It use to be that John 3:16 was the most often quoted Bible verse. Today it seems the most often quoted Bible verse is Matthew 7:1, "Judge not, that ye be not judged." Some use it without realizing its true meaning and others, Christians and non Christians, use it to avoid accountability. Hypocrites, for example, would use it to avoid being challenged in their wrong doing. It seems to be used as the Gospel by pro-gay groups, liberal politicians and others. When they take the verse out of context they can change the meaning of it and they have done this with Matthew 7:1. What does this verse really mean? Does this verse teach that we cannot judge others?
The next verse down, Matthew 7:2 tells us that we will be judged by the same standard we judge others. So it isn't prohibiting judging. In Matthew 7:16 we are told how to recognize the false prophets, "you will recognize them by their fruits." Jesus would not be telling us how to recognize false prophets if He did not expect us to judge them as being true prophets or false prophets. Our world is characterized by deceit and falsehood making it absolutely necessary that we judge. We have a command in Matthew 24:4 to not be deceived. We can only fulfill that command if we judge. However, we are commanded to not judge by appearance but to judge righteous judgment, John 7:24.
Therefore, the answer to our question is that Christians are to judge others. If judging others is unchristian, as some charge, we would be unable to have the various levels of government, we would be unable to be a good parent, we would certainly make a poor employer, none of us would be able to sit on a jury and the list goes on.
Jesus does condemn a critical and judgmental spirit, one with a sense of moral superiority. He commanded us to examine ourselves first for the problems that we so easily see in others. It is when we examine ourselves that we can better see the problem and get help for our own problem first. Christians are not only commanded to judge, but to judge righteously and not just by appearance. John 7:24, "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment."
Christians must use spiritual discernment in coming to conclusions on matters of right or wrong or good and evil. Judgment that judges right from wrong and good from evil is always legitimate judgment for Christians. Hebrews 5:14 states, "But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." Christians can discern both good and evil which according to the Bible is a legitimate judgment.
If a person is doing wrong, and I tell them they are doing wrong I am not judging that person but I am judging that persons behavior. God will judge the intent or motivation of man, Romans 2:16, "In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel."
The Greek word for judge is "krino" which means, according to W.E. Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, "to separate, select, and choose, hence, to determine, and so to judge, pronounce judgment." This is spiritual discernment and, as we shall see in the following, it is required by God. Judgment for punishment or sentencing belongs to God and not to mankind. Romans 12:19 explains, "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine I will repay, saith the Lord." Hebrews 9:27 , "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:"
Paul, writing to the Corinthians stated in 1 Corinthians 6:1-2, The saints, believers, shall judge the world, so judging is not only permitted, but required. If a Christian has a matter against another Christian he/she is to take it before the saints, believers. This can only be done if Christians can judge the right or wrong of the matter. Therefore, it is not unchristian to judge others, when done in a righteous manner.
Now look at the next two verses, 1 Corinthians 6:3-4, Not only is mankind held to a standard, this verse implies that angels also have a standard. The saints, or believers, are to judge angels, so there must be a standard for them as well as for mankind. Obviously, Christians are to judge the things that pertain to this life.
There is a proper way to judge. Matthew 7:1 states, "Judge not, that ye be not judged." This means that we can judge, but we must first judge ourselves, confessing our sins, and then judge righteously, not condemning. 1 Corinthians 11:31-32. If we as Christians would judge ourselves first, and judge others in the same manner we would certainly be more charitable in judging others.
Some would say, "Hey, I have seen you do the same thing so you cannot judge me for doing it." This is covered in the verse following the "Judge not" verse in Matthew. Matthew 7:4-5. Before I can judge another, I must not have any unconfessed sin in my life. If I have unconfessed sin in my life, then I cannot judge. When I come before God in prayer and confess those sins, I can then judge properly. Therefore, having done the same thing I can still judge, if my sins have been dealt with. If I confess my sins I can then biblically judge others.
There are many biblical examples that show Christians are required to judge. In 1 Corinthians 5:1, and the verses following, Paul writes of a church member living in open immorality. This church member's sin was being ignored, and when Paul heard of it, he judged the immorality of the sin and demanded the member be turned over to Satan for destruction of the flesh. In other words, he was put outside the spiritual protection of the local Church. 1 Corinthians 5:3. Therefore, the church, which is an assembly of believers, is to judge members of the assembly.
Further on, in Matthew 7:15-16, we are told to beware of false prophets. If we are to beware of false prophets, we must be able to know them, and we can only do that by judging. Verse 16 goes on to tell us we shall know them by their fruit, so we are to judge them by their fruit. Verse 17 explains further about the fruit, "Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit."
The letter to the Ephesians gives more information about the fruit, Ephesians 5:11 , "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." To have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, we must be able to judge, and not only that, we are to reprove them! Many Christians are wrongly judged for judging right or wrong, never mind reproving anyone.
Right after the "Judge not" passage we have, a few verses later, a command. Matthew 7:6, "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you." It is obvious that one must exercise spiritual discernment, by judging, to fulfill this command.
What standard are we to use for spiritual discernment? The original question of judgment was the use of the Bible verse of Matthew 7:1 to "Judge not." Since a Bible verse was first used, it is the Bible that is to be used as a standard of right and wrong and spiritual discernment. The Bible has the only absolute moral standards, but the relativist would respond that there are no absolute standards and those who use them are being arrogant and judgmental. These accusations are unwarranted, but the absolutist could respond that the relativist has just made a judgment, and is also being arrogant and judgmental.
If a Christian makes a judgment from a sense of moral superiority he/she would be wrong. The proper sense of morality would be that, except for the grace of God there go I, rather than a false sense of moral superiority. The Bible requires a Christian to use spiritual discernment to come to the truth of a matter, but no where does the Bible address this matter for an unbeliever, possibly because the unbeliever is unable to use spiritual discernment since he/she is spiritually dead.
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