Anselm of Canterbury was an Italian monk who was born in the 11th century. His work in theology and philosophy greatly assisted the Church. He once posed an important question to God:
“How dost Thou spare the wicked if Thou art just, supremely just?”
His question and the biblical answer is important to our personal theology as we wrestle with the justice of God.
Incorrect Perception: The Pushover God
While each of us knows what it is like to walk on pins and needles around that strict authoritative figure in our lives, most of us also had a pushover or two for which we were grateful. Whether it was a parent, grandparent, teacher, coach, or boss, we gravitated towards that person who was constantly letting us off the hook. Even when our actions were wrong, we looked for that person we could manipulate and hoped that our sad looks and sincere apologies spared us for another day of troublemaking.
Many people believe that God is the supreme pushover. In an attempt to rest in his amazing grace, we avoid thinking about his severe justice. Since God is described as the most gracious being in the entire universe, then we struggle to fathom how he could truly be mad at us for long. If we do the right set of penitent actions, God will forget about justice and shower us with grace.
God is not a pushover. God is just.
The Justice of God
- Standard – The justice of God implies that He is the standard for justice. He doesn’t bend to a standard or else the standard would be higher than Him. He is the standard.
- Job 34:12 – Surely, God will not act wickedly, and the Almighty will not pervert justice.
- Deut. 32:4 – The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He.
- Gen. 18:25 – Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?
- Ps. 92:15 – To declare that the LORD is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.
- Ps. 97:2 – Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.
- Law – The justice of God is revealed through the laws He has given Mankind. Through the moral laws impressed upon our hearts and the written laws recorded within the Scriptures, we cannot claim ignorance regarding God’s expectations.
- Ps. 19:9 – The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.
- Isa. 28:17 – And I will make justice the line, and righteousness the plumb line…
- Offense – The justice of God means that He has an unrelenting judgment for when those laws are transgressed. God does not play favorites among transgressors. If sin has been committed, His judgment is impartial.
- Prov. 21:15 – When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.
- Deut. 10:17-18 – For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice…
- Ezek. 18:25 – Yet you say, “The way of the Lord is not just.” Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?
- Col 3:25 – For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong he has done, and that without partiality.
- Punishment – The justice of God guarantees that every wrong committed will be completely punished. The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23) and the destination for sinners is hell. No one can escape this verdict by his or her own power.
- Isa. 61:8 – For I the LORD love justice; I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
- Rev. 16:7 – Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!
- Atonement – The justice of God ensures that no sinner’s punishment can be avoided but it can be atoned. At the cross of Jesus, we see that God’s justice and God’s mercy are not two conflicting traits within God, but they are two complimenting attributes of God. Justice was served for the heaven-bound believer upon the wounds of the heaven-sent Savior.
- Rom. 3:26 – It was to show His righteousness at the present time, so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
What Does This Mean for Us?
- If I am not the standard of justice, then I must stop trying to be the avenger of transgressors.
- Rom. 12:19 – Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
- The death of Jesus satisfies God’s requirement for our justice yet never violates it (1 Thess. 1:10; 1 Thess. 5:9).
- 2 Thess. 1:7-9 – …when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might…
- God is not like us – He is not emotionally torn regarding what to do.
- Ps. 50:21 – You thought that I was one like yourself, but now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.
- Every one of us will pay for our sins eternally or Jesus has already paid for them completely.
- Isaiah 30:18 – Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, and therefore, He waits on high to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who long for Him.
- Ezek. 18:20 – The soul who sins shall die.
- Thank God that, in Christ, we will not get what we deserve.
- 1 John 1:9 – If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Distinctive Discipleship. He is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. Travis graduated from North Greenville University with a B.A. in Christian Studies and earned his M.Div. and D.Min. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, with his doctoral focus on family discipleship.