The Good News is... God is Judge!
20 September 2016
Preacher | Rev Canon Martin Greenfield
The Good News is... God is Judge!
The Good News is… God is Judge!
Martin writes: A few weeks ago, I was preparing a sermon from the book of the Old Testament 7th century b.c. prophet Jeremiah (4:11-12): ‘A scorching wind blows towards my people. Now I pronounce my judgments against them.’
Despite some misunderstandings, the judgement of the Lord is a significant part of the church’s message, part of the truth and the gospel that we proclaim. We affirm it every time we say the Creed: [Jesus] is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead’.
God’s judgement is Biblical, Christian and Personal.
Biblical. The bible teaches clearly and consistently that God is Judge, and one day all will be judged.
For example, we read: ‘Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?’ (Genesis 18:25). There is also a very positive passage in Psalm 96: Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. Let all creation rejoice before the LORD, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness.
To judge is to uphold justice; to do justice is to make things fair and right, and that includes dealing with what is wrong. We require and expect our national government to carry out judgement fairly, and it is interesting to note the stated aims of sentencing convicted criminals (Sect 142 of UK Criminal Justice Act 2003): that crime be punished and reduced (by deterrent); that the public be protected; that criminals be reformed; that the victim receive reparation where possible.
When something is wrong, something must be done to sort it out. It is the same with God. Judgement is God sorting out what is wrong. A God who did not judge would be an unjust monster.
Christian. Judgement is also a New Testament doctrine, taught by Jesus and the apostles. Jesus said ‘Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire’ (Matt 7:19). The house built on the sand would fall and be destroyed. Towns that did not repent were warned of judgement.
The apostles proclaimed the good news that God would establish justice on earth: For he 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 everyone by raising him from the dead (Acts 17:31). God will not allow sin and evil to triumph for ever. God sent Jesus to save (see John 3:16, 5:24) and it is never God’s will that any should perish. However, there is judgement for any who will not repent and believe the gospel.
Personal. God loves and cares for all, even when he judges. He is fully and personally involved. His will is that all should be saved, but we may refuse his salvation. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:17-18).
In this, biblical judgement is different. In the UK our judges are not personally involved; nor do we want them to be. Our judiciary is separate from the executive. We expect our judges to apply the law truthfully, without emotion and not be personally involved.
However the bible shows that God is personally involved in judgement. This may be why the bible speaks of the ‘anger’ or ‘wrath’ of God. It is his laws we have broken; it is his covenant that we refuse; it is his salvation we ignore; it is his heart we break when we do not repent.
The judgement of God may cause us to feel fear, and perhaps that is a good thing. It sobers us, wakes us up to reassess the way we have been living, and to repent. It humbles us. Before God, our self-righteousness is stripped away and we know we are sinners. We are not in control and we need God. It reassures us that there is Justice in this universe, a final court of arbitration, where the wicked will be punished. And that is good news…