“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye” (Matt. 7:1-5).
The shallow handling by churches of what the Bible says about judging totally ignores verses where Christians are commanded to judge. As usual, I have had to study the matter out myself rather than rely on church leaders when it comes to doctrine, in which pastors presume to be the final authority.
For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. Purge the evil person from among you. . . . Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! (1 Cor. 5:12-13, 6:2-3).
These two passages seem to be contradictory. The question becomes, Are we to judge or not? Often the response from another Christian if someone tries to rebuke him is, “You are judging me.” Is that really true? Jesus said, “If your brother sins against you rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17:3). Many Christians assume rebuking someone is judging; it is not. So I want to examine when it is appropriate to judge and when it is not, as well as what we are supposed to judge. We will also examine what it means to judge biblically. Most Christians are totally ignorant or confused on this point like I was until I did this study.
At least one reason for the apparent contradictions is that different Greek words are often translated “judge” in English although the actual meanings are different.
When Jesus said, “Do not judge,” in Matt. 7:1, it is the word krino. Strong’s Dictionary says this concerning krino:
Properly to distinguish, that is, decide (mentally or judicially); by implication to try, condemn, punish: - avenge, conclude, condemn, damn, decree, determine, esteem, judge, go to (sue at the) law, ordain, call in question, sentence to, think.
One word here particularly describes the type of judging Jesus was commanding us not to do since it is only God’s prerogative, and that is the word “condemn.”
In 1 Corinthians 2:15, Paul says, But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. The word used here in the Greek is anakrino. It is the same as krino with a prefix, but this changes the meaning. Here is the Strong’s Dictionary definition:
From G303 and G2919; properly to scrutinize, that is, (by implication) investigate, interrogate, determine: - ask, question, discern, examine, judge, search.
Notice the words here that the Greek means include “scrutinize” and “discern.” We are certainly called to judge both our actions and people with whom we fellowship in this way, otherwise we would not be heeding the warning that “Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Cor. 15:33).
Paul used another word in the following verse:
For if we would [judge] ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world (1 Cor. 11:31-32).
In this verse, the idea is clearly self-examination. The word here in brackets is diakrino. This word is defined by Strong’s:
From G1223 and G2919; to separate thoroughly, that is, (literally and reflexively) to withdraw from, or (by implication) oppose; figuratively to discriminate (by implication decide), or (reflexively) hesitate: - contend, make (to) differ (-ence), discern, doubt, judge, be partial, stagger, waver.
Notice the emphasis on separating.
Although these different Greek words help solve some of the apparent contradictions in English, they still do not solve all the problems, such as in the first two verses quoted at the beginning of this article. They both use the word krino. Paul used the word krino when he said, Is it not those inside of the church whom you are to judge? – the exact word which Jesus used to say not to judge.
We are to judge those inside of the church in certain ways, but in other ways we are not to judge. What Paul is talking about judging here is sin and people who sin in the church. Church leaders have a responsibility to purge the church of people who refuse to repent of their sins. This was the case in Corinth. Of course, we know this does not usually happen in the churches anymore, and so our churches are full of sin. If someone is sinning in a church and someone else knows about it, he has a biblical responsibility to go to that person and confront him with his sin. If the person refuses to repent, the one confronting needs to bring a witness. If he or she still refuses to repent, it is supposed to go to the church leaders so they can investigate. If the accusation is proven true and the person in sin refuses to repent, the leaders are supposed to excommunicate the sinner. Remember, one of the definitions from Strong’s under krino was “go to law.” That is, a church should hold a church court for someone accused of sin if he refuses to repent. This is the type of judgment Paul is speaking of in I Corinthians chapters five and six.
Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore put away from yourselves the evil person (1 Cor. 5:12-13).
This is in keeping with what Jesus said to do in Matthew 18,
“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector” (Matt. 18:15-17).
As we know, this almost never happens in churches. Rarely do the people or the leaders ever exercise any church discipline. Like so many other instructions in the Bible about church order, they are ignored. Almost nothing in the Scriptures is ever done in churches anymore. It is a sad, sad state of affairs. It is as though church leaders could care less about God’s pattern. The reason this is so important is what we learn from the story of the battle of Ai in Joshua that one person’s sin can bring judgment on the whole congregation; if a person is in sin, it can affect you!
It should be emphasized that the highest judgment that a church can confer on a person is to excommunicate him from the church. It is up to God to deal with the sinner after that. But clearly the Lord has given the church the authority to judge someone to the degree of removing that person from at least that local church. If the person afterwards repents, he (or she) should be restored back to fellowship.
Another biblical definition of “judging” comes from James. He said,
Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another? (James 4:11-12).
Here, James says to speak evil of a brother is to judge [krino] him. This type of judging we are all guilty of and need to repent from. However, as mentioned above this should not keep us from confronting a brother or sister who has sinned against us or refuses to repent of sin and still is in fellowship with other Christians.
Most of the time when someone talks evil of another brother or sister, it is without any intentions of either confronting the person’s sin or any thoughts of trying to help the brother overcome his fault. This is the type of judgment that is condemned in the Bible. We will look more at when we are to judge and when not to in my next blog.