God Is Just
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins." (1 John 1:9)
Have you every wondered how God can really be just (fair, righteous, faithful) in His choice to forgive a sinner's sins simply because this sinner confesses his sins?
The word “justice” in the Bible first appears in the Old Testament, in Leviticus 19:35-36. For example, God commands Israel to have "just" balances and "just" weights. Justice always involves at least two parties. Not parties like birthday parties, but parties like people. If you go to the grocery store to buy a pound of apples, and the apples cost fifty cents, then you have an obligation (a responsibility, a duty) to pay the shopkeeper that fifty cents. There is an understanding, an agreement, between two parties – between you and the shopkeeper. You know you owe him fifty cents, and he knows he owes you a full pound of good apples for your money. If you hand him only thirty-five cents, you are not holding up your end of the bargain. You are not being just. And if the shopkeeper were to give you less than a pound of apples but still charge you fifty cents for less than a pound, then he would be unjust toward you.
"Justice" has a lot to do with "fulfilling one's obligation." In other words, a just person is someone who is fair, who does right, who keeps his word, who acts consistently with what he has agreed to do.
So, going back to the original question: How can God, Who is perfectly just, forgive a sinner who is unjust, and declare that sinner to be just? Doesn't any sin deserve punishment? Doesn’t the book of Hebrews in the New Testament teach that “without shedding of blood is no remission (forgiveness of sin)”? So how can a just God choose not to punish a guilty sinner? How can a just God choose instead to declare that sinner just (as though the sinner had fulfilled all his obligations)?
Maybe this story will help us understand:
There was once an island village whose chief was known for his goodness and justice. One day, a serious theft was reported in the village. Someone had stolen someone else's pet goat. Immediately, the chief called together his whole village and declared that if the thief was caught, he would be punished. The thief would be beaten twenty times with a stick, and he would have to give back the pet goat.
A few days later, another theft was reported! Someone's cow had been taken. This time, the chief increased the punishment to fifty beatings. Still, the thefts continued! Finally, the chief declared the maximum penalty would be given to this rebellious thief. The thief would be beaten one hundred times! Such a severe punishment would nearly be enough to kill a very strong man!
The search for the thief continued until the villagers finally found the guilty person: It was the chief’s own elderly mother! All the people of the village loved their chief and took pity upon him and his poor mother. They came to the chief and encouraged him to let her go without punishment. They told him it would be all right to make an exception for his elderly mother in this case. Surely such a harsh punishment would kill the poor old woman. But the chief refused to go back on his word. He had to stay just. He had to stick to his decisions.
On the day set for the old woman's punishment, all of the villagers gathered to see what would happen. The chief’s feeble old mother was tied up to a pole, and the executioner was waiting for the chief's signal to start the punishment. The chief nodded his head, but at the moment the executioner lifted up the stick to start beating the woman, the chief grabbed his arm. Then, the chief took off his shirt and and went to his mother and wrapped his body around her tiny frame. Then he told the executioner: “NOW, you may begin the beating!”
The Bible says God's decision to forgive repentant sinners is just. How can that be? Because Jesus Christ, Who Himself is God, has already taken the full punishment for sinners. Just as this island village chief took his guilty mother’s punishment upon his own body, Jesus Christ took the punishment for our sins upon Himself and died in our place. In that way, God’s justice was fully applied and satisfied. God the Son took the part of the sinner's party, fulfilling all His obligations, taking all the sinner's punishment. And God the Father took the part of the righteous Judge, fulfilling all His obligations, and declaring the punishment to be done and the sinner to be righteous, because of Jesus Christ's righteousness.
God is perfectly just in forgiving sinners whose sins are covered by Jesus Christ.
» Am I trusting in Jesus Christ as the One Who can take the punishment for my sins?
» Do I sometimes have doubts about whether God is really just and fair in all He does?
» What does the Bible teach me about God's character?
Truth In Real Life
G Campbell Morgan
“Everything a sinning man needs he finds at the Cross.”
George Campbell Morgan was born in England on December 9, 1863. Even as a child, he admired his father who was a Baptist preacher. Morgan once wrote that he had no choice but to get saved because of his father’s wonderful Christian testimony.
As a child, Morgan was often sick and unable to go to school. He was tutored at home and was taught to love learning and to study hard. This love of learning would grow with him throughout his life.
When he was 10, Morgan got to hear Dwight L. Moody preach. He was so impressed by what he saw and heard that he started preaching, as well. So, he became a preacher at the age of 13. By age 15, he was traveling and preaching as often as he was able.
Then something very dangerous and difficult happened that would change the course of Morgan’s life.
When G. Campbell Morgan was 19 years old, he began reading as much as he could about God and religion. Some of it was good, but much of it was wrong. A lot of it was human discussion about God and His Word, rather than God’s own teaching about Himself. Very soon, Morgan got all caught up in wrong thinking about God and the Bible. He became very interested in philosophy – or the pursuit of knowledge – and unfortunately, he became even more interested than he was in the things God had written about Himself in His Word. For the next two years, Morgan refused even to read his Bible!
Finally, at age 21, God got a hold of his heart and Morgan realized he had had enough of man-made philosophy. Instead, he returned to God’s Word and to trusting Christ. He spent the rest of his life preaching that God knows much more than human beings know. He wrote 60 books and 11 pamphlets. Eventually, Dwight L. Moody ended up relying on Morgan to help him in his ministry. In serving God, Morgan had the opportunity to help the man who was so used by God in his own early life as a believer.
Have you ever been tempted to trust human opinions and conclusions more than you trust God’s own Word? It is possible to be smart about the world and ignorant about God.
1 Corinthians 1:27 – But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty.