God’s Righteous Judgement:
The Verdict

In a Brief  Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 10b of 83


5 But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; 6 Who will render to every man according to his deeds:…   16 In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel” (Romans 2:5-16).

[We saw in the previous issue how the apostle Paul is painting a picture of the heavenly court room in the Last Day. In that day, God will call all men who ever lived to stand before Him to be judged. Since God knows all things, He does not need to discover through a process of judicial cross-examination whether we are guilty. He will simply adduce evidence to substantiate His judgement. We noted that His judgement comprises verdict and sentence. In this follow-up study we will consider God’s verdict, whereas in the final instalment for this text, we will consider His sentence.]

2. How will God make 
His verdict?

a.   We have seen that the day of the revelation of God’s judgement is a day for the sake of men, and not for God.  God already knows perfectly all that men do and all that is in their heart. He does not need a day of judgement to discover what are the intents, purposes and actions of men. It is rather a day when God shall make it clear to men what He thinks of their actions and intentions.

In that great day, every man will be required to stand before God to be judged. The books will, as it were, be opened. And all your deeds will be read out for all to hear. And then God will pronounce His verdict and sentence on you.

But how will God make His verdict? Let at look at how Paul writes about it. He says:


 
[God] will render to every man according to his deeds: 7 To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: 8 But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, 9 Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; 10 But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:

At first look, what he writes may seem rather confused. It looks so confused that even John Calvin suggest that there is “some irregularity in the passage,” and that we should learn eloquence from other writings, but not here!

But really, if you look at what Paul is saying carefully, you will realise that he is using a beautiful linguistic device known as Chi-ism. Notice how verses 9 and 10 is really a reflection of verse 7 and 8. You will notice it immediately if you tabulate verse 7-10  as follows:

In verse 7, Paul speaks of reward for those who do well, but in verse 8, he speaks of punishment for those who do evil.

Verse 9 and 10 repeats what he says in verse 7-8 in a reflection. In verse 9, he speaks of punishment for those who do evil, but in verse 10, he speaks of reward for those who do well.

Why does Paul write this way? In writing this way, Paul is really telling us with strong emphasis that he knows of only two contrasting outcomes in God’s judgement. There are two verdicts and two corresponding sentences.

The verdict will either be good or bad. There is no middle ground. And the sentences will either be reward or punishment. There is no middle ground. Those judged to have done well will be rewarded. Those judged to have done evil will be punished. There is no middle ground.

b.  But what is it to do well?

Paul does not elaborate. But we may infer from verses 12-15, that to do well or work good, we must live according to God’s law that is known to us. For the gentile unbeliever, it is living according to their moral conscience or to the works of the Law written in their hearts (v. 14-15). On the other hand, for the Jew or the Christian, it is living according to the revealed law of God (v. 12).

How are we to do so? We are to do so by seeking “for glory and honour and immortality” through “patient continuance in well doing” (v. 7).

In other words, as Christians, we do well if we walk in God’s ways patiently and firmly. That is to say, we should, maintain a consistent Christian walk despite all the trials and distractions that may come along the way. And we must do so out of a desire to seek God’s blessing. God’s blessing includes glory, honour and immortality.

Yes, it is right and proper for Christians to seek God’s reward and blessings. The Christian life must indeed be a life of gratitude and love for God. But a life of gratitude and love does mean that we cannot seek God’s rewards (as some teach). A child is foolish and proud if he does not seek to please his father and gain his blessing. A man is living foolishly and proudly if he does not seek God’s blessing and reward.

How are you living your life dearly beloved brethren? Are you living to please God? Are you doing so consistently despite the difficult circumstance that you are in? Are you facing trials in your life? Are you discouraged because of illness? Are you sad because God has not answered your prayers? Do you feel oppressed because of your work situation? To do well in God’s sight means that despite the circumstances pressing upon you, you are faithfully seeking to please God.

c.   What about the opposite? Under what circumstance would a person be declared to be doing evil (v. 9)? Paul speaks of those “that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness.” To be contentious is to be rebellious and stubborn.  It is to want to live in our own way rather than in God’s way. Therefore it is to refuse to obey the truth as given in God’s Word. Or conversely, it is to obey unrighteousness, or to live according to worldly and sinful principles.

How are you living, dear reader? If you are called to stand before God in judgement today, what will the verdict be? Will you be declared to have done well, or will you be declared to have done badly.

Now, bear in mind that the sentence that you will receive will depend on God’s verdict.

But…

… to be continued next issue

JJ Lim