Judging Your Brother

Romans 14:12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

In Romans 14 the Apostle Paul warns about certain Christian weaknesses which can cause destructive conflicts. One destructive weakness is the tendency to judge each other without the right to do so. Paul plainly tells us to not judge each other.

His logic hinges on the truth that Jesus Christ has jurisdiction over each of our lives. In the verses surrounding Romans 14:12 Paul makes it clear that we are each accountable to Christ Jesus for our behavior in this world.

This right of judgment is based on three basic principles. First, we are children in the same family. Romans 14:10, 13-19 Jesus Christ is very interested in our lives, how we treat each other, and how we are treated by those outside the family. Matthew 18

Second, Jesus is our Lord. 14:4,8,9,11 Lord means “master of.” Jesus is our master.

Third, Jesus is God our creator. 14:11-12 As created beings we owe our very existence to Him. Each moment of our lives is a gift of His creative power, so we are accountable to Him for how we use His creation.
If we have problems with judging, an understanding of jurisdiction is helpful. Jurisdiction is the practical authority granted to a formally constituted body, office, or person to interpret and apply the law. When someone has jurisdiction it means Jesus has granted them authority to judge in matters of His law.

If I am inclined to judge my fellow Christian I should simply ask myself if I hold such an office. If Jesus has not officially conveyed jurisdiction to me then I have no right to judge, and to judge without authority is to usurp the authority of the Lord Jesus. It is best to leave those matters with Jesus and His properly constituted Church authority. We should also be cautious in our judgment under that authority since New Testament church law limits jurisdictional power, and gives strict guidelines for judgment.


  1. It seems that there is a fine line between discerning (judging) sin and discerning (judging) the motives of men. The indwelt Holy Spirit gives me a spiritual awakening to what does and does not please God. "But he that is spiritual judgeth (discerns) all things, yet he himself is judged of no man" (1 Corinthians 2:15). In theory the two, exclusively, are easy to legislate in my own life. As to sin, by God, I know. As to others, trust He'll reveal it to them. It's always perplexed me, though, when the two overlap ... the knowledge of sin and the life of another believer. To what extent do I take liberty (or jurisdiction) to discern their situation, if for no other reason than for application in my life? Interested in your thoughts. Always enjoy your articles.

  2. We each have full jurisdiction over self, which comes with the responsibility to judge oneself righteously. I address the standard of that judgment in my post A Remedy For Self-righteousness. Then there is a sort of common right to judge given to all of us in the form of lawful and/or common responsibilities. For example, I must judge those who care for my child, and take appropriate action based on that judgment. Our action based on this common judgment is limited to one or more of the following: withdrawal, verbally confront/instruct/encourage, overlook (endure), intervene to ensure safety, evangelize, and/or notify the proper authority. Each of these actions has certain limits and prohibitions given in Scripture and law. We also have jurisdiction in certain “offices” we may hold: citizen, parent, spouse, party to a contract, employer, etc. Past this common jurisdiction another person's life is none of our business.

    But what we don't have, except to the extent given by Christ, is the authority to judge the condition and behavior of our brothers and sisters in Christ concerning their relationship with, and personal obligations to the Lord and His Church. Jesus reserves this jurisdiction for Himself and those to whom He has extended limited authority in these matters.

    Habitually observing the behavior of others, especially critically, can harm our relationships. It will inevitably come out in our discussions with others (even if we don't use names). These disclosures identify us as critical observers, and will cause people to distance themselves from us. We Christians are already stereotyped as critical observers. There is a difference between critical and caring observation. We should observe others so that we may do them good.

    This is a huge subject, but I hope this response helps. Thanks for the comment, my friend, I deeply value your input.

  3. I particularly like the comment, "But what we don't have ... is the authority to judge the condition and behavior of our brothers and sisters in Christ concerning their relationship ... to the Lord and His Church. Jesus reserves this jurisdiction for Himself...." I can discern how their actions will help or hinder my relationship with Christ if exercised in me, but with such grace knowing God's dealing with them may be different than His current dealing with me. It goes back to allowing God to be God in me and sovereignly in others. We have to lose control over others and trust them to Christ and His leading, knowing He is able to get His work done better than us.

    Sorry for the long dialogue. You post is alive in me. Thanks again for your faithfulness to stir your readers' minds toward the things of God. He is so worthy. He uses you and I am personally grateful. Keep pressing forward.

  4. You touched on one of the most difficult areas of my early ministry: trusting God to work in the lives of others, and understanding my place in His work. Can't say I have it all worked out yet... but I'm learning. Thanks my brother.



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