But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother?
For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. – Romans 14:10
In the last chapters of Acts we see Paul brought before the Sanhedrin, then before Governor Felix, then before Governor Festus and a host of dignitaries and prominent people and then ultimately to Rome to stand before Caesar. All of this was done through government links. The Spirit orchestrates an opportunity for Paul to reach those in authority and He uses government to do it. The gospel is not just for the person on the street, it is for people in all stations of life, including the government and politics.
Government and politics are a big part of life. Governments in their various forms are by nature controlling and authoritative. Politicians and government officials are drawn to power and influence. Since every government thus far is overseen by fallen human beings, every government is critically flawed and imperfect because the people enlisted by the governments are flawed and imperfect and fallen in sin. The only government that will ever be perfect will be the Kingdom of Jesus (cf. Revelation 20). Having said that, government can be good. The goodness of a government is measured by its adherence to its Divinely ordained purposes.
We should cooperate with the government. Even though governments are flawed, that doesn’t mean we should be uncooperative with whatever system in which we live. Jesus said our attitude should be, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). We should cooperate with our government if it does not cause us to disobey the word of God. Our first citizenship is to Heaven (cf. Philippians 3:17-21). But we should also be good citizens of the governmental systems we live in as long as they don’t require us to break the laws of our heavenly citizenship.
God appoints governments. Governments are God’s instrument to maintain order and justice in this fallen world. The Bible states:
Romans 13:1–7 (NKJV) – Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. 4 For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. 5 Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.
There are a few things for us to note from these verses.
- Be subject to governments (v. 1a). Our initial preference should be to subject ourselves to governing authorities. The word “subject” (Greek hypotasso) means to subordinate, to obey, to put oneself under, to be subject to, to submit to. Our first inclination and response to government is to subject ourselves to it. (cf. also Titus 3:1 and 1 Peter 2:13).
- God appoints governments (v.1b). We should be subject to governing authorities because it is God who as “appointed” (Greek tasso) or arranged in an orderly manner, assigned, determined, ordained government. Governments are an instrument of God to maintain and enforce order in the world. God is orderly by nature (e.g. 1 Corinthians 14:33 and 40).
- To resist government is to resist God (v. 2). When we resist governmental authority for no biblically sound reason we are in effect resisting an instrument put in place by God and will bring judgment on ourselves. The only time we should resist government is if it contradicts God’s word (e.g. Acts 5:29). Even then, we should expect to suffer the penalties and consequences of the earthly governments we resist even when it is for good godly reasons.
- Governments are Gods’ tool to resist evil (v. 3). Governments are put in place by God to subdue evil. If we do good the government can be a source of praise for us.
- Governments should serve God’s good (v. 4a). Governments are ordained by God to be His servants for good.
- Governments are God’s instruments of wrath (v. 4b). Governments are ordained to use physical force to execute God’s wrath against evil and all who practice it.
- Obey governments for conscience’ sake (v. 5). We are to be subject to governments not only because of fear of God’s wrath delivered on us by such governments, but “for conscience’ sake.” We should want to have a clear conscience by not breaking secular laws put in place to prevent evil.
- Pay taxes (v. 6). We pay taxes to government so they can restrain evil and deliver God’s wrath on evil and those who are guilty of it.
- Be a good citizen (v. 7). Our proper response to government is to pay taxes, customs, fear (respect), and honor as appropriate. In other words, we should be good citizens of our earthly governments.
Government can be good. Governments are meant by God to be instruments for good. They can serve God’s heavenly purposes to freely share the gospel and fulfill the Great Commission. Some governments like Communism are devised on an atheist godless worldview. But even such governments can serve God’s purposes. Governments and people purport to rebel against God, but God is not threatened by them, in fact He laughs at them (cf. Psalm 20).
Governments best serve their intended purpose when the serve God. The United States is an example of this. We are blessed to live in a nation that has Christian roots. It’s not a perfect country, and in recent years it has moved far away from God, but there still remains a system of laws and government that provide protections to freely do the Lord’s work.
Unfortunately, many citizens of the United States are ignorant of their government and its laws. Contemporary public education has chosen to cut out civics classes so that generations are ignorant of the blessings of the government they live in. Many public schools, colleges and universities present a version of our government which is painted in dark injustices not to mention inaccuracies. It is important we know what our government is all about.
Our nation has a Constitution which is the Law of the land. It was born from a Constitutional Convention in 1787. 55 men from twelve states gathered in privacy to discuss, debate, and delineate the laws that would bind the original thirteen colonies together as a country. There were times when they came to a deadlock over certain issues. When that happened they would pray. The convention was opened in prayer and bathed in prayer. These men also referred to their Bible as a source of guidance.
The Constitution they created, and its seven Articles, defined the new nation as a Constitutional Republic of Federal and State bodies. There would be three branches of government: Executive; Legislative; and Judicial. These branches each oversaw areas of rule and served to be a check and balance to each other so that no one body could rule over the others. They established and set parameters for making laws, military use, and for economic stewardship.
The Bill of Rights
While the Constitution initially set the parameters for the nation, protections for individual citizens were noted and established in the Bill of Rights which were the first ten amendments to the Constitution. What is the Bill of Rights and what does it say?
The Bill of Rights is the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution. It spells out Americans’ rights in relation to their government. It guarantees civil rights and liberties to the individual—like freedom of speech, press, and religion. It sets rules for due process of law and reserves all powers not delegated to the Federal Government to the people or the States. And it specifies that “the enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
The First Amendment – The First Amendment provides several rights protections: to express ideas through speech and the press, to assemble or gather with a group to protest or for other reasons, and to ask the government to fix problems. It also protects the right to religious beliefs and practices. It prevents the government from creating or favoring a religion.
The Second Amendment – The Second Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms.
The Third Amendment – The Third Amendment prevents government from forcing homeowners to allow soldiers to use their homes. Before the Revolutionary War, laws gave British soldiers the right to take over private homes.
The Fourth Amendment – The Fourth Amendment bars the government from unreasonable search and seizure of an individual or their private property.
The Fifth Amendment – The Fifth Amendment provides several protections for people accused of crimes. It states that serious criminal charges must be started by a grand jury. A person cannot be tried twice for the same offense (double jeopardy) or have property taken away without just compensation. People have the right against self-incrimination and cannot be imprisoned without due process of law (fair procedures and trials.)
The Sixth Amendment – The Sixth Amendment provides additional protections to people accused of crimes, such as the right to a speedy and public trial, trial by an impartial jury in criminal cases, and to be informed of criminal charges. Witnesses must face the accused, and the accused is allowed his or her own witnesses and to be represented by a lawyer.
The Seventh Amendment – The Seventh Amendment extends the right to a jury trial in Federal civil cases.
The Eighth Amendment – The Eighth Amendment bars excessive bail and fines and cruel and unusual punishment.
The Ninth Amendment – The Ninth Amendment states that listing specific rights in the Constitution does not mean that people do not have other rights that have not been spelled out.
There have been 27 total Amendments made to the Constitution. That may sound like a lot, but keep in mind that is over approximately 250 years and 12,000 proposed Amendments. Those who authored the Constitution wanted a system to put in place to amend with time, but one that was not so easy that amendments would be destabilizing.
As a result of the Civil War three “Reconstruction Amendments” were adopted. The 13th Amendments abolished slavery, the 14th, enhanced the civil rights of citizens, and the 15th guaranteed the right to vote regardless of race. These are an example and consequence of our nations heart first expressed in the Declaration of Independence where it states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
The only Amendment adopted and then overturned was Prohibition the 18th Amendment which was overturned by the 21st Amendment. Other Amendments limited government authority, changed the age of eligibility to vote, and related to taxes.  the Constitution is amendable, but it is still a firm, constant and reliable document to assure the rights of its people.
In the United States of America we have been blessed with a Constitutional Republic that has moved steadily toward assuring the civil rights of its citizens. We would do well to rely on such a heaven-sent blessing to freely minister the gospel in our country.
In Acts 25 Paul uses the Roman governmental system to appeal to Caesar. Similarly, we should know our Constitution, Bill of Rights, and use them to further the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We should use our rights under the Constitution to freely minister to the citizens and people living within the borders of the United States.
Going to Court – Paul Makes Use of His Earthly Citizenship
As we follow Paul to court it should remind us that we too will one day go before a Judge in a much higher court. Every person faces an initial judgment at death (Hebrews 9:27). Those who die without a saving relationship with Jesus Christ will face a future Judgment where all their sins will be laid bare, and the appropriate eternal damnation will be enforced by God.
There is no condemnation for Christians (Romans 8:1), but we will still all face a judgment before Jesus that will determine rewards for the way we lived our earthly Christian lives.
The Judgment Seat of Christ. The Apostle Paul states:
Romans 14:10 (NKJV) – 10 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
The truth that “we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” should be sobering to the one who tends to talk or gossip about others. The context of Romans 14:10 is a discussion of secondary issues that Christians can have differing opinions on. Rather than gossip and try to win people to our point of view, we should be gracious and understanding with people. We shouldn’t pass judgment on others as though we were “God.” We shouldn’t “show contempt” (Greek exoutheneo) or despise, view as lesser, to lower in importance or value someone who disagrees with us. We shouldn’t exalt ourselves and our opinions at the expense of others. Being judgmental and contemptable toward others are things Paul points out will be judged by Jesus at His judgment seat.
A second place where Paul speaks of the Judgment Seat of Christ is in his second inspired letter to the church in Corinth:
2 Corinthians 5:9–10 (NKJV) – 9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
Here Paul says the incentive “to be well pleasing to Him,” is that we will face the scrutiny of Jesus at His Judgment Seat. At this judgment of Jesus we will receive rewards “according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”
The unbeliever is judged according to their sins. In Revelation 20:11-15 we are given a description of this final judgment:
Revelation 20:11–15 (NKJV) – 11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
The final Judgment or Great White Throne Judgment is a profoundly serious sight. Each unbeliever will stand before Jesus. Then the Book of Life will be checked to see that the unbeliever’s name is not written in it. If your name is not in this book, you are guilty before God and destined to not just a life sentence, but an eternal life sentence in the Lake of Fire.
To justify the sentence other “books” are consulted which have a record of all the unbeliever’s sinful works or actions. Keep in mind these works are not just the actions but include the sinful thoughts of the unbeliever according to Jesus’ standard (e.g. Matthew 5:27-32). In our day human technology has eliminated privacy. IPhones and traffic cameras watch your every step. Facial recognition and Artificial Intelligence record your every move. The only thing technology has not been able to watch is our thoughts. If human technology can do this, how much more is the Lord able to keep an exact record of our thoughts, words, and deeds? Each unbeliever stands alone before the Holy King Jesus who is Judge. Each believer will be exposed to everyone as deserving of eternal damnation. There will be no doubt, and there will be no plea bargaining. It will be a terrible experience for the sinner. It will be terrible for everyone in attendance.
Once exposed and the sentence confirmed, the unbeliever will be cast into the Lake of Fire which is “the second death.” Only those who have been born again through faith in Jesus will avoid such a sentence. Those cast into the Lake of Fire will finally realize why it was so important to trust Jesus as Savior, but it will be too late. There are no second chances. There is no purgatory. The sentence is final and forever. True. Terrible.
If you are reading this and have yet to repent of your sins and trust Jesus as Savior and Lord, now is the time to do it. If you know Jesus, let this be an incentive to tell everyone unbeliever you know that they need to repent and trust Jesus as Savior. Jesus said, “You must be born again” (John 3). Your salvation is not a matter of religious affiliation. Salvation is a matter of spiritual regeneration or being “born again.” The one born again will have their life impacted much the same as a child being born into the world. Regarding final judgment someone has said, “Born twice die once. Born once die twice.” You must be born again if you are to avoid the final judgment and Lake of fire.
Jesus is the only solution to a person’s sin problem. All humanity falls short of God’s glorious requirement for heaven (Romans 3:23). Only by God’s gracious gospel offer through faith in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and resurrection can a sinner receive forgiveness for their sins (Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:1-9; Titus 3:4-7). Our unrighteous works will earn us condemnation – “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). Our righteous works are as “filthy rags” to the LORD who is Holy and Just (cf. Isaiah 64:6). “But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23b). Jesus is the only way to be saved from sin (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Tim. 2:4-5).
The Christian is judged according to how they applied the holy spiritual assets given to them by God (Matthew 25:14-30). The Christian is judged according to their way of life, their pursuit of holiness. Paul explained it like this:
Galatians 5:14–24 (NKJV) – 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!
16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
If you, a “Christian,” practice or live a life characterized by the works of the flesh, you really need to do a self-assessment to see if you are genuinely saved. Jesus spoke of “tares” among the wheat or kernels of wheat that looked good on the outside but on the inside were empty with no wheat (Matthew 13:24-30). If you are genuinely saved from your sin, there will be evidence of spiritual fruit in your life. Walking and living in the Spirit is what Jesus will look at to determine the rewards He will give us.
Are you ready to go to court, or do you want a bit more time to prepare your case? The only time you are guaranteed is, now. Right now you need to get your spiritual house in order. Right now you need to repent of your sins, confess them to the Lord, and receive His forgiveness. Right now is the time to do that.
 National Archives – https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/bill-of-rights/what-does-it-say