Many biblical sceptics scoff at the Bible. They claim it is full of contradictions. And to the casual reader of the scriptures, it would seem the agnostics could be correct, for the Bible does seem to be in opposition to itself in many passages and in many topics. One of the seeming contradictions in the Bible is that concerning the subject of "judging." Even many devoted and sincere Christians are "unsure" or "confused" over this important doctrine. The word of scripture claims GOD as the author. It states its words are INSPIRED or "God breathed"(2 Tim.3:16; 2 Peter 1:20). Jesus taught that the scripture CAN NOT BE BROKEN - that is, verses do not contradict each other(John 10:35). Yet, those same scriptures teach that we are to STUDY them - to correctly put them together as we would a jig-saw puzzle, to arrive at the truth(2 Tim.2:15; Acts 17:10-12). So, understanding these principles, let us humbly find all the verses in the New Testament(NT) on the topic of "judging" and put them together correctly to develop the perfect and true picture. NEW TESTAMENT VERSES Following are two columns of scriptures. One column with verses that seem to state we should NOT judge, and another column with verses that seem to say we should judge. TO JUDGE NOT TO JUDGE He that is spiritual judges Judge not that you be not all things(1 Cor.2:15). judged(Mat.7:1). Whether it be right in the Who made me a judge or aivider sight of God.....judge you over you?(Luke 12:14). (Acts 4:19). Yet I give my judgment For I came not to judge the (1 Cor.7:25). world(Luke 12:47). But judge this rather But why do you judge your (Rom.14:13). brother?.....Let us not therefore judge one another (Rom.14:10,13). The saints shall judge the Judge nothing before the time world. And if the world shall (1 Cor.4:5). be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matter?(1 Cor.6:2). For I truly as absent in the Let no man therefore judge body, but present in spirit, you(Col.2:16). have judged already(1 Cor. 6:4). If then you have judgments He that speaks evil of his of things pertaining to this brother and judges his life(1 Cor.6:4). brother,speaks evil of the the law.....There is one lawgiver who is able to save and destroy, who are you that judges another? (James 4:11,12). Is it not that there is not a wise man among you? No, not one that shall be able to judge between brethren(1 Cor.6:5). Two or three, and let the others judge(1 Cor.14:29). There are more verses in the NT like the previous ones, you may want to search for them in a concordance such as STRONG'S. I believe you will get the picture from the verses I have given. The NT seems to contradict itself on this subject of judging. Yet, Jesus said the scriptures CAN NOT BE BROKEN - there is no contradiction. We must dig a little deeper for the truth. THE MEANING OF "JUDGE" and "JUDGING" The WORLD BOOK DICTIONARY gives, in part, this definition to the above words: ".....1.a. to hear and decide(a case) in a law court. b. decide; order. 2. to settle(a dispute); decide(a contest). 3. to makeup one's mind about; form an opinion or estimate of.....4. to think; suppose; consider.....5. to criticize; condemn....." Ah, can you see what we have discovered? Our English words "judge," "judgment," "judging," has TWO basic uses - to hear and consider so as to form an opinion, make one's mind about some matter, AND, to decree, order, CONDEMN - A FINAL sentencing. A Judge in a court of law will, if it is a trial by Judge only, not only hear and listen to all the facts from all sides and parties involved, but also give a final DECREE, SENTENCE, on the matter. It is a TWO part process. If the accused is found guilty from all the facts presented, the Judge will CONDEMN them to his decree or order of punishment. We shall now see that in the common Greek that the NT was written in, there is no appreciable difference in meaning from the English language use. The predominant Greek word used in the NT for "judge, judging, jugest " etc. is number 2919 in Strong's Concordance. It is the word "KREENO." Here is what STRONG says about this word: "to distinguish, i.e. decide(mentally or judicially); by impl.to try, condemn, punish :- avenge, conclude, condemn, damn, decree, determine, esteem, judge, go to(sue at the) law, ordain, call in question, sentence to, think." Now, with that information we should be able to start clearing away the fog from this seemingly contradictory subject of the NT. CHRISTIANS CAN NOT CONDEMN ANYONE James tells us that God is the LAW GIVER who can save or destroy(chapter 4:12). Paul was inspired to say that ALL will stand before the judgment seat of God(Rom.14:10-12) and give account of himself. It is written that God the Father has committed to the Son(Christ Jesus) the order of final sentencing, which will be based upon the word of God. Those not WITHIN the word will be condemned(John 5:22-24). The mind of man is FINITE, the mind of God is IN-FINITE. The heart of man is fleshly, CARNAL, and contains sin. Even a Spirit filled Christian is not without sin(1John 1:8). Only God is HOLY, PERFECT, RIGHTEOUS, SINLESS character. Only He can SEARCH the hearts of men, know their thoughts and attitudes and motives, to compare and stand them against His word, for either sentencing them to LIFE or DEATH. No human flesh and blood being can possibly do that task. God alone, the one who created LAW, who created mankind with human free will, who gave His word and standards, His yard stick for entering into eternal life or eternal death, only He can give, based upon all the facts and evidence of the heart of man, life or death as the final sentence. God only can SAVE or DESTROY! Physical man, even a Christian, has NO AUTHORITY, to CONDEMN another physical person to DESTRUCTION or eternal death. That authority only belongs to the heavenly Father, who has given that authority over to God the Son, who will base that life or death sentence upon the holy word of the Father's. NO CONTRADICTION IN SCRIPTURE It is very clear from the plain easy to understand verses like 1 Corinthians 5 and 6, that there is a side to "judging" that is given to the Christian and the Church of God, that must at times, be EXERCISED. Chapter five of 1 Corinthians is a splendid example. The church at Corinth knew there was INCEST being practiced within its midst. It was common knowledge, open knowledge, not gossip or someone trying to create a problem for another. The members at Corinth thought that by turning a "blind eye" to the fact, it was showing Christian mercy and love to the un-repentant sinner. The apostle Paul thought otherwise. He had the facts. The truth of the matter was plain for him to see. There was NO misunderstanding. The evidence was all in - the bare plain truth was clear. The breaking of one of God's commandments was being practiced as a way of life, by one of the members of the church at Corinth. Paul had to look at the facts, make sure there was no slander, no lies, no falsehood, no misunderstanding regards the issue, and then, based upon all the evidence, come to a WAY OF THINKING (based upon the word and teaching of God) - a DECIDING, as to what was the RIGHTEOUS action to take. He gave his strong exhortation, encouragement, and advice to the members of the church. They were to JUDGE the matter as he had judged the matter - they were to DISFELLOWSHIP the unrepentant sinner who was practicing open sin in their midst. I cover all this in great depth in my study paper called "DISFELLOWSHIP - What the Bible Really Teaches." Paul judged the sinner and exhorted action to be taken by the church in this physical life now. BUT HE DID NOT CONDEMN THIS MAN TO ETERNAL DEATH! There is only one who can save or destroy for eternity - God, not Paul, not you, not I. Paul never condemned anyone to eternal death. Neither should we! For we know not when any person will REPENT and find life. Yet, in this life, for serious sins that some may practice as a way of life, un-repentantly, Paul KNEW that he and other Christians did have the authority to MAKE UP ONE'S MIND OVER, as to the right or wrong of such a life style, and based upon the teachings of the word of God, take the appropriate actions necessary to comply with the instructions of God to correct the situation. This judgment, this judging, although allowed and given to us from God, within the context of His law, and sin, and church, is not without many verses admonishing us to be CAREFUL, CIRCUMSPECT, scrupulous, discreet, solicitous. We are taught in the word to exercise this liberty CAUTIOUSLY, WARY, ALERT, concerned and prudent. All done with HUMILITY, bearing one another's burdens, always remembering ourselves, knowing it is possible we could be tempted and one day find ourselves in the hot seat receiving judgment (Galatians6:1-10). Jesus was very clear on this side of the word judging. "Judge not according to APPEARANCE, but judge RIGHTEOUS judgment" (John 7:24). We as Christians CAN judge! We are, under certain situations told to judge(i.e. "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God...." "To the law and the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" 1 John 4:1; Isa.8:20). There are times we AUGHT to judge (i.e. James 5:19,20; Titus 3:10,11; 1:9-16; 2 Tim.4:14-15; 3:5-9; 2:15-18; 1 Tim. 5:19,20; 6:3-5; 2 Thes.3:14,15; 1 Thes.5:12,13; 1 Tim.1:18-20; 1 Cor.5:1-7; 6:1-5). BUT WE BETTER MAKE SURE OUR JUDGING IS RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT!! Righteousness is God's commandments(Ps.119:172). We better make sure our judging is ACCORDING TO and WITHIN the righteousness of God! LET'S UNDERSTAND THE VERSES THAT SEEM TO CONTRADICT With the light we now have, this is how we should understand Matthew 7:1-2. I paraphrase:" Judge - CONDEMN - judge not in a carnal unrighteous way, that you be not judged harshly. For with the judgment you judge(righteous or unrighteous) you also will be judged(what a man sows he shall reap) and how you deal out to others(in a righteous or unrighteous way), it shall come back to you again(for 'He shall have judgment without mercy, that has shown no mercy' James 2:13)." Proud, vain, hypocritical unrighteous judging, is what Christ was teaching against here, not righteous judging that must be done from time to time. Luke 12:14. There are some situations and circumstances in which we are NOT QUALIFIED, do not have the EXPERTISE, or just have NO AUTHORITY for deciding the matter. But there are areas in which God does give us authority for judging - we must search the word to discover those areas. Some we have found in this article already. Romans 14:10,13, paraphrased: "But why do you judge - condemn - use unrighteous judgment against your brother.....Let us not use condemnation(to eternal death - destruction) or unrighteous opinions of mind against one another." The Roman Christians were either or both, condemning each other to eternal death, or using UN-righteous judgment. They were not doing the "judge righteous judgment" that Jesus taught. They were unrighteously opinionated against one another over such things as "to eat or not eat meat" - vegetarianism, and as to what days of the week to fast on. The truth was(and Paul knew it, so he was correcting them) God ALLOWS and gives every person the liberty to either eat meat or not eat meat - there is no command of God either way - both meat(the context is not discussing the topic of CLEAN or UN-CLEAN foods, which God does have commands regarding) eaters and no meat eaters are acceptable to the Lord. Likewise, God had no command on which day or days of the week one could fast(not eat) on. Outside the Day of Atonement(10th day of 7th month - Hebrew calendar) which is not here under discussion, any day of the week was acceptable to God. There was liberty for each Christian in this matter of eating or not eating(fasting). Some in Rome could not see these liberties for Christians and had set up their own standards of self-righteousness, to the point of CONDEMNING(to eternal death) and/or judging unrighteous judgment(so forming incorrect and critical opinions) against each other. Paul was instructing them that both liberties were acceptable to God, and condemning or using unrighteous judgment should cease. 1 CORINTHIANS 4:5, paraphrased: "Judge - CONDEMN not - stay out of areas you are not qualified in or given authority in, so you will not unrighteously judge - before the time(when all these areas will be dealt with) until the Lord come, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart, and then shall every man have praise of God(for there are some things only God through Christ can judge, only He knows the inner attitude of the heart)." COLOSSIANS 2:16 "Let no man therefore judge - condemn - unrighteously judge - you." The context clearly shows the Colossian Christians had in the past REPENTED, accepted Christ as their saviour, and were following in His steps as a way of life. Men - unconverted men - unrighteous men - were trying to draw them back to the world again with false concepts and practices, they were CONDEMNING and/or unrighteously judging the way they lived and the customs and practices they were now observing as they followed in the steps of Christ. JAMES 4;11,12, paraphrased: "He that speaks evil of his brother(and is angry without cause - Mat.5:22), and judges his brother(condemns to destruction and/or judges unrighteously), speaks evil of the law, and judges the law(is out of sink with God's law and becomes a law unto themselves).....There is one law giver who is able to save or destroy(to have the final power and authority to decide life or death is in God's hands alone), who are you that judges another(you have no authority to condemn anyone)." AN OLD TESTAMENT EXAMPLE OF JUDGING The scriptures of the Old Testament are partly given to us so we may LEARN valuable lessons from them(1 Cor.10:11). In the 22nd chapter of Joshua we have recorded for us a fine example of JUDGING - wrongly and rightly - righteously and un-righteously. Let's see what we can learn from this example in ancient Israel. The tribes of Reubin, Gad, and half tribe of Manasseh, had been given inheritance on the east side of the river Jordan by Moses. They were still willing to serve their brethren and help them settle over on the west of Jordan. After much time in helping the other tribes, Joshua allowed them to go to their homes with a blessing and with an admonition to serve God with all their heart and soul(Joshua 22:1-6). They departed to their allotted lands(verse 9). These two and one half tribes built a HUGE impressive altar in the region of Jordan in the land of Canaan(verse 10). Now notice verse 11! The children of Israel HEARD about this. But the words spoken were such that ANGER and righteous indignation swelled up in them. Whatever was told to them led to the gathering together of the tribes to "go to war against them" - the two and a half tribes east of Jordan(verse 12). The majority of Israel heard - emotions grew, and as we will see, FALSE stories based upon unrighteous judgment, not the true facts at all - leading many to run off on some wild self- righteous ideas which had been based on wild unfactual opinions of a few. It would seem up to this point that NO ONE went to get the truth of the matter from the tribes east of Jordan. The majority in Israel were judging un-righteously, with blind carnal self- righteous anger and were ready to make war with their brethren. They thought the two and a half tribes were setting up their own religious system, and departing from the words of not only Joshua but God Himself. The tribes sent ambassadors to Reubin, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh asking: "What treachery is this that you have committed against the God of Israel, to turn away this day from following the Lord....." (verse 16). Israel thought evil would come upon all the tribes because of the sin of these two and a half tribes. They had judged them as sinners, on HEARSAY only - on the words of others, on the opinion as to what the physical looked like it was saying, but no one had gone to the horses mouth to ascertain the plain truth(verses 17-20). The two and a half tribes were BLOWN OVER - dumbstruck - by the words and actions of the other tribes. They knew the truth - they knew they were FREE - they knew the truth would set them free, so now the truth was reiterated to all Israel. We find their answer to their accusers starting in verse 21. They were afraid that in time the descendants of the tribes on the west of Jordan would claim their descendants on the east of Jordan had no part in the true God - they feared being PUT DOWN, DIS-INHERITED - looked upon as OUTSIDERS from the worship of the Lord and His earthly sanctuary in Shiloh. Therefore this is what they did to make sure this tragedy would never occur. "Let us now prepare to build ourselves an altar, NOT for burnt offerings nor for sacrifices, BUT that it may be a witness between you and us and our generations after us, that we may perform the service of the Lord......"(verses 26,27). What appeared on the surface, what looked as if it was SIN and a departure from the way of the Lord - what led emotionally based people to judge too quickly and un-righteously, to the point of getting ready for warfare, WAS IN FACT AND IN TRUTH JUST THE OPPOSITE! It was RIGHTEOUS action! It was from a PURE heart and motive - it was done to ensure future true service to the true God, and to keep all Israel in harmony with that God for generations to come. All ended happily when all understood the truth. Then all could rejoice(verses 30-34). LESSONS TO LEARN This incident could have been disastrous. The jumping to wrong conclusions could have led to total false blindness. Israel could have sent their armies against the two and a half tribes WITHOUT first sending the ambassadors to ask questions. At least they did not make that mistake, or it would have been a DOUBLE wrong! They were wrong in not searching for all the evidence and facts - hearing from the accused in answer to the accusers. If they had not CHECKED THEMSELVES to send ambassadors with questions, they would have added wrong to wrong! And a double wrong does not equal no wrong. We also need to learn from this that APPEARANCE can be deceiving - what sometimes LOOKS LIKE sin is really not sin but righteousness, and what sometimes appears as righteousness can be sin. Remember 2 Corinthians 11:13-15! I am reminded of the church deacon who was seen by a member of his church going into a XXX video store. Well did it ever get around in no short order among the membership that deacon so and so was watching triple X movies at home. When this was brought to a head and out into the open the truth came out clear and bright. The deacon was not going into the triple X video store to rent movies but TO BRING OUT HIS SON WHO HAD GONE IN A FEW MINUTES EARLIER! Another lesson. If we start out judging INCORRECTLY, that does not mean we must continue judging unrighteously. STOP! TAKE NOTE! Meditate on your thoughts and actions. Double check what you are doing. As the saying goes, "better be safe than sorry," and, "it's never too late to learn," Christians will HAVE to, will NEED to - judge - at times. We need to pray for the wisdom that comes from God, so we will always do as Jesus instructed - use "righteous judgment." We must study the word of God to fully understand what is SIN and what is RIGHTEOUSNESS, so we can be correct in applying passages of scripture such as Matthew 18:15-18; Galatians 6:1; James 5:19,20. Most of our judging when we need to exercise it, will centre around the above passages of scripture. It is serious sins - life style sins - within the church that we will need to judge from time to time. And quite frankly those sins do not happen THAT OFTEN. The judging of sins as in 1 Corinthians 5 and the man guilty of practicing incest, is not a daily occurrence. Such sins may only happen once in a long while within the life of any church, so we need not be looking for them, for such will usually make themselves quite manifest in time. Going around "judging" should be one of the last things on our mind. We need to know HOW and WHEN to do it, but it should be at the bottom of our priority list as we go about living a healthy, happy, and positive Christian life. Yes, problems will happen among brothers and sisters in the church, expect them from time to time, BUT DO NOT GO LOOKING FOR THEM! LET IT BE THE OTHER WAY - GO LOOKING FOR THE GOOD AND THE POSITIVE IN OTHERS! When problems do arise between brethren, when some judgment must be applied, I have found the majority of them can be cleared up if Matthew 18:15 is applied. We need to "go it slow" - control our emotions(study the book of Proverbs for guidance in that area) - search for all the facts, listen to all sides - remember there is usually two sides to every story. Sometimes judging will require obtaining the KNOWLEDGE and the WISDOM from others before coming to a final thought or conclusion(Prov.11:14). Do NOT FORGET lots of prayer during such times. Keep HUMBLE, for you are also flesh and blood, with personal sins. When all of this is done, when times of judging are necessary, be careful NEVER to condemn anyone to eternal death, for "there is one Lawgiver, who is able to SAVE and to DESTROY" and that friend is not you nor I but God alone. Christians must judge in this life. Christians will judge in the age to come. Be a righteous judge - judge with righteous judgment! All articles and studies by Keith Hunt may be copied, published, e-mailed, and distributed as led by the Spirit. Mr.Hunt trusts nothing will be changed without his consent.