The Judgment of God

God commands us to love our enemies, to do good to them that hate us, and to pray for those who spitefully use us and persecute us. (Mt_5:44) This is so unnatural for most of us it’s almost scary; we deeply struggle to seek the best for those who’re harming us. Is this because we’re afraid justice won’t be honored? Let’s see.

Think of such a person, someone who’s done you much evil (2Ti 4:14), someone you have a difficult time loving, helping and serving. Are you wishing them the best, and acting accordingly? Does the thought of them being blessed and doing well threaten you and make you uneasy?

Now, imagine they have a new form of cancer, and they’re clueless about it. In a few days the disease will begin attacking their central nervous system, compromising all voluntary movement and causing intense pain. The pain will continually increase while their ability to move and respond diminishes. Conscious, yet completely immobilized, they’ll spend the rest of their lives in the most extreme suffering imaginable.

If it’s any easier now to serve and bless and pray for them sincerely, the cause is unbelief. If we don’t believe justice will prevail, in the perfect time and in the perfect way, we don’t trust in the ultimate goodness of God, and it will be difficult for us to love as He has commanded.

Our intrinsic desire for justice is good; we’re all made in God’s image. God is just, and we instinctively align with Him in calling for wrongs to be made right. But God forbids us to retaliate: vengeance belongs to Him (He 10:30) since all sin is primarily against Him. (Ps 51:4)

If we think we know better than God how and when to apply justice, that we’re somehow thwarting justice in loving the wicked, it’s because we don’t know the end of the story, how God’s going to right all wrongs perfectly, in the perfect way at the perfect time, in spite of the fact that we’re blessing our enemies. (Pr 16:4)

Neglecting to love our enemies, to seek their welfare as appropriate (Pr 25:21), is actually being passive aggressive (Pr 24:17-18); it’s withholding proper good from them to try to force God to judge them (Pr 3:27), according to our own purpose and timing rather than His. It’s seeking a sort of back-handed vengeance, denying God what’s rightfully His.

To overcome this we must be convinced that the judgement of God is according to truth in dealing with every single sin that’s ever been committed by anyone. (Ro 2:2) All sin will be perfectly accounted for and dealt with, completely and ultimately and finally. (Ge 18:25) The truth is that God will be much more severe in His response to sin than we can possibly imagine. The worst tortures human beings can devise pale in comparison. (Mt 10:28) It’s only as we’re armed with this knowledge that we will be empowered to love our enemies as God has commanded us to.

But what if we perceive our enemies to be believers, justified by the death of Christ such that they’ll get a free pass, Christ becoming their sin and taking their due punishment, setting them free? The problem with this concern is that it’s unfounded: every believer in Jesus Christ both loves Him (1Co 16:22), and also loves all those that belong to Him. (1Jn 5:1) Deceived believers who willfuly harm us will be fully dealt with in this life – no exceptions. (1Pe 4:17) No one gets away with anything. (1Co 11:32)

When we’re struggling with loving our enemies, we must keep the end in mind, the goal, trusting in the ultimate love and justice of God. While keeping healthy boundaries and protecting ourselves, there’s no room for malice; we must benevolently pursue the ultimate welfare of those who hate us, and leave the outcome to God. He must let His enemies act like enemies in order to reveal Himself and them. (Ec 8:11) In the end, He will be glorified in every single event that has ever transpired. (Ro 11:36); For those of us who love Him, this is enough (Ro 8:36-37); He’s working it all out for our good according to His purpose. (Ro 8:28)

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The Law

The Law of God reveals the nature of God; it’s His definition of both sin and holiness (1Pe 1:14-16), instructing us in the Way so we can walk in the light with a clean heart. The purpose and goal of the Law is to help us become more Christ-like. (1Ti 1:5)

Since the Law is spiritual (Ro 7:14), holy, just and good (Ro 7:12), and the nature of Christ in every believer delights in the law of God (Ro 7:22), the enemy’s doing his best to keep us in the dark about the role of God’s law in our lives.

One trick he uses is to substitute an arbitrary definition for the law as we read Scripture, spiritualizing it into some vague “law of love” (just be nice), so we never actually consider the details of God’s commands as we study.

But it’s dishonest to arbitrarily change definitions depending on context to make verses mean whatever we like; it’s corrupting the Word and handling it deceitfully. (2Co 4:2) We should rightly divide the Word, using consistent definitions whenever it makes sense.

To get a proper definition, we may easily look at all New Testament references to the law and understand the correct meaning from the various contexts. If there are texts in which the meaning is clear, where any other sense is inappropriate, then we may safely use this as our definition, so long we aren’t contradicting other scripture.

Consider, “Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, and knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law.” (Ro 2:17-18) This implies the law is the Torah, the body of laws in the Old Testament preserved for us by the Jews. They’ve been studying this law for millennia; they’ve never known any other divine law. No other meaning is reasonable here.

How about, “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” (Ro 3:19) This implies God’s law is clearly stated and available to us. Torah is the only detailed body of law which claims to be inspired of God; there is no other.

Finally consider, “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” (Ro 3:31Paul has just spent two chapters explaining the relationship of Torah to the believer, yet it is Torah itself that Paul was accused of making void. (Ac 21:20-21) He answers the accusation in no uncertain terms: through the principle of justification by faith we establish Torah, we don’t make any part of it obsolete.

90% of New Testament verses about the law are like this, clear references to Torah. The remaining 10% refer to principles identified distinctly by an added adjective phrase, such as, for example, the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, and the law of sin and death (Ro 8:2), describing spiritual forces at work in us to either respect or break Torah, and the law of Christ (Ga 6:2), referring to Christ’s new commandment that we love one another as He loved us. (Jn 13:34)

Throughout the New Testament, whenever something other than Torah is clearly intended, we always find an adjective phrase within the context identifying a specific principle (or law); in no verse does the law appear by itself where it is inappropriate to read it as Torah. This is therefore the most reasonable way to consistently interpret this phrase in scripture.

If we’re not zealous of the law like Christ and the Twelve, serving the law like the Apostle Paul (Ro 7:25), it’s easy to deceive ourselves about what God expects of us in this life of faith. But as we look carefully at the words of Christ Himself, He is unmistakably clear:

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 5:17-19)

It’s hard to imagine how He might be any more direct about the importance of all of us obeying Torah.

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