March 27, 2022
1 Peter 4:4-6 NIV
4 They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. 5 But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.
It is fitting that Apostle 1-A, Peter, would keep drawing us deeper into the substance of the Creed of the Apostles. We have covered the death, descent to the dead, the resurrection and ascension, the return, and now we come to the judgment. According to tradition, each of the Apostles wrote one article of the twelve articles of the Creed.
5 But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.
In the parlance of the Apostles Creed version of my youth, “He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried. He descended into Hell. On the third day he arose from the dead. He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.”
And then this theological lodestar: “From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.”
For the longest time, I understood “the quick” to mean the fast—as in no one could outrun the judgment. Of course, no thanks to King Jimmy, it means the living. And yet it is true either way. No one outruns the judgment. Everyone must one day stand before the judgment. The judgment is real. Everyone must give an account.
Growing up and for many years I didn’t understand this. I wanted to know why. I reasoned, if God is God, why can’t God just dispense with the whole need for judgment? Why couldn’t God forgive sin by fiat? Why did Jesus have to die to atone for sin? Why did sin have to create separation? Couldn’t God just wave his hand and change all this?
Short answer: For God to be God, God has to be true to God’s own nature. Scripture reveals to us God’s nature as the fiery union of holiness and love. God’s nature manifests itself in our experience as justice and mercy. God’s justice is the manifestation of his holiness. God’s mercy is the manifestation of his love.
Jesus Messiah, the Son of God, the image of God in human flesh, shows us the perfect union of holiness and love, of justice and mercy. Nowhere is this more poignantly concentrated than in his suffering on the Cross. As Peter wrote earlier, For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. 3:18a
Holiness cannot abide sin, but love can cover it. The holiness of God cries out for justice. The love of God cries out for mercy. Hear how Paul captures this sacred calculus of redemption.
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
We cannot atone for our own sin. We cannot stand in the judgment. By virtue of being a member of the fallen human race we stand under condemnation unless someone else can stand for us. The good news—one stands for us—Jesus Messiah.
There is a word for this kind of mercy in the face of judgment: pardon.
Jesus, you are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Thank you for the Cross. Thank you for taking our place and giving us pardon instead. Thank you for your holiness and your love, for your justice and your mercy. Thank you for the miracle of your life, death, resurrection, ascension, and return. Holy Spirit increase my experience of the mercy of pardon. Praying in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Are you prepared for the judgment of God? Have you accepted and received the merciful pardon of Jesus Christ? If not, what are you waiting for?
For the Awakening,
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