The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. – 1 Corinthians 2:15I often, when I open air preach, include a segment on judging. As a blood-bought, sanctified, set-apart priest of Jesus Christ, the Christian should not preach from a “holier-than-thou” platform of self-righteousness, but must remember that he is actually holier-than-most-of-his-audience, for Christ says, “You are holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16) Because the minister of Jesus Christ bears the light of the Judge, he is sure to be seen as judging his audience, and rightly so, because we all judge, all the time.
I was recently judged and called platitudinous; maybe I am, and one of my remarks to that effect goes like this, “We all judge all the time, for example, he’s tall, she’s pretty, the preacher guy yelling at us is fat and stupid. It is impossible not to judge, just by you finding me judgmental is you judging that I’m judgmental. Here is where you’ve secured your judgment, for Christ says, ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged! For by the same judgment you measure others, you shall be judged!’”
It is to this effect that the Apostle Paul makes one of his most audacious claims, stating, “If we judge ourselves rightly, we will not be judged.” (1 Corinthians 11:31) Is recognizing our rebellion toward God, and our iniquity concerning his standards, the magic way to clemency with God? Of course not, a criminal who stands before a judge and declares his guilt will only save the prosecution time and effort, and move the trial more quickly towards sentencing. The reason that Paul can say that ‘if we judge ourselves rightly we won’t be judged’ is because having judged ourselves as rebels towards God, desperately in need of forgiveness and salvation, we will seek the Man who is both just and justifier, who came into the world to die for sinners, and who grants forgiveness to everyone who draws near to him in faith with a contrite spirit. Judge yourself in need of rescue, judge Christ to be the Risen Saviour, and you shall not be judged.
Having then the massive weight of his own sin removed, the saint is then more than capable of helping to point out the sin in other’s lives (Matthew 7:3-5). This spiritual person judges all things, because his judgment was met on Calvary’s cross.
Of course then, the one being judged cries out! “Only God can judge me!” Indeed, only God can judge you permanently, but that has not saved you, for Paul continues the thought in 1 Corinthians 2:16, “We have the mind of Christ.” We are privy to the standard of judgment that God will use, we are ministers and priests of the Most High, we strive to see sinners judge themselves as fallen and in need of Christ, and so judge them to be sinners, using the standard of the perfect law to show their despondent state. Your ultimate Judge calls you to repent, for he has fixed a day in which to judge the world in righteousness, by a man whom he has appointed by raising him from the dead (Acts 17:31). The spiritual person likewise calls you to repent, seeing the danger that your soul is in for your warfare against Heaven.
And the Apostle Paul says this relates to both those inside and outside of the church, leaving final judgment to those outside. There is a great error within the church today that the Christian ought never judge anyone at all, especially within the church. The belief is that a profession of faith ought to be enough to declare someone a Christian; this mistake is destroying ministries, churches, and individuals, because there is a definite call to judge within church matters that may lead to someone’s condemnation.
The judgmentalism that ought to be scorned is judging someone and calling them a Christian or not because of what they believe within Christianity. After all, many can preach the true gospel while being not a Christian (Philippians 1:15-18, Romans 10:18), but this does not mean they are a Christian. Similarly, it cannot be judged someone’s standing with God on whether or not they believe in the truth of a young earth. Neither can a person who is totally wrong concerning baby-wetting and believers-baptism be condemned on that belief alone.
In the Air Force our aircraft have what is called a MESL (pronounced Measle), which is the Mission Essential Subsystem List and an MEL, which is a Minimum Equipment List. Both are vital to safe and effective operations of an aircraft. For example, on these lists for every single one of our aircraft is a UHF radio, if an aircraft does not have, or has an inoperative, radio, then it is forbidden to fly. You can inspect an aircraft according to this list and determine it is safe for flight and ready to accomplish its mission. If one is missing, the aircraft is grounded. Many in Christianity have begun to treat doctrine like check marks on a MESL, stating, well he believes in the virgin birth, that’s good, he believes in expository preaching and the inerrancy of scripture, and of course he believes that Jesus is the only way to the Father, therefore based on these three, he must be a Christian.
That is not at all the way which the Bible tells us to judge someone. James explicitly says, “You believe that God is one, and you do well…” (James 2:19), but he does not declare this person to be a believer, instead he says, “but even the demons believe-and tremble.” The judging comes from fruit, or works borne out of faith; you don’t look at a tree, examine the wood, determine the height, width, canopy, and locale and declare it to be a peach tree, you look at the fruit and can accurately and definitely declare a tree producing peaches to be a peach tree, and not an apple tree.
So beloved, as you go into the church and seek to determine whether someone is a Christian or not, don’t look at their list of orthodoxy (though when they are unorthodox attempt to convert them to the truth), rather look to their fruit. A sexually immoral person should be considered to be outside of the faith and is not to be gently prodded to reconsider their beliefs, but commanded to repent and be converted. Conversely, a person who lacks a bit of generosity should not be condemned, but exhorted to give since Christ first gave himself. Remember that a person does not become a Christian because they believe a list of essential doctrines, they become a Christian when they are born of the Spirit, transformed into a new creature by Jesus Christ himself. It is extremely evident when a person is still in their flesh, and learning to judge rightly will allow for a healthy, Spirit-filled church, the evil purged and the good embraced.
Be not deceived, for many will claim the name of Christ, but without fruit of the Spirit, they are merely hirelings that will flee when danger approaches or money dries up, they have not been converted and they are still in their sins. Nothing is to be gained from tolerating or following such worthless shepherds.
Dear Christian, you are appointed to judge the world, even angels, how much then should you be striving to be accurate in your judgments? Do not judge by yourself, use the mind of Christ, read his Word, love his law, call unbelievers to judge themselves rightly and seek the Saviour who was judged for them. Judge the one who claims the name of brother but who is indulging the thoughts of the flesh, for by doing so you may save his soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.
Judge not their words just for orthodoxy, look at motives and the fruit they are bearing. In all things, remember that nothing you have was not received, neither gifts, salvation, nor sanctification, so be giving all glory to Jesus Christ, who though he was blameless stood condemned, so that he can present his church holy and blameless before himself on the final day.
Judge yourself rightly, knowing that apart from the grace of Christ Jesus, the judgment and condemnation of God would still be upon you.