The following material should be useful for anyone who has heard that we should never "judge." Certainly, a judgmental spirit is wrong and unbecoming of a believer, but this doesn't necessarily mean that all judging is wrong. Quite often, when someone pleads, "Judge not!", he's just being defensive. In fact, the Bible distinguishes a number of types of judging—some good, some bad. This week we will consider six types; next week we will take six more.
I. HYPOCRITICAL JUDGING (Matthew 7:1-5; Romans 2:1)
This is the kind of judging most people have in mind when they express the judgment that one shouldn't judge. Jesus tells us to get the log out of our own eye so that we can see clearly enough to help our brother. Clearly he expects us to do a certain amount of "judging”—but not hypocritically.
II. DISCERNING THOSE RECEPTIVE TO THE GOSPEL (Matthew 7:6, 10:11+)
It is not unkind to judge who's open to the gospel message and who isn't. It's what is fairest to all—both to the person at hand as well as to others who may be seeking the Lord (7:7).
III. SUPERFICIAL JUDGING (John 7:24)
Get the facts, and know the scriptures. That is the only way to make a “right judgment.” The person who fails to make a right judgment will make poor decisions, and may even be duped by others more shrewd. The entire book of Proverbs exhorts us to this sort of practical wisdom.
IV. MAKING AN ASSESSMENT (Acts 4:19)
The act of judgment itself is neutral. The usual Greek verb for judge or discern is krinein. It is not an inherently negative word. It means moving from premises to conclusions; assessing a situation; discerning; etc. As we will urge in the next chapter, we ought to think clearly about the claims of the various world religions; this is not in itself ungracious. In fact, Paul insists that the spiritual man makes all sorts of judgments (1 Corinthians 2:15). That is good.
V. PASSING JUDGMENT ON OPINION MATTERS (Romans 14:1)
We must all take a stand on the crucial issues, but it is wrong to judge others on the basis of peripheral matters or non-salvation issues. (In this case, the disputable matter concerns foods.) Of course the apostles expect us to accept the weaker brother, not necessarily to leave him in a state of ignorance or weak faith. Yet the Lord will hold all of us accountable for how we use our freedom of thought and expression, and there are many passages in the Bible reminding us of this truth.
VI. FINAL JUDGMENT (Romans 14:10-12; Acts 10:42)
This is God's prerogative, and his alone. Sentencing people to heaven or hell is "final judgment." Obviously, no human has the authority to send any other human being anywhere after death. Further, do not confuse judging in the sense of warning with judging in the sense of sentencing; they are different things.
To be continued...