Statement of Faith Current Teaching Teaching Index
God is Just
March 2012

            Have you ever wrestled with the question, “why does evil triumph over good?” Author C.S. Lewis spent many years as an atheist wrestling with the issue of injustice.  How could God exist when the world around him was so plainly unjust?  It wasn't until some time later that Lewis finally began to ponder where his notion of justice had come from in the first place.  “Man doesn't call a line crooked unless he has some idea of what a straight line is,” he wrote.  “What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?”  Indeed, it was God's standard of justice that gave Lewis his understanding of what injustice was.

          Justice, as an attribute of benevolence is a desirable quality because it demonstrates itself by carrying out penalties on those who break the law without being a respecter of a person’s financial or positional status, education, race or religion, each person is treated to the same justice exactly the same.  In the case here before us, breaking the law refers to the laws of God, and God is the one who without being a respecter of person carries out the penalty for transgression.  God’s justice therefore, supports public order, and the well-being of mankind.  Justice in the case of emotion however, can and is dangerous and destructive.  Emotional justice when provoked can easily take control of one’s will, as it often does with sinners and immature Christians.  It is frequently the cause that leads one to enact his own vengeance especially when one’s sense of proper justice is not met. 

            Let me ask you, when you hear the term, “justice,” what image crosses your mind?  If you are like many of us, you may think of justice as someone getting what he/she deserves. When we talk about bringing someone to justice, we often mean that if someone is guilty, justice is giving the maximum punishment that is deserved.  What we do not relate justice to mean very often is treating people fairly and giving them unbiased consideration and kindness.  This is just as true a definition as the rest.  Justice with love and kindness is the perfect picture of God's justice.  For true justice involves both reward and punishment. 

            One of the problems Jesus found with the Pharisees was that they were focusing on the outward appearances of religious actions, while ignoring the inner conditions of the heart.  This outlook governed their treatment of people. Simply put, man looks on the outward appearance while God looks at the heart.  Herein lies the difficulty and confusion that many people have regarding God’s justice. God is a judge who measures out His justice, based upon the attitude of a person’s heart in relation with the action taken. In His court of Law justice is fair, impartial and certain.  The question often asked however is, “Would a loving and kind God really send someone to everlasting punishment in hell?”  The answer is no...God would never send someone to an everlasting punishment...but He has and will allow untold numbers to go there if they choose to. God is our eternal judge and His judgments are just. He looks upon the heart and actions of all people to determine their punishment today in addition to their eternal outcome. The actions of the sinner bring anger and retribution from the Lord while the righteous are accepted and rewarded. The choice is left to each of us...”Shall I remain a rebellious sinner...or shall I seek the Lord with all my heart?”  Choose this day who you will serve!

            To dismiss the arrogant and rebellious sinner who continually mocks God’s law and authority would discredit God’s integrity and character.  His authority is defined and maintained by the fair administration of justice...which includes certain punishments to the sinner. There is no plea bargaining in God’s court. To ‘allow the sinner a reprieve would undermine God’s authority.  But the love and mercy of God still seeks to forgive the sinner, if they desire His forgiveness, and they turn away from their sins. But if not, God is fair and impartial, certain to administer His true justice on every human being. There is an appointed date for each of us to stand before the judgment seat of God. “It is appointed for men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).  Today we have a choice...tomorrow a date with destiny!

 In Hebrews 10:29-31 we read “Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? (30) For we know Him who said, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay," says the Lord. And again, "the Lord will judge His people." (31) It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

            True justice demands both reward and punishment. Anything less would undermine the integrity and authority of the Judge. Most human beings relate to the reward side of justice, but have difficulty accepting the punishment side.  The reason for this is that justice is often modified in its execution by the attribute of mercy.  Justice is the opposite of mercy, and neither should control the exercising of the other.  Justice convicts, mercy pardons.  Mercy cannot, extend a pardon except when the conditions of repentance, and the proper return for breaking the law is paid. On the other hand, justice is regulated by mercy, and cannot, proceed to take vengeance when the highest good does not require it, or when punishment can be dispensed without any loss or offence to the public. Thus these two attributes mutually limit each other’s exercise, and render the whole character of benevolence perfect.  Benevolence without justice is anything but moral, just, or perfect!

 “The LORD is in His holy temple, The Lord’s throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men. (5) The LORD tests the righteous, but the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates. (6) Upon the wicked He will rain coals; Fire and brimstone and a burning wind shall be the portion of their cup. (7) For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness; His countenance beholds the upright.  (12:1) Help, LORD, for the godly man ceases! For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men. (2) They speak idly everyone with his neighbor; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak. (3) May the LORD cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaks proud things, (4) Who have said, "With our tongue we will prevail; Our lips are our own; Who is lord over us” (Psalms 11:4-12:4).

            R.A. Torrey remarks: “It is appalling that any people should be utterly put to the sword, but it is even more appalling that a society of people should have become so corrupt and debased that such treatment is deemed necessary in the interest of humanity. The Canaanites were a moral cancer threatening the very life of the whole human race. The cancer had to be removed in order to save the body, just as a surgeon inflicts pain and suffering in order to remove a malignant growth in the body.”[1]

            This is exactly the dilemma God faced as the Israelites were brought back to possess their land. To settle them in the midst of these depraved people was asking for disaster. If the cancer remains, Israel would not survive.  For Israel to survive the Canaanites would have to go.  Israel would be corrupted by their presence and their influence. She would fall away from the Lord Who loved her and delivered her.  Ironically, this is exactly what happened, because while they disposed of most of the inhabitants of Canaan, they did not drive them out entirely. This incomplete obedience was the cause that eventually brought about their destruction, and captivity.

            The flesh will always raise its fist to God and cry “Unfair.” Just try being the referee or coach of a game. Spectators and players alike will voice their discontent and malign your character if your decision does not fit their perception. This attitude permeates every area of life whether children vs. parents; employees vs. employers; citizens vs. the government, etc. As humans, we fail because of our sin. Our failures may cause others to question our judgment, and rightly so. Yet God is trustworthy, He is God, and His justice is the essence of His character. Abraham understood this, even as God revealed to him that He would destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.  He said, “Shall not the judge of the earth do right” (Genesis 28:25)?  God is always right and just!

            There are various aspects of God’s justice that must be viewed and discussed. One is vengeance.  Vengeance yields itself up to seek its own gratification, this is selfishness, and displays itself in a most disgusting and frightful way. God’s vengeance however, is overruled by mercy, and by the good of all mankind, not just a select few.  Earthquakes, tornadoes, pestilence, and war, are often used by God to purify the moral elements of society, and scourge away injustice and iniquity with which communities are sometimes infested.  For biblical proof of this point refer to these verses; 1st Kings 8:35; 2nd Kings 3:17; Job 5:8-10, 28:23-27, 36:27-28; Psalms 68:9, 105:28-36, 107:24-29; Jeremiah 10:10-12, 51:16; Amos 4:7; Matthew 5:45; Mark 4:39-41; Revelation 11:4-6.

            Another aspect of God’s justice is public justice. This is God’s justice in relation to the public’s benefit.  God’s justice supports public order, and the well-being of mankind. He will not allow the execution of penalty to be set aside, unless something is done to uphold the authority of the law, the lawgiver, and it maintains the law of just cause and effect.  Public justice always looks after public interest and is always insistent that the greater interest of man shall always be first in His mind and finally that no private interest shall ever displace a public one of greater value.

          A third aspect of God’s justice is commercial justice. This consists of exacting just equivalents and uprightness in business and in all material transactions.  “You shall do no injustice in judgment, in measurement of length, weight, or volume.  (36) You shall have honest scales, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt (Leviticus 19: 35-36).

            God’s justice is uncompromising in spirit and implementation. It is nevertheless one of prime importance to understand.  Without it government could not exist.  This attribute executes law. It aims to secure commercial honesty as well as to establish public and private integrity and harmony.  It says to violence, disorder, and injustice, Peace, be still. We see God’s true justice revealed in the thunderings of Sinai, and in the agony of Calvary. We hear it in the cries of the world’s millions when the fountains of the great deep were broken up, when the windows of heaven were opened, the floods descended, and the population of the earth was swallowed up. We see its manifestations in the descending torrent that swept over the cities of the plain; and lastly, we shall forever see its bright, but awful and glorious display, when Christ returns to judge the quick and the dead; when the righteous shall ascend into the everlasting presence of God’s love and grace, and the wicked descend forever into the dark, fiery and Christ less torment of the damned.

            In conclusion let me reemphasize a few points.

  1. When the attribute of justice is dismissed or overlooked in any form you have destroyed God’s perfect benevolence, its harmony, its respectability, its glory; it is no longer true benevolence.  Benevolence becomes a poorly designed and manufactured replica, which has no God, no virtue, no beauty, nor form, nor comeliness in it, and when it is experienced it gives no lasting satisfaction or worth.  This man made replica when adopted into policy of government, in family or state, will bring nothing but failure, defeat, and ruin.
  2. God’s justice should make man fear when contemplated. Any expression of it should cause man to shrink back and tremble. The desire to overlook and dismiss it however, must be overcome, and with complete courage of heart we must accept and embrace it, for it will purge our souls and make us ready for our eternal reward.
  3. Once Christians have accepted God’s justice in its exacting of punishment on the unrepentant it should not diminish their joy. Christians should never delight in the misery of them who fall under the judgment of God; but they should take pleasure in the administration of it.  So that when the smoke of the torment of the damned comes up in the sight of heaven, they will, as they are represented, shout “Alleluia! The Lord God Omnipotent reigns;” “Just and righteous are thy ways, thou King of saints” (cf. Revelation 19:3, 6; 15:3)!
  4. True justice must demonstrate exact public justice as well as commercial justice, business honesty and integrity. Without it true Godly benevolence can not exist. The rendering of exact equivalents, or the intention to do so, must be a characteristic of a true Godly mind.
  5. Where benevolence is, the golden rule will surely be observed. “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matthew 7:12).  The justice of benevolence must secure compliance to this rule. Benevolence is a state of the will. It must then, by the law of necessity, assure just conduct.  If the heart is just, the life must be just also. One can not exist without the other and still be the pure justice of benevolence.
  6. An attitude of just benevolence must protect its possessor against every aspect and degree of injustice.  He must love God and love man unconditionally fulfilling the Law in everything.  He cannot be unjust to his neighbor’s reputation, his person, his property, his soul, his body, his family, nor be unjust in any respect to God.  It will and must in every case of remembered wrong secure confession and restoration, so far as this is practicable. Simply put, a true benevolent or true religious man cannot be unjust.
  7. Just benevolence is distinctly opposed to injustice they are as different as night and day and can not exist in the same place and time.  They are as opposite as heaven and hell and can not co-exist.  If a man truly, in the exercise of just benevolence, appears to do something unjust, it is only so in appearance, and not in intent. He may have made a mistake in judgment and do that which is unjust, but did he intend differently?  That is the point and that we can not judge!  Intention which only God can see is the key to justice and injustice. No outward act can in itself be either just or unjust without knowing the intent of the heart. To say that a man, who has truly benevolent intentions, can at the same time be unjust is totally in error.
  8. God’s benevolence is “good willing;” in every circumstance it only wills the highest good.  It is therefore, true that benevolent justice be an attribute of the true believer.
  9. God’s justice is incorruptible – because He is holy and therefore His judgments are pure from any influence of sin, Deuteronomy 33:4.
  10. God’s justice is impartial – because He acts always according to the truth, and not based on feeling and emotion as do His creatures, Jeremiah 32:19.
  11. God’s justice is unfailing and unchanging – neither time nor circumstances will ever change His purpose, Job 8:3.
  12. God’s justice is the habitation of His throne – Psalm 9:14.   

            Consider how great of a comfort this is to believers in Christ. Our salvation is the result of the unchanging and pure justice of God being satisfied by God’s boundless mercy which resulted in the death of His Son.  In the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s justice is satisfied on behalf of those who believe in His sacrificial death, given us solely by God’s grace. Our Lord perfectly obeyed the Law and suffered the penalty that God might be just in justifying His people. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit;” and justly so! Romans 8:1ff.

[1] Difficulties in the Bible, R.A. Torrey, p. 47

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