The Lord Is Our Judge
P. G. Mathew | Saturday, June 23, 2012
Copyright © 2012, P. G. Mathew
In the church family, there are adults, children, and infants. There are people of different levels of maturity. There are strong people and weak people, and people with different spiritual gifts. In things indifferent, things not essential to salvation, we enjoy liberty. But all in God’s family believe that Jesus Christ is Lord. They believe that Jesus Christ died and came to life, so that he might be the Lord of the saints, both living and dead. And all in God’s family, whether weak or strong, are received into the kingdom of God the Father. Christ died on behalf of all in the family, and he lives and cares for them daily. So in this passage Paul is asking, "What right you have to judge your brother?” In other words, we are not our brother’s judge, especially in adiaphora (non-essential) matters.
Christ’s delegated authorities, including parents, police, pastors, are to govern those under them, and they must give an account to God of their faithful service. They must rule according to the word of God. But in matters indifferent, all are equal in the church of God. Everyone must receive everyone else. So Paul writes, "Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (Col. 3:11). We are all brothers and sisters in Christ, so we are not to judge one another. The Lord’s brother says, "There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?” (Jas 4:12).
Love One Another
We are to love one another as Christ loves his church. Jesus alone is the ultimate ruler, the head, of his church. We all must stand before the judgment seat of God, which is the judgment seat of Christ, as we read, "Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him… . And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man” (John 5:22–23, 27).
Let us love our brothers in God’s family. Paul uses the word "brother” five times in Romans 14 (vv. 10 [2x], 13, 15, 21). Thus, he is emphasizing the idea of the family of God. Jesus is our older brother. Earlier in this epistle Paul wrote, "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Rom. 8:29). Elsewhere we read, "Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. He says, ‘I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises’” (Heb. 2:11–12).
Christians are to conform to the likeness of Christ, that he may be the firstborn among many brothers. God sanctifies us daily so that we may be like our Lord, our older brother. So we must not judge our Christian brother. To his own master he stands or falls. But his master is very capable. He is powerful to save him to the uttermost and make him stand on the last day.
All God’s children shall stand. None will be lost. So we can conclude that those who leave God’s church are not God’s people. They never were, for God never saved them. Even among the twelve disciples, one was a devil. Jesus deliberately chose him, but he betrayed Christ, died, and went to hell.
In Romans 14:3 Paul rebuked the weak and the strong; he does the same in Romans 14:10. The weak were judging the strong, and the strong were despising the weak. But it is the Lord’s business, not ours, to judge. We must not play God. Rather, we must wait for the judgment day when the Judge of all the earth will judge in righteousness.
God’s Judgment Seat
The reason that we should not judge but that we must wait is given in the latter part of verse 10: "for all will stand before the judgment seat of God.” All believers will stand, whether Jew or Gentile, weak or strong. Every unbeliever shall also stand before God’s throne of judgment. No one will be able to escape this judgment.
In this passage, God swears by himself because there is no one greater than him. Paul quotes Isaiah 45:23 to support his teaching that all without exception will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. So Paul begins, "As surely as I live, says the Lord.” All swearing is not evil. There is spiritual swearing. "As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God’” (v. 11). Notice the emphasis on everyone—every knee, every tongue. Isaiah was speaking about the universal worship of the God of Israel. So we read in Isaiah 45:21–22, two verses before the one that is quoted: "Declare what is to be, present it—let them take counsel together. Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me. Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.”
Paul himself was brought before the judgment seat of Gallio in Corinth. He was brought before the judgment seats of Festus and Felix and others. Christ was brought to the judgment seat of Pilate. But who are Gallio, Festus, and Pilate? They are God’s delegated authorities. They themselves were unjust and corrupt. But every human being will be brought to stand before God and his Son, before righteousness and perfection. This appearance is not optional. We will be summoned and we must appear. We cannot give an excuse and not appear.
The Greek word is dei—we must appear. Elsewhere Paul says, "For we all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). We cannot lie about anything. God knows everything: what we did, and what we did not do, what we thought, and what we did not think.
Paul writes, "This judgment will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ as my gospel declares” (Rom. 2:16). In Hebrews 4:12–13 we read, "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” David says, "O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar” (Ps. 139:1–2).
But this judgment, which the Father’s prerogative, is given to his Son. Everyone must face Jesus Christ. He is God, Lord, and Judge. He humbled himself in his incarnational life to accomplish our redemption by his obedience of his life and death of the cross. So we read, "Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess [by compulsion or by love]” (Phil. 2:9–11). What will we confess? It was not stated in Isaiah 45:23 but here we find it: "that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Jesus declared in the Great Commission, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18). All authority in the entire universe is given to Christ: "For [God the Father] has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising [this man, Jesus Christ] from the dead” (Acts 17:31). Peter said, "[Christ] commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42). Jesus himself said, "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left… . Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matt. 25:31–33, 46). And John writes, "Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them” (Rev. 20:11). What is written in the Scriptures will certainly be fulfilled.
The Egyptians were ordered by Pharaoh to bow their knees to Joseph (Gen. 41:43 in the Hebrew text). Did you bow your knees in reverence to Jesus Christ, the only Savior and Lord, whom God the Father highly exalted? (PGM) Have you confessed with your tongue that Jesus Christ is Lord? If you have not done so, you have dishonored the Father by dishonoring his Son.
It is the Father’s will that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father. If you have bowed your knees and confessed, then rejoice. You are saved to serve him.
As believers, we also will appear before the judgment seat of Christ, not to be condemned but to receive rewards for good works we have done. For the Bible says, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). They have crossed from death unto life (John 3:14; 5:24). But we will receive rewards for the good works we have done by grace. Paul says, "Because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free” (Eph. 6:8). In Ecclesiastes we read, "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil” (Eccl. 12:13–14). And Jesus Christ himself said, "For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done” (Matt. 16:27).
Have you brought forth fruit as a result of your vital union of saving faith with Jesus Christ? Have you brought forth more fruit and much fruit? Do you live your life to the Lord’s advantage (tô kuriô), to the Lord’s glory? Or do you do what you do for your own pleasure and fame? Do you spend your time, talents, and money for the gospel and for the singular purpose of the Lord’s fame? Jesus lived for his Father’s glory in total obedience to him.
Paul himself was rich in his good works, as we read in 1 Corinthians 15: "For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.” It is a litotes; God’s grace was highly productive in his life, producing fruit, more fruit, and much fruit for the glory of God. "No, I worked harder than all of them —yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me” (1 Cor. 15:9–10). Later he says, "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58).
What we do now as good works for the glory of God will be rewarded. God remembers everything, even a cup of cold water that we give to someone. Let us, therefore, live daily in obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ so that we may abound in good works! Then, when we all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, we will have reason to rejoice greatly.
However, if a person refuses to bow his knees to Jesus Christ, the Father is against him, the Son is against him, the Holy Spirit is against him, the holy angels are against him, and the holy church is against him. He must be warned, for "our ‘God is a consuming fire.’” The Hebrews writer also says, "Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:28–31).
Of the judgment Jesus taught, "Then [the wicked] will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matt. 25:46). Again, in Revelation 20 we read, "Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:11–15).
Friends, the game is about to be over. All mocking will stop. All disobedience will stop. All dishonor will stop. The dread of God will grip the wicked. Reality will hit them in the face. All lies will be swept away. All will face God alone before his judgment seat. He will condemn the wicked and cast the wicked away from his presence into the lake of fire. The wicked will go into eternal punishment but the righteous to eternal life.
This is the goal of history. Paul concludes about judgment in verse 12: "So, then, each one of us will give an account of himself to God.” Let us then stop judging our brothers in matters non-essential. Stop blame-shifting. God will judge not only our actions but also our motives. Let us heed Paul’s exhortation: "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Cor. 13:5).
All will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Every knee shall bow, every tongue shall confess to God. Each one shall be required to give an account, not about his brother, but of himself. So Paul says, Mind your own business. Judge yourself. Remove the beam from your own eye. Love your brother. Help your brother. Teach your brother that he may become strong and mature.
Despising and condemning our Christian brothers and sisters is not living for God’s glory. It is not acting in the name of the Lord or something for which we can thank God. Remember that God’s people—those for whom Christ lived, died, and came to life—are to live the whole of their redeemed lives in the service of God.
So we read, "For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Cor. 5:14–15). Jesus taught, "A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another” (John 13:34).
A man recently said, "Hard preaching produces soft hearts.” In this church we preach the word of God, the truth that we are sinners and God’s wrath is upon us, but also that Christ died for our sins and was raised for our justification. Therefore, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. Having done so, then let us live all our life for God’s glory.
The church should not divide over trivial matters. We never leave God’s holy church for non-essential reasons. Those who leave a biblical church over non-essentials leave because they are wicked and unredeemed.
The church is the family of the God, so unity, love, and peace must prevail.
Because all are brothers and sisters in Christ, we must love one another, which is the new commandment Christ gave us: "Love one another as I have loved you.”
Rejoice that you have bowed your knees to Jesus Christ and confessed that Jesus Christ is your Lord. You have done the one thing needful.
May those who have not bowed their knees and confessed, confess now and be saved, before it is too late.
At the final judgment, we will receive rewards for our good works performed by grace and enter into everlasting life. But unbelievers will be sent to everlasting punishment.
Delegated authorities are to judge in matters essential and use the power of the keys to admit or put out from God’s holy church those who are wicked. But if you love God and have bowed your knees to Jesus Christ and confessed him as Lord for the glory of God our Father, praise God today for his great mercy!
Thank you for reading. If you found this content useful or encouraging, let us know by sending an email to email@example.com.
Copyright © 2012, P. G. Mathew
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The "NIV" and "New International Version" are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™