There are many who have taken the first part of this passage and tried to say that we cannot make any judgments about anyone. It is true that the Bible says that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23) and that if we claim to be without sin, that we deceive ourselves (1John 1:8). So if we have all sinned, on what basis are we to sit in judgment on another?
Paul points out – Rom 2:21-22 “you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?” What Paul is teaching in the passage is what Jesus is saying in the passage in Matthew – if we judge someone else to be guilty when we are doing the same things, then we are condemning ourselves.
Jesus said that we should ‘Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.’ (John7:24) It is easy to judge someone based on their appearance or on preconceived notions. But this very instruction by Christ implies that we MUST make judgments.
We are told to use the right standards when we judge (James 2:2-4) Remember that it took a vision from God to convince Peter that it was acceptable for him to go preach to a Gentile for the first time. (Acts 10) and later he had to explain this to the Jewish believers back in Jerusalem who questioned his actions (Acts 11).
Some presume that all judging is wrong, but that is not the case. Jesus told us to make judgments that are right and based on evidence. Matt 7:15-16 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will know them.” And we are warned in 1John 4:1 “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” How can we watch out for false teachers if we cannot make judgments about them? The question is not whether or not to make judgments, but rather what standard is to be used in making them.
Acts 17:11 “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” That is the standard on which we are to base our judgment – the word of God. Jesus told us that it was to be the final authority –John 12:48. If we use the words of the Bible as the basis for our decisions about ourselves and others, and do not hold others to a different standard than we do ourselves, then our judgment will be right. It will not be us making the judgment, but God – and His judgment is always correct!