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Law and Judgment

It's a matter of yes and no.

The Law of Liberty (7) 

So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. James 2.12

Surviving the judgment
James says that we should expect to be judged by the Law of liberty – the Law of God. So we’d better live in such a way as to keep that fact in mind. One day all our works will be reviewed in the light of God’s holy and righteous and good Law. Since we know this, should we not live in the light of this inevitability, rather than in denial of it?

The Law of God sets a very high standard, to be sure, and none of us can keep it perfectly. Jesus fulfilled the Law of God in two senses. First, through His active obedience, He carried out faithfully all the requirements of holiness in God’s Law. He completely fulfilled the Law of God for us, and all the righteousness we may ever expect to achieve will only be His, not ours.

Then, in His passive obedience, Jesus bore all the judgments of God’s Law against all sinners, that is, every human being. Thus, the righteousness we need to satisfy the requirements of God’s Law, and to escape its sanctions and judgment, that righteousness is to be found in Jesus Christ. His righteousness is imputed to us by grace through faith. And we pursue that righteousness as we respond to His call to follow Him and to walk as He did (1 Jn. 2.1-6).

When the guiding priority of our conscience is thus to follow Jesus, we will increase in Him, and in His Kingdom and righteousness, with every passing day.

The judgment of God
We will not be judged by the Law with respect to our salvation. We who believe in Jesus have in Him all the righteousness and satisfaction of judgment we require. We don’t keep the Law to be saved, and we don’t fear the judgment of the Law because we are saved. Jesus has covered these bases for us.

There are, however, two senses in which God will judge the world by the Law of liberty. First is in the Day of Judgment to come. In that day, every person’s works will be examined, and those whose works do not measure up to the standard of God’s Law – and who have no one to advocate for them, because they have not known Jesus – will be cast into eternal condemnation.

On the other hand, those who have embraced God’s Redeemer as their Advocate, will have their unseemly works burned away as in a fire, though their salvation will remain (1 Cor. 3.12-15). At the Day of Judgment, our works will be judged by the Law of liberty; but we who follow Jesus according to His Law expect to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” not because of our obedience or righteousness, but because of His.

But the fact that Jesus will get us through the Day of Judgment must not make us complacent. Paul says we must all strive to bring holiness to completion in the fear of God (2 Cor. 7.1). Bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God must be a very high priority of our conscience. This we do, as we have seen, by learning and obeying God’s Law. If we refuse to do this, if we refuse to take up the Law of God as the path indicating how we shall live, God doesn’t simply shrug from on high and say, “Oh well.” He is our Father. He knows what we need. He has given us the rules governing His house.

And if we will not obey, He will discipline us, and discipline is not pleasant. But its purpose is to yield the fruit of righteousness in our lives – that is, to get us back on track with obeying and encouraging others to obey the Law of God (Heb. 12.7-11).

Because that’s when we’re following Jesus, that’s when we’re filled with the Spirit, that’s when we’re being transformed, that’s when we’re learning to love and to serve, that’s when our consciences are good and operating cleanly, and that’s when we’re moving toward the Kingdom greatness our Father in heaven desires for us.

Serious about God’s Law
God is very serious about this. He tells us that those who neglect His Law are out of sync with His plan for them. They do not have the mind of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8.5-8). They’re susceptible to being blind-sided by temptation and sin (Rom. 7.7). They’re trying to build their “house of faith” on some foundation other than that which He has established in His Law (Rom. 3.31). And they will flounder in their attempts to love God and their neighbors as He commands (Matt. 22.34-40). Even their prayers are an abomination if they will not study and obey His Law (Prov. 28.9).

God is judging the sinful world even now because of its refusal to acknowledge and worship Him (Rom. 1.18-32). This is the second sense of divine judgment. We may certainly expect that we are not exempt from His judgment when we neglect the Law He has written on our hearts, and which He gave His Spirit to teach us. Daily reading and meditation in God’s Law is the way of the righteous person (Ps. 1). Hiding the Law in our hearts will help us to walk more fully and joyously in His way (Ps. 119.9-11). Reading, meditating in, and following the Law of God, and all of God’s Word, can be a delight for us, so that we learn to say with the psalmist, “Oh, how I love Your Law!” (Ps. 119.97).

Far from being a chain to confine us, or a burden to crush us, the Law of God is the law of liberty, the rule book of the soul, so that we can really live in Jesus Christ. God judges us daily by His Law, so that He may form us more completely into the image of Jesus Christ, fit us for Kingdom greatness, and guide us more fully into the path of love. Let’s make sure our priorities are lined up well with His.

For reflection
1.  Should Christians be preparing for God’s judgment? Why or why not?

2.  What does it mean to get serious about God’s Law? Do you agree that Christians need to give more attention to this? Why or why not?

3.  What is your personal plan for beginning to get serious about the Law of God?

Next steps – Transformation: How will you begin incorporating more reading and meditation in God’s Law in your walk with and work for the Lord?

T. M. Moore

All the installments in this “Strong Souls” series are available in PDF by clicking here. Check out our newest feature, Readings from the Celtic Revival (click here).

Why does the Law of God still matter? How can we make best use of it? Our book, The Ground for Christian Ethics, addresses those questions in a winsome and conversational manner. Order your free copy by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


T.M. Moore

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 the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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