Posted tagged ‘justice’

Do you want Grace or Justice?

July 19, 2013

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.

Are you being Arbitrary When You Say that God is Arbitrary?

August 26, 2012

Steve Chalke–“why did God command us to forgive without demanding
punishment, but then God Himself wouldn’t forgive but instead demands
punishment (even if it was from Himself) to Himself? ”

The argument seems to be that either Jesus is our example and thus not unique, either that, or that Jesus is unique and thus not our example. Either Jesus accepting the unjust punishment is our example, OR the punishment of Jesus was the last final unique punishment and there is no more example, in which case you can do what you want because His death is not an example but unique.

But of course there is one more reading, and that’s from Romans 12 (leave the vengeance to God, don’t do vengeance yourself) and Hebrews (the violent sacrifice of Jesus does work, but it’s the only one that ever worked or will work, so don’t do sacrifices yourself).

Charles Bradlaugh–“What did Jesus teach–unto him that shoots your
wife, let him shoot you also? Surely it would be better to teach that
‘the one who tempts God and courts oppression shares the crime’, and
if one person is shot to shoot that person who shot to prevent future
shooting.” This argument says “if Jesus was a pacifist for you, then you don’t need to be a pacifist yourself” and it’s not only atheists who use this argument but many Christians.

Romans 3:3 What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4 By no means! Let God be true though everyone were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.” 5 But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) 6 By no means! For then how could God judge the world? 7 But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8 And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slander us with saying. Their condemnation is just.

I know some Calvinists (I was one of them) who think it is enough to say that God is sovereign. In this emphasis, sometimes they even project their own ego onto God, and sound like they think of themselves as sovereign also.

But the truth of the gospel is not only God’s sovereignty but also God’s righteousness. This means that the gospel is not only about the justification of the elect sinner but also about the justification of God.

I have no use for the “freewill theodicy”. But that does not mean that I am dismissive of efforts to justify God. To justify God does not of course mean that we make God just. Rather, it means that we declare that God is just.

When God justifies an elect sinner, it’s not only God’s sovereignty that declares the sinner just. God is justified in justifying the elect sinner because 1. Christ died because of the imputed guilt of that elect sinner and 2. God then righteously counted that elect sinner to legally share in that death. Because of these two facts of history, God is justified in justifying elect sinners.

But It certainly doesn’t look just. The elect sinners go free. Christ, who did not sin, died. Why doesn’t that just make things worse?

This is why we are tempted to say that the whole thing is only about God’s sovereignty and then tell people to shut their mouths and ask no questions.But the Bible itself does not take that attitude. The Bible tells us how God thinks. The Bible justifies God.

Romans 9 does not only ask: “who are you to talk back to God”. Romans 9 explains that it is inappropriate for that which is made to sit in negative judgment on the maker. That which is made is instead to make the positive judgment that God has the righteous right to harden as many as God hardens. Since God is our Creator, it’s not completely “arbitrary” for God to govern and judge us. It’s not the same as you being a parent and thinking that gives you the right to tell your (adult) children what to do.

Romans 6 deals with the objection that God justifying sinners will cause sinners to rationalize their sins, so that they not only say that their sins were predestined but also that they say that more sins result in more grace.

The Romans 6 answer is that grace is either grace or not. There is not more or less grace, but either grace or no grace. More sin does not get the elect more grace, because all those God justly justifies have all the grace any other elect person has. If you have grace, then you are justified from sin, and if you don’t have grace, you are a sinner “free from righteousness” (6:20).

While unbelievers trust in God to help them to sin less, those who have been delivered to the gospel know that there are only two kind of sinners, —guilty sinners and justified sinners .

The theodicy of Romans 3 announces that God is true even if every man is a liar. We justify God because God has revealed Himself. And God has revealed that God is more than sovereign. God’s words reveal God to be Righteous and Just. And God’s word is justified in history by what God did when Christ gave Himself up to death on the cross because of the imputed guilt of the elect.

We were wrong: God was right and God is still right. God prevails, but it is not only a matter of “might makes right” or “sovereignty always wins”. One. We have no right to make a negative judgment on God. Two, it is God who will be making a negative judgment on many sinners. Three. we are called to make a positive rational judgment about God’s justice.

But how do these three points connect and cohere?

What God pleases to do is right. And there is no better proof of that than the way God justifies elect sinners. The wisdom of the cross shows God’s righteousness. It is just for God to not only let elect sinners go free but also to give them faith and all the other blessings of salvation. The death of Jesus was not only “one more bad thing”. That death without resurrection might have been, but Christ’s death plus resurrection , despite the sins of those who killed Jesus, was to God a good thing which reconciles and makes things right.

Yes, it is grace to those sinners saved by it, but also it was just for God to do it, because of what Christ did in his obedience even unto death. As Isaiah 53 explains, the righteous servant will be satisfied. God will be just to Christ. And God is just to justify elect sinners for the sake of Christ.

Psalm 116:11—“I said in my alarm, ‘All mankind are liars’” Not only is God justified, but sinners are condemned. We see this in Romans 1:25 . All of us have been people who “exchange the truth for a lie”.

It is idolatry to only know a God who is sovereign. The true God is also righteous. It is rebellion against the Creator to deny that God is just. Psalm 51:4-6—“Against you have I sinned and done what is evil, so that you are justified in your words and blameless in your judgment..Behold you delight in truth…” Two things go together: God tells the truth, we are false.

The gospel is good news for the elect, but not without also being first bad news. You can call it “law before gospel” if you wish. But part and parcel of justifying God (and trusting God’s true gospel) is taking sides with God against our-selves. We can’t both be right. God is right, and we are wrong. If God is right, then we are wrong.

If we ever get to thinking that God is only being sovereign but not being fair to us, then we show not only that we are wrong but also that God has not yet called us by the gospel to the truth. We should not only confess that God is going to get God’s way, that God is going to win. We need to learn to confess that the way God acts and judges is just. We make a positive judgment about God. That is a result, and not a condition of God having justified us.

To reject the righteousness of God (His attribute, not only Christ’s saving work and gift) is to reject the true God. Romans 3:3 tells us that God’s faithfulness proves that God is the true God. Isaiah 42:3—“He will faithfully bring forth justice.” Isaiah 45:19—“I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness. I did not say to the seed of Jacob, seek me in vain. I the Lord speak the truth. I declare what is right”.

Getting in a dispute with the true God shows not only that we are foolish to fight with the Almighty. Getting in a debate with God shows just how arbitrary we ourselves are! The irony every time is that our lies, rationalizations, self-deceptions only result in the truth of God being more declared. And then, when we try to say, “well at least our falsehoods are making God look more faithful”, we are brought face to face with the fact of Romans 3:5—God is the righteous judge of us. God is not only “the boss of us”, because God is judging us and will judge us.

God takes sides with Himself. God takes sides against sinners. God is not neutral arbitrator. God is one of the parties in God’s lawsuit against sinners. The God we have offended by being sinners (exchanging truth for idolatry) is the God who will judge all sinners.

God is One of the Parties in God’s Just and Legal Conflict with Sinners

November 7, 2011

Romans 3:3 What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4 By no means! Let God be true though everyone were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.” 5 But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) 6 By no means! For then how could God judge the world? 7 But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8 And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.

I know some Calvinists (I was one of them) who think it is enough to say that God is sovereign. In this emphasis, sometimes they even project their own ego onto God, and sound like they think of themselves as sovereign also.

But the truth of the gospel is not only God’s sovereignty but also God’s righteousness. This means that the gospel is not only about the justification of the elect sinner but also about the justification of God.

I have no use for the “freewill theodicy”. But that does not mean that I am dismissive of efforts to justify God. To justify God does not of course mean that we make God just. Rather, it means that we declare that God is just.

When God justifies an elect sinner, it’s not only God’s sovereignty that declares the sinner just. God is justified in justifying the elect sinner because 1. Christ died because of the imputed guilt of that elect sinner and 2. God then righteously counted (constituted) that elect sinner to legally share in that death. Because of these two facts of history, God is justified in justifying elect sinners.

It doesn’t seem fair. It doesn’t look just. The elect sinners go free. Christ, who did not sin, died. This is why we are tempted to say that the whole thing is only about God’s sovereignty and then tell people to shut their mouths and ask no questions.

But the Bible itself does not take that attitude. The Bible tells us how God thinks. The Bible justifies God.

Romans 9 does not only ask: “who are you to talk back to God”. Romans 9 explains that it is inappropriate for that which is made to sit in negative judgment on the maker. That which is made is instead to make the positive judgment that God has the righteous right to harden as many as God hardens.

Romans 6 deals with the objection that God justifying sinners will cause sinners to rationalize their sins, so that they not only say that their sins were predestined but also that they say that more sins result in more grace.

The Romans 6 answer is that grace is either grace or not. There is not more or less grace, but either grace or no grace. More sin does not get the elect more grace, because all those God justly justifies have all the grace any other elect person has. If you have grace, then you are justified from sin, and if you don’t have grace, you are a sinner “free from righteousness” (6:20).

While unbelievers trust in God to help them to sin less, those who have been delivered to the gospel know that there are only two kind of sinners, —guilty sinners and justified sinners .

The theodicy of Romans 3 announces that God is true even if every man is a liar. We justify God because God has revealed Himself. And God has revealed that God is more than sovereign. God’s words reveal God to be Righteous and Just. And God’s word is justified in history by what God did when Christ gave Himself up to death on the cross because of the imputed guilt of the elect.

We were wrong: God was right and God is still right. God prevails, but it is not only a matter of “might makes right” or “sovereignty always wins”. We have no right to make a negative judgment on God, since it is God who will be making a negative judgment on many sinners. But we are called to make a positive rational judgment about God’s justice.

What God pleases to do is right. And there is no better proof of that than the way God justifies elect sinners. The wisdom of the cross shows God’s righteousness. It is just for God to not only let elect sinners go free but also to give them faith and all the other blessings of salvation.

Yes, it is grace to these sinners, but still it is just for God to do it, because of what Christ did in his obedience even unto death. As Isaiah 53 explains, the righteous servant will be satisfied. God will be just to Christ. And God is just to justify elect sinners for the sake of Christ.

Psalm 116:11—“I said in my alarm, ‘All mankind are liars’” Not only is God justified, but sinners are condemned. We see this in Romans 1:25 . All of us have been people who “exchange the truth for a lie”.

It is idolatry to only know a God who is sovereign. The true God is also righteous. It is unbelief and rebellion to deny that God is just. Psalm 51:4-6—“Against you have I sinned and done what is evil, so that you are justified in your words and blameless in your judgment..Behold you delight in truth…” Two things go together: God tells the truth, we are false.

The gospel is good news for the elect, but not without also being first bad news. You can call it “law before gospel” if you wish. But part and parcel of justifying God (and trusting God’s true gospel) is taking sides with God against our-selves. We can’t both be right. God is right, and we are wrong. If God is right, then we are wrong.

If we ever get to thinking that God is only being sovereign but not being fair to us, then we show not only that we are wrong but also that God has not yet called us by the gospel to the truth. We should not only confess that God is going to get God’s way, that God is going to win. We need to learn to confess that the way God acts and judges is just. We make a positive judgment about God. That is a result, and not a condition of God having justified us.

God is true. God is God. To reject the righteousness of God (His attribute, not only Christ’s saving work and gift) is to reject the true God. Romans 3:3 tells us that God’s faithfulness proves that God is the true God. Isaiah 42:3—“He will faithfully bring forth justice.” Isaiah 45:19—“I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness. I did not say to the seed of Jacob, seek me in vain. I the Lord speak the truth. I declare what is right”.

Getting in a dispute with the true God shows us just how dumb we become! The irony every time is that our lies, rationalizations, self-deceptions only result in the truth of God being more declared. And then, when we try to say, “well at least our falsehoods are making God look more faithful”, we are brought face to face with the fact of Romans 3:5—God is the righteous judge of us. God is not only “the boss of us”, because God is judging us and will judge us.

God takes sides with Himself. God takes sides against sinners. And the only sinners that God justifies are the elect who God has placed into the death of Christ.

God is not some neutral arbitrator. God is one of the parties in God’s lawsuit against sinners. The God we have offended by being sinners (exchanging truth for idolatry) is the God who will judge all sinners.

Fear God Means Leave the Wrath to God

February 27, 2011

Dear Editor, Lancaster Sunday News,

How dare you lecture the Amish (and the rest of us) about what the Bible says about justice! Defending the status quo secular regime, you argue that the Amish have “to know from the Bible that its criminals must not be allowed to escape just punishment.” This conclusion assumes that there is only one way to read the Bible, and that this way is natural law with selective appeals to the Bible.

The Anabaptist tradition has not read the Bible your way, and the historical result has been patience to wait for God’s justice. Your impatience with Amish forgiveness sounds like you know what to do. You will do to criminals what God would do if God were still alive to do it!

But there is more to your argument: you are not really saying that God is out of business. You are claiming that God has made agents of the status quo regime. “The Bible does teach that Christians should submit to governors.” Of course you have no notion of appealing to Romans 13 when discussing the American rebellion against King George, or the regime changes in Iraq or Egypt. Your argument defines “submit to” in a way that would encourage collaboration and obedience to Hitler.

If your editorial board is going to start relying on the authority of the Bible (not for yourselves but for the Amish), then you need to begin with some exegesis. Romans 13 cannot be understood apart from its context. Romans 14 urges the overcoming of judgment among brothers and sisters. Romans 12:19 commands Christians not to avenge themselves but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, Vengeance is Mine….”

I understand that you may not believe in God, or at least not in the God of wrath revealed in the Bible. Perhaps this is why you are so concerned to do what you think God would do in this situation if God were real enough to reveal standards your secular state could really follow. Or maybe you are just impatient with alternative ways of reading the Bible.

The context of submitting to the powers that God has ordained is important. 1. There is a difference between God ordaining evil to happen and God approving that evil. 2. There is a difference between submitting to the powers and agreeing that these powers are following God’s standards Satan does God’s work.

The Bible commands Christians to never exercise vengeance but to leave it to God. You can claim that the justice you advocate is not vengeance and not God’s wrath. But then Romans 13:4 (context!) says that the magistrate “is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”

Notice that the governors are executing the specific function which Romans 12:19 commanded Christians to leave to God. Though this does not prove that none of the governors are Christians, it does prove that none of them are obeying God at this point! And the text teaches us that God uses this disobedience (not leaving it to God) as wrath. God does not have to approve of the standards of the unforgiving secular regime in order to restrain sin with more sin.

This may sound more complicated than it is. The editorial page wants the Amish to go by the Bible, but not as the Amish have interpreted it but as non-Anabaptists do. But in the meanwhile, the editorial page has no notion that secular judges would go by either the Old or New Testaments.

So go by the Bible, which means letting us do it our way, which is not the way the Bible tells Christians to do it. Of course we will celebrate you for forgiving a murderer if that man is already dead. But if the criminal still lives, then we must have our justice now and not wait for God. Not only will this protect our families, but our wrath has already determined what the crime “deserves”.

In none of your appeal to the Bible do you refer to the death of Jesus Christ at the hands of Rome’s secular justice. James 1:19 “Human anger does not produce the righteousness that God requires.” Psalm 76: 10—“Even human wrath shall praise you, for you are to be feared. Who can stand before you when your anger is roused?”