Thursday of Cantate: What is Judgment?
And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: … concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
The Holy Spirit’s ministry upends everything we would think to be correct about sin, righteousness, and judgment. We’d think sin is doing wrong, righteousness is doing right, and judgment is an evaluation of the two. Of course, this is the way of all religion, and the way of natural religion, and the way of God’s “left hand” kingdom.
What does it mean that the Holy Spirit “convicts” the world about this things, which is to say, proves it wrong about such things? Is the world wrong to say that sin is breaking God’s Law? Is it wrong to say righteousness is obedience to God’s Law? Is it wrong to say that judgment is based on an evaluation of the two?
Not to put too fine a point on it, but… kind of.
It’s not wrong in the general sense. After all, how many passages could we muster demonstrating that sin is breaking God’s Law or that righteousness is keeping it? Of course, this was a main mission of Jesus, to bear our sins and live our righteousness, so that He could make “the great exchange,” taking our sin and giving us our righteousness. And judgment clearly is about evaluating the two, insofar as Christ was judged for our sins, and judged quite harshly; meanwhile we are judged righteous in Christ.
So, in the general sense, revealed law, natural law, and the law of our hearts teach us rightly about sin, righteousness, and judgment. But the revealed law, natural law, and the law of our hearts do not reveal Christ. Christ can only be revealed by special “declaration” of the Holy Spirit, and as Jesus says, until He begins doing so, we remain in the dark.
Jesus and the Holy Spirit, in other words, change everything, so much so that what was previously “right” is now “proven” to be wrong. What mission did the Holy Spirit have that so reversed course?
Well, as we’ve been meditating on, a big mission was delivering by way of declaration all that Christ had done for us by restoring our fellowship at God’s right hand. This restoration and fellowship communicates to us the forgiveness of sins, which is the Holy Spirit’s mission. For Jesus breathed on His disciples and said, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven.”
But let’s put a positive spin on the forgiveness of sins. Let’s call it the restoration of our fellowship with God, which is our righteousness, and which is the replacement of our sin with our faith.
Satan, our accuser, who accused us night and day, is cast out from the presence of God. Jesus is restored in fellowship. That’s the judgment! Where before judgment was “Sin alienates you from God and righteousness puts you in fellowship with Him,” now it’s “Christ’s blood drives away the one accusing you of sin, and Christ sitting at God’s right hand puts you in fellowship with Him.”
That is the judgment. Again, note how this is played out liturgically. After all, the “day of the Lord” is a day of judgment, is it not? The Lord’s Day, Sunday, must be a day of judgment, and it is. We come with our sins. We receive absolution, which lays the foundation for that new cosmic architecture we’ve been referring to, where we are brought into the presence of God through Christ, and by partake in the now hidden mysteries of our faith.
In other words, as Jesus says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”
And also this, “as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also.”
Do we get an example of the Son’s judgment? We do, with the woman caught in adultery. Here, actually, is a good example of how our passage for today plays out.
The woman was caught, and guilty. The Law had judged her, and rightly so. God Himself had engraved the Law with His finger. It was divine. But God had also promised, “I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah – not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
Whereas the old covenant (law) was written on stone, the new covenant is written on hearts and minds. This is the point of Jesus’ writing in the dirt after He challenged the woman’s accusers with His famous words: “Whoever is without sin cast the first stone.”
This is the New Testament of Christ’s blood, which speaks better things than the vengeful cries of Abel’s blood. It speaks forgiveness.
In this passage, Jesus cast out the accusers. “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” This was a foretaste of what was to come, when He cast out “the Accuser,” Satan.
The Holy Spirit’s mission is to construct a sacred space where the rules of the world change. In the Church – in Christ’s Body, sitting as it is in perfect fellowship at God’s right hand – there is no Accuser anymore, not for any Christian. The Church is where the world is proved wrong about all its assumptions, about sin, about righteousness, and about judgment.
And if you’re thinking, “Yeah, but the Church is where all the judgmentalism is, and the world is actually where the tolerance is,” you haven’t been paying attention. But that’s for tomorrow’s meditation.