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One pernicious lie often told is that Christ forbids us Christians to judge. This ‘whopper’ persists in part because it seems to be based on Scripture. Rightly, the godly mother may tell her disparaging child, “Judge not, that ye be not judged;” or the caring teacher ask the critical student, “Who are you that judges another?” (Matt. 7:1; James 4:12). Certainly not falsehoods. But neither are such Scriptures the final word of God about judging, discernment, condemnation, and critical thinking; nor do they imply, must less teach, that Christians may not judge.

The truth is that Christ calls every Christian to judge, and refusal is dereliction of duty. Judgment belongs to our office of king and authority Christ gives to each of us to rule a part of His kingdom (Ps. 67:4). The Lord Himself is Judge because He is King (I Kings 10:9; Is. 33:22). And He calls us kings to sit on thrones of judgment and by judgment establish the land (Prov. 20:8; 29:4). To the extent elders, teachers, or parents refuse to judge their given domain, the peace, justice, and good of Christ will not reign there, but only warfare, injustice, and evil.

What Christ forbids is unrighteous judgment. It is unrighteous to judge rashly and not carefully, to judge on sight or rumor and not fact, to judge after the flesh and not spirit, to judge for reward and not duty, to judge for our sake and not God’s, (Heidelberg Catechism, LD 43; John 7:24; II Chron. 19:6; Micah 3:11). Christ forbids those He receives in mercy to judge without mercy, and forbids those He frees from the law to judge another’s liberty (Rom. 14:3; I Cor. 10:29; Col. 2:16). Christ forbids us to judge outside our jurisdiction, judge matters that belong to God alone, or judge beyond our capability (I Cor. 5:12; 11:31). For example, since the secret parts of the heart are unknown to us, we are forbidden to judge in an unfavorable manner those who make an external profession of faith and live regular lives (Canons of Dordt, III/IV, 15).

Christ must qualify or equip us to judge because our nature is incapable of righteous judgment. Judgment concerns right and wrong with God, and requires spiritual skills to discern, establish, reveal, and vindicate that right (Rom. 2:1-2). Christ qualifies us by giving Himself—by imputing His righteousness by faith and imparting His Word and Spirit of truth, love, wisdom, and knowledge (II Chr. 1:10; 6:23). He that is spiritual is thus equipped to judge all things—ourselves within the church, earthly things, and even the world and angels (I Cor. 2:15; 6:2-5). Yet, in this life, our judgment is always subject to error, limitations, and the judgment of Christ Himself.

Christ is the Judge (John 5:22). Although He said, “I judge no man and came not to judge the world,” He shall come again to judge the quick and the dead (John 5:30; 12:47). Behold, this Judge stands at the door (James 5:9). He shall judge in righteousness everyone, including us, according to what we have done, whether it be good or evil, judging even the thoughts and every idle word, and disclosing the secrets and hypocrisy of men (Rev. 11:18; 20:12). He that showed no mercy in judgment, shall receive judgment without mercy (James 2:13). Those who judged Him or His Word false, shall be convicted by the testimony of that word in their own conscience, and be condemned to everlasting hell-fire (John 12:48; Ps. 9:19; 96:10-13; 110:6; Micah 4:3).

This judgment, terrible and dreadful to the wicked and ungodly, is most desirable and comfortable to the elect. For He will judge us by the perfect law of liberty according to His imputed righteousness (Ps. 7:11; 135:14; II Chr. 6:23; James 2:12). Jesus, our Judge, shall confess our name before God His Father, and reveal that our cause, condemned now by many earthly judges, is His cause; and for a gracious reward He shall crown us, His judges, with glory and honor, even with the crown of righteousness He shall give in that day to us and to all them that love His appearing (Belgic Confession, Art. 37; Ps. 10:18; 72:4; II Tim. 4:8).

So judge. Not unrighteous judgment. But remember with what judgment you shall be judged, and so judge (Matt. 7:1-2).