The Justice of God
Is God Fair?
By what standard do you ask this question? Human beings can have very peculiar ideas of fairness. For example, the Mongol rulers during the Yuan Dynasty in China had a "rule of nine". If a person was convicted of treason against the Emperor, not only was he or she killed, but everyone directly related to them by blood or marriage was killed too. This went on through nine links. So the "rule of nine" was considered fair by the Mongols, but thankfully God is NOT fair by Mongol standards. Nor is He required to be fair by anyone else's standard either.
God is Just by His Standards
While humanity can make no claim as to how God has to meet our standards, God is in fact just by His standards. Some say that since God is infinite, we would have to be infinite to comprehend anything about God's justice. However, while we cannot understand everything, we can understand many things about God. If we as finite beings could not understand anything about God's justice, we might as well close all of our Bible right now, for we could not understand the love, wrath, or any revelation from the infinite God either.
Rather, God, who can do anything, is capable of communication, and He has revealed many things about His justice in His Word, the Bible. Here are some of the things God says about Himself.
A person is not judge for another's sin. Rather, each dies for their own sin. (Ezekiel 18:13-14,17-20)
God is just and fair to those who have not heard the Gospel. (Romans 2:2,6-16; 5:13)
God overlooked some past ignorance, but all must repent. (Acts 10:35; 17:30; Romans 5:13)
Sin exists, but is not taken into account when there is no law. (Romans 5:13; 4:15; 3:20)
Just vs. Equitable
Equitable means treating everyone equally. Many people confuse being just with being equitable, and believe God has to be equitable. God deals with babies who die, those with little knowledge, and those with much knowledge differently, but nothing in the Bible says He has to deal with everyone the same. In fact, 2 Peter 2:20-22 says it would be better for them not to know the way of truth, than to know the way and turn their back on it. John 15:22-23 also shows how serious it is to learn the truth and then reject it.
As far as salvation goes, the parable of the workers in the vineyard in Matthew 20:1-16 shows that God is both just (in keeping every word He said), and inequitable, by being more gracious to some than to others.
Justice and Afterlife
Habakkuk 1:2-3 asks how long before God will act, since the Israelites were wicked and acting violently towards other Israelites. God answers that it will not be long, because He will send the ruthless Babylonians to take them away. Habakkuk now sees a greater problem: How long until God punishes the Babylonians, who are far more wicked than the Israelites. God answers to simply wait for the end, Judgment Day, when the Babylonians and others will get all that they deserve.
In Bible times and today, some wicked people have lived long and wealthy lives, dying peacefully after causing suffering to many. How can these people get justice? Martin Gardiner, an agnostic and former editor of Scientific American magazine, in his book The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener, wrote why he believed in an afterlife. His point was that if you believe everyone will receive justice, and many people die without receiving anything approaching justice, you have to believe in an afterlife, where justice will be done.
God's Promise of Justice
In both the Old Testament and New, God promises that He will come. Psalm50:3 says, "Our God comes and will not be silent; a fire devours before him, and around him a tempest rages. He summons the heavens above, and the earth, that he may judge his people:"
However, do not get too comfortable with that promise; do not be too eager to get the justice you deserve. There is no one who does not sin, according to Psalm 143:2; Romans 5:12-19; Colossians 1:21,. and Ecclesiastes 7:20.
How good do you have to be to get to Heaven? Two old friends from different groups were together for breakfast. one said that last night he dreamed of the other person's heaven. It was dirty, crowded, and not a very nice place to be. The other friend said he also dreamed of the other person's heaven. It was beautiful, so pure, and totally empty!
Now we do not want rats, roaches, and other dirty things in our houses. Parents have even been know to wash off really dirty kids with a water hose outside, before they would be permitted in the house. If we felt that way about our houses, how does God feel about His perfectly holy house? Just as we have the right to let only (reasonably) clean people and animals in our house; God has the right to let whomever He wishes into His Heaven.
So how may people are clean enough to merit going to Heaven? Romans 3:23 says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. If everyone go what they deserved, Heaven would in fact be empty of people. - Well, except for one man.
Jesus Christ, who lived a sinless life (Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22), became the way for all who wish to follow Him and go to Heaven. He voluntarily chose the gross injustice, of the sinless one suffering and dying for our sins, to pay the price for our sins. For we who accept this free gift, we have submitted to God's process for making us holy and pure for Heaven.
Justice Cannot be Arbitrary
Is God arbitrary in forgiving the sins of some people but not others? Or why can't God be arbitrary, severely punishing the sins of some people, and just winking at the same sins in me? If God were arbitrary in punishing some sins and not others, that would not be justice. God forgiving some people and not others is not arbitrary, because Jesus Christ met the demand of God's justice by taking the punishment for our sins.
Once a teenage girl stood before a judge for speeding. The judge declared her guilty, and fined her over $100. Then the judge got out from behind the bench, took off his robe, pulled out his wallet, and paid the fine. You see, the judge was the girl's father. The judge could not just pronounce a guilty person as not having committed the offense. But the judge could pay for the offense himself. And that is the wonderful thing God did for us.
For all who will accept this free gift, our sins are taken away through Christ's blood. It is not a free gift to be taken lightly' it was very costly, costing the death of Jesus. It is a free gift to be taken gratefully, as it is freely given to us.
However, it does not automatically do you any good.
Suppose a billionaire told you he set up a bank account in your name for one million dollars; you simply had to go to the bank and tell them your name. If you did not believe him, you might be penniless and starve to death' because you chose not to receive the million dollars reserved for you. In a similar way, Christ died for the whole world (1 John 2:2), just as the whole world is under the influence of the evil one (1 John 5:19). Yet as Jesus told the religious Pharisees, "if you do not believe I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins." (John 8:24b NIV)
So God is just, but God's mercy triumphs over justice (James 3:16b) through Jesus Christ.
Why Does God Delay?
God has said that He is not slow, as some count slowness, but He is patient, not wanting anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9). If God decided to destroy all evil at 12:00 tonight, where would you be at 12:01? God delays so that all who would come to Him will have the time to come. However, 1 Thess 3:16 shows that God's patience does have limits. God gives us so many second chances, that it is easy for people to forget that there will be a time when there are no more second chances.
So God is just by His revealed standards, regardless of what opinions about justice people might have. God's justice is inevitable, but it is often delayed. In fact, true justice will not be seen until Judgment Day; and until then God patiently waits for all who will come to Him. God's wrath is severe, but His love towards His people is even greater.
As Romans 11:22 says, "Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God.." How do the love, justice, and wrath of God balance? - that is the topic of another paper.
For more info please contact Christian Debater™ P.O. Box 144441 Austin, TX 78714 www.BibleQuery.org
by Steven M. Morrison, PhD.