IS IT RIGHT TO JUDGE?

Reprinted December 27, 2004 (first published July 14, 1996) (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, fbns@wayoflife.org) -

The following is by the late Franklin G. Huling:

This question, Is it right to judge? is one that puzzles many sincere Christians. A careful and open-minded study of the Bible makes it 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 TO JUDGE

The Lord Jesus Christ commanded, "Judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24). He told a man, "Thou hast rightly judged" (Luke 7:43). To others, our Lord asked, "Why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?" (Luke 12:57).

The Apostle Paul wrote, "I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say" (1 Corinthians 10:15). Again, Paul declared, "He that is spiritual judgeth all things" (1 Corinthians 2:15). It is our positive duty to judge.

FALSE TEACHERS AND 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 speak not according to THIS WORD, it is because there is NO LIGHT in them" (Isaiah 8:20). "Ye shall know them by their fruits," Christ said (Matthew 7:16). And in judging the "fruits," we must judge by God's Word, not by what appeals to human reasoning. Many things seem good to human judgment which are false to the Word of God.

The Apostle Paul admonished believers, "Now I beseech you, brethren, MARK THEM which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and AVOID THEM. 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." (Romans 16:17-18). This apostolic command could not be obeyed were it not 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 ye separate, saith the Lord." (2 Corinthians 6:17; read also verses 14-18)

"From such turn away" (2 Timothy 3:5). "Withdraw yourselves." (2 Thessalonians 3:6)

"And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." (Ephesians 5:11)

"ABHOR THAT WHICH IS EVIL; CLEAVE TO THAT WHICH IS GOOD." (Romans 12:9)

"Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." (1 Thessalonians 5:21)

It would be impossible to obey these injunctions of God's Word unless it were right to judge. And remember, nothing is "good" in God's sight that is not true to His Word.

The Apostle John wrote, "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try (test, judge) the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). Again he wrote, "For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh... If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, RECEIVE HIM NOT into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of 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 missionaries or teachers, he is guilty before God, according to this Scripture, of bidding them "God speed" in the most effective way possible. And 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 whom Christ died. When we are willing to suffer for Christ, we can readily see the truth of God's Word on this tremendously important matter. "If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him" (2 Timothy 2:12).

MISUNDERSTOOD AND MISUSED SCRIPTURE

One of the best known and most important and misapplied Scriptures is "Judge not" (Matthew 7:1). Let us examine the entire passage:

"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 considereth 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 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 7:1-5)

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 judgment--"Then thou shalt see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy 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 (2 Peter 3:16). Let this be a warning to us never again to take a text or Scripture out of its context.

Many who piously quote, "Judge not," out of its connection, in order to defend that which 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 Christendom is today honeycombed and paralyzed by Satanic Modernism is because Christians have not obeyed the command 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, whether those 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 or 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 the Scripture is of any private (isolated) interpretation" (2 Peter 1:20). "Comparing spiritual things (words) with spiritual" (1 Corinthians 2:13).

THE WHEAT AND THE TARES

The "Wheat and the Tares" parable of Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43, is also 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 seed 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 lot" 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 com manded to "purge out" these unbelievers (1 Corinthians 5:7). But God's people have disobeyed His Word about this, and so unbelievers 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 ye separate, saith 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

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 among yourselves that wicked person" (2 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 shall 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, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves" (2 Corinthians 13:5). "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 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 charitably 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, O, how much dishonour and lack of fruit would our blessed Lord be spared!

LIMITATIONS OF HUMAN JUDGMENT

We are not to judge scruples. 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.

We are also not to judge motives. See 1 Corinthians 4:1-5. Only God can see into the heart and know the motives that underlie actions.

We are also not to judge who is saved. "The Lord knoweth them that are His" (2 Timothy 2:19). We cannot look into anyone's heart and say whether or not they have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour, if they profess that they have. But we had better test ourselves according to 2 Corinthians 5:17: "If any man be IN CHRIST, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." If this change has not taken place, our profession is vain.

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 yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve 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" (Hebrews 5:14).

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, "Venegeance is Mine, I will repay, saith the Lord" (Romans 12:19).

Thus Christians are to exercise discernment, but not vengeance.

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 upbuilding. We ought to love and pray for one another and consider ourselves lest we be tempted.

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 that "judgment must begin at the house of God; and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the Gospel?" (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. Make Him the Lord of your life. Happy and blessed will you be, now and forever.