor of Christ, or profess nothing, my friend, may I lovingly remind you “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the House of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the Gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17). Delay not another moment to ask God for Christ’s sake to forgive your sins. Surrender your heart and will to the loving Saviour who died for you and rose again. Make Him the Lord of your life. Happy and blessed will you be, now and forever.