How Does God Judge?

I’ve been involved in education for much of my life in some form or fashion.  Back in my seminary days I was blessed to be the teaching assistant for Old Testament Introduction.  The main professor allowed me to deliver lectures on the Kings of Israel and Judah as well as on the books of the Megilloth (Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther) but my primary responsibility was consulting with the students and grading their papers.  I personally had professors in the past that graded my papers and simply put a grade on the front of it without any specific comments.  Although I was thankful to do well as a student, their manner of grading left me questioning if they ever read my composition.  I was determined not to do that.  I took my grading responsibilities seriously (perhaps some pupils would have said too seriously!), looking upon it as my first pastorate of sorts, and read every word of every line of every paper from every student.  I made multiple comments on student essays and gave them a very specific rubric (grading criteria) in advance so they would know exactly where their points would come from.  Nothing in the grading process would take them by surprise if they simply took the time to read the grading criteria and then aligned their paper accordingly.  Wednesday nights have found us in a series on the book of Romans.  The first 3 chapters deal with God’s judgment and the fact that every human being is found guilty before His throne   How does God judge guilt?  How can one be declared innocent?  God doesn’t leave it to question but tells us clearly in His word.  Though much more could be said of God’s judgment and the way He judges than what we can look at in a newsletter or a single sermon, we will take a quick look at 5 principles by which the Lord judges found in Romans 2:1-16.

Principle 1—God Judges On The Basis Of Amount Of Knowledge (Rom. 2:1)…I have a dear friend who teaches down the hall from me.  Though he will remain nameless (this is actually a little test to see if he reads the newsletter or not!), most receiving this article know him.  He teaches 8th graders and makes a conscious decision at the beginning of second semester to treat them more like high schoolers since they are less than 18 weeks (of academic time) from entering 9th grade.  Most would agree that this is a good tactic to take because these students are getting older, they have learned more, and they should be growing in maturity.  Now, if a first grade teacher started treating their students like high schoolers when second semester hits, we would look upon that as unfair and unjust.  A toddler struggling with potty training is one thing, a teenager wrestling with the same issue is quite another (barring any kind of disability or disease of course).  An elementary student who opens up a book on Physics is likely looking at the pictures (unless they were extremely prodigious in some way) whereas a college student should probably be looking at more than captions in order to pass their course.  You see, we judge on the basis of amount of knowledge.  So too it is spiritually.  The Bible makes it clear that “to whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48).”  The tenth chapters of both the gospel of Matthew and the gospel of Luke recount to us Jesus giving the disciples power over demons and ability to heal the sick as they went about preaching the message of the kingdom.  Our Lord tells them that anyone who does not receive them and their proclamation will be more harshly condemned than Tyre and Sidon in the judgment because if the message and miracles of Christ and His disciples would have occurred in those infamous cities then they would have repented (Matt. 101-15; Luke 10:1-16; Matt. 11:21).  Do you know a lot about God?  Have you read a great deal of Scripture?  Have you heard the gospel of Jesus again and again?  How much knowledge do you have about the things of the Lord?  How great is the accountability we have?!

 Principle 2—God Judges On The Basis Of A Person’s Contempt (Rom. 2:4-5)…I was blessed to be involved in jail ministry for a number of years.  My goal was simply to preach the gospel and to lead the men in worship.  I never asked them what they were incarcerated for but there were times over the years when they would offer what had landed them in jail.  One occasion an inmate told me what he did and asked for me to come to his court date.  He had confessed to a fairly serious crime and there would be no trial with witnesses and the like.  He didn’t want me to testify or anything, but just to give him the encouragement that there was someone in the courtroom who would be praying for him and his family.  I agreed and went to the proceedings.  I had never been in a courtroom before when judgments were taking place.  Before the judge came in, the bailiff gave us instructions to turn off our cellphones.  We were told in no uncertain terms that if our cellphone happened to ring then it would be confiscated and any attempt to resist would be grounds for arrest as we would be in contempt of court.  The officers were very serious about upholding the dignity of the proceedings and the esteem of the one who would soon enter who would reverentially be called “Your Honor!”  Almighty God is of course the only One who is truly honorable.  He has poured out common grace (kindness, tolerance, and patience) on all of humanity.  Every day that anyone opens their eyes, every breath that one takes in their nostrils, every beat that one’s heart makes are all a gift from the Lord’s almighty hand!  So those who close their eyes to God’s Word, who use their breath to curse God’s Name, and who choose a stony heart refusing to repent and trust in Christ are utterly contemptible!  God is not to be trifled with!  He is to be praised and adored!  His blessings are not to be taken for granted and His salvation is not to be neglected!  To be contemptible towards Him will not go unnoticed!

 Principle 3—God Judges On The Basis Of Deeds (Rom. 2:6-10)…This principle may seem strange to ears used to hearing the truth that we are not saved by works but by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone!  However, though the Bible never says that we are saved by works, indeed it is quite clear that by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified before God (Rom. 3:20); the Word of God does teach that He judges on the basis of deeds.  We’ll discuss two passages briefly here.  Matthew 25:31-46 finds Jesus teaching that on the day of judgment the sheep (representing God’s children) will be separated from the goats (representing those who are not God’s children-though they thought they were).  The goats are led away into everlasting punishment on the basis of their works, or perhaps better said their lack of works, in that they did not feed the hungry, did not give drink to the thirsty, did not provide shelter to the stranger, did not care for the sick, and did not visit the imprisoned.  Another powerful passage speaking to the principle that God judges on the basis of deeds and which concurrently also clearly points out that we are saved by grace is Revelation 20:11-15.  Here the facts of the future Great White Throne Judgment are relayed to us.  Those whose names were not written in the Lamb’s Book of life (singular-just one book) were judged by their deeds which were written in the books (plural-many of them) and were subsequently cast into the lake of fire.  Notice, those who were saved by the grace of Christ simply had their names in one book, the Lamb’s Book of Life.  Those who rejected the grace of Jesus, those unredeemed by His blood, were judged by their deeds which took many books to record!

Principle 4—God Judges Impartially (Rom. 2:11-15)…In the United States court system justice is supposed to be blind, but all of us probably know of famous cases where it seems justice peeks out of one eye or another!  That being said, before we judge our justice system too harshly, let’s consider how impartially we judge on a daily basis.  If we run through a red light then it’s okay because we were in a hurry; if someone else does it then they’re an irresponsible idiot (though I don’t encourage you to call anyone an idiot).  If we’re driving too slowly seeing the sites then we think no one should be upset because they can just go around; if someone else is driving too slowly then we think “the gas pedal is on the right, some of us have to get to work here!”  If we run late to work then it’s justified because we had things happening at home; but if a store we want to go to opens a few minutes late (perhaps because their employees we’re running behind getting to work) then we’re frustrated and may never shop there again!  We like to think we judge impartially, but we tend to judge ourselves favorably and in the best light while judging others unfavorably and always assuming the worst.  With God, there is no partiality.  He is not a respector of persons.  He will judge impartially, in the light of total truth and real righteousness!

Principle 5—God Judges On Basis Of Motive (Rom. 2:16)…People love to say “God knows my heart.”  That phrase is usually used in the context of a situation where someone meant to do good and right but things didn’t turn out so well.  Something unintended took place.  Some misunderstanding occurred.  Things went south when we intended the best so we say “God knows my heart.”  There’s certainly truth in that sentiment but let us not forget that God also knows our hearts when we didn’t intend the best, when we sinned and fell short, when our hearts weren’t in the right place and no one noticed the shortcomings of our insides by what they saw on the outside.  God, the One who searches the heart and looks at the heart (Rom. 8:27; 1 Sam. 16:7), does know our hearts, our deepest motivations, and that is likely more a reason for conviction than for comfort.  The Lord will judge according to a full and righteous knowledge of all external deeds and internal motivations.

Let me close by saying that no one apart from Christ will be judged by God and found righteous and by citing one of my favorite portions of Scripture.  John 3:17-18, “God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.  He who believes in Him (Christ) is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.