How Are We to Judge?
We Should Judge With a Pure Heart
The very first thing we see is that we are to judge ourselves. Again, if we consider Matthew 7, we see that the hypocrite was guilty of an unrighteous judgment.
1 Corinthians 11:27-32 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. (28) But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. (29) For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. (30) For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. (31) For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. (32) But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.
If you are a student of the Word of God, you know this passage is dealing mainly with the Lord’s Supper. Still, we can see a very important point in relationship to this topic. There are people who will participate in the Lord’s Supper who have hidden sin in their lives. When they do, they are in danger of an early death. This passages commands us to judge ourselves first – explaining that if we judge ourselves, we will not be judged. The point is that we will be judged: either by our own self or by God. It is better that we judge ourself rather than allowing God to judge us.
We Should Judge With the Leadership of the Holy Spirit
1 Corinthians 2:12-15 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. (13) Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. (14) But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (15) But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.
Yes, we should evaluate those around us. However, when we do, we need to be careful that whatever we are doing or saying, we are doing or saying it in the will of God and with the leadership of the Holy Spirit of God. We must remember that the world does not understand God’s Word. To be certain, the world has no concept of the perfect will of God. When someone in the world is confronted with the truth of the Word of God, we must expect that they will not understand it.
This passage concludes with a simple truth. He that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man (v.15). There are two parts in this verse which sum up what we have learned so far: First, to judge, one must be spiritual. Second, If one is spiritual and judges, he has nothing to fear. Why does he have nothing to fear? If a man is spiritual, that means he is clean – there is no reason to judge him.
We Should Judge By Using The Word of God
Heb 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
We can pronounce our own judgment or speak with grand words. This will accomplish nothing. We are, after all, no better than the ones who are guilty. Ultimately, our knowledge and our wisdom is no better than the knowledge and wisdom of the people around us. When we judge, we must use the Word of God. As Hebrews 4:12 says, it is the Word of God which is quick, powerful and sharp. It is the Word of God which will divide the righteous from the world and it is the Word of God which will discern the heart. Ultimately, it is the Word of God which will bring conviction to the sinner.
Judge In Sincerity, In Righteousness and in Knowledge
Philippians 1:9-11 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; (10) That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; (11) Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.
Perhaps this paragraph should be about sincerity. We see that our judgment must have certain qualities to it. First, we must remember that we are not condemning someone out of sport. It should not be an enjoyable task to us to tell someone that their sinful nature is sending them to hell. We should have a genuine attitude of concern and caring for a lost and dying soul. Our speech must be speech which is truthful, yet seasoned with grace and mercy. Our very life must illustrate our love for the sinner.
In the method in which we speak to someone, we must also be careful not to be offensive in our own selves. The truth of the Word of God will be offensive, but we must be careful that we are not offensive. Sometimes, our language – the words we use to describe a sinner, can be offensive. Sometimes, our approach can be offensive. The Word of God will always be offensive. Still, we must be ever so careful that we are not the offensive part of the equation.
We Must Prove That Which Is Good
1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. (22) Abstain from all appearance of evil.
The world is an evil place, but everything in the world is not evil. We must look for those things which are good and lift those things up. In the same manner, we should become something in the world which is good. We are called to be salt and light. Salt, in a sore spot, will burn, but it will also purify. There is a time for salt. However, there is also a time for light. As believers, we are called to be salt and light. As salt will purify, light will draw. When we are lost in the dark, and see a light, we will go to that light. When a man realizes he is lost, spiritually, he will go to the nearest spiritual light he can find. To be a light, we must be clean.
We Cannot Judge in Pride
Luke 18:10-14 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. (11) The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. (12) I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. (13) And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. (14) I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
In this passage, we see an account of two men who went in to pray. As they prayed, their hearts were revealed. One prayed something like, “…thank you, Lord, that I am not a sinner like him.” Meanwhile, the other prayed, “Have mercy on me, a sinner.” We could suppose that the first was praising God – giving thanks for giving him the strength to live a pure and holy life. But it is clear that that is not the case. The Pharisee was bragging about how good and perfect he was. The second man, the publican, was confessing his state to God: he was a sinner in need of help.
As we walk through life, it is easy to compare ourselves to other people. When we do this, we begin to think that we are somehow better than they are. Pride may even bubble up inside us. Some, like the Pharisee, even think they have arrived. They believe they are too good for other people. The Pharisee believes he does not need help. The modern Pharisee forgets that he was once as lost as that sinner he is looking at. When we compare, we cannot compare the sinner to ourselves, or to anyone else around us. We are all sinners, we are all in need of the grace and mercy Jesus offers us. No, we cannot compare one person to another. When we look at someone, we must measure them by the yardstick which is the very Word of God. Our preferences, our standards can be personal. I may have different standards than you. You may be a more mature Christian than I. When we look at each other, the only standard we have is the Word of God and it is the Word of God which we must use to measure.
There is much, much more to be said about the saints of God, the saved, judging those around him. Yes, we are to try the spirits. Yes, we are to discern between the Godly and the ungodly. And, yes, we are to pronounce a warning of judgment – but we are to do this with a pure heart, desiring to see one saved. Our goal should never be a goal of simply tearing one down. In everything we do, we must remember that there are souls seeking Christ. Sometimes, these souls need to be told of their sin. Sometimes, these souls need to be told of the love of Christ and the free gift of salvation. It is up to the spiritual one to discern what the hearer needs.
Mal 3:18 Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.
Judge not, lest ye be judged!
If I have heard this once, I have heard it a thousand times. Liberals and people who are grieved by the law will often throw this portion of Scripture up in an effort to intimidate the believer into backing down. Just as the devil has always done, there is a small nugget of God’s Word mixed in, twisted and perverted in to a truth which does not exist. As Christians, there is no command to us to judge not! When we study the Scripture, we see that there are many examples when the believer is supposed to judge. Likewise, we will also see that there are some specific times and restrictions to how the believer is to judge.
First, we will look at the myth that we are not to judge. Matthew 7:1 is very clear.
Mt 7:1 ¶ Judge not, that ye be not judged.
That verse is very clear! Taken alone, out of context, it would seem that one who judges another is in danger of being judged! There it is! The liberals are right! Well, not really. Let’s look at the entire passage and examine Matthew 7:1 in its proper context.
Matthew 7:1-5 Judge not, that ye be not judged. (2) For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. (3) And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? (4) Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? (5) Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
Matthew 7:1 is the foundation of this entire debate, but we need to pay attention to the conjunction ‘for’ which begins verse 2. Verse two warns that one who judges will be judged with the same judgment. We have to remember the broader context of this passage. Jesus was dealing with Pharisees. These are the hyper-religious of the day. They believe their own personal righteousness was their key to salvation. They believed they were perfect in how they kept the law. Sadly, they were even lying to themselves. No one is perfectly righteous. The Pharisees were worse. They knew the law, yet they hid their own transgressions. For example: they might condemn the adulterer for his sin while being flagrantly guilty of the very same sin. If they know the law well enough to judge another, they certainly know how they, themselves, should behave. If we were to look at the adulterer and the Pharisee (who is also committing adultery), we see that the Pharisee, the one who is judging, is the more guilty one. The whole of the passage (Matthew 7:1-5) is dealing with the concept of a Pharisee judging someone. In our time, I would be a hypocrite if I judged and condemned someone for being a thief if I were secretly a thief, myself. However, if I am righteous (I have repented, my sins are covered by the blood of Jesus and I am no longer a thief), and I tell someone they are a thief, my hands are clean.
The Sound of the Trumpet
There is a call to all who are saved which we all must heed.
Ezekiel 33:1-9 Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, (2) Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman: (3) If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; (4) Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. (5) He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul. (6) But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand. (7) So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. (8) When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. (9) Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.
We are in a world in which we are surrounded by lost people – people who must be saved. To walk up to someone and only say, “you must be saved,” begs the question, “saved from what?” We are taught that the law, God’s list of right and wrong, exists to be our schoolmaster. The Law is not in place to beat someone down or to make one subject to another. The law is our Schoolmaster. While the Law does exist to protect us, the primary purpose of the Law is to show us our need for salvation. God gave His Law to show us just how wrong we are, how badly we need to be saved and what we need to be saved from. As saved people, we are all called to evangelize – to tell people of their need. We are commanded to sound a warning. The watchman has a job to do: to warn the people of the coming danger. We have a far greater duty than the watchman. The watchman’s job was to warn of a danger which may be coming. Sin, death and hell are certain dangers for the unsaved. We, as Christians, have a clear duty to sound a warning. By default, this means that we must shine the light of the Word of God in the world to reveal sin. By default, we must name the sins we see around us.
A Righteous Judgment
We have already looked at the myth the Devil puts forward from Matthew 7:1 and how Matthew 7 defines when one can judge with a clear conscious, but there are other examples we can look at and guidelines we can follow.
John 7:24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.
First, we cannot judge one based simply upon their appearance. We do not know the person’s heart or motives. It may be that the person we are looking at is a new believer. One who has not been saved for very long cannot be expected to know the nuances and intricacies of Scripture. They are feeding on milk and cannot pallet the strong meat on which mature saint feasts. We must give space for the new believer to grow in the Lord. We must allow the Holy Spirit of God to clean the new believer’s heart.
Though we are to be careful in how we look at people, we are to judge! Imagine a ball game with no rules and no judges. How would anyone know what to do? When would a score be tallied? Who would be guilty of penalties? Who would decide these things? Likewise, we have laws in our land. Someone, somewhere decided that the highways are only safe at a certain maximum speed. Someone decided that, in a civilized society, one should not rob another and one may not murder whomever he wishes. As there are civil laws on the books, there are also people who adjudicate those laws. We call them Judges. Judges sit over us and proclaim whether we have transgressed the law or not.
1 Thessolians 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
How can one prove all things which are good if we do not discern what is bad?
Acts 5:1-5 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, (2) And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. (3) But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? (4) Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. (5) And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.
Here is a couple who owned a piece of land which they sold. Their claim was that they were selling it and giving all the proceeds to the church. As Peter told them, it was their land. They could do whatever they wanted to do with it. If they wanted to sell it, and keep part of the sale, they could have. However, they wanted to be seen as big givers. They allowed their pride to get in the way of the truth. When it came time to make the offering, they gave part of the sale price to the collection, sand said it was all they had. The did not have to give all they had, but they claimed that they did. Peter called them out for the liars they were. The judgment Peter pronounced on them was a stern one – death. It is not within most of us to be as discerning as Peter was. In fact, if everyone who lied to the preacher were to fall over dead, we would have empty churches. Still, lying is a sin, and Peter named this couple’s sin to their face. He did this with a pure conscious, with the leading of the Holy Spirit of God and with the Word of God to back him up. Nevertheless, no matter how you look at this situation, Peter did judge them.
Try the Spirits
We are plainly commanded to try the spirits. Literally, to examine those around us to see if they be of Christ or not. As we saw in an earlier passage, there are some who walk into the church, who are disorderly. Who seek to destroy the work of God. There are some who come into the church with the intent of stealing the sheep away.
1 John 4:1 ¶ Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
There are many doctrines and teachings in the world which would corrupt the Christian’s walk with God as well as his testimony. We are to examine, and yes, judge those around us to see if their teachings are true and just!
Col 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
Heb 13:9 Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.
As believers, we are commanded to try or examine each and every one around us. All we need to do is compare their speech and their actions to the Word of God. When we examine someone, and we see that their conversation or their action is disorderly, we have another command:
Romans 16:17-18 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. (18) For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.
In this passage from Romans, we see that we are commanded not only to examine those around us, but to mark the ones who would divide or cause strife within the church.