The Bible certainly seems to indicate that God judges us but don’t we each determine the outcome in our own cases rather than God? Let’s explore this a little. Here is a definition for judgment:
Judgment (noun): the forming of an opinion, estimate, notion, or conclusion, as from circumstances presented to the mind: Our judgment as to the cause of his failure must rest on the evidence.” (www.dictionary.com)
“Must rest on the evidence.” Do earthly judges ever make wrong decisions? Ever condemn an innocent person? Yes. Why?
- The evidence is wrong or incomplete, a witness is lying.
- The judge has faulty thinking, is overtired, would rather be golfing.
- The judged is swayed by bribe, prejudice, political pressure etc.
If a judge retired with a perfect record what would that mean? He got every judgment right. He always convicted the guilty and always acquitted the innocent. He never made an arbitrary decision. He always made the right decision.
Does God ever make a wrong decision? No. Are any of the factors that could mar an earthly judge’s decisions affecting God? No. Does He always get it right – guilty, innocent, guilty, innocent? Yes, of course. Then who or what determines the outcome? The evidence does. And who determines what the evidence is? We do. Really, we judge ourselves.
Think of Paul and Barnabas speaking to the Jews:
“… It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.” (Acts 13:46)
God has made provision for every person to be saved but we accept or reject it. In that sense, whether we are saved at last or not depends on ourselves. We judge ourselves.
However, God must still judge every person in that He must know who to raise at the Second Coming and who will remain in the grave for the next 1000 years. But that judgment is merely a verification of the facts which He already knows perfectly. He is not arbitrarily deciding; He is verifying choices each person has made and giving them the results that are the consequences of those decisions. He is not determining the outcome, our eternal fate.
We determine that. God asks us to choose. The importance of our choices is seen in verses such as these:
“I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:” (Deut 30:19)
“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Josh 24:15)
There are many other verses showing that we have freedom of choice. He does not ask us to choose and then overrule our choices.
A judgment can also be a verb, an action. We usually think of it in terms of punishment. Look at this verse:
“The heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made: in the net which they hid is their own foot taken. The LORD is known by the judgment which he executeth: the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. Higgaion. Selah.” (Psa 9:15-16)
The LORD is known by His acts (“the judgment which he executeth“) of judgment. How does He judge? The verse just before says how. He allows people to experience the natural consequences of their actions and choices. Here are about 20 verses showing that sin punishes sin as a natural result.
So, God does not judge us anything like most people think – He does not have to make up His mind for each of us. In contrast to that, here is a verse that actually speaks of God being judged:
“God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.” (Rom 3:4)
People are surprised to learn that God is being judged; He is on trial. Satan has brought charges against Him and He is trying to clear His name. There is a website that focuses specifically on God on Trial.
So, not only does He not judge us (determine our guilt or innocence) but He asks us to be witnesses for Him when He is judged. We judge Him.