This is a common phrase spoken constantly in our culture. And it has even made its way into the church now. Our culture has redefined the terms judgment, acceptance, and tolerance to say that if you say anything against anyone else, it is judging. They say, “Who are we to judge the words, thoughts and actions of others?” The pillar text to back up this statement- is Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” Also, Romans 2:1, “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.” And while I absolutely agree that we should not judge others in the sense of seeing ourselves as morally superior and others as morally wretched (deluding ourselves), I believe a distinction must be made between two kinds of judgments or the church will continue to flounder in its influence to hold up the Gospel as THE WAY to God in this wretched, increasingly paganizing culture filled with poisonous doctrine that is against the Gospel. There is a type of judgment where you simply assess a situation, a persons’ words, understanding someone’s statements, and come to a discerning conclusion, based upon information given in that circumstance. Jesus spoke of this in John 7:24, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” And then there is a judgment in which you make ultimately final, authoritative calls: that is not your place to do so, Jesus’s point in Matthew 7. It is God’s place, and we are not God, therefore, we should not assume His place in this. And if we presume to take God’s place as the judge, we should fear because it fundamentally shows we have not really gotten the Gospel, Pauls point in Romans 2. So on the one hand, we make probably thousands of judgments (discerning calls) every day concerning all kinds of things. Are these evil? No! What is an evil kind of judging though? When you take God’s place as judge and set yourself up as morally pure and others as morally wretched, looking down upon them. It is making the proclamation that you are morally worthy of God’s favor based upon your works, not Christ’s, and are therefore righteous as a final authority in all the universe. How evil. It is ultimately a rejection of the Gospel and God’s grace. We should beware if we fall into this. Romans 2 and Matthew 7 in particular speaks to this very point.
Now I want to show the other type of judgment, the discerning type, that is not evil by bringing in some other Scripture passages that speak of a kind judging, or making judgments, that are not to be taken in the same way Matthew 7 and Romans 2 are taken. Galatians 1:9 says, “As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” Romans 16:17, “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.” Ephesians 4:11-14, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry … so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” 1 Timothy 1:3, “As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine.” 1 Timothy 4:3-5, “If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.”
Is Paul not making judgments here and telling those he writes to to do the same thing? But what kind of judgments are these? Is he asserting his place as God, presiding over the judgment of men’s souls? No, he is making calls concerning false teachers and every wind of doctrine that blows to and fro that would lead us astray, that is from man and not from God. Are we as the church not supposed to make these kinds of judgments? Yes. Are we not to be discerning of good and bad doctrine? Absolutely we are. If we don’t, we will lose the truth altogether in our culture. However, we are not supposed to judge by taking God’s place as the final judge of all things. We do not know men’s hearts ultimately and have no place to make such an assertion before the time of judgment by God. However, are we not supposed to be discerning about what people state as the truth of the Scriptures? Paul seems to think so. Are not Paul’s writings inerrant Scripture? It seems to me the postmodern talk of tolerance, acceptance, and the cultures’ understanding of Jesus’ words have infiltrated the church’s understanding of when to make calls concerning right and wrong doctrine. the more muddled and grey the statements of Scripture become, the more we forfeit the only hope given among men by which they must be saved: Jesus Christ crucified.
So when someone says to me, “Who are you to judge,” my response to them is, “Who are you to judge me?” I’m trying to make the point to them that they are making a judgment about me just as I am of whoever else we are talking about (remember, a discerning judgment). In attempting to be inclusive of all people, once again, they are making exclusive judgments and doing the same thing to me they accuse me of doing. This thought process must be confronted, lovingly, first in our churches (where we stand up for doctrine and confessions of the Scripture) and then secondly, address our culture, and in doing so recover the Gospel, the hope of the world. This thought process is self-refuting and hinders the progress of Gospel-truth in our churches.