It is an innate human instinct to believe in the principle of justice. Every culture/civilization in human history recognizes the need for a rule of law and the administration of justice. Every human is programmed to cry out for justice when wrongdoing or unfairness are committed. Who would not agree that every murderer, rapist, thief, etc. should be punished? We may disagree on the type of punishment involved, but most agree on the basic principle that wrongdoing deserves some kind of recompense. Every human being has a conscience which is a God-given attribute to guide us on morality. It is certainly possible to suppress or ignore our conscience but the mere existence of an innate barometer of right and wrong is strong evidence for God, a divine moral-giver.
Furthermore, if there is such thing as right and wrong, it is natural to want an incorruptible and just judge – someone to appeal to when laws of morality are broken. As creator and sustainer of the universe, God can be the only person qualified to act as a righteous judge.
The Bible tells us in many places that we will all meet the Lord Jesus Christ one day for judgment:
You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. (Romans 14:10 NIV)
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10 NIV)
When you appear before the judgment seat of Christ, how do you think you will fare? I imagine most people feel that the worst type of lawbreakers will be punished and sent to Hell, but that most people will be welcomed into Heaven. It is crucial not to take this question for granted – we must all know what to expect on that day and to what standard we will be judged.
God has provided a law which acts as a barometer of His standards. The law can essentially be summed up with the 10 commandments that God wrote with His own finger! Jesus states that this law is still relevant to humanity today and often used the law to convict people of their own sin. His says in Matthew 5:17-19:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19 NIV)
In Galatians 3:24, Paul says:
So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. (Galatians 3:24 NIV)
Therefore, we must use the law and examine ourselves against God’s standards to see how we measure up in Gods eyes. It makes no sense to make up our own rules of morality if it is God’s standards we will be judged by. Gods law never changes, unlike cultural moral standards, even though the way these laws are applied may be different given the way Western culture has changed. Let’s take a look at the 10 commandments and see how they would apply to us today?
1. You shall have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3 NIV)
Have you always put God’s will at the forefront of every decision you’ve made? Has every decision (including career, family, relationships etc) been made with the primary intention and aim of giving glory and honour to God?
2. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them… (Exodus 20:4-5 NIV)
Have you ever prioritised your service to anyone (boss, family member etc) in front of your service to God? Have you ever idolized a sports player or chanted their name? Have you idolized a sports team, actor/ess or music band etc? Have you ever bowed to any image (even a cross) or any other religious symbol? Have you ever engaged in any occult activity including spiritualism, horoscopes, etc.?
3. You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God… (Exodus 20:7 NIV)
Have you ever used God’s name as a curse word. It is common to hear the OMG phrase or using the name of Jesus as a swear-word which is taking God’s name in vain – are you guilty of this? There are many other examples, but let’s just say that any irreverent use of Gods name or Jesus name is contrary to this commandment and makes the person guilty of bringing the name of God Almighty down to the level of other profanities.
4. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. (Exodus 20:8 NIV)
Have you always abstained from work for one day out of seven to set it aside to meditate on the things of God? Have you left one day aside each week and dedicated it to the work of God?
5. Honour your father and your mother… (Exodus 20:12 NIV)
Have you always treated your parents with dignity and respect? Have you been completely obedient ever since you were a young child and never questioned their authority?
6. You shall not murder. (Exodus 20:13 NIV)
Jesus helps us with this commandment in Matthew 5 where he says, You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment… (Matthew 5:21-22 NIV). This is very sobering – God, who knows the thoughts of everyone, defines “killing” as being angry without a cause. Have you ever been angry with someone and then realized there was no reason to be? Can you be certain that every time you have been angry with someone, it was entirely justified? This commandment would obviously also cover more modern examples of killing including abortion, euthanasia, etc.
7. You shall not commit adultery. (Exodus 20:14 NIV)
Again, Jesus helps with this definition in Matthew 5:28: But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.. Therefore, anyone who has looked with lust is guilty of adultery based on Jesus’ definition. If you have engaged in any sexual activity outside heterosexual marriage then you will fall foul of this commandments.
8. You shall not steal. (Exodus 20:15 NIV)
Have you ever stolen any item regardless of the value? Have you ever stolen from your boss or the government by making up or exaggerating a claim form? Have you stolen time by leaving work early or arriving late and still getting paid for that time?
9. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour. (Exodus 20:16 NIV)
Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever exaggerated the truth? Could you have ever been guilty of gossip or slander?
10. You shall not covet… (Exodus 20:17 NIV)
Have you ever looked at someone else’s house, wife (or husband), car, income or any other possession and wished you owned for yourself? This is a very tough commandment to obey, particularly in Western culture with our materialistic and comfortable lifestyles!
It is obvious that every human being in history (except Jesus Christ) is guilty of breaking every one of these commandments at least once, especially if we use Jesus’ definition of the commandments. Even if you maintain that you haven’t broken all of them and want to disagree with Jesus’ definition of some them, we are certain that every human has broken at least one of then. Jesus summed the law up for us in Matthew 22:37-40 where He says:
Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. (Matthew 22:37-40 NIV)
This should leave us no doubt that we are guilty – no one can claim to have obeyed these two commandments without slipping up at all.
The following two passages make our standing before God very clear:
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23 NIV)
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. (James 2:10 NIV)
So, given that we are guilty of breaking God’s law, what kind of punishment should we expect?
God is completely pure and holy. It is impossible to fully comprehend what this means, but we can be sure that it is impossible to have the presence of any sin before God. Jesus regularly warned of the reality of either heaven or hell as a destiny for all humanity. If God were to allow a person with even one small imperfection to enter heaven, heaven would no longer be perfect – it would be defiled and made impure.
Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:27 NIV)
Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you so that he will not hear. (Isaiah 59:1-2 NIV)
This leaves each person in a dire situation. If God were to simply forgive and forget sin, this would compromise His attribute of justice. Sin has to be paid for otherwise we can never be in the presence of God and by extension, never enter into heaven. It is impossible for us to keep all of God’s laws – however, the purpose of the law is NOT just to convict us of our sin, but always to cause us to turn TOWARDS God, NOT away from Him! It should act as a catalyst to recognise and admit our sin before God – it is this attitude of humble repentance that leads us into the arms of Jesus Christ. Despite our serious predicament, we DO have a way out – see our How to be saved page!
because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2 NIV)