This question, “Is it right to judge?” is one that puzzles many sincere Christians. A careful and open-minded study of the Bible makes it clear that concerning certain vital matters, it is not only right, but a positive duty to judge. Many do not know that the scripture commands us to judge.
The Lord Jesus Christ commanded, “Judge righteous judgment.” Jn. 7:24. He told a man, “Thou hast rightly judged.” Lk. 7:43. To others, our Lord asked, “Why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?” Lk. 12:57.
The apostle Paul wrote, “I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.” I Cor. 10:15. Again, Paul declared, “He that is spiritual judgeth all things.” I Cor. 2:15. It is our positive duty to judge.
False Teachers and False Teaching
“Beware of false prophets!” (Matt. 7:15) is the warning and command of our Lord. But how could we “beware” and how could we know they are “false prophets” if we did not judge? And what is the God given standard by which we are to judge? “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Isa. 8:20. “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:16), Christ said. And in judging the “fruits,” we must judge by God’s Word, not by what appeals to human reasoning. Many things seem good to human judgment which are false to the Word of God.
The apostle Paul admonished believers, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” Rom. 16:17, 18. This apostolic command could not be obeyed were it not right to judge. God wants us to know His Word and then test all teachers and teaching by it. Notice also that it is the false teachers who make the “divisions,” and not those who protest against their false teaching. And these deceivers are not serving Christ, as they profess, “but their own belly,” or their own “bread and butter,” as we would put it. We are to “mark” and “avoid them.”
“Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord” (II Cor. 6:17, read verses 14-18). “From such turn away.” II Tim. 3:5. “Withdraw yourselves.” II Thess. 3:6. “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” Eph. 5:11. “Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.” Rom. 12:9. “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” I Thess. 5:21. It would be impossible to obey these injunctions of God’s Word unless it were right to judge! And remember, nothing is “good” in God’s sight that is not true to His Word.
The apostle John wrote, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try [test, judge] the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” I Jn. 4:1. Again he wrote, “For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh . . . If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.” II Jn. 7, 10, 11. This scripture commands us to judge between those who do, and those who do not bring the true doctrine of Christ.
Whenever a child of God . . . supports Modernist (liberal, compromising) missionaries or teachers, he is guilty before God, according to this scripture, of bidding them “God speed” in the most effective way possible. And he thereby becomes a “partaker” with them of their “evil deeds” of spreading soul damning poison. How terrible, but how true! Arouse yourself, child of God. If you are guilty, ask God to forgive you and help you never again to be guilty of the blood of souls for whom Christ died. When we are willing to suffer for Christ, we can readily see the truth of God’s Word on this tremendously important matter. “If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him.” II Tim. 2:12.
Misunderstood and Misused Scripture
One of the best known and most misunderstood and misapplied scriptures is “Judge not” (Matt. 7:1). Let us examine the entire passage:
“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.” Matt. 7:1-5.
Read this again carefully. Notice that it is addressed to a hypocrite!–not to those who sincerely want to discern whether a teacher or teaching is true or false to God’s Word. And instead of being a prohibition against honest judgment, it is a solemn warning against hypocritical judgment. In fact, the last statement of the scripture commands sincere judgment–“Then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” If we take a verse or a part of a verse out of its setting, we can make the Word of God appear to teach the very opposite of what it really does teach. And those who do this cannot escape the judgment of God for twisting His Word (II Pet. 3:16). Let this be a warning to us never again to take a text of scripture out of its context.
Many who piously quote, “Judge not,” out of its context, in order to defend that which is false to God’s Word, do not see their own inconsistency in thus judging those who would obey God’s Word about judging that which is untrue to the Bible. It is tragic that so much that is anti-scriptural has undeservedly found shelter behind a misuse of the scripture just quoted. The reason the professed church of Christ is today honeycombed and paralysed by satanic Modernism is because Christians have not obeyed the commands of God’s Word to judge and put away and separate from false teachers and false teaching when they first appeared in their midst. Physical health is maintained by separation from disease germs. Spiritual health is maintained by separation from germs of false doctrine. The greatest peril of our day is not too much judging, but too little judging of spiritual falsehood. God wants His children to be like the noble Bereans who “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” Acts 17:11.
Romans 2:1-3 is also addressed to the religious hypocrite who condemned himself because he was guilty of the same things for which he condemned others.
James 4:11-12 refers to an evil spirit of back-biting and fault finding, not to judging whether teachers or teaching agree or disagree with God’s Word. The Bible never contradicts itself. To understand one portion of scripture we must view it in the light of all scripture. “No prophecy of the scripture is of any private [isolated] interpretation.” II Pet. 1:20. “Comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” I Cor. 2:13.
The “wheat and tares” parable of Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43, is much misunderstood. First of all, our Lord is talking about the world, not His church–“the field is the world.” He goes on to say that “the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one.” Matt. 13:38. They are the two groups in the world; children of God–those who have received Christ (Jn. 1:12), and the children of the devil–those who reject Christ (Jn. 8:44). When any of the “children of the wicked one” get into [come around] the professed church of Christ, as they have always done, a definite procedure for God’s children is set forth in His Word. First, it is their duty to tell them that they have “neither part nor lot” in Christ (see Acts 8:21-23 and context). If the children of the devil do not leave voluntarily, as is generally the case, God’s children are commanded to “purge out” (I Cor. 5:7) these unbelievers. But God’s people have disobeyed His Word about this, and so unbelievers [and disobedient brethren–II Thess. 3:6, 14, 15] have gotten into control, as is now the case in most denominations. Therefore, those who purpose to be true to Christ and His Word are commanded to “come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord” (II Cor. 6:17), regardless of property or any other considerations.
When we obey God’s Word, we can trust Him to take care of all the consequences of our obedience.