One of the thorniest argument points a professing Christian believer will encounter from a non-believer is that oftentimes when a Christian believer states a position taken from Holy Scripture, the non-believer will shoot back with “You’re judging others… and what right do you have to do that, anyway??”.
Let’s take a step back.
Here is a passage that touches on this argument point of judgment by Christians:
What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13)
The Apostle Paul, the foremost Christian evangelist and church planter that there has ever been, puts forward 2 critical positions; Christian believers need to take note of these:
- Per v. 12a, Christian believers are not responsible for the judgment (any judgment) of those who are unsaved (that is, those who have not professed belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and who have not put their trust in Him alone for salvation and eternal life). Per v. 13a, God Himself will judge them in a coming day.
- Per v12b, Christian believers are responsible for judging other Christian believers who are indulging in known sin within the confines of the church body, with the sole objective of exercising Godly discipline, per v. 13b, even up to expelling the offender from the church body until the offender has been corrected.
Holy Scripture has always refuted, and will always refute, all claims that it contradicts itself, but a non-believer may seize upon the following to insist with a single broad-brush stroke that Christians must not ever judge anyone for anything:
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. (Matthew 7:1)
If this objection is raised to a Christian believer by a non-believer when discussing judgment, it is proper for the Christian believer to state that, in that passage, Jesus Christ was speaking about having a proper understanding of motives. Christian believers are not to judge anyone’s motives, because we are not competent for that type of judgment; only God is:
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12-13)
However, as we have already seen, the word of God is equally clear that Christian believers are to judge known sin in the church for 2 compelling reasons:
- To maintain the reputation of the church for holiness.
- To restore the offender to fellowship within the church body, and most critically, to restore the offender to fellowship with God.
The Apostle Paul goes on to provide a powerful illustration of the scope of judgment that Christian believers are to be entrusted with:
If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! (1 Corinthians 6:1-3)
We seem to have some weighty responsibility in the judgment area; it is intriguing to understand from 1 Corinthians 6:3a that Christian believers will ‘…judge angels’! How can this be?
God’s children may be given a position that is higher than that of the angels. We are not only created in God’s image, but we are redeemed by Jesus Christ… neither of these things are true of the angels.
With regard to being created in God’s image:
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)
With regard to being redeemed by Jesus Christ:
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” (Galatians 3:13)
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9)
“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people. (Luke 1:68)
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace (Ephesians 1:7)
Neither being created in the image of God, nor being redeemed by Jesus Christ apply to the angels; additionally, the angels are in the service of the children of God (meaning those who are to inherit eternal life):
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. (Psalm 34:7)
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; (Psalm 91:11)
Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? (Hebrews 1:14)
For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. (Hebrews 2:16)
According to Strong’s NIV Exhaustive Concordance, the word ‘judge’ from 1 Corinthians 6:3a means this (from the Greek word ‘krino’, #3212):
“… to decide, consider, as preferring one thing over another or determining the correctness of a matter; by extension: to judge, to pass judgment on, condemn in a legal sense: …”
This definition very strongly implies that we may have some degree of authority over the holy angels, as they have no sin in the sense of having to be condemned for that.
1 Corinthians 6:3a may mean that Christian believers in heaven may take a part in the judgment of fallen angels.
Jesus Christ has been exalted over all of the angels:
That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (Ephesians 1:19-23)
so it is reasonable that those in Him, and made in His likeness:
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)
And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. (1 Corinthians 15:49)
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24)
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)
will share in His authority over the angels:
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matthew 19:28)
if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; (2 Timothy 2:12)
To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Revelation 3:21)
I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4)
Brothers and sisters in Christ… do you have an appreciation of how precious and special we are to Him? We are not only created in His image, we have been redeemed for salvation and eternal life by His atoning blood sacrifice on the cross, not to mention our being given (as God has apportioned before the world ever was) appropriate authority to judge those inside the church body, and even angels!
Before our heads get too swelled to fit where they should… let us take a sober lesson from the time when Jesus sent the Twelve Apostles out into all Israel. He gave them sweeping authority to preach the Good News, to heal the sick, to raise the dead, to cleanse lepers and to drive out evil spirits from the possessed. When they came back to Jesus after having been sent out in power, elated with what they had been able to do, note very carefully what Jesus said to them (italic emphasis mine):
The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:17-20)
Let us be humble as we walk with our LORD and Savior Jesus Christ, understanding who we are and who He is, appreciating what He has called us and empowered us to be able to do, all to the glory of God the Father Almighty!