Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | July 10, 2006

A Just God

We continue our review of God’s attributes as summarized in Article 1 of the Belgic Confession.  Today we will focus on the fact that God is Just in who He is and all that He does.  We are assured repeatedly in Scripture that God is Just (Deuteronomy 32:4; Zephaniah 3:5; Proverbs 29:25-27).  He is especially renown for defending the weak and oppressed (Deuteronomy 10:17-18😉 and preserving His own people from the wicked (Psalm 37:28).  However, there is another aspect in Scripture that is revealed about God’s justice (Psalm 7:11; Deuteronomy 4:24; Hebrews 12:29;), which usually consists of His extreme displeasure with violations to His law.  Since God is Just, He must bring all these violations to justice otherwise He would not be just. Francis Turretin elaborates on this in his Institutes in the following:     

But the act of justice, although most free, is nevertheless necessary because due.  It consists in rendering to each one his own.  Although nothing is properly due to the creature (and properly speaking there is here no right of the creature in him), yet this is due to himself and to the preservation of the laws enacted by him.  Thus if he would not do this, he would not be just.  3.19.21 

There are some, though, who would seek to discredit God’s justice by mischaracterizing His actions in passages such as, 2 Samuel 6:1-11.  The example of Uzzah’s execution for touching the ark is used to imply that God is capricious or whimsical.  First, this is a mischaracterization because God had already pronounced the death penalty on anyone who touched the ark or other holy furniture within the Tabernacle (Numbers 4:15).  Thus, Uzzah’s apparently good intentions were in direct violation to God’s Word.  It is easy to dismiss this, however it is a legitimate reason that helps to explain this difficult passage. Second, we are all currently guilty before God and any deferment of judgment or justice is a demonstration of God’s grace (Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 9-11).  God would be perfectly just to execute a guilty, law breaking human being without compromising His character in the slightest.  We, being guilty, all deserve God’s justice.  The fact that we are subjected to this justice is a testimony to God’s merciful longsuffering. 

As we learn from Turretin, God cannot just dismiss violations to His law.  Being Just, He must administer justice to those who have defied Him.  Therefore, all sin will be punished, even the sins of the elect.  How do we resolve this with forgiveness and mercy that the Christian is promised?  This introduces the concept of substitution, which Turretin affirms is consistent with God’s justice:        

Justice demands necessarily that all sin should be punished, but does not equally demand that it should be punished in the very person sinning or at such a time and in such a degree.  The Scholastics expressed this properly when they said that impersonally punishment is necessarily inflicted upon every sin, but not personally upon every sinner. 3.19.4 

Hopefully this is familiar territory, if you have read any of the previous entries on this site.  Some of the best explanations from Scripture of this concept are summarized in the questions and answers of the Heidelberg Catechism. We treated Q & A 40 in this entry: life-enhancement-or-rescued-from-eternal-judgment.  However, another great series of questions about our deliverance are found in Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 12 – 15 and Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 1.

God’s Just character is preserved by the satisfaction attained by our Savior Jesus Christ.  It is only through this propitious act that the elect escape the justice they deserve for their sins.  God’s justice has been settled for the elect and since Christ has fully endured our punishment it is absolved forever.  However, for those whose sins have not been satisfied by Christ, they will receive the justice for their defiance of God’s holy law6-19.     

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