Some people believe that it is wrong to judge whether someone else is a Christian. This belief is based on the view that God alone knows the hearts of people and therefore God alone has the right to judge. Does God empower His people to judge others? Does He empower us to judge whether or not they belong to the truth or to error? The scriptural answer is a resounding YES!
In Matt 24:4-6 Jesus warns against the deception of false teachers and false prophets. He says “Watch out that no one deceives you for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many”. How can one guard himself against deception without knowing the difference between what is true and what is false? Judging requires the ability to discern between truth and error.
1 Corinthians 2:15 tells us that the spiritual man makes judgements about all things. In Acts 17:11 the Bereans …examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true and in Rev 2:2 the brethren in the Church of Ephesus tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and found them liars. Here is evidence that the people of God are empowered to judged others to see whether they are in the faith.
Testing the Spirits
In 1 John 4:1-6, The apostle John tells us to test the Spirits to see whether they are of God. Why? Because Jesus warned that many false prophets have gone out into the world. “Test” here means “to prove or examine.” Christians must not only test and examine others they must also test and examine themselves to see whether they are in the faith. Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:20-22, “Test all things; hold fast what is good.”
How does one test the spirits?
The Spirit of God is the Spirit of truth. The spirit of the enemy is the spirit of deception. We test the spirits by the word of God because in John 17:17 Jesus says thy word is truth and 2Tim 3:16-4:5 says “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness”. The scriptures also test our hearts, minds and conscience. Heb 4:12-13 says For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
In Mark 12:24-25, Jesus used the scriptures to judge whether the people knew the truth or were in error. He said to them “Are you not therefore mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God?
Judge by their Fruit
But there is another means by which God empowers us to judge others. He says in Matt 7:16-20,
“By their fruit you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”
Test the lives of those pretending to be sent by God. Are there inconsistencies in their lives? Are their lives in agreement with God’s Word? Are they receiving glory for what they do, or is God receiving glory? Are they relying on God only for direction or are they basing their teachings on writings from men? Are they or their followers putting their word above the Bible?
Remember the devil is a liar and will mix truth with lies. Any inconsistencies like these will reveal to you if they are from God or not. The Spirit of God always speaks in accordance to God’s Word – the Bible. Anyone putting anything above the Bible or anyone degrading the Bible is not from God.
What about Matthew 7:1?
In Matt 7:1, Jesus says, “Do not judge or you will be judged.” To understand this verse, we must also read verses 2 to 5, which show that God is not prohibiting us from judging others. Instead, He is warning us to judge others righteously. Listen to how verses 2-5 bring out this point.
Verse 2 says, “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” This means if you judge others harshly, you will be judged harshly; but if you judge others righteously, you too will be judged righteously. In verse 3, God illustrates how we must first judge ourselves before judging others.
By judging ourselves, we will see that we too are faulty, and therefore, we will be more compassionate and just in judging others. Here is what He says, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye’, when all the time there is a plank in your own eye.”
We should only judge others after we have judged ourselves. If we have not judged ourselves, we will not be able to judge others fairly since we will not realize that we are corrupt ourselves.
Verse 5 explains, “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” You will only be qualified to righteously judge others after you have judged yourself. This is the point Jesus made in John 7:24 to His critics who were judging Him. He did not tell them it was wrong to judge Him. Instead, He urged them to judge Him righteously: “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”
Let’s heed God’s word and judge ourselves and others with righteous judgment.