By Dave Jenkins, Crosswalk.com
The term justice is used to refer to what is right or as it should be. The justice of God is one of the attributes of God and flows from His holiness. In Scripture, justice and righteousness are often used synonymously because righteousness is the quality of being just or right and incorporates both the holiness and justice of God.
The Doctrine of Sin and the Justice of God
It isn’t possible to understand the justice of God without understanding the doctrine of sin. All sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4) and iniquity (Daniel 9:4-5; Micah 2:1; James 3:6). Sin is contrary to the holiness of God and offends the Lord. Sin is cosmic treason against the Lord deserving because of the justice of God, the penalty of death, and separation from Him forever.
The good news for sinners is that God sent His Son Jesus Christ in the Incarnation of a death sentence, born in a manager to pay the penalty sinners deserve (Romans 5:8-11; 6:23). Through the death of Jesus, salvation is made available to all who believe in Christ alone (John 1:12; 3:15-17; 20:31).
The righteousness of God is a gift to sinners who accept the Lord Jesus as Savior and Lord (Romans 10:7-16). Salvation is based upon the grace and mercy of God in response to our faith in Him (Romans 3:23-26; Ephesians 2:3-7). The mercy and grace of God, it needs to be understood, are not in spite of the justice of God, but because of it.
The Lord loves sinners so much that even though our sin demands our death, God the Father sent forth God the Son Jesus to be the substitute for sinners upon the Cross. The death of Jesus demonstrates that the justice of God is not violated but fully satisfied in Jesus (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9).
The Image of God and Justice
Every human being is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), which is why human beings long for justice to prevail on the earth and are upset when we see injustice happening all around us. We ask questions like, “Why do we seek justice for crimes?” The answer is because it is in our DNA to seek justice for crimes.
King David was outraged when the poor man’s lamb was taken away by the rich man (2 Samuel 12:1-14). Nathan told the story he did to David in the first place because it revealed David’s injustice in taking Uriah’s wife from him. David’s repentant prayer was vital because he admitted his sin against the Lord and acknowledged the righteousness of the Lord in that prayer.
The Lord told King David, through the Prophet Nathan, that while his sin was forgiven, the child resulting from the affair would die, which demonstrated that his sin still had to be judged.
The Justice of God in Revelation
As we fast forward from 2 Samuel in the Old Testament to the last book of the Bible, Revelation, we see the justice of God during the last days of history.
When the saints watch the destruction of their earth, the song they sing will be of the righteousness of God’s judgment upon the inhabitants of the earth for rejecting the Lord (Revelation 11:16-18; 15:3-4; 16:7; 19:1-4).
2 Peter 3:13 promises when Christ physically reigns from the New Jerusalem on earth, the righteous justice of God will be on full display.
Partiality and the Justice of God
As we continue to explore the topic of the justice of God, it’s essential to understand that the Lord shows no partiality (Acts 10:34). The Lord perfectly executes vengeance against oppressors (2 Thessalonians 1:6; Romans 2:19), and commands against the mistreatment of others (Zechariah 7:10).
The Lord is just in meting out reward (Hebrews 6:10) and punishments (Colossians 3:25). Righteousness and justice always work hand in hand like a married couple holding hands on a stroll down the street and are the foundation of the throne of God (Psalm 89:14).
All Truth Belongs to the Lord
Every truth in the universe belongs to the Lord because all truth belongs to Him. Every scientific law, mathematical formula, and every relationship theory belongs to the Lord and can trace its roots back to the character of God. Human knowledge is a discovery of the truth that already exists because it belongs to the Lord.
Justice is one such truth, but we need to understand it doesn’t have a beginning or an explanation because God has no beginning or end; He is the I Am God (Exodus 3:14). Every human being created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) has His heart embedded in their DNA for morality, courage, love, and justice.
The Justice of God and the Person and Work of Jesus
When Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 3), the justice of the Lord could not overlook their sin. While their sin may not be so great to us, it was from heaven’s vantage point. The Lord God, the Ruler of everything, had been defied by those whom He made from the dust when He made them in His image.
The Lord made humanity for His purpose and pleasure and showered His love upon them. The Lord only told them not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and yet they did (Genesis 2:17; 3:16-17). By eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, man became sinners by nature and choice, thus deserving of coming under the justice of God.
As such, they were barred from the Garden (Genesis 3:23-24). Even amid judgment, God promised to do something amazing, which was to bruise the heel of the serpent (Genesis 3:15), which is the first gospel and provides redemption for all of Adam’s descendants, which He does through Christ (Romans 5:12-21).
Adam’s sin requires the penalty of death for high treason. A substitute, an animal, was killed instead of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21). Thousands of years later, we see divine justice being satisfied once and for all in God the Son, the Lord Jesus, who is the only substitute for sinners and their salvation (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Jesus became the Lamb (John 1:29) that the Lord God sacrificed on the altar of divine justice on the Cross. 1 Peter 3:18 says of Christ, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,”
Since divine justice has been finally and forever satisfied in the Lord Jesus, God the Father pronounces not guilty upon all those in Christ (Romans 3:24) because they call upon the name of Jesus (John 1:12). Divine justice was satisfied in Jesus, “It is done” (John 19:30), which means the sins of the people of God can never be brought up again because their sins are under the blood of Christ (Isaiah 43:25; Romans 8:1; Colossians 2:14; 1 Peter 2:24).
The Lord remains just, and He is not violating His justice by pardoning sinners who deserve to feel sins full effect. Salvation is a just consequence for sinners because the Lord pronounces in the death and resurrection of Jesus that the wrath of God the Father was satisfied by Jesus. The curse of the Law that sinners justly deserve was taken and satisfied by Jesus in His death on the Cross (Galatians 3:13).
What Does This Mean?
The justice of God is an essential part of the character of God in the same way that His love and mercy are essential. Without the justice of God, sin would run unchecked, and evil would win, and there would be no reward for obedience. Without the justice of God, there would be no way human beings would respect Him. Micah 6:8 summarizes this when it says:
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
God is just and the justifier of those who come to faith in Him (Romans 3:26). Sinners saved by grace through faith alone are to proclaim to all that in Christ, divine justice has finally and fully been satisfied, and only now they can be adopted by Christ alone.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Jennifer Kovalevich
Dave Jenkins is the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine, and the Host of the Equipping You in Grace Podcast and Warriors of Grace Podcast. He received his MAR and M.Div. through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. You can follow him on Twitter at @davejjenkins, find him on Facebook at Dave Jenkins SOG, Instagram, read more of his writing at Servants of Grace, or sign to receive his newsletter. When Dave isn’t busy with ministry, he loves spending time with his wife, Sarah, reading the latest from Christian publishers, the Reformers, and the Puritans, playing golf, watching movies, sports, and spending time with his family.