I read a comment today containing this quote from James' Epistle: "Mercy triumphs over judgement". The subject was the 'hyper-grace' teaching permeating many Christian gatherings and those who would critique it. It seems that critics are being 'hyper-judgemental'. I suppose I would class myself among those critics and I guess a reply is in order.

It's not about grace or judgement but those who are "so quickly deserting the one who called... and are following a different gospel" (Gal 1:6). We are free in Christ's grace and not saved by lawkeeping (Gal 5:1, 4) but freedom is not the same as permissiveness, "...do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh" (Gal 5:13). Grace is not defined as 'do as you please' (Rom 6:1, 15). It is possible in fact to lose God's grace (Heb 12:15). As in Jude's day, so in ours there are those "...who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality..." (Jude 1:4). They are among us but stand condemned and are ungodly.

Now it is true that Jesus said,  "Do not judge" (Matt 7:1) and Paul states that we should not pass judgement upon another (Rom 2:1) but both statements relate to one hypocritical sinner judging another. He also instructs that trivial matters of practice and lifestyle should not be criticised (Col 2:16). James states that we should not discriminate between rich and poor believers (James 2:4, 9). As those who have received mercy we should show mercy just as at Christ's judgement he will show mercy to us (James 2:12-13). But elsewhere Paul says that we are to judge amongst ourselves as believers (1 Cor 5:12; 6:3). We are to judge on moral and ethical matters (1 Cor 5:12; 11:13) and Paul even asks that his statements be judged (1 Cor 10:15). So on what basis can we judge, discern and discriminate?

The only reliable means of judging between what John calls, “...the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” (1 John 4:6) is Scripture. Knowing the truth means continuing in Jesus' teaching (John 8:31-32) and being set apart in the Word (John 17:17). For Jesus the final arbiter was Scripture: "Did you never read... not understanding... explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures... as the Scripture said... search the Scriptures... it is these that testify about me... the Scripture cannot be broken..." (Matt 21:42; 22:29; Luke 24:27; John 7:38; 5:39; 10:35). Luke says of Philip, "beginning from this Scripture... he preached Jesus..." Paul "...reasoned with them from the Scriptures..." The Bereans were "...examining the Scriptures daily..." Apollos "...was mighty in the Scriptures... for he powerfully refuted... demonstrating by the Scriptures..." (Acts 8:35; 17:2, 11; 18:24, 28). Paul continually used Scripture in his arguments and teachings: "...For what does the Scripture say?"; "For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction..."; “...according to the Scriptures,”; “...give attention to the reading, to exhortation and teaching.”; "For the Scripture says" (Rom 4:3; 15:4; 1 Cor 15:3; 1 Tim 4:13; 5:18). Peter said, "...contained in Scripture..."; "...no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,... but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." (1 Pet 2:6; 2 Pet 1:20-21).

So Scripture is the judge and we must teach it correctly (2 Tim 2:15). It can discern our thoughts and intentions (Heb 4:12). Why? “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof  [elegmos = refuting error], for correction [correcting faults], for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).

Are we 'hyper-judgemental' if we point out error or deceit using Scripture. I think not. Can grace be misused as an excuse for licence. Yes, I think it can.