You are not merely a spectator to the case, you are involved; we all are. The human race is in the dock and we are charged with breaking the law. God is involved too. There are several roles He plays.
God is the lawmaker
The law you are charged with breaking isn’t the law of any country. If it were, then you perhaps could breathe a sigh of relief in the knowledge that you are not guilty. But there is a higher law – the law of God. As you look at the law of the land you might be able to say you are blameless, but when we look at God’s law, no one is.
Think of what God’s law commands. God’s law is summarised in the Ten Commandments.1 It tells us that God is to have the first place in all that we do; that we are never to concoct a God from our own imagination to suit ourselves; that God’s name is always to be used with reverence and treated with respect; that we are always to honour our parents; that we are to treat human life as sacred; that sex is to be between a husband and his wife only; that we are never to take anything that isn’t rightfully ours; that we are to always tell the truth; that we are never to desire for ourselves what belongs to someone else. As you look at these, how do you plead? Guilty or not guilty? You might not think that breaking these commandments is very serious, which is part of the problem. The only reason people break God’s law is because they think little of God’s authority – it doesn’t matter to them how God views their sin. They think they should be the ones to make the law, and so are trying to push God off His throne.
Think too of what God’s law demands. A lot of people have the idea that the Ten Commandments are given to us merely as a guide to human flourishing, or an exam, so that if we get 70%, we pass. But God’s law is a law! You don’t have to break all of the law all of the time to be guilty. You just have to break one part once. Keeping the law most of the time doesn’t excuse you breaking it some of the time. If you want to be good enough to earn God’s acceptance, then what it required is 100% obedience. Anything less means you are guilty, condemned, a criminal deserving of punishment.
"You don’t have to break all of the law all of the time to be guilty. You just have to break one part once."
God is the eyewitness
There are plenty of people who have broken the law but there are no witnesses to their crime. When it comes to the crimes we have committed against God, there has been an eyewitness – God Himself. The Bible says, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3).
The story is told of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, sending an anonymous note to twelve of his friends.2 The note just said, “All has been discovered, fly at once.” Half of them fled the country! Whether the story is true or not, the point is we would all hate it if all was discovered. We all have our shameful secrets, our embarrassing stories, our skeletons in the closet – things we are rightly ashamed of. Remember, God is the God who sets “our secret sins in the light of [His] countenance” (Psalm 90:8).
There’s nowhere we can go that is out of His sight or under His radar. His eyes are never closed, His back is never turned, His attention never distracted. You can lock the door, pull the curtains, clear the history and cover your tracks, but there is a day coming when “God will judge the secrets of men” (Romans 2:16).
God is the victim
When we sin, we are assaulting God. He is the one who is most deeply affected. I was talking about this to an atheist recently, and he said he didn’t believe God was affected by anything he had done. I told him that we both agreed it would be wrong for me to assault him – not just unpleasant, but wrong. But why is it wrong? It’s certainly not because he is a highly complex collection of chemicals that arose by blind forces acting on mindless matter in a universe that appeared with no purpose and is doomed for oblivion. You can’t get from there to “therefore it is wrong for me to harm you.” The reason it is wrong is because he is precious to God – I am harming something that belongs to God. That is why David in the Bible, who committed adultery and murder, came to confess to God, “Against You, You only have I sinned” (Psalm 51:4).
"When we sin, we are assaulting God."
When we sin, we steal from God. He has given us life, time and energy to use for Him, and when we take those things He has given us and use them for some other purpose, it is theft.
Also, when we sin, we slander God. The Bible teaches we have been made in God’s image, which means that we are made to represent God. So, when we sin, we misrepresent Him.
Sin is far more serious than we think it is – God takes every sin personally and seriously.
God is the judge
Our situation gets even more serious – the one whose law we have broken, who has witnessed our sins and has been offended by them, is the judge.
This is a judge who can’t be compromised – you can’t bribe Him or intimidate Him. And He is also a judge who can’t compromise – He can only ever act righteously towards sin.
Most people hoping to get to heaven are staking their all on the hope that God won’t be absolutely righteous, that He will not take their sins into account and punish every act of wrongdoing. It is a vain hope. God’s justice can’t be fudged, and His law won’t be set aside. Sin must be paid for. This means it is impossible for anyone to earn God’s acceptance – “by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20).
Even if we could keep the law from now till the day we die, it wouldn’t do anything to pay for the crimes of the past. Our situation is hopeless. Or at least it would have been, were it not for one more role God undertakes.
God is the condemned
God, in the person of the Son, Jesus Christ, has stepped down from His throne of judgment into the place of the guilty. The punishment human sin deserved, He took. The payment God’s law demanded, He made. The resurrection of Christ from the dead is the proof that sin’s penalty has been fully paid.
God is not sweeping sin under the carpet. His justice has not been set aside; it has been satisfied. Now God can righteously release you from condemnation, if you will plead guilty and claim Christ as your only hope.
It is an epic courtroom drama. The question is, how will it end for you? Will it end with you taking the condemnation you deserve and being sent down forever? Or will it end with you walking free into new life and peace with God? It all depends on what you do with Jesus. Drop your defence, bow your heart in repentance, and accept God’s offer of a Saviour. Make sure your story has a happy ending.
- The fourth commandment is unique in the ten because it alone was specifically for the nation of Israel. The Sabbath was the sign of God’s covenant with them. The other nine are explicitly moral issues and are written on the hearts of all mankind (Romans 2:15).
- The writer of the note and the numbers involved change, depending on what book or website you are looking at.
[Painting: The Tichborne Trial by Frederick Sargent]