JUSTICE BEFORE THE TRANSGRESSION

by Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
(Chapter 8 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, Justice)


"And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with son; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby." Hebrews 12:5-7, 11

We have already determined that there are three phases of justice, and in each of these three phases we must make certain that we are judging justly:

(1) We must be just in determining the judgment;

(2) We must be just in executing the judgment; and

(3) We must be just following the judgment. So, it could be said that Justice must be followed before, during and after judgment.

In this chapter I am going to deal with justice before the transgression. This is before anybody has sinned. Many people are unjust because they judge improperly. Let me give you eight principles to follow preceding judgment that will prevent you from treading a path of injustice.

1. Before there can be a judgment, there must be a law. I cannot punish someone if there is no law for what he has done. To do so is unjust. There must be a law or a rule. Occasionally, someone will do something in one of our ministries that the leader of that ministry does not like. Although there is no law against what the person did, the leader is suggesting that the person be punished. What he is suggesting is that we get a vigilante group to punish that person, but that would be unjust because there was no law regarding what that person did.

Romans 3:20, "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin."

There is no doubt that Adam and Eve did things that were wrong in the Garden of Eden, but they did not know they were wrong, for they had not yet eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Their eyes had not yet been opened to know good from evil. So, if there is no law, there is no knowledge of sin.

Romans 4:14, "Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression."

The Bible tells us clearly that if there is no law, there is no transgression. Over the years I have had people who got mad at me and left the church because they expected me to punish a person for a law that was not even made. I am not going to do that because there must be a rule before I can justly punish a person. People must know beforehand that what they did was wrong.

Romans 7. 7-13, "What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which was good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful." Paul said that unless the Bible had told him, he otherwise would not have known that lust was wrong. Through Paul, God is telling us in this passage that before there can be a transgression, there must be a law. So, you have no right to punish anyone unless there is a rule that he has broken. You may not like what he did, and you may not even like the person, but if there is no law, there is no transgression. You may want to punish him, but you cannot, for no law has been broken.

2. Punishment must not be retroactive. It is wrong for me to make a law today and then punish you because you broke it yesterday. If there was no law yesterday, you did not break the law yesterday. If there was no rule yesterday, you broke no rule yesterday. Far too often, we judge according to our passion and our anger. We also often judge according to the level of discomfort something has given to us. We even judge according to whether or not we like somebody. That is not justice. God is more concerned about justice than He is about any other matter. Justice is His most important quality. God will not execute injustice.

Adam and Eve enjoyed perfect fellowship with God in the Garden of Eden, but then something happened. They sinned. When man sinned, he turned his back on God. God said that sin would bring forth death, so God had to turn His back on man also. God wanted man back, but He could not accept man back until His justice was satisfied.

God conceived a plan to come to earth, become flesh, live a sinless life, fulfill the law, go to Calvary to pay for the sins of mankind, charging them to His own record, and after 72 hours, rise from the dead for man's justification. As a result, God can again turn to man and receive man back into fellowship.

Although Christ did die for man, the main reason He died was for God! He died to satisfy God's justice so that God could take man back to fellowship with Himself. If Christ had not died on the cross, God could not have taken man back because that would have been unjust! If God took man back into fellowship because man joined a church, God would not be just. If God took man back because man got baptized, that would be unjust. If God took man back because man confessed his sins to a priest, God would will do something in one of our ministries that the leader of that ministry does not like. Although there is no law against what the person did, the leader is suggesting that the person be punished. What he is suggesting is that we get a vigilante group to punish that person, but that would be unjust because there was no law regarding what that person did.

Romans 3:20, "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin."

There is no doubt that Adam and Eve did things that were wrong in the Garden of Eden, but they did not know they were wrong, for they had not yet eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Their eyes had not yet been opened to know good from evil. So, if there is no law, there is no knowledge of sin.

Romans 4:14, "Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression."

The Bible tells us clearly that if there is no law, there is no transgression. Over the years I have had people who got mad at me and left the church because they expected me to punish a person for a law that was not even made. I am not going to do that because there must be a rule before I can justly punish a person. People must know beforehand that what they did was wrong.

Romans 7:7-13, "What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which was good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful." Paul said that unless the Bible had told him, he otherwise would not have known that lust was wrong. Through Paul, God is telling us in this passage that before there can be a transgression, there must be a law. So, you have no right to punish anyone unless there is a rule that he has broken. You may not like what he did, and you may not even like the person, but if there is no law, there is no transgression. You may want to punish him, but you cannot, for no law has been broken.

2. Punishment must not be retroactive. It is wrong for me to make a law today and then punish you because you broke it yesterday. If there was no law yesterday, you did not break the law yesterday. If there was no rule yesterday, you broke no rule yesterday. Far too often, we judge according to our passion and our anger. We also often judge according to the level of discomfort something has given to us. We even judge according to whether or not we like somebody. That is not justice. God is more concerned about justice than He is about any other matter. Justice is His most important quality. God will not execute injustice.

Adam and Eve enjoyed perfect fellowship with God in the Garden of Eden, but then something happened. They sinned. When man sinned, he turned his back on God. God said that sin would bring forth death, so God had to turn His back on man also. God wanted man back, but He could not accept man back until His justice was satisfied.

God conceived a plan to come to earth, become flesh, live a sinless life, fulfill the law, go to Calvary to pay for the sins of mankind, charging them to His own record, and after 72 hours, rise from the dead for man's justification. As a result, God can again turn to man and receive man back into fellowship.

Although Christ did die for man, the main reason He died was for God! He died to satisfy God's justice so that God could take man back to fellowship with Himself. If Christ had not died on the cross, God could not have taken man back because that would have been unjust! If God took man back into fellowship because man joined a church, God would not be just. If God took man back because man got baptized, that would be unjust. If God took man back because man confessed his sins to a priest, God would not be just. If God took man back because he took communion or the sacraments, God would not be just!

The only thing that allowed God to accept man back into fellowship was that His justice had been satisfied. When Jesus paid the penalty for our sins on the cross, the justice of Almighty God was satisfied, and God could turn to man and receive man back if he put his faith in Christ. God's justice had to be satisfied!

If you want to be like God, you must be just. God's justice will not be superseded by anything, including His love, mercy and grace. We too must make justice foremost in our Christian lives.

If a child in our Christian grade school does something wrong for which there is no rule, that child cannot be punished. I went to our deacons one night and told them that I no longer wanted our school principals to make judgment calls. I no longer wanted the principals or administrators to have to decide whether or not a student was expelled. We decided instead to let the rules expel the student. That was one of the greatest days in the history of our school system!

I listed everything that I could think of that a student could do wrong. I took a list of 29 things to the deacons and told them that we were going to decide the punishment for each one of those things. When a student did something, we would already have decided what the punishment would be. For example, one rule explains that students can be in the building only during specified hours. The penalty for violating that rule is five demerits. No longer could a teacher or principal make a ruling of his own judgment, for now the law was given, stating both the rule and the punishment for violating that rule. We did the same thing for every rule. If we make a new rule today, we cannot justly enforce that rule on somebody who broke that rule yesterday. I refuse to be unjust, even if it costs me church members. I have a responsibility before God to be just.

3. The law must be made known. The divine law of God has always existed. The laws as given in the books of Moses are eternal. There was never a time when those laws did not exist. Every word in the Bible always was, so every law in the Bible always was. Men did not know the law because the law had not yet been given to man until the time of Moses. God did not punish man for what man did not know. Likewise, it is our responsibility to make known the law before we should punish.

4. Punishment should be made known as a part of the law. Deuteronomy 19:15-17, "One witness shall not ris e up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established. If a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him that which is wrong; Then both the men, between whom the controversy is, shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges, which shall be in those days."

Here we have an example of the Bible giving not only the transgression but also the punishment. God reveals to us the three parts of the law:

(1) the law,

(2) the punishment for breaking that law, and

(3) the person responsible for enforcing that law.

It is wrong for a judge to make a judgment call concerning the penalty a transgressor receives. That is one of the things wrong with the criminal justice system in America today.

When our children were small I made a list of the things they could do wrong, and I taught them the penalty for breaking each rule. Most of us determine punishment on the basis of the inconvenience we experience. No wonder we have a society that knows nothing about justice! They have never seen justice in our homes. Unfortunately most people do not care enough about their children to take the time to make rules and determine what the punishment will be. I always tried to punish consistently, and I tried to make the predetermined punishment a greater sacrifice than the enjoyment they received in breaking the rule.

If you do not do this, you will punish according to your moods. One time when the child breaks the rule you will be in a good mood, so you will simply tell the child not to do it anymore. The next time he does the very same thing, you may be in a bad mood, so you severely spank him. The child learns that he has a chance of getting away with breaking the rules, depending on what type of mood you are in. If you are just, the punishment will not depend upon your mood but upon the law and the predetermined punishment for breaking that law.

5. The judge must not have a will in the matter. The most important thing in a jury trial is the selection of the jury. Attorneys avoid choosing juries with preconceived ideas about the case. First Baptist Church had a trial about a building we accidentally tore down. The trial was moved to another area because the attorneys felt a fair trial could not be held in Hammond. It was felt that a judge would have no bias somewhere else like a judge who lived in Hammond might have.

6. There must be no respect of persons. Deuteronomy 1:16, 17, "And I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him. Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God's: and the cause that is too hard for you, bring it unto me, and I will hear it."

The Bible says that we must be fair with the person being judged. Everyone must be judged the same way. I always ask our school administrators if we have any precedent in a matter set before us for judgment, so that we can be fair to everybody. We try to treat everyone the same.

The Bible also says that we ought not to be influenced by those who are watching us judge. If you judge out of respect of the person you are judging, that is wrong. It is equally wrong if you are influenced by the opinions of those who are around you and watching you as you judge. I will not be influenced by anyone when it comes to judging the way I feel is right.

People sometimes leave our church over this, but they will just have to leave. It is my area to judge, and I refuse to alter my judgment based on anyone's opinion, regardless of his standing in the church. I must judge as I feel is right and fair in my areas of judgment, and you must do the same in yours.

This entire society of ours is built on critique, but the truth is, no one is to critique somebody else's area of judgment. In your area, judge the deed, not the person. Judge by principle, not by popular opinion.

7. Punishment must be for the right motive. Nobody should ever punish anyone for punitive purposes. Hebrews 12:11, "Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby."

Every time you punish your child, the purpose should be to make him behave properly, not simply to "get back" at him. That is the purpose of it all.

When Mrs. Hyles and I got married, we lived a while at her parents' home. We were in college at the time right after my discharge from the army. Her mother had a black cat. In the bathroom there was a little white heater. That black cat liked to sit on that heater and watch me shave. Then one chilly morning I began to shave, and the little cat jumped on that heater. It was so hot that the cat almost leaped to the ceiling! That cat never again jumped up on that heater to watch me shave!

Justice means that every time you punish, it inflicts a discomfort with a purpose of correction, not just to make the person feel bad. That is what the word "chastening" means.

8. Punishment should be given according to maturity. Luke 12:48, "But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more."

You have been given an area where you are to judge. Outside of that area, you are not even to judge in your mind. You are to occupy yourself with judging your own area. When I go hear a preacher preach, I do not judge his sermon. I search for a blessing. God has not given me the responsibility of judging his preaching.

Establish the ground rules for the area God has given to you. Use these eight principles to set up those ground rules before an infraction is committed. That is justice!

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