What Do You Believe About Judgment
John 5: 17-29
The subject of judgment is introduced as the Jews are judging the healed man carrying his bed and the One who did the healing. The traditional law of the Jewish authorities, under the direct influence of the Pharisee, has so degenerated that the giver of the law is now being indicted. "For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ" (John 1:17). The strict rendering of the law was never as demanding as what the Phariseeís made it. Luke 11:46 says, "And he said, woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers." The law was given to establish a "helpful boundary" not to be a "hurtful burden." "Grace and truth" are dynamite words when even they stand alone but so much more when they are coupled together. Christ Jesus is illustrating the meaning of "grace and truth" as He told the man to take up his bed and walk. The greatest burden or work for a newly healed man is not walking with his bed (similar to a bed roll or sleeping bag), but his lying down in a weakened condition and having to stay there. His very existence had been with great toil. Christ Jesus came to remove that from him and give him his first rest after thirty-eight years. The Jewish authorities as they broaden their phylacteries, just to impress those around them, angrily demanded nothing less than the execution of the falsely accused lawbreaker. The One, Christ Jesus, was guilty only of healing and helping. Today this Spirit of the Pharisees has done more to destroy the Spirit of Christ than has the local taverns. Those in the taverns know that they are "rascals", but so often the self-righteousness, proud and critical have no idea how wicked they really are.
My wife recently heard someone almost shouting, "You are going to hell!" while she was shopping in a department store. She saw the person and recognized that this person had the reputation of judging every person that did not "measure up." The only problem, the standards that she required no one could keep Ė short of God, and He probably would not have kept those requirements Himself.
We can mimic the Pharisees of old if we are not careful and with the same evil results.
To answer the accusations of the Jews, Jesus established His deity as He answered them, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." That one singular statement of truth not only connected Jesus to His Father by relationship, but also showed Himself to be equal with God. Those who were guilty of judging now are about to be judged by the Judge. Their future judgment is also going to be described. Even as Jesus deals with them He offers them everlasting life (v. 24), so that they might be able to escape the judgment of damnation (v. 29).
I. THE RIGHT TO JUDGE vv. 17-23
The right to judge is not a demanded right. A good legal system will not permit this to happen. Instead there must be an appointment. The one appointing must be either equal or superior in authority, or if involving a group, that group must be in agreement to the selection of the judge. The judge must also have an understanding of the law that he is called upon to represent. In the case of Jesus that right is committed unto Him by the Father. God the Father gave the right to His Son who also is God. God knows all things. The law of Moses was given by God at Mt. Sinai. Just as Moses by right of commitment was the lawgiver in the Old Testament economy, even so Christ Jesus is the lawgiver in the New Testament economy. Hebrews teaches the fullness of this truth. Hebrews 12:22-24 says, "But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect." These verses teach us that God is the "Judge of all" and that Jesus is "the mediator of the new covenant."
Jesus at the beginning of His earthly ministry had to reveal these things about Himself as He ministered His Fatherís will. Jesus already has conveyed to us that He came, "to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work" v. 34. In verse 17 the Lord in agreement with the Heavenly Father says, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." The right to judge is predicated on the fact that Jesus said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise" v. 19. The purpose of God giving the right to judge to His Son, Jesus, was that Jesus would also have the honor. It was the purpose of the Father that all men, "honour the Son, even as they honour the Father" v. 23.
It was the Fatherís will that Jesus raise up the man who had been diseased for thirty-eight years. If the entire religious system had elected to stand against Jesus, it would not have made what He did less right. Praise God, Truth never changes, not even if it is violated by tradition.
For one to appreciate the law of judgment, He needs to have a concept of the way the law is implemented. Many systems are built upon a triangular relationship. A Christian marriage has a God, husband, wife relationship. The closer that the husband and wife gets to God, the closer they get to each other in this relationship. The physical creation is represented by the triangular relationship of solids, liquids, and gases. Fire also may be described within its triangular relationship. For there to be a fire there must be fuel, heat, and oxygen. Any firefighter knows that if either of the three is removed the fire goes out.
Judgment also may be described as a triangular relationship with these three components. First, there is the Provision of the law. This is the law itself. There could be no judgment without the law. There could not be correct judgment without a good law. When Christ established His own Deity, when answering the criticism of the Jews, He also was declaring the inherent strength of the law. If He is God, as the Son of God and all law comes from the throne room (Romans 13:1-2), then He has the right to state the law and act upon it. God is without imperfection, therefore His law is also flawless without imperfection. The Pharisees tampered with the law thinking that they were strengthening the law when in reality they were attacking the very law that they pretended to be upholding. For Godís law to be at its best, it must not be altered.
Secondly, there is the Protector of the law. This is the judge. The judge is respected according to his relationship to the law, if the law is weak or flawed then the judge is perceived as such. The judge needs to be conscious that there be a proper interpretation of the law. He must not be biased, impartial, nor emotional in his true interpretation and carrying out of the law. A judge who fits this description is to be praised or as our text renders it, he is to be honored. The heavenly Father is transferring the right to judge from Himself to His Son, "For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him" (vv. 22-23). In a well ordered court system those in the court room will stand giving honor to the judge as he comes to the bench. How much greater honor should come to the "Judge of the judges."
Third, there are those Protected by the law. Can you fathom an existence without the law? When men lack the courage to implement or execute the law then those who are under the umbrella of its protection began to suffer and feel betrayed. As I write this there are those in our community who feel betrayed because the one who was guilty of breaking the law received only a "slay on the wrist." As weak as this slap was, it was felt throughout our community. The people are concerned that with such a weak execution of the law that the enforcement of such future laws will be hindered.
The personal impact of what has happened touches me even at this very moment. A man whom I have respected and admired for over four decades took a position that will render the law less efficient. A strong law, properly executed, is a safeguard and protector of the people. May we have men of character and conviction to execute the laws of the land with a conscience towards God.
II. THE RESPONSIBILITY OF JUDGING vv. 24-27
The Judge is the executor of the law (v. 27). The Father gave this responsibility to the Son. It has been mentioned that the judge needs to be competent in the law. The judge also needs to be very much aware of the evidence that is put on display, not to be swayed, but to be fair. The Lord Jesus Christ has all the evidence at His disposal. Nothing escapes His omniscience. Even though He is the all knowing God, He still records the evidence of every personís life to be recalled at the day of Judgment. For the unbeliever, the judgment will be done according to their works (Revelation 20:12).
Within the scope of Godís omniscience He is still communicating mercy to the lawbreaker. Verse 24 says, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." Here the Judge is issuing a warning so that men may escape the terrors of judgment. A judge who knows the law also knows that there is a punishment for the lawbreakers. It may be observed that there are also three components of the law being executed.
First, there is the evidence thatís already been referred to. All evidence must be in someway related to or pertaining to the law itself. The criterion for weighing the evidence is the law. A trial defendant lawyer will do all within his power to gather evidence to prove the defendant innocent. The evidence will only be valuable relative to its relationship to the law. God the Son will have the evidence in perfect relationship to the law. There will be no argument against either the law, nor against the Judge.
Second, there is the actual interpretation or judgment based upon the law. What does the law say relative to the one charged? The strength of the charge is based upon the interpretation of the evidence. The evidence usually must be meticulously given, leaving out nothing. All the gaps must be filled for the purpose of arriving at a proper interpretation. God the Holy and Righteous Judge will certainly render a proper interpretation of the evidence. He will leave no gaps. He knows even those things supposedly done in the "closet." Those things thought to be private will be exposed and judged.
Thirdly, there is the actual execution of the sentence in punishing the wrong doer. This is a vital and necessary part of making the law strong. Sin must have its consequences. A lawbreaker must fear the breaking of the law as Romans 13: 1-4 tells us, "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosover therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But it thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil." This passage gives a Biblical perspective of the way and the reasons the law must be executed properly. A strong, good law will honor these requirements.
It is the responsibility of the judge to carry out the sentence. His authority is backed by the state just as all authority originates in the throne room of Godís presence.
III. THE RESULTS OF JUDGMENT vv. 28-29
Just as a good government will maintain its laws in such a way as to free the innocent and punish the guilty, the Lord also will reward the good and punish the wicked. The Bema Seat, or The Judgment Seat of Christ will be to reward the faithful believers. The Great White Throne Judgment will be reserved to punish the wicked dead. Those who are unbelievers will stand at this judgment.
This fifth chapter tells us that the authority to do this has been given to the Son. Revelation 20:12-15 shows us the way it will happen, "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God, and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire."
With all the demanding requirements of the law there is still the availability of Godís grace. The opportunity to escape the terrible judgment against sin is available because Jesus, Himself, was judged for our sins upon the cross of Calvary.
Will you accept His grace and forgiveness? Now, today is the day of salvation.
Sermon By Max Alderman