Saturday, April 10

What's With All the Confusion About "Judging"?

IF you've been a pastor any length of time (or even a mature Christian) you're bound to have heard every conceivable approach to the subject of judging that there is. Even those who care little about the Bible will declare with certainty, "Well, doesn't the Bible teach that you're not supposed to judge?!" It's in the air we breathe! But is that all that the Bible teaches on the subject of judging?

Here's a test. 
Just go into any Bible-believing church and ask them, "Does the Bible teach anywhere that we ARE to judge?" And just listen to the answers. Hopefully, I'm wrong, but time and experience have taught me that the lion's share of Christian folk are locked in on this subject. Their answer will most likely be . . . "Never!"

REALLY. Are Christians never supposed to judge?

I want to answer this question. But if you are looking for a humanistic answer. Skip this post. I am not the least bit interested in what man has to say about this (or any) subject. I want to know . . . and ABIDE by what the Scripture teaches, what the Spirit of God says through His authoritative WORD! First . . .

It Depends!
That's right. Most who deny any judging are thinking of Matthew 7:1ff, "Judge not lest you be judged. For with whatever judgment you judge, you yourself will be judged." This verse is speaking about judging the motives of people's hearts, which, of course we cannot do and must not try. Why? 1) Because we cannot know infallibly what someone's thinking. Only God reads the heart and knows our intentions. 2) The "Love" chapter, 1 Corinthians 13 teaches us that "love believes all things," which is another way of saying love "believes the best about someone." So, we (if we love) will not "jump to conclusions, but will give the other person the benefit of the doubt. OK, so that is the general rule on THAT kind of judging. Remember, Matthew 7:1 says that IF you do judge, be prepared to be judged by the same standard. If you can judge that way, you are probably on safe ground. NOTE: It seems that many of those touting this verse are trying to avoid anyone judging THEM because they have already determined that they are living sinful lives! Unfortunately, many Christians fall for such a deceptive maneuver and back off. 

Another King of Judging
But the Bible clearly teaches another kind of judgment and we must not be ignorant of it! Starting with the verses immediately after Matthew 7:1, Jesus urges us not to "give that which is holy to the dogs," and swine trample the pearls of the gospel under their feet etc. So, who is Jesus expecting will determine who are those "dogs" and "swine?" Point here is that WE must assess the "dogs" and "swine" (not at all meaning that we call them such). Jesus is urging us to discern those who will not rightly determine the gospel to be the rare jewel that it really is, like pigs not being able to appreciate the value of real pearls!

Jesus, in John 7:24, tells us not to "judge according to the appearance, but to judge righteous judgment," that is to tell the difference between true and false religious practices. Further, Paul, after warning the Corinthians that "natural" men do not understand the things pertaining to God, offers that the "spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one" (1 Cor. 2:14-15). Meaning? The spiritually minded person has the inner "Spirit" capacity to discern true and false faith, spiritual from non-spiritual, things of God verses things of man. That they are "judged by no one" refers to their spiritual status which is earned by Christ's blood and affirmed by grace through the Spirit. Therefore it is outside the purview of man's ability to detect. It is confirmed in and through the Holy Spirit. The Lord God knows the truth about our true spiritual status. We do not, according to Paul, judge even ourselves. Why? God is our judge. And his judgment is always perfect. 

One More
Paul commands the Roman believers: 
I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive (Romans 16:17).
See the clarity in this? He's expecting the Christians to detect who is causing divisions and creating obstacles doctrinally, which means you have to be able to discern error and declare it wrong and discipline it out of the church! Again, this is a type of judgment.

There's more. But this is perhaps enough to get across the point that one must not subtract from God's Word that which it DOES teach on judging, or for that matter on ANY subject!   


Pastor Bob Leroe said...

I think more Christians would "get" this if we better defined our term. "He who is spiritual judges all things" doesn't mean in this context "condemn to Hell", but "appraise", which wisdom does as a matter of course. This is part of having a Christian worldview. Great/thought-provoking blog entry!

David R. Nelson said...

Thank you, Bob. I know in your years of experience, you've run across quite a bit of this argument-lite!

God bless you, brother!