Saints: please find below excerpt on judgment by Richard Owen Roberts:
It Is Time for Judgment
Let’s take the text now. Verse 17: "It is time for judgment to begin with the household of God." Some of us have a very inadequate understanding of Scripture because we have a very inadequate understanding of judgment. I’m regularly encountering people in the church, who, when the word judgment is used, think usually in terms of the future—like the Great White Throne Judgment. This passage is not talking about something in the future. When the Bible speaks about the judgment of God, we need to be certain whether it is talking about something eschatological or something for the moment. In this passage, the judgment that is under consideration is something that occurs on a day by day basis.
"It is time for judgment…"
That was written a long time ago, and Peter was sure that it was an appropriate time for judgment then. It is even more appropriate now. There is simply no escaping the fact that part and parcel of being a true believer is the issue of judgment. A major reason why we so desperately need revival is that the biblical subject of judgment has been set aside and treated as a matter of inconsequence for the believer.
But not only is the timing of judgment called to our attention here, but also the subjects of judgment are clearly pinpointed. As noted already, the place where judgment must begin: "It is time for judgment to begin with the household of God." In actual fact, if one has a very literal translation, they know that what this passage says is that the time has come for judgment to begin from the household of God. It is not something that is contained within the household of faith. It is something that begins there and moves on out. That is a very important aspect of the teaching of this passage.
We need to observe that the word under consideration here is judgment, not punishment. Christ already bore your punishment. The world is facing judgment in the sense of penalty. The judgment of the believers described here is for the purpose of refinement, purification. We can be greatly moved in a conference like this and set our hearts to be more pure. We may need some reminders in the days to come, and the Lord is going to use His judgments as reminders and aids.
When we’re speaking of judgments that are concurrent with sin, we need to be thinking in three realms. First, every believer needs to learn to judge himself. The reason why we get such a pileup of iniquity within the church is because so many believers have failed to judge themselves.
Secondly, we must also think in terms of the church as the judge. It is God’s plan that each church should judge its own people. You can barely say that before someone says, "My Bible says, ‘Judge not lest ye be judged.’" My Bible says, "Judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24). It says, "With what judgment you judge, you shall be judged" (Matt. 7:2). There is no hint in the Bible that we are not to judge. We dare not judge unfairly. We must not be more severe with others than we are with ourselves. So when we are thinking of judgment concurrent with sin, we are thinking of the individual judging himself; we’re thinking in terms of the church judging the individual that won’t judge himself. And obviously we are thinking in terms of God. If the individual won’t judge himself and that individual’s church won’t judge him, God will.
Some of you pastors, if you’re going to follow through on your engagement with God this week, are going to have to go home and exercise some judgments, first, on yourself. When you are right in every realm, then you’re going to have to deal with some of those people in your church who need godly, gracious, loving, tender judgment. Judgment must begin with the household of faith.
Many of us are familiar with the passage of 1 Corinthians 11, starting with verse 27: "Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord in order that we may not be condemned along with the world."
If perpetually you will not judge yourself, there is strong reason to suppose that you’re going to be judged along with the world because the repentant person who has the exchanged mind, has no interest in sin. Oh, he fails; he commits sin. He may work terrible iniquity, but he has the mind-set of the Spirit and he judges himself with severity lest he be judged along with the world. In First Corinthians 5:5, Paul is dealing with the immorality in the Corinthian Church and he sums it up by saying, "I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." My brothers in ministry, you in all likelihood have people in your church who need judgment so that their spirit may be chastened and their soul may be saved.
I want to give seven biblical examples of judgment. Before I do, I want to give you these summary kind of biblical statements. The first I am reading from Exodus 19:21: "The Lord spoke to Moses, ‘Go down, warn the people, lest they break through to the Lord to gaze, and many of them perish. And also let the priests who come near to the Lord consecrate themselves, lest the Lord break out against them.’" That is what I wantyou to have in mind as we pursue this subject further: "Lest the Lord break out among them."
If I won’t judge myself, and my church doesn’t have the courage to judge me, I warn you, the Lord will break out among us! The Lord already has broken out among us! We’ve been seeing the hand of God in judgment for years now. There has been the withdrawal of the manifest presence of God. I mention Jeremiah, chapter 13, how that God, when He is grieved with the wickedness of His people when they will not judge themselves and one another, turns them over to a state of spiritual drunkenness. The judgments of God are manifold. Judge yourself. Judge appropriately others, lest the Lord break out among you.
Listen to these solemn words in Hebrews 12:25: "See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less shall we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven." The words cited a while ago, "lest the Lord break out among you"—were words spoken on earth, but take care lest the voice of God from heaven warns, for our God is a consuming fire. Is it any wonder that the psalmist said in Psalm 119:26, "My flesh trembles for fear of thee, and I am afraid of thy judgments."
Let us again look at the text in verses 17 and 18: "Let judgment begin with the household of God and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome of those who do not obey the Gospel of God? And if it is with difficulty that the righteous are saved"—or your version may say, "if the righteous are scarcely saved…" That seems to imply: if they are just saved by the skin of their teeth, if they just barely make it. Would that not be a terrible statement against Christ? Is Christ’s atoning work barely sufficient? No, it is altogether adequate. It is superabundant in its ability to save any and all. This passage is not dealing with believers just barely making it into the eternal Kingdom.
Look at the wording: "If the righteous…" This text is suggesting: if those who have been made righteous, if those already justified, are still being saved with difficulty…. What does it mean? Well, it’s hard going judging yourself day in and day out, month after month, year after year, unceasingly judging yourself. It is even harder to judge others righteously. If the church will not judge itself, if judgment does not begin in the household of faith, the question is asked, what hope is there for the ungodly and the sinner? Do you realize the contribution the church has made to the eternal death of the unbelieving world, by our refusal to judge ourselves? By the refusal of the church to judge its people, we have made it increasingly difficult when it is already difficult enough, for the ungodly and the sinners to judge themselves.
There are seven illustrations which are extremely consequential. The first is found in Leviticus 9 and 10. God had been meeting His people in a profoundly powerful fashion, and then two of Aaron’s sons wanted to get in on the act. We read, "Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘It is what the Lord spoke saying, "By those who come near me I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honored."’" These two brothers took strange fire. Somebody wants to know, "Were they really believers?" How do I know? They were sons of Aaron and they were in the priesthood. God demands that we all without any exceptions treat Him as holy, and God insists that before all the people we honor the Lord.
Some present the strange fire of jokes in the pulpit. Some use as illustrations stuff from the television the night before, and while they are there to call people from the world, they’re feeding them the world, when they’re supposed to be feeding them the Word of God. Strange fire.
God judged Moses for his loss of self-control. In the last verses of Deuteronomy, chapter 32 we read, "The Lord spoke to Moses that very same day, saying, go up to this mountain of the Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab opposite Jericho, and look at the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the sons of Israel for a possession. Then die on the mountain where you ascend, and be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people, because you broke faith with me…"
What did Moses do? God had said to him in the midst of a murmuring people, "Speak to the rock" (Nu. 20:8).But Moses was in an agitated spirit. He let the mean spiritedness and murmuring attitudes of the people touch him. So he grabbed hold of the rod and whacked the rock, and judgment fell on Moses. In Numbers 20:12 there is a powerful statement about this, and God said to Moses, "At this place, at the Waters of Meribah, where you were supposed to maintain my holiness before the people, you didn’t maintain it. And now, Moses, I want you to understand, I’m going to maintain it. But I’ll maintain it at your expense."
People who read these passages in Numbers and Deuteronomy ask, "Are you suggesting that Moses went to hell?" No, I’m not suggesting he went to hell. But that is no relief for anyone who has a change of mind, whose mind-set is the glory of God. If I steal from the glory of God, that’s worse to the believer than going to hell, because the purpose for my existence has been defeated when I sin and rob God of His glory. May we have a renewed realization of our duty to maintain God’s holiness before the people and to uphold His glory before all, and may our heart be set to maintain it so that God is not forced to maintain it at our expense. It’s time for judgment to begin in the household of faith.
The third illustration is in Judges, chapters 13-16—the account of Samson. His birth was announced by angels. His parents were informed that he was to be a Nazarite from the womb, that he was to drink no strong wine, that he was to eat no unclean thing, and that his hair was not to be shaved. We read of times when the Spirit of God came upon him, but most of us remember that season in Samson’s life when he fooled around with Delilah. Delilah made him sleep on her knees. She called a man to shave off the seven locks of his hair and she said, "The Philistines are upon you!" He woke from his sleep and roused himself, intending to go out and shake himself as before, but he didn’t know the Spirit of the Lord had left him. I’m afraid lest some preacher here be in that circumstance of not knowing that the Spirit of the Lord has already left him. It is time for judgment to begin in the household of faith.
Place in your mind the story of Eli and his sons. The priest Eli grew grossly fat by eating the things his sons were forbidden to touch. Then came that day when he sat on his stool and news came that the ark of God had been taken by the Philistines, and this priest, Eli, fell backward off his stool and broke his neck There was not a man of his descendants who lived to any age or who ever occupied that glorious position he held. He didn’t judge himself, and God was forced to judge him.
Think of David. There is a long account of David in 1 Chronicles, chapters 13 through 17, and then a much shorter account in 2 Samuel, chapter 6, when David sought to bring the ark of God back to Jerusalem. A boy reached up to steady the ark when it hit the rough place in the road, and God struck the boy down. David was angry and he called the place "Perezuzzah"—the Lord has made a breech on us. Why? Neither David nor the priest had judged themselves. David wanted to bring the Ark of God home, but he didn’t go to the Scriptures to find out how to do it. Instead of carrying it on the shoulders of the Kohites, they built a new cart and carried it the way the Philistines did.
David did not maintain God’s holiness among the people. God had to maintain it at David’s expense. David was not struck dead. It was Uzzah. That’s one of the amazing things about God. It may be someone near you who gets struck down because of your sin. God may have some higher purpose for you, as he had for David.
A sixth illustration is the King of Judah, Uzziah. He was 16 years of age when he became king. In his early days he did everything right in the sight of the Lord. God blessed him, and we read, "When he became strong, his heart was lifted up with pride." He wouldn’t judge himself. God had to judge him. When he was in the Temple misbehaving, doing something he had no right to do, leprosy appeared on his forehead, and his kingly rule was over (2 Chron. 26:16-23).
Turn to Acts 5 and read afresh the story of Ananias and Sapphira. They agreed together to deceive the Church and the Lord. Brothers and Sisters, it is time for judgment to begin in the household of faith. It will be with great difficulty that we are saved, but if we choose the easy road instead of the hard road of holiness, what will happen to the ungodly and sinners? What will happen is happening! They are dying by the millions and a powerless Church under the judgment of God is unable to help them.
Is there some area of your life that needs judgment? Let us bow before God and judge ourselves and put away sin.
Edited from a message delivered at the "Heart-Cry for Revival" Conference near Asheville, North Carolina, April 9-12, 2002