The Justice of God


Think of the most riveting action movie you’ve ever seen. My guess is that it probably involved a bad guy getting justice. Think of the most embittering relationship you’ve experienced.

Probably somewhere in the mix is a person who treated you unfairly or unjustly. If the media wants to sensationalize a story all they need do is call something a “grave injustice.”

Why is it that we so moved by injustice and so zealous for justice? Everybody has a different soapbox that stirs their passions. But behind all these differing passions lies one common desire—Justice! Some like to say that the concept of justice is a survival mechanism produced by evolution. But somehow I don’t think survival of the fittest, eating your young and the “hook or by crook” mentality has much to offer by way of justice.

Interestingly enough, we learn from Plato’s Republic that over 2,500 years ago Socrates was debating with his philosophy buddies about the nature of justice. They all agreed that justice is imperative for humanity to flourish. The Scriptures affirm their conclusion. “The king gives stability to the land by justice, But a man who takes bribes overthrows it.” (Prov. 29:4) But Socrates went on to argue that though man loves justice, every man is innately unjust and all he needs is an opportunity to prove it. That’s a pretty pessimistic view of man but I think he’s right.

Socrates was no theologian but I do think he had a keen sense of the human nature. Socrates concluded what the Bible had been saying for centuries—that man loves justice while having a penchant for injustice.

In Exodus we see that Israel, a nation subjected to unjust slavery for 400 years, craved justice. They happily embraced the Mosaic Law because it was a just law that showed no partiality, rich or poor, widowed or married. One example is Deuteronomy 16:19-20, “You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous.  20 “Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you.”

What is justice exactly? The Bible portrays justice as the utter perfection of God’s character—his inability to ever do anything other than total, absolute perfection. Justice means that God will never score an A-. He is always a perfect A. Man did not invent justice and evolution did not produce it. It is a part of God’s nature and all of humanity is intuitively aware of justice because we are all created in God’s image.

The God-Man relationship worked wonderfully when man was first created in utter perfection (Gen. 1-2). But once man committed injustice against God man found himself on the other end of the barrel. The first three chapters of Romans were written to tell the human race how unjust we really are. We “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (also translated injustice) (Rom. 1:18). We unjustly glorify other things more that our Creator God (1:23). We actually take pleasure in disobeying God. Sin is fun (1:32). The just character of God is built into our conscience so that we know when we are violating his law/character, yet we still do it (2:14-16). Every mouth is shut before God’s law (Rom. 3:19). Yes, we are unjust creatures who crave justice.

Why does Paul spill so much ink to tell us of God’s justice and our injustice? He does this so he can show us Christ! Galatians 4:4-5 says, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”

Since we are justly condemned by the God’s just law and headed for eternal judgment Christ came and placed himself under that same condemning law but never once violated it. Having never violated it he was qualified to die in our place as the perfect substitute so that we can repentantly place our faith in him and have his righteous, perfect, law-abiding character credited to our account. No wonder why Paul sees the crucifixion as the grand demonstration of the righteousness/justice of God! He justly punished our sins so he could justly/fairly forgive us of our sins. This is the character of God. And depending on how we respond to God’s offer of salvation we will either experience his justice in the form of a just penalty or fair forgiveness. “Behold then the kindness and severity of God.” Rom. 11:22