What is involved in the idea of the Father, or Jesus, being a judge? This is something J.I. Packer deals with extraordinarily well in his book Knowing God. Let’s track with him just briefly to see our good God in his function of just judge. Here are 4 characteristics of the judge.
The judge is a Person with authority. “In the Bible world, the king was always the supreme authority because his was the supreme ruling authority. It is on that basis, according to the Bible, that God is judge of his world. As our Maker, he owns us, and as our Owner, he has a right to dispose of us; he has, therefore, a right to make laws for us, and to reward us according to whether or not we keep them. In most modern states, the legislature and judiciary are divided, so that the judge does not make the laws he administers; but in the ancient world this was not so, and it is not so with God. He is both the Lawgiver and the Judge.
The judge is a person identified with what is good and right. “The modern idea that a judge should be cold and dispassionate has no place in the Bible. The biblical judge is expected to love justice and fair play and to loathe all ill-treatment of one person by another. An unjust judge, one who has no interest in seeing right triumph over wrong, is by biblical standards a monstrosity. The Bible leaves us in no doubt that God loves righteousness and hates iniquity, and that the ideal of a judge wholly identified with what is good and right is perfectly fulfilled in him.
The judge is a person of wisdom, to discern truth. In the biblical world, the judge’s first task is to ascertain the facts in the case that is before him. There is no jury; it is his responsibility, and his alone, to question, and cross-examine, and detect lies and pierce through evasions and establish how matters really stand. When the Bible pictures God judging, it emphasises his omniscience and wisdom as the searcher of hearts and the finder of facts. Nothing can escape him; we may fool men, but we cannot fool God. He knows us, and judges us, as we really are. … God will know. His judgment is according to truth—factual truth, as well as moral truth. He judges ‘the secrets of men,’ not just by their public facade. Not for nothing does Paul say, ‘we must all be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ’.”
The judge is a person of power, to execute sentence. The modern judge does no more than pronounce the sentence; another department of the judicial executive then carries it out. The same was true in the ancient world. But God is his own executioner. As he legislates, and sentences, so he punishes. All judicial functions coalesce in him.
If you are reading Knowing God with me as part of Reading Classics Together, please read chapters 15 and 16 for next Thursday. If you are not yet doing so, why don’t you join us? We aren’t that far into the book yet, so you will not have a difficult time catching up.
The purpose of Reading Classics Together is to read these books together. This time around the bulk of the discussion is happening in a dedicated Facebook group. You can find it right here. A thousand people are already interacting there and would be glad to have you join in or just read along.