John 7:24

Beginning with Moses, God set judges over his people to decide disputes between them, and to teach them God’s statutes and laws. “When they have a matter, they come unto me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make them know the statutes of God, and his laws.” Exodus 18:16 (KJV). He set very strict criteria for the people who were to have this authority over others. “Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them,” Exodus 18:21. They were not to judge according to their own understanding, or by the community standing of the ones being judged. “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour.” Leviticus 19:15. “Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him. Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God’s:Deuteronomy 1:16b-17. “Take heed what ye do: for ye judge not for man, but for the Lord, who is with you in the judgment. Wherefore now let the fear of the Lord be upon you; take heed and do it: for there is no iniquity with the Lord our God, nor respect of persons, nor taking of gifts [bribes].” 2 Chronicles 19:6-7.

By nature and training I am a very judgmental person. God has dealt very strongly with me about not judging others, and about turning God’s light on myself instead. There is, however, a balance in all things, and there are times and circumstances when we must judge. We are to remove ourselves from those who claim to be Christians but live in open immorality. They are in rebellion against God and become very indignant if anyone suggests that there might be something wrong in their lives.

We are to “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” John 7:24. Before we can make righteous judgment against others, we must deal with the sin in our own lives. “Thus shall ye do in the fear of the Lord, faithfully, and with a perfect heart.” 2 Chronicles 19:9. Righteous judgment can only be made in accordance with God’s view of the situation. This can only be learned by personal, prayerful study of what is written in Scripture with the personal revelation and illumination of the Holy Spirit, not by what someone (even a famous or scholarly someone) said it means. Someone who feels competent to judge, is not. Only someone who has passed through competence to an acute realization of his own weakness can be trusted to judge according to Godly judgment. (Moses spent forty years in the wilderness getting past competence before God sent him back to deliver, lead, and judge His people. Exodus 1-4.)

When a person becomes a Christian, any basis he had for a close relationship with unbelievers is removed. Sometimes he realizes this immediately, and sometimes over a period of time. As he draws closer to God, ungodly things fall away. It is not that he has to “give up” anything, but these things lose their attraction.

The only ones who cannot be saved are those who refuse or ignore the free gift of salvation, either because they have no consciousness of their own sinfulness, or because they feel so full of sin that they feel unworthy of being saved. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live. Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live? But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.” Ezekiel 18:20-24.

“Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord God. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.” Ezekiel 18:30-32.

In 1 Corinthians 5 Paul talks extensively of judging, but in verses 10&11 he makes it quite clear that he is speaking only of those who claim to be Christians. If Christians live in open sin, we are not to associate with them in Christian fellowship. In verse 10 he says that he is not speaking of non-Christians because then we would have to go out of the world. A Christian is saved. That does not mean he is perfect, but that he is willing for God to work in and through his life. It means that he is willing to be shown his own shortcomings, and is willing to work to overcome them or to release them for God to remove them.

There are times we must speak out to warn another of his sin. “So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.” Ezekiel 33:7-9. It is not necessary to beat him over the head relentlessly about his sin. Sometimes it is necessary “To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” 1 Corinthians 5:5. We should then turn our energy to prayer that God will find a way to reach him. If we can begin to reflect God’s love to him while he is yet a sinner, and not our own condemnation, he can let down his defenses long enough to respond to the working of the Holy Spirit in his life. We are to judge his actions, not his salvation or lack of it. “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” Matthew 7:2. If I am the one being warned, I must be willing to acknowledge the possibility of sin in my life when it is pointed out to me, even if I do not at the moment see it as sin. Then I should take it to the Lord in prayer. He will confirm or dismiss the accusation.

Believers must be taught. They must also be teachable and willing to learn in whatever way God chooses to teach them. “And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean. And in controversy they shall stand in judgment; and they shall judge it according to my judgments: and they shall keep my laws and my statutes in all mine assemblies; and they shall hallow my sabbaths.” Ezekiel 44:23-24. “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes.” Luke 12:47-48.

God deals with us one thing at a time (Isaiah 28:10). We should deal with each other one thing at a time as God directs. When a person feels attacked, all he does is put up defenses which make it more difficult to reach him. If he feels loved and accepted as he is, he is more able to lay aside his defenses, try to see the problem, and determine a way to overcome it. “But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set a nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. 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.

We do not know the intents and purposes of another, or his motives. God takes these into account. “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.” 1 Corinthians 4:5. We are to judge a person’s actions in order to protect ourselves from entering into sin. We are to judge another’s actions so that we can pray effectively for him. We are to study God’s Word to be able to judge disputes about its meaning–not to argue about it, but to seek God’s revelation for our own understanding and growth. If others will listen and learn from our revelation, well and good. If not, it is the responsibility of the Holy Spirit to teach and correct them–or us–as needed.

We cannot change anyone else. We cannot repent for anyone else. We cannot believe for anyone else. God has no grandchildren (because their parents were believers), only children. Our desire should be to see others forgiven and released from deserved punishment through their own repentance and acceptance into the family of God.

Growing in righteousness is a process that lasts as long as we are in this “school of hard knocks". My husband says that each step is one-half of the remaining distance. At first it is possible to make giant strides, but as we draw closer to the goal, the problems we have are more basic to our nature, and are harder to root out. We need to advance as rapidly as possible in our own growth and development, while dealing as gently as possible with those around us. God is able to keep that which we entrust to him. He is able to correct, strengthen, teach, without our help. However, he chooses to work through us to love, encourage, uplift, build, instruct, and, yes, even correct and judge. We must be willing to be and do all that God desires. Keep your eyes on Jesus. He is our pattern and standard of behavior. Walk close to him, and your judgments will be righteous judgments.