Do you want Grace or Justice?

Christ’s death, no hope in anything else
Christ’s death, no righteousness without it

God’s grace is either possible or always effective. If grace is only possible, then salvation is not by grace, but rather by works.

God’s grace is either according to justice or it is not. If grace is only non-just, then grace is only about the sovereignty of God and not about the justice of God. But if God’s grace is not only about what God “can do” but what God has done in Christ, then God’s grace is not about what you “can have if you accept it”.

The next time somebody asks you if you want justice or grace from God, remember that God never gives grace without justice. Our only hope is Christ’s death as the justice for all for whom God has grace. God only has grace for the elect and we know that because Christ’s death only satisfied God’s law for the elect. Christ already did justice for only the elect because God has never had grace for any but the elect. And this is the only gospel there is for everybody.

I quote from Chuck Swindoll’s definition— “Legalism is the belief that God does not act of grace but acts out of justice in giving his favor.” He calls it “unmerited favor”. Missing from this “gospel” is the righteousness the God-man obtained by His death for those God favors. Yes, the Bible teaches God’s love for the elect. But the Bible has no either/or between grace and justice, because God is both just and also the justifier of elect sinners.

When God justifies the ungodly elect, God is not justifying the better performers OR the better non-performers. God is not justifying on the basis of faith and works, but God is also not justifying on the basis of faith alone. When God justifies the ungodly elect, God is acting out of justice to Jesus Christ and to the Trinity by crediting these elect with the righteousness the incarnate God-man obtained by His death for the elect in history.

This righteousness is not simply God’s inscrutable “act of grace”. Christ’s death was perfect satisfaction of God’s law for all those who will be in the new covenant (the elect) and there is legal solidarity between the elect who need this righteousness and Christ whose death JUSTLY earned this righteousness.

Are YOU willing to define your gospel and then to have it judged by the Christian Scriptures? You are not submissive to God’s authority if you don’t want to be questioned about your teaching. I am not saying we should spend all our time arguing and debating. But unwillingness to be tested (according to the Scriptures) is arrogant and dangerous.

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11 Comments on “Do you want Grace or Justice?”


    Both imputation and infusion for “final justification” is a false gospel. Yes, it’s predestination, but it’s God predestining certain people to be saved by works (that god enables them to do). What’s wrong with that? It leaves Christ out of it. It leaves the cross out of it. Sovereign regeneration without justification by the cross alone may be “calvinism”, but it’s not the gospel. To only talk about God’s sovereignty but not about God’s justice in Christ’s death is not the gospel.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    R C Sproul in his book on the Holiness of God (p 111) explains it this way: “Mercy is not justice, but also is not injustice. We may see non-justice in God, which is mercy, but we never see injustice in God.” But this is not the way the Bible explains the righteousness of Christ.

    Grace reigns through justice, and all for whom Christ did His obedience unto death will one day be constituted righteous. Christ did not die for Judas. Judas never sinned against God’s grace or Christ’s love, because Christ never loved Judas. But it would be injustice for a person for whom Christ died to not be forgiven because they had failed “to make the exchange” or “to accept the exchange” .

  3. markmcculley Says:

    grace as “socialism”

    1, according to our needs, not our work

    2 but there can be no socialism of riches without capital

    3. Christ’s righteousness is not the capital of the infinity and capacity of the second person of the Trinity

    4. God’s grace does not depend on what Christ earned by His death as the mediator of the new covenant for His elect, but the result of God’s grace for the elect is what Christ purchased for the elect by His death

    5. which is not to say that Christ is scarce or short before the incarnation

    6. the riches of redeeming grace were never intended for the non-elect

    Jonathan Edwards , 132, “Christian Charity”

    OBJECT. IX. He has brought himself to want by his own fault. — In reply, it must be considered what you mean by his fault.

    First, if you mean a want of a natural faculty to manage affairs to advantage, that is to be considered as his calamity. Such a faculty is a gift that God bestows on some, and not on others. And it is not owing to themselves.

    If we should forever refuse to help men because of that, it would be for us to make their inconsiderateness and imprudent act, an unpardonable crime, quite contrary to the rules of the gospel, which insist so much upon forgiveness. — We should not be disposed so highly to resent such an oversight in any for whom we have a dear affection, as our children, or our friends.

    and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty. (1 Corinthians 12:23)

    • markmcculley Says:

      Response is at the center of Aquinas’s work. The disputed question, which was his mode of classroom teaching and the format of the Summa Theologiae, is built on responding to others’ ideas. There are thousands of “articles,” or points of controversy, in the Summa. In each of them, Aquinas poses a question, entertains several proposed (wrong) answers, gives his (correct) answer, and then responds critically to each of the wrong answers.

      Limiting your responsiveness— cynically “depersonalizing” others—is a means to cope with the limitlessness of human need.

      Supposedly, those who do what they love will never “work” a day in their lives. Or they will come into money without even seeking it. This ethos is really a myth, a noble lie. Workers do their employers a great favor when they view work as a field for exercising the virtues of love, hope, or humility. The bosses get endless productivity with little complaint, just as they would from a machine.

      When I tell academics that I quit a tenured faculty position at age forty, they offer enthusiastic congratulations. Some say they wish they could do the same. Based on this reaction, you would think that tenure was widely seen as a misfortune, and not a universally desired goal of academic life. Their congratulations suggest both that I must have quit to pursue something even higher and that there is something wrong with the way the contemporary university works. Only one of these explanations is true.

      People who think they are very useful, and “instrumental” and “assigned this work as a vocation and calling from God” and “professional at what I do” and “influential” and “making a difference” tend to see other folks as peasants and fatalists and “not relevant”

  4. markmcculley Says:

    the law promises life to me
    if my obedience perfect be
    but grace promises life on
    my Lord’s obedience alone

    the law says, do and live
    but grace says, live for all is done
    the law cannot ease my regret
    grace gives me me relief
    Ralph Erskine

    the law does not promise immortality
    but only life as long as we obey
    the gospel promise all who believe it
    the life of the age to come
    bodily resurrection, and immortality

    a Lutheran—-let us rely on the righteousness that is given and never on the righteousness that is required.

    mark–but grace satisfies law

    non-elect get law but not grace

    elect get grace that satisfies law

    the righteousness given is the righteousness required

    the righteousness required for all is given to the elect

    righteousness is Christ’s work, Christ’s death is Christ accomplished work, act of obedience

    but to say that, you would have to talk about definite atonement, and in order to do that, you would have to talk bout the extent and intent of the atonement, election and the sins of the elect imputed to Christ

    Romans 3: 20 For no one will be justified in His sight by the works of the law,

    mark–not by our works of the law, but Christ’s death is the work of the law

    because the knowledge of sin comes through the law.21 But now, apart from the law, God’s righteousness has been revealed

    mark: Christ’s righteousness is not His enabling us to satisfy the requirement of the law, but neither is Christ’s righteousness apart from the law for Christ, because only Christ’s death can satisfy the law– apart from that death imputed, we can never be apart from the law or not under the law.

    —attested by the Law and the Prophets 22 —that is, God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ, to as many as who believe, since there is no distinction.23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 24 They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus

    the non-elect are not in view in Romans 3:21-24, only the elect

    but even in this case, it’s necessary to talk about election in order to say that grace is NOT an alternative to the righteousness required

    Christ is the end of the law for righteousness

    the law requiring righteousness has its goal in Christ’s death

    the law does not die, but those who have died to the law cannot be required anything more from the law

    this Christ’s death imputed to the elect is the end of the law requiring them (see how I said that without saying “as covenant of works”)

  5. markmcculley Says:

    yes, love is supralapsarain, and election is not a reaction, but is justice also supralapsarian, not a reaction?

    Donald Macleod—Assigning God’s love to his will does not mean that it is capricious or without reason, or an act of ‘pure will’ in the Scotist sense, but simply that the origin of God’s love is not in time. It is not due to his reaction upon learning of human sin and misery, but it is ‘an eternal act of his will’, a determination of his will which is wholly in accord with his character

    Donald Macleod—it is a misunderstanding of the doctrine of the atonement to suppose that according to it God deals with all men in justice but with only some in mercy. For according to the doctrine of limited atonement the elect do not experience God’s justice as it concerns them, for it is satisfied by the atonement of Christ for them. All are liable to punishment for their sin, but only some are punished since the elect are ‘punished’ in Christ their substitute. So it is not that some experience both love and justice while some experience justice is rather, according to the doctrine, that some experience love, some justice, neither both and each one or the other. The inequality is thus symmetrical, and the incidence of divine love and justice does not provide the least reason for supposing that those who hold this view hold that justice is essential to God while love is arbitrary, nor the slightest reason for thinking that they are committed to such a view.

    Granted that there cannot be mercy without need, how can it be that there is mercy for some of the needy and not for others?

    If God cannot but exercise mercy as he cannot but exercise justice, then its character as mercy vanishes. If God has to exercise mercy as he has to exercise justice then such ‘mercy’ would not be mercy. For the character of mercy is such that each person who receives it is bound to say ‘I have no right to what I have received. It would have been perfectly consistent with God’s justice had I not received it’. And so in this respect the logical character of mercy is vastly different from that of justice. A justice that could be unilaterally waived would not be justice, and mercy which could not be unilaterally waived would not be mercy.

    An employee who thought that because his employer owed him wages he also owed him a gift as well would reveal that he had not properly understood what a gift is.

    McLeod Campbell appears to wish to maintain that (1) Each of God’s attributes e.g. his love and his justice, is necessary to God. That is, each of God’s attributes is possessed essentially by God; if God lacked any of these attributes he would not be God just as if I lacked the attribute of being a person I could not be me. Lurking behind (1) is the further claim that God is simple, that (2) Each of God’s individual essential attributes is identical with each other of his individual essential attributes. If God is simple then divine love is divine justice, divine justice is divine wisdom, and so on. While (1) does not require (2), clearly enough (2) requires (1), and McLeod Campbell seems to favour (2) even if he does not explicitly commit himself to it. In addition, as we have seen, he does commit himself to the following: (3) The unequal exercise of distinct attributes can only be the result of arbitrariness. And so, on the assumption that arbitrariness in God is undesirable (and indeed logically impossible if divine simplicity is true, sin~e freedom from arbitrariness in the exercise of any attribute must ent~tl fre_edom from arbitrariness in the exercise of any other, since each attnbute lS the other) McLeod Campbell regards (4) as true: . ( 4) Any attribute necessary to God is necessarily exercised by God on !11~ c~eatures on whom it is logically possible to exercise it. IZ Thus, If mfmite love and infinite justice are essential attributes of God, it would follow from ( 4) that God’s love is exercised on exactly the same number of people as his justice. If his justice is experienced by all then so must his love be. So far so good. It is a fact about logic, however, that one cannot call a halt. to an ar~ument w~en one pleases. Adopting an argument is not like calhng a taxi. And while the argument which we have traced so far may seem to carry conviction, and to carry unwelcome consequences for the doctrine of limited atonement, it can be shown that such an argument has unwelcome consequences for McLeod Campbell’s own view. The logical problem for McLeod Campbell’s view is as follows. (4) entails that God’s love and justice are to be exercised upon all. But it also entails ( 5): Any attribute necessary to God is necessarily exercised by God equally on all on whom it is logically possible to exercise it. What (5) says is that not only if arbitrariness is to be avoided must the divine attributes be exercised on all, they must be exercised equally upon all. For if there is the least deviation then this signals inequality of treatment, and this in turn signals an unequal exercise of the divine attributes, and any such unequal exercise must be arbitrary. It can be seen from this that the so-called ‘scandal of particularity’ is not only a so-called scandal about God’s redemption of sinners, it is also a so-called scandal about his creation of the universe. Why is it that a God who is loving and wise, and necessarily loving and wise, should ordain a universe with manifest angularities? Why is it that some are strong, some weak, some male, some female, some healthy, some diseased, and so forth?

  6. markmcculley Says:

    even though only ungodly sinners are justified
    or need to be justified
    this does not mean that God justifies all ungodly sinners

    you can be a sinner without being justified
    you can know you are a sinner without being justified
    God never will justify all sinners

    Jesus rejects many sinners as His guilty clients, because Jesus was never the mediator for many guilty sinners

    God’s election comes first before Christ’s atonement
    Atonement to satisfy justice is a result of God’s love for the elect
    God’s love for the elect is not a result of Atonement for the elect

    This means that election is not the same thing as the atonement
    This means that election is not the same thing as justification.

    God loved the elect before God made justice for the elect.
    God has already made justice for the elect
    God has already not made justice for the non-elect
    God has already not loved the non-elect

    God loved the elect in Christ before Christ made atonement for the elect alone
    but God does not justify God’s elect apart from the Atonement

    I find it interesting that these very same preachers who are teaching “eternal election is eternal justification” are the very same people who also like to say that “non-election is not condemnation”.

    When they say this, logically they should change their soundbites so that “election is not salvation but only unto salvation”. They quote CD Cole—“Election is not the cause of anybody going to hell, for election is unto salvation (2 Thessalonians 2: 13). Neither is non-election responsible for the damnation of sinners. Sin is the thing that sends men to hell, and all men are sinners by nature and practice. Sinners are sinners altogether apart from election or non-election. It does not follow that because election is unto salvation that non-election is unto damnation. Sin is the damning element in human life. Election harms nobody.”

    Those who refuse to give explanations like to have their cake and also eat it. On the hand, they like to reduce salvation to God’s sovereignty and equate election with justification ( and don’t talk about justification or Christ obtaining righteousness by being imputed with guilt). But on the other hand, when it comes to explaining the non-salvation of the non-elect, these same preachers don’t want to talk about God’s sovereignty but only about God’s justice.

    But guilt is not enough for destruction, because you also have to be non-elect. The elect are also born guilty in sin, under the wrath of God, but all the elect will pass from guilt to justification. But these preachers deny that the elect are ever guilty, and they minimize any idea that Christ was imputed with the guilt of the elect, and in that way obtained justification for the elect. And these same preachers deny that non-election is any factor in some sinners not being saved.

    Romans 9: 11 For though her sons had not been born yet or done anything good OR BAD, so that God’s purpose according to election would stand— 12 not from works but from the One who calls

    Romans 1: 16 does NOT read—For I am not ashamed of the gospel, For in the gospel God’s free and sovereign grace is revealed

    Romans 1: 16 does NOT READ For I am not ashamed of the gospel, For in the gospel God’s love is revealed

    Romans 1: 16 reads For I am not ashamed of the gospel,because it is God’s power for salvation to as many as who believe, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. 17 For in the gospel God’s RIGHTEOUSNESS is revealed

    Romans 1 :17 it is written: The righteous will live by faith

    Romans 1:17 does NOT teach that the elect are already justified apart from faith in God’s revealed righteousness

    Romans 1:17 does NOT teach that election is God’s righteousness

    Romans 1:17 does NOT teach that Christ already obtained justice for the elect before the ages

    Romans 1;17 does NOT teach that God’s purpose in Christ to obtain justice for the elect is the very same as Christ having already obtained justice for the elect

    God loved the elect before God made justice for the elect.
    God has already made justice for the elect

    God does demand justice
    But the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel is not God’s demand for justice
    The Righteousness of God revealed in the gospel is Christ’s death for the Elect to Bring in Justice for the Elect
    God has not placed all the elect into Christ’s death
    God has not yet imputed this justice accomplished and obtained to all the Elect.

  7. markmcculley Says:

    Sproul—Because now Jesus is not acting in His baptism for Himself, but for His people.

    mark—Sproul is assuming the water of John the Baptist. Sproul is not thinking about Christ’s death itself being called a “baptism”.

    Sproul—If His people are now required to submit to this baptismal ritual, He submits to it in their behalf.

    mark: The Mosaic law did not command the water baptism done by John the Baptist, and not all of the elect were ever required to be water baptized by John the Baptist. There is a difference between commanding somebody to baptize with water, and commanding people to be water baptized. It’s important that Jesus became incarnate, that he was physically circumcised, that He had faith, and that He rose again. But that does not mean that all these acts that Jesus did vicariously are imputed to the elect.

    Sproul–Because the redemption that is brought by Christ is not restricted to His death on the cross. We’ve seen that in the work of redemption God didn’t send Jesus to earth on Good Friday and say, “Die for the sins of your people and that will take care of it.”

    mark: Sproul can’t be bothered to think that the gospel is about Jesus dying only for the sins of the elect imputed to Jesus. Because, whatever the people who buy his books and pay to attend his conferences think about election, Sproul does not think that the death of Jesus will take care of saving them. Sproul does not think the cross is enough without other things added to that.

    Sproul No. Jesus not only had to die for our sins, but He had to live for our righteousness. If all Jesus did was die for your sins, that would remove all of your guilt, and that would leave you sinless in the sight of God, but not righteous.

    mark–Sproul is not dealing with Romans 6 or any other text which teaches about being placed into Christ’s death and and thus no longer being under the law. Sproul is saying instead that Christ’s death is not Christ’s righteousness. When Sproul teaches that Christ’s death is not what God uses to declare the elect righteous, then Sproul is also teaching that legal identification with Christ’s death and resurrection would still leave us “under the law”. Since the law identifies acts of omission as also sin, Sproul is teaching that Christ’s death is not even enough to leave anybody sinless.

  8. markmcculley Says:

    sarcasm alert—Since God forgives us for trying to overcome evil with evil, it’s just too much to expect us right not to overcome evil with good. Once somebody tries to avoid killing, they are always going to be a self-righteous legalist. Once a legalist, always a legalist

    Psalm 7 Lord, my God, I come to you for protection;
    rescue me and save me from all who pursue me,
    2 or else like a lion they will carry me off
    where no one can save me,
    and there they will tear me to pieces.
    3-4 O Lord, my God, if I have wronged anyone,
    if I have betrayed a friend
    or without cause done violence to my enemy—
    if I have done any of these things—
    5 then let my enemies pursue me and catch me,
    let them cut me down and kill me
    and leave me lifeless on the ground!
    6 Rise in your anger, O Lord!
    Stand up against the fury of my enemies;
    rouse yourself and help me!
    Justice is what you demand,
    7 so bring together all the peoples around you,
    and rule over them from above.
    8 You are the judge of all people.
    Judge in my favor, O Lord;
    you know that I am innocent.
    9 You are a righteous God
    and judge our thoughts and desires.
    Stop the wickedness of evildoers
    and reward those who are good.
    10 God is my protector;
    he saves those who obey him.
    11 God is a righteous judge
    and always condemns the wicked.
    12 If they do not change their ways,
    God will sharpen his sword.
    He bends his bow and makes it ready;
    13 he takes up his deadly weapons
    and aims his burning arrows.
    14 See how wicked people think up evil;
    they plan trouble and practice deception.
    15 But in the traps they set for others,
    they themselves get caught.
    16 So they are punished by their own evil
    and are hurt by their own violence.
    17 I thank the Lord for his justice;
    I sing praises to the Lord, the Most High

    Tianqi Wu 1.If physical death is not an important punishment, then why did Christ have to physically die at all? I’ve even heard some who say the physical death of Christ is not part of atonement at all, but that the atonement was finished prior to Christ’s physical deth.
    2. The conscious torment is added to the death. extinction makes the punishment a worse sort of death. (See Hebrews 10:28-29)
    3 People who teach that God’s immortality is only given to the elect do not say that the sinner’s death takes away sin or justifies the sinner. They simply say that the sinners second death is punishment for sin. The fact that the sinner will remain dead forever is the proof that their guilt will never be taken away

  9. markmcculley Says:

    698 of Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age:

    We fight against injustices which cry out to heaven for vengeance. We are moved by a flaming indignation against these: racism, oppression, sexism, or leftist attacks on the family or Christian faith. This indignation comes to be fueled by hatred for those who support and connive with these injustices; and this in turn is fed by our sense of superiority that we are not like these instruments and accomplices of evil. Soon we are blinded to the havoc we wreak around us. Our picture of the world has safely located all evil outside of us. The very energy and hatred with which we combat evil proves its exteriority to us…

    Another tragic irony nests here. The stronger the sense of (often correctly identified) injustice, the more powerfully this pattern can become entrenched. We become centres of hatred, generators of new modes of injustice on a greater scale, but we started with the most exquisite sense of wrong, the greatest passion for justice and equality and peace.

  10. markmcculley Says:

    Luke 22: 35 Jesus said to them, “When I sent you out without money-bag, traveling bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?” “Not a thing,” they said. 36 Then Jesus said to them, “But now, whoever has a money-bag should take it, and also a traveling bag. And whoever doesn’t have a sword should sell his robe and buy one. 37 For what is written must be fulfilled in Me: And He was counted among the criminals. What is written about Me is coming to its fulfillment.” 38 “Lord,” they said, “look, here are two swords.”“Enough of that!” Jesus told them.

    Isaiah 53: 9
    They made His grave with the wicked
    although He had done no violence
    10 Yet the Lord was pleased to crush Him severely. The Lord made Him a restitution offering,
    By His death, the Lord’s pleasure will be accomplished.
    11 My righteous Servant will justify many,
    He bears their sins
    12 Therefore I will give Him[i the many as His reward
    because He submitted Himself to death,
    and was counted among the criminals

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