Although Scripture shows that God expects, equips, and commands man to judge, there are stipulations that govern this decree.
We must not be hypocrites when judging
God states that when we judge others for committing sins and yet we are actively participating in sin too, we are condemning ourselves. (Matthew 7:1-5; Luke 6:37-42; Romans 2:1-5; Romans 2:20-23)
This is clearly depicted in God's judgment of David for the killing of Uriah. The prophet Nathan approached David for judgment regarding a story of a rich man that had stolen from a poor man. Yet, after David pronounces his judgment, Nathan's words were, "Thou art the man..." (II Samuel 12:1-7)
God is warning us that we will be measured by the same yardstick with which we measure others.
We are also told not to judge according to appearances or by the flesh
Sound judgment cannot be based on what we see, hear, or think. Since God's thoughts and ways are are higher than ours, He is not bound by our perceptions, opinions, or prejudices.
This again is a confirmation that God alone is The Judge. Our judgments must therefore be based in His word in order for them to be true. (John 7:24; John 8:15; James 2:1-4)
We are not to judge those who are outside of the faith
"I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? Do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person." I Corinthians 5:9-13
It should not be news that those who are lost are still in need of salvation. It should therefore be expected if such a person is a drunkard, fornicator, idolater... They are not saved, so what else could they be? Only the power of God makes us overcomers of sin.
Remember, the word translated as "judge" here (krinō) has multiple meanings; to separate from, to esteem, to pronounce judgment over, to govern; to determine.... God is not saying here that we shouldn't tell sinners about their sin. The context is clear that He is talking about government within the Body of Christ and separation from believers in willful sin.
If we separate from sinners and are never around them, then how are we to witness to them? How will they come to know the Lord if He is never preached to them (Romans 10:14-15)? This sentiment is reiterated in Luke 6:35-38 as we are commanded to "judge not" and "do good" to those outside of the faith as a witness to the goodness of the Lord.
On the other hand, once a person becomes a member of the Body of Christ, they become accountable as an extension of the Body. They are expected to follow the Lord's commands. One who confesses to be a believer yet is in defiant rebellion against Him should be separated from.
Notice that the sinner of the world is still "judged" to be a fornicator, covetous, extortioner, etc. Not judging those who are without does not mean that their sin is to be ignored. God is simply telling us that there is a different standard for those within the faith versus those without, because a little leaven leavens the whole lump (I Corinthians 5:6; Galatians 5:9). While we can still interact with sinners as part of preaching the Gospel, we must not fellowship with unrepentant believers.
We are not to judge others regarding legalistic adherence to ordinances
This includes items such as holyday (holiday) observances and what to eat or drink, for such are only matters of faith (Romans 14:1-23; I Corinthians 8:7-13; I Corinthians 10:28-33; Colossians 2:16-23).
Scripture states that in Christ we have liberty which frees us from the law of sin and death (Luke 4:18; Romans 8:21; I Corinthians 10:29; II Corinthians 3:17; Galatians 2:4; Galatians 5:1, 13; James 1:25; James 2:12; I Peter 2:16; )
This is the same liberty that allows Paul to say, "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not."(I Corinthians 10:23)
Although the Son has made us free, we can only walk in this liberty to the degree that we have faith in God. This is why we are told to be "fully persuaded in our own minds" because "whatever is not done in faith is sin." (Romans 14:5, 23)
If someone - whom the Scripture describes as having weaker faith - chooses to adhere to such ordinances, they are doing so as unto the Lord. To judge them is to place a stumbling block before them because you are attempting to get them to commit what in their minds is sin. (Romans 14:13; Romans 9:32) This is why we are warned, "But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak."(I Corinthians 8:9)
Likewise, those who are walking in the liberty of Christ should not be judged by those who choose to adhere to such ordinances. As stated in I Corinthians 10:29-30, "Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man's conscience? For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?"
Those who make judgments in these areas are mistaking matters of faith for matters of doctrine.
We should not judge anyone's eternal destiny
Although we will judge the truth (in ourselves, in others and in doctrine) based on the Word of God, only God can bring about the consequences of His judgments: justification for the righteous and condemnation for the wicked (I Kings 8:32; II Chronicles 6:23).
"But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.
Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God." I Corinthians 4:3-5
Here Paul says that although he will be judged by his brethren, justification can only occur from the Lord and will only be known at Jesus' second coming. God alone knows the end of the matter from the beginning.
We should not base judgments on malicious lies or evil misrepresentations
"Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?" James 4:11-12
To "speak evil of" in this Scripture is the Greek word Katalaleo which means to malign, vilify, or traduce. It means exposing someone to contempt or shame based on false witness.
This is why James says that such judgments are actually judgments of the law, because false testimony is a perversion of the law. Obviously, we should not judge others under these conditions.
It should also be noted that these are the circumstances under which Jesus was judged by the religious leaders of His day (Matthew 26:59-66; Mark 14:55-64). They sought false witnesses by which they could judge Him for blasphemy.
Further, we are warned that as Christians, we should expect to be subjected to these same "evil" judgments by the world.
"Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ." I Peter 3:16 (also I Peter 2:12)
- Didn't God instruct us not to judge
- What does it mean to judge
- Who is supposed to judge
- How do we judge
- What are the restrictions on judging
- Why are we to judge