Chapter 6 - Holy Justice
Quotable Sproul: "God does not always act with justice. Sometimes He acts with mercy. Mercy is not justice, but it also is not injustice. Injustice violates righteousness. Mercy manifests kindness and grace and does no violence to righteousness. We may see nonjustice in God, which is mercy, but we never see injustice in God."
"The false conflict between the two testaments may be seen in the most brutal act of divine vengeance ever recorded in Scripture. It is not found in the Old Testament but in the New Testament. The most violent expresssion of God's wrath and justice is seen in the Cross. If ever a person had room to complain of injustice, it was Jesus. He was the only innocent man ever to be punished by God. If we stagger at the wrath of God, let us stagger at the Cross. Here is where our astonishment should be focused. If we have cause for moral outrage, let it be directed at Golgotha."
(This was a very powerful chapter, so to choose just one passage would not do the chapter justice -- pardon the pun. But to choose more would be re-writing the entire chapter.)
Allowing God's Holiness to Touch Our Lives - 4 questions
1) "In what ways does God's justice frighten you? In what ways does it comfort you?"
God's justice frightens me because I fully recognize that I truly deserve it. We so frequently hear people cry out, "We want justice!" But to beg that of God would be foolish. But His justice comforts me becuase the question arises: What good is mercy without justice? If it weren't for God's justice, mercy would be cheap and easily available to all without cost. If it weren't for His mercy, God's justice would seem impossibly harsh, and impossible to please Him. It is utterly astonishing that God would show mercy on just one person, since we are all truly deserving of His divine justice.
2) "What is your response when you realize that you deserve to die because of your sin?"
I agree that I deserve to die. But I've grown up with this notion all my life, so it's easy for me to comprehend. When I speak to friends who are not Christians, however, they tend to think I am too hard on myself when I sin. Their response is, "Quit beating yourself up. You are a good person." But I have a difficulty distinguishing where the line between being one who deserves God's divine justice stops, and where the line begins as being one who is precious and valuable in His sight. I want to be faithful to God's holiness, fully recognizing that I am not holy. (I don't like to say I am un-holy, because that implies I was once holy and now am not. Instead, I never have been holy, except -- and only except -- through Christ.) But I also want to be faithful to recognize that in Christ I am a new creation -- even when I sin -- and because of that I am very precious to God. To say I'm worthless to Him is to say the price Jesus paid for the justice I deserve was unnecessary. I need to see myself as God sees me. After all, my price tag was very high!
3) "What is your response when you realize that God's justice demanded Christ's death for you?"
The second paragraph that I quoted above containing the phrase that Jesus is the ONLY perfect man (person) ever to be punished by God stabbed me in the gut. When I look at my guilt -- or lack of innocense -- I cannot fathom why Jesus took the punishment I deserved. Oh, if I could only apply this principle to my life and how I deal with other people. Why didn't Jesus contend for His innocense? I know I would have.
4) "In what ways has God demonstrated His mercy to you?"
In the chapter, RC provided an example of when he was a college professor. He assigned to his students three term papers due at specific times throughout the semester. When the deadline arrived for the first paper, only 25 students hadn't completed the assignment and pled for mercy in the form of an extention. It was granted. When the second deadline arrived, 50 students pled mercy. Again it was granted. When the third deadline arrived, 100 students pled mercy, having not completed the assignment they knew months prior was due on a specific day. Rather than granting mercy, he meted out justice...flunking all the students for not completing the assignment. "That's not fair!" they cried out. What was not fair, however, was that he gave them mercy in the first place. Twice! What was not fair was that the students who completed the assignments on time were made fools for turning their papers in on time while the others were rewarded for their procrastination.
I'm not like the student who cries, "That's not fair!", because I know the justice due to me is perfectly fair. In fact, it would actually be right thing for God to do! Instead, I'm very much like that student who continues to take mercy for granted and push for forgiveness and mercy. I continued to step on God's holiness, suspecting He will be merciful yet again. But I would hate to discover where God's patience is exhaused.