Judging Righteously
Christ says with what manner we judge now, we shall be judged.

In the World Tomorrow, there will be a desperate need for qualified leaders skilled in applying God’s law and making wise judgments. Are you preparing for that position now?

“You can do whatever you want, but just don’t judge.” That might not be what Laodicean ministers said verbatim, but it’s what they meant. Is this biblical? Isaiah 9:7 says God’s coming Kingdom will be established with judgment and justice. In 1 Peter 4:17, God says the Church is now being judged. In John 7:24, God instructs the saints to “judge righteous judgment.” These scriptures and many more define our future role as spiritual judges, and advise us to exercise proper judgment now in our daily lives. Let’s look at what the Bible really says about godly judgment.

To the Level of a Child

Isaiah 3 is a prophecy for today in which God describes the decadent condition of our present society. God says He is taking away our food and water, the mighty man, the warrior, the judge , the prophet , the prudent , and the counselors. All these kinds of leaders are gone from our society!

Strong’s Concordance defines the word judge as “to pronounce sentence, to govern, to defend, to execute, to reason.” God has taken away those kinds of judges. He has taken away the prudent—those who have much wisdom; and the counselors—those who resolve, advise or guide.

As a people, we have degenerated to the level of a child when it comes to making right decisions and judgments. Notice verse 4: “And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them.” It’s hard to pick up a newspaper these days without reading about a terrible lack of proper wisdom and judgment.

In his book The Death of Common Sense, Philip Howard compliments the American Constitution for being a “model of flexible law that can evolve with changing times and unforeseen circumstances.” And how does that law remain flexible and adapt to changing times? Only by right and proper judgment that is based on a general law or principle.

But as the title of Howard’s book suggests, common sense has died. Just judgments have disappeared. They have been replaced by thousands and thousands of rules and regulations. “Precision became the goal,” Howard writes. “The ideal of lawmaking was to anticipate every situation, every exception and codify it. With obligations set forth precisely, according to this rationale, everyone would know where he stood. But the drive for certainty has destroyed, not enhanced, law’s ability to act as a guide.” Later, Howard concludes, “Law that leaves no room for judgment loses its original goal.”

How do we measure up, when it comes to judging righteous judgment based upon, not man’s ever-changing law, but God’s eternal, holy law?

We Are Being Judged!

In 1 Peter 4:7-15, the apostle contrasts two opposite ways of life. Peter admonishes us, above all things, to have love, to be hospitable, to minister one to another. In verse 15, Peter says, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.” There are two different ways of life: the way of unselfish, outgoing concern and love for others, and the way of selfishness, or get.

Then in verse 17, Peter says, “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God.” Judgment is a time of trying and testing to see whether we are innocent or guilty. It is not the sentence or final condemnation. That comes after the trial. But right now, the trial is going on. And we are being judged to see if we will make it or not. Peter even tells us in verses 12-13 to think it not strange when we suffer or endure fiery trials. That’s because we are on trial! And if we’re found guilty, we’ve had it, as Herbert W. Armstrong once said.

When Christ returns, the saints, both living and dead, will be made immortal. That will be our wonderful sentence, if we make it. Our judgment will be over. God expects us to take this matter of judgment seriously right now, in the time leading up to Christ’s return.

God’s Constitution

God judges us according to works, but always based upon law. “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8). There should be no confusion about which law Paul is referring to. “For this , Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet …” (verse 9). These are some of the specifics of the law. We find them recorded in the Ten Commandments.

You cannot administer government without a basic, fundamental law—a constitution. All lesser points of the law must be based on the one constitution. “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (verse 10). The basic law, or constitution, of God’s government is love! His whole law is summed up in that one word.

Mr. Armstrong defined the spiritual law of God as “a general principle, which, in its spirit, covers every act. God expects for us today to apply the principle to every act” (Good News, March 1979). There is not a specific law written for every possible act. But there is an overall constitution that covers every act. Notice that last part of Romans 13:9. After listing several of the Ten Commandments, Paul then says, “And if there be any other commandment , it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Every other act not covered in a command or statute is covered by this law of love.

Mr. Armstrong continued: “In the Bible, God does not write down every specific detail of the principle or spirit of His law! He expects us, with His Holy Spirit, to apply the principle to every circumstance, act or question” (ibid). God’s law of love is an all-encompassing way of life.

Imagine an organizational chart in pyramid form. At the top is the constitutional law of love. Below that overall principle are two divisions—love toward God and love toward man. Those two divisions are further divided into 10 points, the Ten Commandments—the first four falling under love toward God, the last six under love toward man. Below the 10 major divisions we could add any number of lesser laws or statutes recorded in Scripture or revealed through God’s servants. Then, at the bottom of the pyramid are thousands and thousands of judgments which cover every possible act!

Far from doing away with God’s law, love is actually at the very heart and essence of it; it’s at the top of the pyramid, encompassing everything!

Notice what Solomon wrote at the end of Ecclesiastes: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Our part in God’s plan is to fear Him and obey His law. We are being judged accordingly, as verse 14 points out: “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” Though God’s written law does not cover every possible human act, He says we will be judged according to every act. That’s because His spiritual law, the principle of love, does cover every act. And we will be judged whether each act was good (based on love) or evil (based on selfishness).

Consider these two essential points from Solomon’s wise instruction. First, God’s law is all-encompassing. It has to be, if we are judged according to every act. And second, since God’s law is a principle that doesn’t list every single detail, and yet we will be judged according to every detail, that means we must become experts in applying that law. Every day, we are confronted with dozens of decisions and judgments that we either base on God’s constitutional law of love, or Satan’s constitutional law of selfishness and vanity.

Christ Needs Help

Anciently, in addition to the spiritual law of love, God also revealed certain statutes and judgments to the patriarchs. Statutes were lesser laws which dealt with common occurrences. Judgments were decisions designed to protect everyone’s legal rights; in other words, the application of the law.

This is why judgment was so critical to the development of God’s nation: they settled disputes or questions about the law or human conduct. Judges were selected to mete out just sentences, fair to both parties involved. In addition, proper judgment was designed to settle similar future disputes. That’s why God instructed His patriarchs to select competent and just judges.

The book of Deuteronomy was written just before the Israelites entered the Promised Land. Moses was about to die. In the first chapter of the book, he wrote of the difficulties of leading a rapidly-growing nation like Israel (verse 9). Moses needed help. God told him to take “wise men”— judges skilled in applying the law—to help administer the government. In verse 16, Moses told these judges to “hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously.” They were told to listen; to execute just judgments.

“Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God’s: and the cause that is too hard for you, bring it unto me, and I will hear it” (verse 17). They were not to judge according to appearance (see also John 7:24).

Remember when Samuel was sent by God to anoint David king over Israel? David wasn’t Samuel’s first choice. In fact, he wasn’t even in the running! He was tending to the sheep while his seven brothers were vying for top spot in Samuel’s eyes. God told Samuel, “Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature … for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance , but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). A judge’s greatest flaw is to base his decisions on appearance rather than the heart.

The spiritual parallels are obvious. Spiritual Israel is about to multiply by the billions. Like Moses, Jesus Christ needs help. He has selected a few “wise men”—judges skilled in applying the constitutional law of God. Those judges are in training now—learning to judge according to the heart, not by appearance.

Notice James 2:1: “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.” With God, it doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, how much talent you have, or what you look like. We are all judged according to the same law.

James goes on to say that if we pay more respect to the rich, because of their wealth or appearance, than we do the poor, we become “critics and judges with wrong motives” (verse 4; Amplified).

In verse 5, we learn why judging according to appearance is so evil. Because God has chosen the poor of this world; those rich in faith. If we show partiality in judging, we end up opposite God! God wants us to be so grounded in His constitutional law that we will hear the weak, ignorant and poor, just as readily as the well-known, wealthy and attractive. God’s law is fair; and so will our judgments be, if we base them on that law.

Verse 8: “If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well.” We come from a royal line. And this is how we fulfill that royal, family law—love! Every judgment, if it is just, must originate from this royal law.

Too often, however, it doesn’t. “But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors” (verse 9). This kind of sinful judgment is based on selfishness—the way we see it.

In this context, understand the depth behind verse 10: “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” Some have often wondered how one who breaks a commandment can be guilty of them all. In verse 11, we see how that could be: “For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.” Which law? The royal, constitutional law of love. The Ten Commandments are only 10 divisions of God’s constitution. When we break any command of God, whether Ten Commandments, statutes or judgments, we have sinned against the “top of the pyramid”—God’s constitutional law of love.

“Speak, act, as those who are to be judged by the law of the freedom; for the judgment will be merciless to the man who has shown no mercy—whereas the merciful life will triumph in the face of judgment” (verses 12-13; Moffatt). Tomorrow we will be judged by how we judge today.

Not a Contradiction

Matthew 7:1 says, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” This does not contradict John 7:24 and others which say we should judge righteously. It means do not condemn or sentence another. That is Jesus Christ’s responsibility. On the other hand, if a neighbor boy has a reputation for smashing out taillights on automobiles, and you do not allow your child to play with him, that is not condemning the little boy to eternal death! It’s merely a wise judgment.

Continue further in Matthew 7. After telling us not to “judge,” Matthew goes on to say, “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” (verse 5). God says we still can go to our brother to assist him in overcoming a fault, but just make sure we have removed the beam in our own eye first! Why? “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged …” (verse 2). God wants us to understand that we are on trial—we are being judged by how we judge. We ought never to write someone off to eternal condemnation. But neither should we eliminate righteous judgment from our Christian living. We have to judge righteous judgment based on law to determine what is right and wrong. If we cannot judge in little matters now in this life, how could we ever be judges in the World Tomorrow?

Judging the World

Isaiah 9:6-7 show how closely righteous judgment relates to God’s government. Let’s notice how God’s millennial government will be structured. John 5:22 says God has committed all judgment to His Son. God has the authority to give Christ the responsibility of judgment. God is the lawmaker or lawgiver in His government. But He has made Christ the executor or enforcer of that law. Christ first executed it on Himself; He was crucified because of our rebellion against God’s law. And in giving Himself, He qualified for the responsibility of heading the judicial branch in God’s government (verse 27). Jesus Christ’s job now is to interpret God’s law; to try and eventually sentence all mankind. “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (verses 28-29). Jesus Christ will be their judge.

Notice why Christ was exalted so highly. He said, “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just ; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (verse 30). Christ judges righteously because He always seeks the Lawgiver’s will. He never judges according to the way He sees things!

That’s what God expects of us as future judges called to assist Christ; to help interpret the law, to try and eventually sentence those who come to God in the World Tomorrow. Notice Revelation 20:4: “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them [referring to us, resurrected immortal] … and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” At this point, our judgment will be over because we will be judges! Jesus Christ will give those positions to the saints.

Thayer’s Lexicon gives several definitions for the Greek word translated “judge”—all of which shed light on our future role in God’s family government. It means to separate or choose; to approve; to be of opinion or think; to determine; to pronounce an opinion concerning right or wrong. These are skills God expects us to be learning now. If we do, what a future we have!

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul corrected the brethren for taking their brothers to court to be tried before worldly judges. He begins the sixth chapter by saying, “Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?” (1 Corinthians 6:1). They were more prone to “settle” disputes with other members before the unjust courts of this world than before the constitutional law of God!

Verse 2: “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?” We’re being judged because we are destined to judge the world! If we cannot make proper judgments based on the royal law of love in “small” matters—like disputes with a brother, a mate, or a family member—how are we ever going to resolve conflict and settle disputes in the World Tomorrow? This is why Mr. Armstrong was so concerned about our individual development, about our families, about the Church. Here is what he wrote in the January 1981 Good News : “[God] called us out of the world, to be separate from the world. To live a family life to prepare us for the family that shall be His Kingdom!

“Now understand this! I’m afraid many of you have not understood it!

“The Kingdom is the divine Family of God. If we cannot live as a family should live, according to God’s spiritual law, now, while in God’s Church, we simply won’t make it into God’s Kingdom (which is His divine Family!).

“Now please! Please, dear brethren, heed this! Many of you are not living the kind of family life that is preparing you for God’s Kingdom. And if you don’t repent and reorder your whole family life, you simply won’t make it into the Kingdom! I mean that! It is life and death for all eternity!”

You can sense this same urgent plea from the Apostle Paul: “Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?” (verse 3). If judging the world seems too fantastic to imagine, what about judging angels? That word “judge” in this verse can also mean manage, or rule over, but there is another scriptural passage which suggests that we may take part in even sentencing fallen angels.

In 2 Peter 2:4, it says, “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell [Greek word tartaroo ], and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment.” That’s the only place tartaroo is used in the Bible. It’s a place where angels are reserved for their judgment.

Here is what Mr. Armstrong wrote concerning this passage: “Now stop and think a moment. Have we considered or thought that the angels are all judged and condemned already? I think Satan is, but that verse does not say Satan. It says the angels that sinned. Maybe some of them were deceived by Lucifer, the great archangel who became Satan. That’s something for you to think about.

“We are to judge angels. Angels are yet to be judged. There is a time when judgment is coming on the world and it has not come yet. The world as a whole is not being called” (Worldwide News , March 6, 1981).

You can detect a tinge of speculation in Mr. Armstrong’s comment, but the main point of his statement could not be more emphatic. Are we prepared to judge this world and even fallen angels? That’s the awesome responsibility Jesus Christ will soon hand over to His faithful saints.

Let’s continue from the passage in 1 Corinthians 6: “And yet, when you have mundane issues to settle, you refer them to the judgment of men who from the point of view of the church are of no account” (verse 4; Moffatt). Why settle for inferior, unjust judges, when we can settle matters with the highest judicial branch there is: God’s!

“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?” (verse 5). God is training us to be law-abiding citizens who base our every life decision and judgment on the royal law of love.

Verse 7: “Even to have lawsuits with one another at all, is in itself evidence of defeat. Why not rather let yourselves be wronged? Why not rather let yourself be defrauded?” That may not be what a lawyer or judge in this society tells you. But that’s what God’s royal, constitutional law says. It says if someone smites you on the face, turn the other cheek. If they sue you for your coat, give them your cloak also. If they compel you to go a mile, go two. “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). God’s constitution says to love Him above anyone or anything else, and love your neighbor as yourself.

Paul continues: “You inflict wrong and practice frauds—and that on members of the brotherhood!” (1 Corinthians 6:8; Moffatt). And how serious was this evil? “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?” (verse 9). Strikingly similar to Mr. Armstrong’s concluding remarks in the above quote: “If you don’t repent and reorder your whole family life, you simply won’t make it into the Kingdom.” God is serious about us making wise decisions—in every act, circumstance or question.

When you judge by appearance, decisions are made, but not in God’s best interest; nor in the interest of the parties involved. They are made in the interest of self! And that travels in the opposite direction of God’s constitutional law of outflowing love. It is sin, as James wrote. There’s no room for that kind of perverted, biased judgment in the World Tomorrow. Christ won’t have it.

Christ says with what manner we judge now, we shall be judged. The final sentence is almost here. Will we be able to stand at the final judgment? If so, then along with Christ, we will judge the world with righteous, just judgments. We will even judge the angelic realm. That’s how awesome and widespread our judicial authority will be! Be faithful in the smaller matters of judgment each day and Christ will make us rulers and judges over all things.