Bible teaching

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August 1999
To judge or not to judge? That is the question. No this is not just some line from a Shakespearean play but rather a question often brought up in the church. As is frequently the case with many biblical truths, the Christian's role in exercising judgment on others is found in a tension between warnings to avoid judging others and admonitions concerning how best to judge others.

The Hebrew name Jehoshaphat means "Jehovah has judged." This is not you or me judging but rather simply acknowledging that "This is what God says." If God says in the Bible that something is wrong, and a church or certain individual does something contrary to what the Bible says, we are not judging them, but rather it is the Word of God that judges. This is what it means when the Bible says, "Judge with right judgment" (John 7:24). Judging with right judgment means judging with God's judgment, not with our own.

Anakrino - To Discern

The Greek word for "judge" is krino. If you put the prefix ana in front of the word krino, you get a variation on the idea of judging, which is "to discern."
"But he who is spiritual judges [anakrino] all things, yet he himself is judged [anakrino] by no man." (I Corinthians 2:15).
God, in His Word, commands us to anakrino (discern). It is not a privilege, a right, or simply something that is advisable; but it is a commandment. We are commanded to anakrino, and if you do not discern, it will cause you to lack wisdom. Those who practice wisdom cannot be judged by anyone. Why? Because they anakrino (discern) in accordance with I Corinthians 2:15.

Diakrino - To Decide
"I say this to your shame. It is so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide [diakrino] between his brethren?" (I Corinthians 6:5).
Another prefix which changes the meaning of krino is "dia." Diakrino means to "render a decision" as to whether something is right or wrong. Is someone's behavior morally right or wrong? Is it scriptural or unscriptural? Is it of God, of the flesh, or of the devil? The Holy Spirit speaking through Paul commanded us to diakrino. We are not permitted or privileged to diakrino, but we are commanded to diakrino. It is not that judging is acceptable. Rather, to fail to judge is unacceptable.

Kritikos - To Discern Between Soul and Spirit
"For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge [kritikos] the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).
Cells called erythrocytes are stored in the red marrow of big bones, like the femur and the tibia. On the outside there is the bone and on the inside there is the marrow. But in between there is, figuratively speaking, a gray area; a place where even with the aid of a microscope, it is difficult to tell where exactly the bone ends and where the marrow begins.

The Bible says that the relationship between soul and spirit is like that. Take prophecy for example. Was that from someone's imagination or was it God's Spirit speaking through their spirit? It is very difficult to tell the difference.

When people say, "The Lord showed me this" and "God told me that," it is difficult to know if it is someone's imagination or God's Spirit speaking to their spirit. The mind is a good servant, but a dangerous master. There are people out there who are prophesying with their own mind, so discern prophecies carefully by drawing from the Word of God.

We are called to kritikos (to discern between the soulish and the spiritual). The Word of God enables us to separate the bone from the marrow, the spiritual from the purely soulish.

Krisis - Heaven or Hell
"But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ" (Romans 14:10).
There is a kind of judging that we are not called to do. The Greek word is krisis. For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment [krisis] to the Son (John 5:22). The ultimate determination of heaven and hell belongs solely to the Lord Jesus Christ (The Word). We never krisis and are strictly forbidden to do so.

Krites - The Judge of All

We must remember that God is the ultimate Judge of all the earth (Genesis 18:25; Isaiah 33:22; James 4:12), and Jesus, being the Son of God, functions as Judge as well (John 8:16; James 5:9; I Peter 4:5).
"To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge [krites] of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect," (Hebrews 12:23).
In addition, we as Christians are forbidden to judge others when human judgment infringes on God's perogative as Judge.
"Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand" (Romans 14:4).
"Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God" (I Corinthians 4:5).
"Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?" (James 4:11-2).

Hupo-Krites - Pharisees

Christians are forbidden to judge others when such judgment entails intolerance of another's sin coupled with blindness of one's own sin (Matthew 7:1-6; Luke 6:37; John 8:7; Romans 2:1-4)

If we are going to stand up and confront other people in the church about something being wrong, we had better make sure we are not guilty of the same thing.

Here the prefix hupo is added to krites, giving us the English word hypocrites. This is what Jesus meant when He said:
"Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye. Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you." (Matthew 7:1-6).
"Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things" (Romans 2:1).
Does Jesus want us to close our eyes to evil and error? Absolutely not! Those would all be misapplications of Jesus' teaching. In the first place, He was not commanding blind acceptance but rather grace toward others. Since all of us deal with flesh patterns from time to time, we need to stop bothering with the failing of others and start attending to serious issues of our own. We are sometimes appointed to krites, but we should never, ever hupo-krites.

Christians in Court?

Although God is the Judge of all, He has appointed people under Him to judge. The Bible encourages Christians to judge [krites] what is right for themselves and thus avoid pagan lawcourts.
"Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right? Luke 12:58 When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, as thou art in the way, give diligence that thou mayest be delivered from him; lest he hale thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and the officer cast thee into prison. Luke 12:59 I tell thee, thou shalt not depart thence, till thou hast paid the very last mite" (Luke 12:57-59).
"Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?" (I Corinthians 6:1,4-7).
Scripture is explicit: taking another Christian to court is an "utter failure." What, then, should we as believers do when we have disputes that normally call for litigation? Paul recommends that we take the matter before wise believers who can make a judgment (I Corinthians 5:3-5; I Corinthians 6:4-5). But suppose we can't arrange that? Then Paul says it would be better to "accept wrong" than to go before unbelievers for judgment. Why? Well, because the court system doesn't base their decisions on what the Bible says but rather opinion. Remember, the Bible tells us that "judgment must begin at the house of God" (I Peter 4:17).
Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican" (Matthew 18:15-17).
Judging Fruit

The Bible tells us that we are called to judge reputed prophets by their fruits:
"Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. (Matthew 7:16-20).
Remember, Jesus said you would know people and be able to judge them by their fruit; He never said you would know a "phenomenon" such as a revival by its fruit.

Judging Prophecy

We are commanded in the Bible to judge prophecy. Look what Paul wrote to the church at Corinth:
"And let two or three prophets speak, and let the others [diakrino] pass judgment" (I Corinthians 14:29).
"But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him" (Deuteronomy 18:20-22).
Jesus warned that there would be many false prophets in the last days. Besides judging their fruit, how can we discern whether or not a prophet is false? Well, according to the passage above, if a prophecy does not come to pass, then the prophet is a false prophet. Although false prophets are not stoned today, their "ministries" definitely should be.

I Corinthians 14:29 does not say that we are entitled to diakrino prophets or prophecies, but rather we are commanded to judge prophecies and prophets. Now, remember, we cannot krino (judge) anyone. The thing that God has said will krino [judge]. We have to anakrino (discern); are things of God, man, or of the devil? We must diakrino (render a decision) based on whether something is morally right or wrong by biblical standards.

Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commandments." If you fail to diakrino, you are failing to keep His commandments. If you fail to diakrino, you will allow these false prophets to keep on giving people "words" from their own flesh or from Satan. People like that should be brought to account and exposed.

Judging Righteously
"Then I charged your judges at that time, saying, 'Hear the cases between your fellow countrymen, and judge righteously between a man and his fellow countrymen, or the alien who is with him" (Deuteronomy 1:16).
Beloved, this was not advice but rather a command. We are to "Judge with right judgment" (John 7:24).


In today's society, nobody seems to take responsibility for their own actions anymore. How can we expect society to live up to God's standards, when the Church will not even live up to God's standards?

The Church must set the example. We must be salt and light to a society that has turned its back on God. Unsaved people are watching the Church, when they see the church as lukewarm, it gives them a license to sin. We as individuals must take responsibility for our own lives and our own choices. It is up to the Church to righteously judge according to the Word to ensure that Jesus will have a pure Bride (a Church without blemish or spot) when He returns.

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This teaching was written by David Holt Boshart, Jr.
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