Wednesday, May 7, 2014

I sincerely hope our study of God’s attributes is helping you in your spiritual growth. It is important for us as women to have an accurate picture of who God is. If your picture of God is faulty, then whom are you serving, the true God or a God of your imagination? We won’t ever figure all there is to know about God this side of heaven, but He does expect us to be diligent students of the Scriptures. We have to know who he is to adequately and appropriately respond to Him and his Word. And with so many glorious attributes, our God is far more intricate than even the most detailed Faberge egg.

Tonight we will cover the two attributes of justice and goodness. Most people like to ponder God’s goodness, while leaving God’s justice for a later date. In fact, some think the two are contradictory attributes rather than complementary. Alistair Begg argues they are complementary in that justice demands love, while love demands justice. Furthermore, he explains that love makes the cross possible, but hatred of sin makes the cross necessary. Similarly, R.C. Sproul argues that God’s justice is what is at the heart of the cross. He says, “Thinking of the cross and of Christ’s atonement, we assume that the thing that most strenuously motivated God to send Christ into the world was His love or His mercy. As a result, we tend to overlook the characteristic of God’s nature that makes the atonement absolutely necessary- His justice.” God’s justice is part of his very nature. It involves his righteousness and character which form the basis for what he does. God’s character is eternally the same and He cannot go against it. A.W. Tozer compares God and His justice to gold when he says, “As gold is an element in itself and can never change nor compromise but is gold wherever it is found, so God is God, always, only, fully God, and can never be other than He is.” Furthermore, he says, “Everything in the universe is good to the degree it conforms to the nature of God and evil as it fails to do so.” However, although justice requires a payment for sinners, God’s goodness and love provide a way through His Son. 

 Psalm 89:14 says, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.” The Hebrew and Greek words for “justice” are the same as “righteousness” and “righteous.” The online Merriam Webster dictionary defines justice as the practice of giving to others what is their due. It lists equity, fair-shake, and right as synonyms for justice. God’s justice though involves a rightness and equity according to God’s holiness. What is due others is not at the heart of God’s justice, but rather what is due Himself. We as sinners, are alienated from God. We owe him righteousness instead of sinful actions, attitudes, and hearts. Romans 3:10 says, “None is righteous, no not one.” Also, Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned, and fall short of the kingdom of God.” So, as you can see we were utterly without hope. Our sin separated us from God because he is just. We broke the rules. R.C. says, “Though God pardons sinners and makes great provision for expressing His mercy, He will never negotiate His justice. If we fail to understand that, the cross of Christ will be utterly meaningless to us.” There had to be a remedy acceptable to our just God so that we could be reunited with him. Spurgeon explains how God in his justice could pardon us once Christ made the sacrifice of taking upon the sins of the world. He says, “The same Justice that just now stood with a fiery sword in his hand, like the cherubim of old keeping the way of the tree of life, now goes hand in hand with the sinner. ‘Sinner,’ he says, ‘I will go with thee. When thou goest to plead for pardon I will go and plead for thee. Once I spoke against thee: but now I am so satisfied with what Christ has done, that I will go with thee and plead for thee.’” The debt has been satisfied, in other words, paid in full. The sins were never excused, but because of Christ’s death on the cross, taking upon our sin, we have been imputed His righteousness. For there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for the law of the Spirit has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2)

R.C. Sproul, in his book, The Truth of the Cross, gives three illustrations of how the Bible characterizes sin. He says that even the smallest sin violates God’s holiness, glory, and righteousness. Every sin is “an act of treason against the cosmic King,” according to R.C. First of all, sin is classified as a debt, man is the debtor, God is the creditor, and Christ is the surety. See Matt. 6:12, Matt. 18:21-35, Heb. 7:22. Secondly, sin is seen as enmity, we are the enemies, God is the violated one, while Christ is the Mediator. See 2 Cor. 5:19a and John 3:16a. Thirdly, sin is seen as a crime, we are the criminals, God is the Judge, and Christ is the Substitute. The fact that the Creditor, Violated One, and Judge will accept payment, retribution, and substitution is sheer wonderful grace.

We know that God is all-knowing. Therefore, as Ryken says, God does not judge in ignorance. He knows all evil, and every sin we commit before we even admit our wrong to ourselves. The good news that if we are in Christ, He has satisfied the wrath of God for our sins- past, present, and future. Sometimes, we feel so bad about our sin and have difficulty forgiving ourselves. {Romans 8:31-34}The cross has paid it all, so we should confess it and go forth and sin no more. Spurgeon says, “He has punished Christ, why should he punish twice for one offence? Christ has died for all his people's sins, and if thou art in the covenant, thou art one of Christ's people. Damned thou canst not be. Suffer for thy sins thou canst not. Until God can be unjust, and demand two payments for one debt, he cannot destroy the soul for whom Jesus died.” Jesus has paid it all, and God has accepted that payment, paid on Calvary. The question was posed of Bob Kauflin, worship leader and song writer for Sovereign Grace Ministries, “Should we sing songs about God’s justice?” A lot of the Old Testament speaks of God’s justice where the Israelite’s enemies are trampled for their evil. Kauflin writes in the affirmative, “The point of all this isn’t that we should always be focusing on God’s judgments, nor to sing about them in a cold-hearted way that minimizes the tragic consequences of sin. The point is to magnify the greatness of God’s holiness, justice, righteousness, sovereignty, power, mercy, kindness, and grace in his judging evil, and especially in the judging of the Savior in our place at Calvary. His undeserved kindness has enabled us to be forgiven, to be adopted as precious children, and to anticipate unending joy at God’s right hand in the new heavens and the new earth.”

The session on God’s justice and goodness have fallen at just the right time in our study, as we just celebrated the risen Savior on Sunday. The resurrection gives us much to ponder in considering both God’s justice and God’s goodness. To close out this time before we go to our discussion questions, I’ll leave us with words from a new hymn written by Eric Schumacher and David Ward.

The Lord is righteous in all things; His works and ways are perfect. 

Enthroned as Judge of earth and heav'n and just in every verdict. 

The Lord has fixed a day 

When men He will repay: 

The wicked He will smite, 

And wrongs will be made right; 

None can evade His justice. 

The Lord has shown Himself as both the Just and Justifier: 

The Christ has died to satisfy what Justice did require. 

The guiltless One was slain 

For guilty sinners' gain— 

Through faith His work is theirs, 

The righteous Judge declares; 

And none can stand against them. 

The Lord will vindicate His saints when He comes in His Kingdom 

And they, dressed in His righteousness, will share in His dominion. 

This promise makes us meek— 

No vengeance do we seek; 

Since Jesus we possess, 

We flee self-righteousness 

And rest in His perfection.

By Eric Schumacher & David L. Ward

© 2010