Righteous Judgment (5)
Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Romans 7.12 (my translation)
Bad news for those who neglect God’s Law
I have bad news for believers who, whether by intention or neglect, ignore the Law of God and are led in their ethics by New Testament principles only: Sooner or later you’re going to run into an apostle for whom the Law of God is central to his ethical teaching.
At that point you will have to make a judgment: Either you will judge the apostle mistaken, and reinterpret his teaching to fit your preferred view; or you will accept the apostle’s teaching and find yourself at odds with him.
The first option is the path of a hermeneutics of convenience. Reading Scripture this way, you do not allow the Bible to speak for itself; instead, you qualify, reinterpret, overlook, or deny the straightforward apostolic text, and insist on the rightness of your own view, pointing to the spirit of the age as your support. This path leads to increasing compromise of God’s Word with the temper of the times.
The second path leads to a good bit of hemming and hawing and hedging as you try to hold off having to embrace the Law of God while, at the same time, endorsing the apostles who do. This path leads to the debilitation of the soul, because by choosing this route, you quench the Spirit’s work of teaching and equipping you to live by the Law of God (Ezek. 36.26, 27), and limp along in your faith with a truncated view of God’s Word.
Either way, by neglecting the Law of God you forfeit the ability to judge with righteous judgment. And that means that your judging and judgment will not be in line with the instruction of Christ, and you will be left to drift on the stormy seas of unbelief and disobedience.
And besides, if you neglect the Law of God, your prayers will not find favor with the Lord (Prov. 28.9).
I told you it was bad news.
The apostles Paul, Peter, James, and John frequently appealed to the Law of God to argue ethical points and equip their readers to exercise righteous judgment. Paul insisted that the Law of God is righteous; therefore, we should expect it to provide plenty of insight to guide us in all our judging and judgment. The Kingdom of God, Paul explained, is righteousness – the fruit of righteous judgment borne out in all areas of life, culture and society – and that righteousness leads to shalom and joy (Rom. 14.17, 18).
And seeking the Kingdom, Jesus insisted, is the believer’s highest priority in life (Matt. 6.33).
Jesus taught that we should aspire to greatness in His Kingdom, and greatness in the Kingdom comes, in part, He explained, from learning, obeying, and teaching the Law of God (Matt. 5.17-19). If we are to judge others with the same love we want to be judged by ourselves, we will need to give much attention to the Law of God. For as Jesus explained, the Law of God, together with the prophets who were chief advocates of that Law, provides the true path of love for God and neighbors, and therefore, by extension, of righteous judgment.
What then shall we do?
Delighting in God’s Law
Obviously, we want to get to a place in our walk with the Lord and our work in our Personal Mission Field where we’re no longer neglecting the Law of God, but actively delighting in and obeying it (Psalm 119.9-16). Not unto salvation, mind you, but because we are saved.Here is not the place for an exhaustive argument on the central importance of the Law of God in the life of a New Testament believer (for that, click here). Instead, assuming that Jesus and the apostles had it right about the Law, let’s consider some things we can do to improve our understanding, love for, and use of the Law of God in judging with righteous judgment.
First, use Psalm 119 as part of your daily prayers. Pray one section of the psalm each day. Let the psalmist guide you in how to think about the Law. Meditate on his obvious wonder and delight in the commandments, statutes, and precepts of God. Pray along with the psalmist for greater insight to the Law, so that you will be eager to learn and obey the Law as the psalmist leads.
Second, memorize the Ten Commandments. These are the foundation of God’s Law, upon which all the other statutes and precepts of God’s Law are erected to show us how to apply the Law in particular situations.
Third, read the book of Deuteronomy regularly, perhaps half a chapter in the morning, and the other half at night. It’s very likely that the book of Deuteronomy is the book of the Law Israel’s kings were required to copy, read, and obey (Deut. 17.18-20). By meditating on the Law of God day and night, you will be more likely to increase in your ability to judge according to righteous judgment (Ps. 1).
Finally, as you meditate on the Law in the morning, think about the day ahead and the people and situations you are likely to encounter. Ask the Lord to show you any ways your reading might inform or guide your life and judging. You should do this for all your reading of God’s Word, but in particular for the Law of God. In the evening, let your reading of the Law shine light on the day past, to help you learn from any mistakes or celebrate any victories.
Get to know God’s Law. Discover its beauty, glory, and practical wisdom. Submit to and obey it, and you will come to love it as Jesus and the apostles did, and as all do who desire to see God’s shalom come to light through their work of judging and judgment.
1. Do you think you need to spend more time learning the Law of God? Explain.
2. Can we grow in the righteousness of Jesus Christ apart from the holy and righteous and good Law of God? Explain.
3. What are some of the obvious challenges we face in trying to give the Law of God more priority of place in our calling to judge the world?
Next steps – Transformation: Begin practicing the suggestions outlined in this article. Take what you are learning about God’s Law into your daily work of judging and judgment.
T. M. Moore
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This week’s study is part 3 of a 4-part series, To Judge the World. Each part consists of seven lessons and is available as a free PDF download at the end of the study. In the tag for part 7, we’ll give you a link to download part 3, Righteous Judgment.
An excellent companion to this series is our book, The Ground for Christian Ethics. Here you’ll discover the basis on which Christians learn to judge with righteous judgment. You can order a copy by clicking here.And when you order, we’ll send you a free copy of Bricks and Rungs: Poems on Calling.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.
- T.M. Moore
- November 21, 2018
You cannot judge with righteous judgment apart from the Law of God.
Righteous Judgment (5)
T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.