We as preachers must always remember the aim of our proclamation is nothing short of the redemption of eternal souls (1 Timothy 4:15-16). The judgment that we preach is not a sadistic message of savage brutalism. The judgment that we preach is the righteousness of God, with the hope and aim of demonstrating the grace of God to sinners in Christ Jesus.
Let’s answer that question with a few things today, first, a few passages in scripture, second, with a story, and third, with a few statements for us as listeners of sermons and as preachers of sermons.
First, let’s look at scripture.
What does Scripture say about God Judging?
Hebrews 12:23 shows that God is the judge of all: You have come to God, the Judge of all,
Acts 10:42 shows that the Apostle Peter understood Jesus to be the judge of all, Jesus having been given that role by God: He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.
2 Timothy 4:8 reveals that as he neared the end of his earthly life the Apostle Paul spoke of the Lord Jesus as judge: Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
Hebrews 9:27 speaks about judgment as coming after death in a final eternal decree regarding the state of individuals: Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.
Daniel 7:13-14 prophetically recounts the vision of Daniel regarding the authority of the Christ to come: In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
John 5:26-27 connects the trail of authority prophetically spoken of by Daniel by which Jesus (the Son) has received authority to judge: For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
This is just a brief smattering of passages. There are worthwhile longer studies examining more passages in depth. Even from these few verses, it is very apparent, that the scriptures speak of God as being the ultimate judge, and specifically, Christ Jesus has all authority in heaven and earth (Matthew 28:19-20). Anyone who makes a statement like “God doesn’t judge” is speaking either ignorantly (not knowing the truth of God’s Word), or in blatant rebellion against God’s word.
A Story of a Preacher Speaking about God’s Judgement
It was dark on the cold streets of downtown St. Louis. While the region didn’t often get much snow, there was some accumulation on the sides of the roads. Not the beautiful glistening snow of hallmark movies. It was the dirty, muddy snow covered in the excess filth of a thousand traveling cars. I turned my car from the main street into the driveway and parking lot of a 4 or 5-story brick building. It had a distinctive feature that many in Old North St. Louis knew well, a towering dark chimney stack rising high into the sky. What once was a building filled with the fire and smoke of industry, was now a building filled with men spit up and chewed out by choices, addictions, and hard knocks. The mission shelter had 44 beds available for up to 44 overnight homeless guests.
I walked past the line of men who had gathered near the side entrance of the building. I nodded and said hello to a few of the regulars whom I had gained something of a relationship with. In the summer there wasn’t much of a line, and often we would have “extra” open beds, maybe averaging something between 20-30 men each night at the shelter. In the cold winter though, it was different. It’s much easier to find a place to stay for the night when it’s 80 degrees, than when it’s 30 degrees. When the winter was cold, the line would be long. More than 44 men would line up. Starting with the 45th man there would be hope that someone earlier in the line would lose their place for the night due to poor behavior, intoxication, or some other unknown reason.
My role that night was not to preach, but instead to help cook and serve. There was a meal served, and then a 30-minute chapel service each night at the shelter before the men were marched upstairs to the showers and bunk room. While we had volunteers (individuals and groups) come in and lead chapel, I learned from my time serving (and from the wise words of a faithful man of God, who I will call Randy, who worked at the shelter) to always have a sermon ready. Sometimes volunteers didn’t show up. Randy had always told me “The man of God must be prepared in season and out of season”. If the volunteers didn’t show up, it was my role to lead the chapel that night.
I asked one of the homeless regulars, whom I will call Greg, who had been there every shift I had worked, “Who is coming to lead chapel tonight?”. “12 Shot” Greg answered. I did a double-take. I thought “12 Shot? What is he? Some kind of vigilante preacher loaded with shotguns coming to the hood of St. Louis?”. I followed up with another question “What sort of preacher is he?”. “The best,” he said. I raised my eyebrows. The elaboration from Greg was brief: “He preaches fire and brimstone and grace”.
After dinner was served the volunteer to lead chapel did show up. He visited with a few of the men who clearly recognized him. He shook hands with some and sat down to talk with others. When it came time for chapel I listened and marveled. “12 Shot” told how at one time he was a “scientific drunk”. He had figured out how he would maintain his buzz throughout the day. 12 Shot would use various mouthwashes and sprays he would mask his breath, and he would take 12 shots each day at intervals to never allow himself sobriety. He proclaimed with boldness that he was a man justly deserving of God’s righteous wrath. He shared many of his sins that he engaged in carelessly against God and with full diligence and care to the satiating of his own desires.