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The Righteous Judge

God is love. This, quite naturally, is a major theme in our understanding of God. We speak of God’s love, we sing of God’s love, we “love to tell the story of Jesus and his love.” It ought to be reflexive for Christians to revel in the love of God. However, God is not a one-dimensional being; he is not only love. He is a holy God who is righteous and just, as well; and his love does not nullify those attributes. Not only is he a loving father, he is a righteous judge. His justice will be served. The Old Testament is filled with narratives of the judgment of God falling on both pagans and the people of God. This is not only an Old Testament manifestation of God’s character, nor is this quality limited to the Father. Jesus himself is “the righteous judge.”


When we turn from Bible history to Bible teaching—the Law, the Prophets, the Wisdom writings, the words of Christ and his apostles—we find the thoughts of God’s action in judgment overshadowing everything. The Mosaic legislation is given as from a God who is himself a just judge and will not hesitate to inflict penalties by direct providential action if his people break his law. The prophets take up this theme; indeed, the greater part of their recorded teaching consists of exposition and application of the law, and threats of judgment against the lawless and impenitent. They spend a good deal more space preaching judgment than they do prediction the Messiah and his kingdom! In the Wisdom literature, the same viewpoint appears: the one basic certainty underlying all discussion of life’s problems in Job, Ecclesiastes and all the practical maxims of Proverbs is that “God will bring you to judgment,” “God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden sin, whether it is good or evil” (Eccles 11:9; 12:14).

People who do not actually read the Bible confidently assure us that when we move from the old testament to the new, the theme of divine judgment fades in the background. But if we examine the New Testament, even in the most cursory way, we find at once that the Old Testament emphasized God’s action as a Judge, far from being reduced, is actually intensified.

The entire New Testament is overshadowed by the certainty of a coming day of universal judgment, and by the problem thence arising: How may we sinners get right with God while there is yet time? The New Testament looks on to “the day of judgment,” “the day of wrath,” “the wrath to come,” and proclaims Jesus, the divine Savior, as the divinely appointed Judge.

The judge who stands before the door (Jas 5:9), “ready to judge the living and the dead” (1 Pet 4:5), “the righteous Judge” who will give Paul his crown (2 Tim 4:8), is the Lord Jesus Christ. “He is the one who has been designate by God as judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42 NEB). God “has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed,” Paul told the Athenians (Acts 17:31); and to the Romans he wrote, “God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as the gospel declares” (Rom 2:16).

Jesus himself says the same. “The Father . . . has entrusted all judgment to the Son. . . . And he has given him authority to judge. . . . A time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear the voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (NEB has “will rise to hear their doom”) (Jn 5:22, 27–29). The Jesus of the New Testament, who is the world’s Savior, is its Judge as well.

—J. I. Packer, Knowing God (InterVarsity Press, 1993), 140–141.

Posted 2008·12·16 by David Kjos
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Posted in: J I Packer · Justice (of God) · Knowing God
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#1 || 08·12·16··13:48 || Ian Hall

It's years from I read Packer but I think I might just pick up "Knowing God" again - it really is very good.
Thanks for the post.

#2 || 08·12·17··10:24 || David

I'm glad you're enjoying it. I had never read Knowing God before. It really is good.

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