Chapter 13, “The Grace of God,” and chapter 14, “God the Judge,” would seem at first glance like an odd pairing. In fact, many people seem to think that judgment belongs to the Old Testament and grace to the New, but Packer makes a case for both in both sections.
There is something about the word “judge” that is repellent to us. We don’t want anyone judging us, especially someone who doesn’t truly know us, doesn’t know the circumstances, and is as fallible as we are. But don’t we long in our hearts sometimes for someone to set things right in the world? From our earliest experiences, we appeal to a parent or teacher to judge a situation, do the right thing, and take care of the culprit involved.
God does know all about us and our circumstances and is the only one who can judge perfectly and rightly. We can trust the “judge of all the earth” to “do right” (Genesis 18:25). And when it comes to taking care of the culprit…well, that is all of us at one time or another. Though He would be perfectly justified to dispense with any and all of us, He offers grace. He judged His own Son in our place so we could be made right with Him when we repent and believe on Him. Those who reject His grace will have to face Him as Judge.
Packer does a masterful job showing God’s judgment throughout Scripture, explaining how His judgment is a manifestation of His righteousness, and discerning how Christians will be judged in light of the fact that the Bible says we are not under condemnation: we’re not, as far as our soul’s destiny goes, but we are accountable for what we did with what God gave us, and 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 indicates there will be some kind of loss or reward when we face God.
If God is a righteous Judge, why is there so much injustice still in the world? People have wrestled with that for years (see Psalm 73), but the Bible assures us it will be dealt with–“if not here then hereafter) (p. 143).
In the chapter on grace, Packer offers reasons why people have trouble grasping it and then expounds on what it is and what it involves.
“Those who suppose that the doctrine of God’s grace tends to encourage moral laxity…are simply showing that, in the most literal sense, they do not know what they are talking about. For love awakens love in return; and love, once awakened, desires to give pleasure” (p. 137).
Paul refers to the fact that we must all appear before Christ’s judgment seat as “The terror of the Lord” (2 Cor 5:11 KJV), and well he might. Jesus the Lord, like his Father, is holy and pure; we are neither. We live under his eye, he knows our secrets, and on judgment day the whole of our past life will be played back, as it were, before him, and brought under review. If we know ourselves at all, we know we are not fit to face him. What then are we to do? The New Testament answer is this: Call on the coming Judge to be your present Savior. As Judge, he is the law but as Savior he is the gospel. Run from him now, and you will meet him as Judge then- and without hope. Seek him now, and you will find him (for “he that seeketh findeth”), and you will then discover that you are looking forward to that future meeting with joy, knowing that there is now “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1) (pp. 146-147).