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Jesus as Judge

Last week in our reading of Packer we saw that “The Jesus of the New Testament, who is the world’s Savior, is its Judge as well.” Today we will see what kind of judge he is. His authority as judge is unlike that of any judge in the human realm. The judge of the world differs from earthly judges in authority, passion, wisdom, and power.


What is involved on the idea of the Father, or Jesus, being a judge? Four thoughts at least are involved.

1. The judge is a person with authority. In the Bible world, the king was always the supreme judge, 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 the 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 the 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.

2. 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 in perfectly fulfilled in him.

3. The judge is a person of wisdom, to discern truth. In the biblical setting, the judge’s first task is to ascertain the facts in the case that is before him. There is no jury; it is his responsibly, 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 emphasizes 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.

When Abraham met the Lord in human form at the oaks of Mamre, he gave Abraham to understand the he was on the way to Sodom, to establish the truth about the moral situation there. “The Lord said, ‘The outcry against Sodom and Gamorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down an see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know’” (Gen 18:20–21). So it is always. God will know. His judgment is according to truth—factual truth, as well as moral truth. He judges “the secrets of men,” not just their public façade. Not for nothing does Paul say, “We must all be made manifest before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor 5:10 RV).

4. 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.

—J. I. Packer, Knowing God (InterVarsity Press, 1993), 141–142.

Posted 2008·12·23 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Freedom (of God) · Goodness (of God) · J I Packer · Justice (of God) · Knowing God

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