“God is not judge…”
The statement threw me. Words weren’t coming together to form anything coherent. My mind drew a total and complete blank. All that I could muster was a feeble, “Oh, but He is.” And then the conversation topic quickly shifted; or as my niece would put it, our chat “took a hard left.”
The discussion had started out innocently enough, and there was a lot of laughter and siding with each other on various, insignificant matters. But then we hit the topic that seems to unnerve everyone… Lifestyles. I made a comment that a particular lifestyle was not Biblical, or what God qualifies as “good.” And almost instantly the “judging card” was thrown. Hold up! Flag on the play! You’re not supposed to be judging people!
To this, I shook my head in affirmation. I am not supposed to judge people- that is another one of those things that God’s standard highlights pretty well. But what about discernment? What about knowing His Truth and applying it to my life? What about not allowing my silence to affirm something I know the Bible doesn’t support? What about God’s warning in Isaiah… “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” (Is. 5:20) Am I not obligated as a Christian to speak out and share what God has indeed called good, and on the opposite, what He has indeed called evil?
And then the conversation was furthered- or in my case, halted. “God is not judge…”
Wait, wait, wait! I am fine with personally being reminded not to judge; in fact, I need the reminder. In my spiritual pride and my “my sins aren’t as bad as yours” attitude- one that I display far more often than I like to admit- I shouldn’t be judging others. But to say that Almighty God is not judge, does not in any way sit well with me. (Literally, my stomach was flipping all through the night, as I mulled this whole thing over.) And the reason for my unease is that the implications of this statement are too great to dismiss! Let’s break it down…
If God is not judge, then the Bible has it wrong.
Seriously! I mean there are countless passages that describe Him as judge (Ps. 50:6, Ps. 94:2, Is. 33:22, Jas. 4:12), show Him in the role of judge (Ps. 7:9, Jer. 17:10, Rev. 20:11-15), and talk about Him judging the nations/mankind (Ps. 9:8, Ps. 82:8. 1 Pet. 4:5). So is His Word false? Are these attributes and actions something we as mere men have assigned to God? And if we did assign this “judging” characteristic to God, why in the world would we have done so?! In man speak, it’s not a “nice” characteristic to assign.
But what if, through the use of human authors, God penned His attributes and actions very clearly? What if He undeniably told these authors to put down that He is “our judge, (the LORD) is our lawgiver, (the LORD) is our King,” (Is. 33:22)? What if He moved in the heart of the prophet Jeremiah to write, “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds,” (Jer. 17:10)?
And what if, in a most gracious warning, the Spirit stirred John to write these words… “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.”
If God is not judge, then all of the unjust wrongs will never be made right.
Daily we see examples where people have been wronged, hurt, tortured, misused- their innocence and sometimes even their lives, taken from them. And at times, (tragically) nothing is done to correct it. Murderers receive “non-guilty” verdicts, child abusers cover up their deeds through well-crafted lies, the human sex-slave trade is seen as a growing economic venture… All these things and more happen on a much larger scale than we would like to think on, and it’s heartbreaking. But in the end, all we can say is “life isn’t fair.” (Or in a bizarre fashion, we hope that “karma” gets the better of them…?) That’s the only fitting response if we don’t have a great moral judge, who judges with equity!
Side note… Could it also be said that this absentee judge, who doesn’t amend the injustices of this world, is a God who does not truly love us? (A very sobering thought.) What about the many faithful believers who are killed daily for the sake of Christ? Does He not love them? Wouldn’t His love be displayed best in righting the wrongs inflicted on His people?
But what if God, who is our judge, reminded us not to lose heart because He will act as our avenger (Rom. 12:19)?! What if He promised to make all things new (Rev. 21:5), and to cause the former things of this fallen world to be long-forgotten (Is. 65:17)? What if all the secret things, all the evil deeds our worldly justice system couldn’t correct, all the unsolved and unknowns are brought to light when the “books are opened” and all are judged? If God is judge, and if He is true to His Word, we don’t have to sit in the despairing thought of “well, life just isn’t fair.” And if God is the one to bring justice as the supreme evaluator, then He is very much so a God of love.
If God is not judge, then the cross of Christ is pointless.
The Gospel message is hinged on the fact that sinful man needs to be reconciled to God. And the way that God accomplished this reconciliation is through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. But if He is not our magistrate, and if there is no moral law or standard given that we must be accountable to, and if He doesn’t judge sin and the sinner… Then why in the world would we need Jesus and the cross?
Bear with me here, for a little bit.
From the very first pages of the Bible, we learn that man chose to trust their decision making ability over God’s. Instead of leaning on Him and trusting Him to tell them what was good and what was not, they wanted to call the shots themselves. So they took of the fruit, from the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” and that trust- that intimate relationship- between mankind and God was broken.
The conflict is presented pretty early on in the Biblical narrative. But so is the solution! (And praise God for that!) Genesis 3:15 promises that the “seed” of the woman will crush the head of the serpent. We know now that the long awaited “seed of the woman” is in fact, Jesus; He did crush the head of the serpent when He submitted Himself to death, to take on the sin of this world, and to act as the ultimate sacrifice.
But let’s go even deeper…
Because of God’s holy and righteous character, and because He cannot abide sin, He has just wrath for those who would harden their hearts to His Truth (Rom. 2:5). Don’t think of wrath on a human scale; this wrath must be seen in light of who God is, and the culmination of all of His attributes. J.I. Packer explains it like so: “God’s wrath in the Bible is never the capricious, self-indulgent, irritable, morally ignoble thing that human anger so often is. It is, instead, a right and necessary reaction to objective moral evil.” (Knowing God, 151)
So what is to be done about this deserved and just wrath? 1 John 4:10 says that Jesus was the “propitiation” for our sins. He was the one to bring us back into favor, or right relationship with God, but He was also the one who placated (or appeased) the wrath of God. (RC Sproul, Ligonier Ministries Devotion, 04/14/2017)
Do we get that?! Jesus bore the wrath that should have been unleashed on all who have fallen short and broken the standard that God has established. (And that reference to “all who have fallen short” would be every, single person according to Rom. 3:10-12, 23, myself included!)
My only response to this can be summed up in Stuart Townend’s hymn… “How deep the Father’s love for us; how vast beyond all measure, that He should give His only Son to make a wretch His treasure.”
Bringing it back…
If God is judge, and if He has given mankind a standard and a moral law by which to live by, then we must adhere to it or face judgment. And if we don’t adhere to that standard, that “set bar of morality,” then we are deserving of punishment. (It makes sense when we look at human laws and court systems, but when we try and apply it to the ultimate authority, it suddenly doesn’t fit. An interesting double-standard, if I do say so myself.) And if His wrath is executed out of His righteous, holy, perfect and sovereign character, then we can trust that it is good and just.
But here is the part that gets me… While He is judge, and while He does execute judgement, He provides a way out. Let me say that again… HE PROVIDES A WAY OUT! He is still just, because someone receives punishment for the breaking of His law (Jesus), but He is merciful because those who are in Christ, are not the ones to bear that punishment. So this makes Him a merciful judge!
Let’s run through a hypothetical, shall we? If I murder my neighbor, and the judge appointed to the case simply dismisses it because he or she feels sorry for me, there would be (and should be) an uproar! It would be on every news station, be covered on all the social media sites, and would probably become some big, cinematic, Hollywood “true story” after all the hubbub had died down. A few people would favor the judge’s decision because they are all about “peace and love.” But most people would be upset (and rightly so) because justice was not served. Someone has to pay the penalty for the wrong that was committed.
James tells us that if we break just one command of God’s law, we are guilty of breaking all of it (Jas. 2:10). And as was mentioned earlier, “there is no one righteous, not even one…” (Rom. 3:10) So in the high court of heaven, we are in fact guilty. And according to the supreme judge who has “penned” the laws of this world, the punishment for that sin is death.
I deserve eternal death… I deserve to be separated from Him forever… I deserve the punishment for every action committed, word spoken or thought produced that is in direct conflict with God’s standard. But He put all of those things- my actions, words and thoughts, past, present and future- on Jesus Christ.
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21)
“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Is. 53:6)
You see, He is the best judge, because He is a merciful judge. He didn’t have to offer a way; He didn’t have to send His son; He didn’t have to do anything for us. But He chose to provide grace; He chose to send His Son to this lowly place, so that He might save! And more so, so that He might be glorified!
It might sound like I have put too much thought into this… And I might have given too many examples and “what if” scenarios. But my resolve has become fastened, and my appreciation and love for my merciful, gracious Judge has only grown deeper. (My prayer is that this is the same for you, reader.)
Perhaps our aversion to calling Him “judge” stems from our fear that He will indeed judge all that we have done and said? Perhaps in an effort to justify our lifestyles, or the lifestyles of those we love, we lessen this attribute? It’s always interesting to me that we alter God’s standard when it hits to close to home- either a sin in our own life that we don’t want to let go of, or the sin of someone close to us.
Perhaps we need to see Him as He is and not as we would like Him to be. C.S. Lewis said it like so: “What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, ‘What does it matter so long as they are contented?’ We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heaven—a senile benevolence who, as they say, ‘liked to see young people enjoying themselves,’ and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, ‘a good time was had by all.’” (The Problem of Pain)
My final response to all of this? PRAYER.
Remember that this whole thing started with a family discussion; someone I love so dearly believes that God is not judge… And knowing that heart condition, I need to be committed to praying for my unsaved family and friends. I need to be on my knees daily, pleading for God’s will and the softening of their hearts. I need to bring before Him my desire that they know Him not only as the good, gracious, loving God that He is, but that they might also know Him as Savior, Lord, and the only holy and merciful judge.
And I will be constantly praying that His character is always defined on His terms and not mine.
God reveal Yourself to us, please, that we may see You as You truly are and respond in the only appropriate way… Humbled adoration, surrender and thanks.