Shall Not The Judge Of All The Earth Do Right?
Introduction:

There are questions asked by those who genuinely desire to understand various aspects about God and how He deals with man; while others raise questions only to challenge the voracity of scripture and any reasonable basis for faith in God. Two benefits of apologetics (or defense of the faith) are sufficient to make that practice worthwhile: 1) believers can be strengthened in their faith, and 2) skeptics can be exposed enough to scripture that the Holy Spirit might convert some to saving faith in Christ Jesus. . The wisdom of God exceeds the capacity for man's full understanding of an infinite and omniscient creator, and therefore there is no higher intellectual pursuit than to study scripture. But spiritual truth must be spiritually discerned, therefore, much of the Bible will remain as foolishness to even the most intelligent unbeliever.


Opening The Discussion

In this study we will consider a multi-point question that may trouble believers, and these same points are often raised by critics of the gospel with an accusation that God cannot love if he does not meet their own definition of love. What is the eternal condition of those who die as part of one of these groups: 1) infants or very young children, 2) people who have insufficient comprehension of the Bible due to mental deficiency, or 3) people who have never heard anything about the words of the bible or had contact with any believers? Only the Holy Spirit can reveal to us a fully satisfactory answer to our most difficult questions when scripture seems unclear or silent, and there will often be debate on finer points even among those who trust the authority of the Bible. For those who do not trust the bible as the inspired word of God, there will be no satisfactory answer to these or many other questions about the character of God. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him. For he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6 KJ21)

When we question whether varied circumstances could, or should, exempt certain individuals or groups of people from being eternally separated from God, there are several basic questions we must first ask about the doctrines of faith involved: 1) Is the Bible a source of inspired truth? 2) Is there any person who begins physical life without any of the sin that separates man from God? and3) Is eternal life a free gift from God by grace through faith, or can it be earned or simply deserved by an individual? The third question will be more fully developed in a related but separate study about being "saved."

COMMENTS: If we believe the scripture is the revelation of truth to us as inspired by our creator God and delivered to us in writing, then we must accept truth from Him and reject reasoning that is man-centered and independent of God's word; and the Holy Spirit is our only hope of correct understanding of His Word. “But as it is written: "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him." But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit. For the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so no man knoweth the things of God, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us by God. These things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1Corinthians 2:9-14 KJ21)

So we must begin with God's word recorded for us in the bible, not with man's knowledge obtained by his own thinking independent of God. This requires a reshaping of our reasoning, because the natural man as descended from Adam, tends to develop thoughts and habits apart from God: perhaps even believing that man can be equal to God, or that man developed (evolved) independently and there is no god. But the Bible declares that God created all things, and that man is set apart from all other living creatures because man was made in the image of God.

The book of Genesis is a secure base for our beliefs, and it both supports, and is supported by, other scripture with all being God's written revelation to man. The Bible declares God as the creator of all that exists, and man is the most significant part of that creation. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1 KJ21) "26 And God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth." 27 So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them." ... " And God saw every thing that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day." (Genesis 1:26-27,31 KJ21).

In Genesis we have the record of the disobedience of Adam and Eve, and the result that they died just as God had said they would if they disobeyed his command. The decision to ignore God's truth and to seek knowledge to compete with God is the temptation that will continually plague mankind until the works of the Devil are utterly destroyed by God. The one who said "you shall not surely die" did not speak the truth. "Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, "Yea, hath God said, `Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" And the woman said unto the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden, but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, `Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.'" And the serpent said unto the woman, "Ye shall not surely die; for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof and ate, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he ate." ... "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return unto the ground, for out of it wast thou taken; for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." And Adam called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living." (Genesis 3:1-7,19-20 KJ21) “And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years; and he died.” (Ge 5:5 KJ21).

Adam was created as a mature adult by God, and Eve was then made as a mature adult by God from Adam. After God had pronounced judgment on both of them for their disobedience, they became the progenitors of all people through the process of conception and subsequent childbirth, so that Eve can very accurately be described as the "mother" of all who have ever lived. The scripture then records for us the death of Adam to confirm God's word that Adam would surely die.


If All Have Sinned, Then All Need A Remedy

The New Testament declares that all have sinned through their forefather Adam, and Jesus Christ provides the remedy. "Therefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, so death passed onto all men, for all have sinned. " (Romans 5:12 KJ21) “But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” (Galatians 3:22 KJ21).

COMMENTS: Jesus had said when a person receives eternal life by faith, in god, that person passes from the condemnation of death, to life everlasting. “Verily, verily I say unto you, he that heareth My Word and believeth in Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life.” (John 5:24 KJ21). These things are certainly not to be understood by human reasoning alone, for the many things of scripture that were written by Paul came not independently through his intellect and education; but only after the risen Christ had directly set him apart for the gospel and turned him away from his vigorous persecution of the church. And Peter said this about Paul's writings, “as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things. Therein are some things hard to understand, which those who are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction.” (2Peter 3:16 KJ21) So then, just because we may not fully understand why every person as descendants of Adam and Eve, need to be reconciled to God, we could only take another view if scripture elsewhere declares that there are some who have not sinned. Death is not to be feared if the sting of death does not exist, but only God can "swallow up" death in victory to remove that sting for those who believe. “He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces, and the rebuke of His people shall He take away from off all the earth; for the LORD hath spoken it. And it shall be said in that day: "Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for Him; we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation."” (Isaiah 25:8-9 KJ21) And that same Paul who wrote that all have sinned, agreed with the Old Testament that our salvation is in the Lord who gives us the victory over death. “So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (1Corinthians 15:54-58 KJ21). Only God can change our mortality into immortality.


Who Can Reasonably Argue With God, Or Who Could Possibly Advise Him Of A Better Way?

Job was a righteous man, but that righteousness was from God, and it did not give Job place to argue with whatever God decided to do. Job said this himself early in his ordeal. “"I know in truth it is so, but how should man be just before God? If he will contend with Him, he cannot answer Him one in a thousand. He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against Him and hath prospered-- Who removeth the mountains, and they know not; Who overturneth them in His anger; Who shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble; Who commandeth the sun, and it riseth not, and sealeth up the stars; Who alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea; Who maketh Arcturus, Orion and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south; Who doeth great things past finding out, yea, and wonders without number? Lo, He goeth by me, and I see Him not; He passeth on also, but I perceive Him not. Behold, He taketh away. Who can hinder Him? Who will say unto him, `What doest Thou?'” (Job 9:2-12 KJ21).

COMMENTS: At the end of Job's very trying period when he was worn thin in his being, he did finally reach a point of disagreement with God -- until he was directly confronted. “Then answered the LORD unto Job out of the whirlwind and said: "Gird up thy loins now like a man; I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto Me. Wilt thou also disannul My judgment? Wilt thou condemn Me, that thou mayest be righteous? Hast thou an arm like God? Or canst thou thunder with a voice like Him? "Deck thyself now with majesty and excellency; and array thyself with glory and beauty. Cast abroad the rage of thy wrath; and behold every one that is proud, and abase him. Look on every one that is proud, and bring him low; and tread down the wicked in their place. Hide them in the dust together; and bind their faces in secret.” (Job 40:6-13 KJ21) Even though Job had experienced great grief, physical suffering, and material loss; he came back to the point of absolute submission to God's will when he was faced with truth from God. “I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth Thee. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes."” (Job 42:5-6 KJ21) Paul agrees with Job about the ways of our Lord being very hard for us to understand, yet who are we to question God? “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid! For He saith to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God who showeth mercy. For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, "Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show My power in thee, and that My name might be declared throughout all the earth." Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will, He hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, "Why doth He yet find fault, for who hath resisted His will?" But nay, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, "Why hast thou made me thus?" Hath not the potter power over the clay to make from the same lump one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor? What if God, choosing to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction; and this that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, whom He had prepared before unto glory, even us whom He hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? As He saith also in Hosea: "I will call them `My people,' who were not My people, and `her beloved' who was not beloved." And, "It shall come to pass that in the place where it was said unto them, ` Ye are not My people,' there shall they be called the children of the living God. "” (Romans 9:14-26 KJ21)

Paul also agrees with Job that when we finally see from God's perspective, we will understand that God's ways are always rich and glorious. “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33 KJ21) And another passage written by Paul says this, “For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; but then shall I know, even as also I am known.” (1Corinthians 13:12 KJ21) The Psalms deal with a wide variety of emotions in believers, because God's ways have always been difficult for man to understand. But here are a few verses from the Psalms about the character of our loving God whose judgments can be completely trusted.

“At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto Thee, because of Thy righteous judgments.” (Psalms 119:62 KJ21) “Thy word is true from the beginning, and every one of Thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.” (Psalms 119:160 KJ21) “The LORD is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works.” (Psalms 145:17 KJ21).

The obvious answer to Job's rhetorical question is yes, the judge of all the earth will do only that which is right.


We Must Believe God By Faith When We Cannot Understand His Ways

Abraham is perhaps the greatest example for faith that we find in scripture, but he asked an interesting question of God before Sodom was destroyed, and he qualified the question with a statement about God's character.

“And Abraham drew near and said, "Wilt Thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Perhaps there be fifty righteous within the city; wilt Thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? That be far from Thee to do in this manner--to slay the righteous with the wicked; and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from Thee! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"” ... “And he said, "Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Perhaps ten shall be found there." And He said, " I will not destroy it for ten's sake."” (Genesis 18:23-25, 32 KJ21).

COMMENTS: Peter makes comment in his second letter about angels who sinned, the people destroyed by the great flood, and those in Sodom and Gomorrah. "For if God spared not the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness to be reserved unto judgment; and spared not the old world, but saved Noah, the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the Flood upon the world of the ungodly; and, turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to be overthrown, making them an example unto those who thereafter should live ungodly; and if He delivered righteous Lot, vexed with the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, having dwelt among them seeing and hearing, was vexed in his righteous soul day after day with their unlawful deeds)-- then the Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust unto the Day of Judgment to be punished," (2 Peter 2:4-9 KJ21).

The last verse in the above passage makes two very important statements: 1) the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and 2) the Lord knows how to reserve the unjust unto the Day of Judgment to be punished. It is reasonable to suppose that the people who died on the earth in the great flood, and in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, ranged in age from infancy to the elderly. These judgments were real examples of how God will destroy the ungodly, while saving those who are righteous.


Summary

If sin passed through Adam to all mankind, then every individual is guilty of sin from birth and bears the condemnation for that sin, and therefore needs a Savior. There are many more scriptures that could be cited to support this belief, but volumes of references will not convince anyone if truth has not been spiritually discerned. If all have not sinned, then only some people need to be saved, and others can enter heaven without a Savior. My position is that all have sinned in Adam, and cannot cancel that sin except through faith in God. Those people who have the ability to contemplate the question about the necessity of comprehension of the Bible to be guilty of sin, do not themselves fall into any of the three categories listed at the beginning of this study. Therefore they must personally consider where they stand with God for their own eternal destination. It is far more important to settle the issue of your own salvation from sin, than it is to try to determine who else might be saved or lost. Salvation by faith brings a peace that surpasses human understanding, and many questions that the child of God may be unable to resolve, can then be confidently left with our Lord because we know He is just. The skeptic of Biblical truth remains in sin.


--- Reflections in prayer ---

Lord Jesus I pray that any who may read this study will be guided by the Holy Spirit to understand only those truths that are consistent with your Word and your plan for them personally. Remove from their thoughts any errors or misdirections that crept in from my own fallen nature. Thank you that you opened my understanding to accept your gift of salvation when I had no backround of personal bible study, and very small faith. After your Spirit came to give me new life in 1974, I became more desirous of reading your word year by year, and I wanted it to transform my thinking to purge out the desires of my sin nature. I pray that you will keep me on the right path until I see you in glory, and that I will meanwhile always remember my humble position before an almighty and loving Savior. You alone deserve all the honor, glory, praise, and thanksgiving for you are the LORD of hosts, you are the God alone of all the kingdoms of the earth, you have made heaven and earth and everything therein. . Amen and amen.

Published revision 9 July 2012, first issued 27 January 2007