The terms “judge,” or “judgment,” are used in different ways in the Scriptures. Their meanings and usage are mainly governed by the context in which they are found. When they mean to condemn, to sentence or punish, man is usually to leave the prerogative with God. “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Rom 12:19). Nor are we to judge the motives of others. Only God can see the heart and know the motives that underlie actions (1 Cor 4:1-5).
At other times the words mean: to distinguish, to test, to call into question. This is what God would have believers do, in love (Eph 4:15), especially as to whether or not preaching and teaching is true to His Word. Paul wrote, “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that you may approve things that are excellent” (Phil 1:9, 10).
An often misapplied Scripture is, “Judge not” (Mat 7:1). For one thing, this is a kingdom command forbidding hypocritical judgment, and is not addressed to those who in love and sincerity seek to discern whether a teacher or teaching is in accordance with God’s Word.
Hypocrisy is the subject here: “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge , ye shall be judged : and with what measure ye mete , it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 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? 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” (Mat 7:1-5).
Actually, the last statement of the Scripture commands sincere judgment: “Then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.” We are not to forget nor seek to avoid the fact that our Lord Jesus commands us to “judge righteous judgment.” He commended one, “Thou hast rightly judged.” He asked others, “Why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?” (John 7:24; Luke 7:43; 12:57).
One of the reasons for the Church being in a sickly condition today is that believers have not obeyed the commands of God’s Word to judge error. “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Rom 16:17). The false teachers made the “divisions,” and not those who protest against their errors.
It is our privilege and responsibility to do all we can to encourage the spiritual growth of others. We are to love and pray for one another, and to consider ourselves lest we be tempted. The safest and most profitable thing to do is to judge ourselves. “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened (child-trained) of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” (1 Cor 11:31, 32).
“It will make all the difference if we judge our own faults unlovingly how we judge the faults of others; and judge the failings of others as lovingly as we do our own!
- Miles J Stanford