God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)For then how shall God judge the world?—St. Paul considers it a sufficient answer merely to propound this question. He and those to whom he was writing all assumed that there must be a future judgment.
The way in which Bishop Butler deals with the argument from necessity is very similar to this, substituting only present for future judgment. “It is fact that God does govern even brute creatures by the method of rewards and punishments in the natural course of things. And men are rewarded and punished for their actions—punished for actions mischievous to society as being so, punished for vicious actions as such—by the natural instrumentality of each other under the present conduct of Providence,” &c. Hence the necessitarian is in this dilemma: either his opinion is not true, or else it must be capable of being harmonised with these facts. The facts themselves are postulated.Romans 3:4.
For then - If it be admitted that it would be unjust for God to inflict punishment.
How shall God ... - How will it be right or consistent for him to judge the world.
Judge - To "judge" implies the possibility and the correctness of "condemning" the guilty; for if it were not right to condemn them, judgment would be a farce. This does not mean that God would condemn all the world; but that the fact of judging people implied the possibility and propriety of condemning those who were guilty. It is remarkable that the apostle does not attempt to explain how it could be that God could take occasion from the sins of people to promote his glory; nor does he even admit the fact; but he meets directly the objection. To understand the force of his answer, it must be remembered that it was an admitted fact, a fact which no one among the Jews would call in question, that God would judge the world. This fact was fully taught in their own writings, Genesis 18:25; Ecclesiastes 12:14; Ecclesiastes 11:9. It was besides an admitted point with them that God would condemn the pagan I world; and perhaps the term "world" here refers particularly to them.
But how could this be if it were not right for God to inflict punishment at all? The inference of the objector, therefore, could not be true; though the apostle does not tell us how it was consistent to inflict punishment for offences from which God took occasion to promote his glory. It may be remarked, however, that God will judge offences, not from what he may do in overruling them, but from the nature of the crime itself. The question is not, what good God may bring out of it, but what does the crime itself deserve? what is the character of the offender? what was his intention? It is not what God may do to overrule the offence when it is committed. The just punishment of the murderer is to be determined by the Law, and by his own desert; and not from any reputation for integrity and uprightness which the judge may manifest on his trial; or from any honor which may accrue to the police for detecting him; or any security which may result to the commonwealth from his execution; or from any honor which the Law may gain as a just law by his condemnation. Nor should any of these facts and advantages which may result from his execution, be pleaded in bar of his condemnation. So it is with the sinner under the divine administration. It is indeed a truth Psalm 76:10 that the wrath of man shall praise God, and that he will take occasion from people's wickedness to glorify himself as a just judge and moral governor; but this will be no ground of acquittal for the sinner.God forbid; he rejects the cavil with his usual note of detestation, as not thinking it worthy of answer.
For then how shall God judge the world? q.d. If God were in the least unrighteous, how could he govern the world at present, and judge it at last in righteousness? Which is affirmed, Psalm 96:13 98:9. Or, how could he be God and supreme, if he were not just by his nature and essence, and his will the very rule of righteousness: see Genesis 18:25 Job 34:12. God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)6. how shall God judge the world?] The emphasis is on “judge,” not on “world.” It is needless to suppose the word “world” here to stand in opposition to the Jewish people. The point of the question is, that if God could not righteously punish sin when sin illustrated His glory, not only would He not punish those particular sins, but He would (as to principle) entirely abdicate His office as “Judge of all the earth.” All sin, in one respect or another, illustrates His glory, if only as a black contrast: therefore, in no case would punishment be just!—On the truth that the Lord is the “Judge of all” the Apostle falls back as on a “first ground.”Romans 3:6. Ἐπεὶ, otherwise) The consequence is drawn [bound, connected] from the less to the greater, as it ought to be in the case of negatives. If God were to act unrighteously, in taking vengeance on the Jew who acts unrighteously, a thing too absurd to be mentioned, He certainly could not judge the whole world. Affirmatively, the process of reasoning would take this form: He who (justly) Judges the whole world, will doubtless also judge justly in this one particular case. [Vice versa] The conclusion is, in its turn, drawn from the greater to the less at 1 Corinthians 6:2.—τὸν κόσμον, the world) For even the unrightousness of the whole world (which is put in opposition to the Jews, at ch. Romans 11:12), commends the righteousness of God; and yet God pronounces, and with justice, the whole world to be unrighteous, Genesis 18:25. Nay, in the very judgment, the unrighteousness of man will greatly illustrate the righteousness of God. The Jew acknowledges the righteousness of the Divine judgment regarding the world; but Paul shows that there is the same ground for judgment regarding the unbelieving Jews.
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