Although we must judge what people say and do in order to have a healthy church and a healthy family, we must also be hesitant to judge a person’s salvific standing, their relationship with God.
Contrary to what you might hear, Jesus never told us not to judge. Instead, He taught us to judge only after we have judged ourselves:
· “Judge not, that you be not judged…You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5; ESV)
We are to remove “the speck out of [our] brother’s eye,” but we first have to remove the log – the blindness, arrogance, self-righteousness, and rationalizations – from our own eye. In other words, we have to first examine and judge ourselves:
· But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. (1 Corinthians 11:31-32; Proverbs 20:5)
Once we do honestly examine ourselves, we are humbled, and perceive that, without God, we are “nothing.” This is what it means to be “spiritual.” Only after coming to this understanding, can we correct others:
· Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work. (Galatians 6:1-4)
We must be alert to the temptation to think we are “something,” when we are “nothing.” It is easy to delude ourselves into thinking so, when we take the “higher” position as we judge another. Instead, when we truly “test [our] own work,” we will not be inclined to look down on anyone. Rather, we understand that we cannot claim credit for anything good that comes out of our lives (1 Cor. 15:10; James 1:17)
However, judge we must:
However, judge we must:
· My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:19-20)
There are even times when our Lord will judge us when we fail to judge as we should (Revelation 2:14, 20). Paul had warned that we must deal with sin and false teaching in the midst of the church. If we don’t it will contaminate the entire church:
· Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. (1 Corinthians 5:6)
Love requires judgment. Here, Paul used the example of sexual immorality in the church. He argued that if it is not checked, it will undermine the entire church.
However, there are dangers in judging. Sometimes, we might go too far by judging a brother’s heart and salvific relationship with the Lord. We might even overstep Scripture by declaring, “You are going to hell.”
It is hard and perhaps unscriptural for us to make this kind of judgment. Judas had been among the disciples for three years. However, none of them had a clue that he was the “son of perdition” (John 17). Even after Jesus had announced that one of His disciples would betray him and even passed the sop to Judas to indicate that it was he, the disciples remained clueless.
In the opposite case of a man who looks unsaved but actually is saved, Lot had been living a highly compromised life in Sodom and then had sex with his two daughters after they had gotten him drunk. Our tendency would be to deem him a child of hell. However, our Lord indicates otherwise:
· …righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); (2 Peter 2:7-8)
These examples demonstrate that we do not see as God sees. God had warned the Prophet Samuel that even he could not judge the inner man:
· But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
We cannot judge what is most important – the heart. Paul had acknowledged this. While it might be easy to judge in some cases, in others, only the final judgment will reveal the children of God:
· The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. So also good works are conspicuous, and even those that are not cannot remain hidden. (1 Timothy 5:24-25)
Paul had to contend with many who were denying his ministry. He, therefore, explained:
· But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. (1 Corinthians 4:3-5)
While much is plain, there is much that remains hidden to our eyes. Consequently, we can only judge with the light that God has given us and not go beyond the Word (2 Cor. 4:6). If someone tells us that he has rejected Jesus and is now a servant of Satan, we can legitimately treat him as such.
However, many cases are not knowable to our eyes and ears, while others are, and we have to exercise discernment. However, some will say that we can know the children of God by their fruit. This is especially true if someone claims to be a prophet:
· “Beware of false prophets [and teachers], who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. (Matthew 7:15-17)
While we must exercise discernment in the case of those who claim to be prophets, pastors, and teachers, there are also many immature Christians who have not yet had the time to bear fruit. There are also brethren who bear such a heavy load of sin that their fruits are more difficult to detect. In such cases, we must be patient, humble, and gentle.
The Gospel is very offensive to this world. Let us not add to it our own offensiveness by unbiblically judging before the time.