When speaking on the topic of judging, it is not uncommon to hear people say, "Only God can judge me!" And this is true! But the issue is whether God uses man to proclaim His judgments.
Although God alone is the Judge, this does not mean that only God judges. In fact, the Word of God says that God enables man to judge, commands man to judge, and is pleased with those who seek to judge righteously.
Throughout time God has imparted to man the authority to judge (Leviticus 19:15; Deuteronomy 1:16; Deuteronomy 16:18; Judges 2:16-19; II Chronicles 19:5; Ezra 7:25; Isaiah 1:17; Ezekiel 23:45; John 7:24; Romans 2:27; I Corinthians 2:15; I Corinthians 6:).
God states that He gives those who obey Him the authority to judge:
"Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by."Zechariah 3:7
In the Old Testament, God specifically identified those who were set in positions as Judges over His people as chronicled in the Book of Judges. We also see that one responsibility of the prophets was to declare God's judgment to the people (Judges 4:4; II Samuel 12:1-12; Micah 3:1-8; Malachi 4:4; Hosea 6:5).
"And thou, Ezra, after the wisdom of thy God, that is in thine hand, set magistrates and judges, which may judge all the people that are beyond the river, all such as know the laws of thy God; and teach ye them that know them not." Ezra 7:25
Those who judge serve two purposes:
- To judge those who know the law; and
- To teach the law to those who do not know.
"Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?"
We see here that Solomon asked God for discernment to judge between what is good and bad. This request not only pleased the Lord, but God blessed Solomon greatly for asking for the wisdom to judge. The wisest man to ever live was so because he could judge righteously. Judging then is an attribute of Godly wisdom.
In the New Testament, God continues to expect us to exercise judgment. Jesus Himself criticized the Pharisees for being unable to judge the spiritual things of God. The importance of judging spiritual matters continued to be stressed throughout His disciples' ministries (Matthew 16:3; Luke 12:56-57; John 7:24; Acts 4:19; I Corinthians 2:15; I Corinthians 5:3; I Corinthians 6:2-5; I Corinthians 10:15; I Corinthians 14:29; Hebrews 5:14).
Further, we are told that it is to our shame if there is none among us who can judge the things of God. God states that judgment is considered one of the weightier aspects of God's law, even more than offerings (Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:14).
When citing God's "command" not to judge, people often refer to Matthew 7:1, however, let's look at the complete Scripture in context.
"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." (Matthew 7:1-5)
Jesus clearly says do not judge so that you will not be judged, but to whom is He speaking? He identifies His audience in verse 5 with the words "Thou hypocrite."
Jesus is not forbidding Christians to judge (unless He is calling every Christian a hypocrite). He is warning that we will be held accountable for sin when we practice sin. In other words, we have no moral authority from God to address sin in another's life when we are actively engaging in sin in our own. We are not talking about being sinless here. We are speaking of not being a sinner. Hypocrites are not to judge. Yet those who walk in obedience with the Lord are equipped by God to judge (Zechariah 3:7).
This is consistent with Paul's advice in I Corinthians 11:31-32 that we judge ourselves first so that we will not be judged. As Jesus says in verse 5, we should cast the beam out of our own eye and then we are in position to point out the fault to others.
In truth, God does not forbid us to judge, but He sets up conditions wherein we must judge.