Sometimes we hear it argued that we should never say that a person is wrong in what they believe, or that a particular denomination is wrong. They say, “The Bible says don’t judge!”
It is wrong to say that others are wrong, or that certain religious teachings are wrong, if our judgment is based solely on our own beliefs or opinions. However, we must be clear and swift to speak out against error based upon the Word of God.
The passage most people think of about judging reads as follows: “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 unto you,” (Matt. 7:1-2). From this passage, some draw the erroneous conclusion that any and all judging is wrong. But notice another statement of our Lord: “Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment,” (Jn. 7:24). Here, we are not only not prevented from judging, but are actually commanded to do so. But we are to be sure that our judgment is “righteous.” Jesus explains that “righteous judgment” is when we actually allow God’s word (the Bible) to be the judge. “He that speaketh from himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh the glory of him that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him,” (Jn. 7:18).
When we simply submit to the teaching of the Bible, and teach others to do so, we are not setting ourselves up as judges. On the contrary, we are deferring to the judgment of God himself.
Following his statement not to “judge,” (Mt. 7:1), Jesus makes this clear. He does so in the context of false teachers, and he warns us that we must beware of them. We must carefully judge or distinguish between false teaching and the truth. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. By their fruits ye shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but the corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Therefore by their fruits ye shall know them,” (Mt. 7:15-20).
From these passages we see that the kind of judging which is forbidden is the self-righteous, condemnatory conduct which was so typical of the Pharisees. They were quick to condemn others, based upon their own man-made standards. They were hypocrites, judging and condemning others for violating their own traditions and opinions. Many of the Jewish people followed the erroneous teaching of such Pharisees, and they called out the sinfulness of others, while failing to recognize their own. Paul addressed such unrighteous judging in Romans 2 when he observed, “Wherefore thou art without excuse, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doth practice the same things,” (Rom. 2:1). The fundamental flaw in such unrighteous judging is that it sets ourselves up to condemn others while excusing our own sin. It blinds us to God’s view, which is the righteous view, and substitutes our own judgment for God’s.
Moses appointed judges to hear and decide disputes among the Israelites. But his instructions to those judges made it clear that they were not to act on their own preferences and opinions, but in accordance with God’s judgment. “And I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between a man and his brother, and the sojourner that is with him,” (Dt. 1:16). Note that their judgment was to be done “righteously.” They were not to use their own opinions, biases or prejudices. They were not to show respect to the wealthy or powerful. “Ye shall not respect persons in judgment…for the judgment is God’s,” (Dt. 1:17; cf. Ps. 82:1-4). That is, it was not them, but God who was actually making these decisions. When we faithfully apply God’s word to life situations, and identify truth and error in accordance with the Bible, we are allowing God to be the judge. Such judgment on our part simply discerns or recognizes what God has already established. Christians must turn judgment over to God. We must allow him, through his Word, to settle religious differences. And we must carefully study that Word, so we may be equipped to know right from wrong. Not because we say so, but because God does. Only with such a deep understanding of God’s Word can we be in a position to lovingly point it out to others, who might otherwise be lost in sin.
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.