Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Paul has been emphasizing our need to not sit in judgment over our fellow believers. He wants us to focus on another Judgment we will all face someday.
Rom. 14:11 (Holman) For it is written: As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to Me, and every tongue will give praise to God.
Verse 10 was written to and about believers; verse 11 sets before us the Judgment of God, a day when all people, saved or lost, shall stand directly before God. The Scriptures plainly teach there will be a universal Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46). Believers and unbelievers shall stand before God for Judgment.
On that day, all people shall acknowledge God’s majesty, and confess submission. This humbleness will be spoken with our mouths, and also communicated by an external gesture, the bending of every knee.
At the Judgment, all people will recognize God’s authority, and admit He is the supreme ruler and Judge. This does not mean all will be saved. God’s children will display this submission out of gratitude, but His foes will be compelled to do it. Either freely or by force, everyone’s knee will bow to Jesus.
We do not decide whether or not we will bow. All we can do is choose when we do it for the first time. Sadly, most people die without bowing a knee to Christ. This in no way nullifies the fact they will someday have to bow before Him.
Rom. 14:12 So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.
“Give an account” was the common way of referring to a notation entered in a ledger by a bookkeeper. At God’s tribunal, the deeds of believers will once again stare them in the face. Our lives will be disclosed. We shall be revealed.
Everyone will be seen in their true light. The story of our actions will survive the grave. They will be resurrected to stand beside us on Judgment Day.
We will not give account for others, nor they for us. Each one shall give an account “of himself.” We cannot hide behind someone else. We will stand before God in the awful loneliness of our own souls (Barclay).
God will settle all accounts. John Wesley was once forced to pay the same bill twice. He wrote on the receipt, “To be settled on the Day of Judgment.”
Our character will be thoroughly tested someday. We will give an account for every idle word and every secret thing. Private things will be made public. Cups of cold water will be remembered. Little details will be significant.
Phidias, the Greek sculptor (480-430 BC), polished the back of his statues because, he said, though people did not see this work, the gods did. Apply the same principle to life. Take inventory. Judge our private, as well as our public, selves.
If we knew we would soon stand before the President, we would begin making special preparations. Otherwise, we would be viewed with scorn. God’s Judgment is often spoken of as the most terrible event that will ever happen in human history. It behooves us to make preparation for such an awesome event.
A Moorish king of Spain once stole a piece of property from a woman in his kingdom. The lady was poor, but influenced a rich man to plead her case before the king. One day, while the king was walking in the field, the rich man came and asked permission to fill an empty sack with good rich dirt. The king consented.
After filling the sack, the wealthy man asked the king to help him load it on a donkey, but when the king tried to lift it, he found the weight far too enormous. The wealthy man said, “But this is only a small portion of what you have stolen. If you cannot carry this little bit now, how will you be able to carry the weight of this whole field when you appear before the Great Judge?” Accepting reproof, the king restored the field to its owner. May all our sin-loads be light on the Great Day.
I hasten to say; Judgment Day will not determine everlasting destinies. It will reveal and confirm, but not determine, them. That decision is made in this lifetime and is enacted immediately at death.
Judgment Day will determine rewards or the lack of rewards. It will prove God was always fair. In this lifetime, we need not suffer from uncertainty with regard to the everlasting verdict we face. We know the Judge, and we know His ordained plan of salvation. In Jesus there is life everlasting, no condemnation.
Rom. 14:13a Therefore, let us no longer criticize one another.
When we see a “therefore” in Scripture, always take time to look back to see what it’s there for. Here the reference is to individual accountability before God.
Since God will judge us, there is no need for us to do it to one another in matters not specifically spelled out as wrong in Scripture. This life is hard enough for Christians without any need for extra critics. In matters debatable we need to view one another with holy blindness. Refuse to see what we do not like.
A Macedonian artist was once commissioned to sketch an emperor who had a very large and unsightly scar near his right temple. The artist, a master of compassion as well as of his trade, sketched the emperor leaning on his elbow, with his finger covering the scar on his head. By doing this, the artist made an accurate likeness of the king, but without the scar.
God help us put a finger of charity on the scars of Christians we see. Be tender. There may be an ugly scar, but underneath the surface is the image of Christ. God has chosen each and every one of us as His special possession.
In colonial America, the largest and tallest trees were reserved to the Crown. Huge pines and noble oaks, fit for masts or ribs of ships, were stamped with a huge Broad Arrow. Whenever people saw a Broad Arrow they would say with respect, “That is the King’s.”
For believers, it is not an arrow, but rather a cross that is stamped on us to show we are the King of King’s special possessions. Christ has died for each person. His cross is the sign and token of the value in every believer.
Do not usurp God’s place. Let the cross halt us in any effort to lord over another believer. Let us not judge one another anymore in matters debatable.
Rom. 14:13b Instead decide never to put a stumbling block or pitfall in your brother’s way.
Instead of judging other people, judge our own actions. In our life, is there a stumbling block, something that could cause another to trip and fall? Could anything in our life damage a fellow believer?
We are accountable before God for our influence over others. We are not responsible “to” one another, but are responsible “for” one another. We do not have to give an account of ourselves to our neighbor, but we will someday have to give an account to God for the way we lived before our neighbor.
Instead of a spirit of condemning others, have an attitude of concern. Instead of burdening people, help them climb higher. Avoid anything that might cause a brother or sister in Christ to fall. We do not want our fellow believers to limp and halt into Heaven. We want to help them march there with a steady gate.
Remember the words of Jesus, it is better to have a millstone hanged around one’s neck and be drowned in the sea than to “offend one of these little ones which believe in me” (Matthew 18:6). We are not our brother’s judge, but we are our brother’s keeper. Be careful. Avoid anything that might cause a brother to trip.