Are Christians supposed to judge?

by Rob near L.A.

Yes, of course Christians are supposed to judge. We believe, obey and apply what we read in the Bible to everything we encounter in life. Only foolish Christians refuse to judge. The Bible is shockingly clear in 1 Thessalonians 5:21. "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." The Greek word for "prove" is δοκιμάζω dokimazō. It means (1) to test, examine, prove, scrutinise (to see whether a thing is genuine or not), as metals; (2) to recognise as genuine after examination, to approve, deem worthy.

Yes, Christians are supposed to judge, including judging doctrine. We are supposed to judge whether a pastor or Bible teacher is teaching God's truth or whether he is a false teacher. If a pastor is teaching false doctrine, we are NOT to support him.

Many Christians recoil in horror at the idea that they are supposed to judge anything. Their anti-judging belief comes from a snippet of Matthew 7:1 taken out of context, where Jesus says: “Judge not.” People get this quotation from Jesus wrong because they ignore context.

In the context of Matthew 7, Jesus is talking about legalistic, mean-spirited, unloving and hypocritical judgment. He warns the Pharisees that if they judge like hypocrites, Matthew 7:3-5, they will be judged as hypocrites.

Jesus is not telling us we should never judge anything or anyone's false teaching. He is not telling us we should never make a distinction between right and wrong. He is not talking about honest discerning judgment from a loving heart. In Matthew 7, Jesus is correcting abusive judgment as practiced by the Pharisees.

Open thy mouth, judge righteously,
and plead the cause of the poor and needy.

Proverbs 31:9, KJV

Judge not according to the appearance,
but judge righteous judgment.

Jesus in John 7:24, KJV

God designed us to make judgments ever day. Is this caramel machiato too hot? Is that taco too spicy? We judge style, color, taste, odor and sound. We judge whether we want to be friends with someone based on their honesty and kindness or whether we feel accepted and safe around them. Making judgments is a normal part of honest productive life.

Because words have meaning, Jesus cannot possibly be saying that Christians are never to judge anyone or anything. The “I must never judge anyone or anything” conclusion indicates an absence of logical thought. Notice that Jesus encourages us to judge in 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.”
Jesus expects us to judge whether someone is a dog or a pig in order to obey His command in Matthew 7:6. Therefore Jesus Himself illustrates his “Judge not” command by telling us to judge with discernment by judging ourselves first, Matthew 7:3-5. The danger Jesus warns against is unfair, unloving, unrighteous, mean-spirited judgment.

What else does the Bible
say about judgment?

1. We should not judge in an unloving legalistic or hypocritical way.

“Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” John 7:24. Jesus encourages us to use discernment when we judge.

2. Christians should judge based on what the Bible says in context.

“But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.” 1 Corinthians 2:15

This is the essence of discerning judgment. We discern the true facts of a situation and judge based on facts, truth and genuine love.

In the Pauline context, a spiritual man is someone who is saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, Ephesians 2:8-9. We are born of the Spirit, John 3:6, we are justified by faith, Romans 5:1, we are already seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, Ephesians 2:6.

Christ Jesus has been made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption,” 1 Cor 1:31. We “walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit,” Romans 8:1.

Given these truths, we judge all things with a loving heart, based on how the Holy Spirit leads us according to the written words of God, 2 Timothy 2:15, 3:15-17. We judge carefully, when necessary, remembering we do not have all the answers and we do not pretend to be perfect.

Yet as imperfect human beings who are saved by grace alone, washed in the blood of the Lamb, Revelation 1:5, 7:14, led by God the Holy Spirit, John 16:13, we judge righteous judgment, John 7:24 because Jesus, God the Son, told us to.

3. We should not judge in a contemptuous or unloving way.

“But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ... Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.” Romans 14:10-13.

Loving and gracious discernment is the key to judging fairly. We have no right to put a heavy burden of legalism upon our brothers and sisters, Acts 15:10, 24. And we have no right to enforce on others, standards we refuse to apply to ourselves.

4. We should judge matters of immorality in the church, 1 Cor 5:10-11.

“For what have I to do to judge them that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?” (the church). 1 Corinthians 5:12

The heterosexual divorce epidemic and the porn epidemic ravages the body of Christ in the twenty-first century. According to Jesus, God has already judged and condemned the world, John 3:18, 36.

Christians are supposed to keep our own lives clean by judging ourselves and judging in the church and dissociating from sexually immoral believers. And just for the record, committed partnerships or marriage between two men or two women are not immoral.

5. We should judge common sense things which affect the church and this life.

“Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?” 1 Corinthians 6:2-3

Discerning between right and wrong is part of living a normal life. Christians should judge matters which affect the church yet our judgment must be based on what scripture says in context.

6. We must reject unloving legalistic judgment which tries to put us under Old Testament law.

Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days.” Colossians 2:16

No one has the right to judge us for not keeping Jewish law so Paul says not to let anyone judge you about that. The teaching here is that because we are not under Old Testament law, Romans 6:14, we must not allow someone to psych us into living under law. And we should not allow anyone to guilt-trip us into living by their opinion.

Points to remember

  1. Correct judging is Biblically-focused and loving

  2. Correct judging starts with self-examination, 1 Cor 11:28-31, Matt 7:2ff.

  3. Correct judging is not hypocritical, Romans 2:1-4

  4. Correct judgment is always loving and based on truth, Ephesians 4:15

  5. Correct judging is not constant condemnation

  6. Correct judging is not constant criticism

  7. Correct judging is not mean and hateful

  8. Correct judging is always discerning

  9. Correct judging is always scriptural

  10. Correct judging is not belittling

  11. Correct judging is not nagging

So that we are clear, we are NOT to judge each others motives. We are not able to "discern the thoughts and intents of the heart," Hebrews 4:12. That is God's job. Only God can judge someone's heart because God can see the heart, 1 Samuel 16:7. God alone knows the secrets of the heart, Psalm 44:21. God alone can weigh motives, Proverbs 16:2. Finally, God alone "will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ," Romans 2:16. For that reason, we are not to judge motives. We trust God to do that on His schedule, 1 Corinthians 4:5.

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This page revised June 29, 2015

Comments for Are Christians supposed to judge?

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Mar 20, 2015
by: John Richard

Excellent article, Pastor! I am so sick of the nonsense people spout on the subject I could scream. They even get judgmental at one for demanding normal discernment on things, and of course they use the the two-word mantra yanked from Matt. 7 as an excuse for total gutlessness. I love pointing out to people the harsh words Christ, Paul and others rightly gave evildoers.

It's also nice to see you get a break from reinforcing the basics. I know this is very necessary.

I can't remember the last time I saw any preacher expound proper judgment. Mostly they want to just talk about God's graaaaaaaaace, how he just loves everybody all the time and forgives everything we could possibly do. They abuse the Prodigal Son parable similarly. Hope all is well with you.

Rick's comment: Hi John - thanks for your kind comments and well wishes. They are much appreciated.

Mar 20, 2015
by: John Richard

A pleasure. I see the article's by Rob near L.A., so blessings on him as well!

Rick's comment: Hi John - the question was asked by Rob near L.A. I then answered Rob's question via the article I wrote. I used to put my name on all of the articles but decided that was redundant since it is my website and I am usually the author. Sometimes I post something by a guest author but that is a rare occurrence.

Apr 29, 2015
Righteous judgment - does it even still exist?
by: Tony

The verse about not judging others, I've always believed and quoted indirectly, but the righteous judgment addition, sometimes that seems like an oxymoron, because a lot of conservatives don't have much if any tact, and that, I have major issues with, even though I've done it too, I jump the gun a lot, and often have problems biting my tongue depending on the subject debate. If people would try being more tactful with debating things, I could agree with r. J. but until then, and I'm not holding my breath, its better to say your piece and keep going.

Rick's comment: Hi Tony - Judging righteous judgment comes from applying what the Bible says, in context. In plainer words, Christians need to read and study the Bible, in context and then apply what they have read and studied and believed when they judge.

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