This is the next article amoung four I have recently written for my local paper.
Knowing God, Chapter Fourteen: God the Judge by John K. Jones
Over the last two articles, we have looked in turn on God’s love and His grace. We have seen the beauty of Exodus 34:6-7: "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” This article turns to the second part of verse 7: “Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished.” We too often revel in God’s love and grace while giving no thought to His justice.
However, the Bible shows everywhere the terrible face of God as judge. As J. I. Packer notes in Chapter 14 of Knowing God, God judged Adam and Eve (Genesis 3), the entire world in Noah’s day (Genesis 6-8), Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18-19), Egypt (Exodus 7-12), those who worshiped the golden calf (Leviticus 10:1-3), and even His chosen people, Israel (Judges 2:1-15, 3:5-8, 4:1-3; 2 Kings 17, 32:15-17, 23:26-27). The Bible gives many more examples.
God is serious about judgment. No one ‘gets a pass.’ As Packer says, “…the heart of the justice which expresses God’s nature is retribution, the rendering to persons what they have deserved; for this is the essence of the judge’s task.” This judgment is “a revelation of the moral character of God, and an imparting of moral significance to human life.” As even Immanuel Kant admitted, we see in God’s judgment the eternal value of moral choices because of the punishments and rewards that God gives.
We all, in ourselves, are without hope. God’s standard for right behavior is perfection. Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48). And we all fall far short of this standard (Romans 3:9-20). But there is hope from outside of us, from someone else.
But God, the just judge, became a man in the Person of Jesus Christ (John 1:1-13). He came to earth, lived a perfect life, and died a death He did not deserve on the cross for the sins of His people. In the clearest example of God’s judgment in the Bible, Christ was judged for sin (Galatians 3:10-14). Christ was judged for those who place their faith in Him. He is our hope.
What are we to do since we are faced with God’s judgment? Packer writes, ”Call on the coming Judge to be your present Savior…Run from him now and you will meet him as Judge then-and without hope. Seek him now, and you will find him … and you will then discover that you are looking forward to that future meeting with joy, knowing that there is now “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus “ (Romans 8:1).”
Flee to Christ! Turn from your sin and turn to Him in simple trust that He paid the penalty for your sin. Turn the face of your Judge into the face of your Savior (John 5: 22-23).
[This is part of a series of acrticles the members of my church are publishing on Packer's famous book. The other articles in this series can be found at this link.]