by Nate Wilson
with help from R.C. Sproul’s book The Character of God, as well as Calvin’s Institutes and Berkof’s Systematic Theology
HOLINESS: a) “separateness … set apart from common things … transcendent … the splendor of His glory has no analogy in creation”
b) “purity… no moral blemish, no defect, no stain of wickedness”
RIGHTEOUSNESS: a) God defines righteousness; He IS righteous, and He acts consistently with Who He Is.
b) “straight” not crooked.
JUSTICE: Reward and punishment based upon the character of God (righteousness)
These are related to all God’s other attributes: “Judge must be both just and omniscient. He must know every subtle nuance of every case if He is to insure perfect justice… To ensure perfect justice, the perfect Judge must be omnipotent – able to guarantee that justice is done.” (Sproul)
Deuteronomy 32:4 “Ascribe greatness unto our God, The Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice: A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, Just and right is He.”
Ezra 9:15 “O Jehovah, the God of Israel, thou art righteous”
Nehemiah. 9:8 Speaking of the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Abraham: “[Thou] hast performed thy words; for thou art righteous.”
Job 34:12 “God will not do wickedly, Neither will the Almighty pervert justice.”
Psalm 37:28 “Jehovah loves justice, And forsakes not His saints; They are preserved for ever: But the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.”
Psalm 89:14 “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of thy throne: Lovingkindness and truth go before thy face.”
Psalm 111:7-8 “The works of His hands are truth and justice; All His precepts are sure. They are established for ever and ever; They are done in truth and uprightness.”
Psalm 119:137 “Righteous art thou, O Jehovah, And upright are thy judgments.”
Psalm 145:17 “Jehovah is righteous in all His ways”
Isaiah 5:16 “Jehovah of hosts is exalted in justice, and God the Holy One is sanctified in righteousness.”
Isaiah 45:21 “…there is no God else besides me, a just God and a Saviour”
Jeremiah 9:24 “I am Jehovah who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith Jehovah.”
Jeremiah 12:1 “Righteous art thou, O Jehovah, when I contend with thee”
Lamentations 1:18 “Jehovah is righteous” speaking of the destruction of Jerusalem in light of Israel’s sin.
Daniel 4:37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven; for all His works are truth, and His ways justice; and those that walk in pride He is able to abase.”
Daniel 9:14 “Jehovah watched over the evil, and brought it upon us; for Jehovah our God is righteous in all his works which He does, and we have not obeyed His voice”
Zepheniah 3:5 “Jehovah in the midst of her is righteous; He will not do iniquity; every morning He brings His justice to light, He fails not”
John 17:25 Jesus’ priestly prayer “O righteous Father, the world knew thee not, but I knew thee”
II Timothy 4:7-8 “7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith: 8 henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to me at that day; and not to me only, but also to all them that have loved his appearing.”
I John 2:29, 3:7 “ If you know that He is righteous, you know that every one also that doeth righteousness is begotten of Him.”
Revelation 16:5 “And I heard the angel of the waters saying, Righteous art thou, who is and who was, thou Holy One, because thou did thus judge”
Deuteronomy 4:8 “And what great nation is there, that hath statutes and ordinances so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?”
Isaiah 33:22 “For Jehovah is our judge, Jehovah is our lawgiver, Jehovah is our king; He will save us.”
Psalm 99:4 “Thou dost establish equity; Thou executest justice and righteousness in Jacob.”
James 4:12 “ One only is the Lawgiver and Judge, even He who is able to save and to destroy”
Romans 1:32 “knowing the ordinance of God, they that practice such things as are worthy of death”
Deuteronomy 10:17-18 “For Jehovah your God, He is God of gods, and Lord of lords, the great God, the mighty, and the terrible, who regards not persons, nor takes a bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and widow, and loves the sojourner, in giving him food and raiment.”
Isaiah 3:10 “Woe to the wicked! It will go badly with him, for what he deserves will be done to him.”
Romans 2:6-11 “God will render to every man according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation… to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.”
II Corinthians 5:9-10 “Wherefore also we make it our aim, whether at home or absent, to be well-pleasing unto Him. For we must all be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”
I Peter 1:17 “And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time or our stay upon earth…”
Hebrews 12:23 “God the Judge of all”
· Renumerative Justice (Reward/Blessing)
Given for obedience (Deut. 28:1-6)
Deuteronomy 7:9-13 “Know therefore that Jehovah thy God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps covenant and lovingkindness with them that love him and keep His commandments to a thousand generations, and repays them that hate Him to their face, to destroy them: He will not be slack to him that hate Him, He will repay him to his face. Thou shalt therefore keep the commandment, and the statutes, and the ordinances, which I command thee this day, to do them. And it shall come to pass, because ye hearken to these ordinances, and keep and do them, that Jehovah thy God will keep with thee the covenant and the lovingkindness which He swore unto thy fathers: and He will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee; He will also bless the fruit of thy body and the fruit of thy ground, thy grain and thy new wine and thine oil, the increase of thy cattle and the young of thy flock, in the land which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee.”
Psalm 106:3 “Blessed are they that keep justice, And he that doeth righteousness at all times.”
Matthew 25:21 “His lord said unto him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy lord.’”
Matthew 25:34 “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry, and ye gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in...’”
Hebrews 11:24-26 “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to share ill treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; accounting the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt: for he looked unto the recompense of reward.”
But, says Sproul, “The reward itself is gracious. [God] is under no obligation to make the promise in the first place… Our reward in heaven [and on earth] will be distributed according to our works… Augustine made the famous statement that in giving us rewards, God was, in fact ‘crowing His own gifts…’ the only way we can perform any measure of obedience to God is by God’s merciful help.”
Job 41:11 “Who hath first given unto me, that I should repay him? Whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine”
Psalm 25: 8 “Good and upright is Jehovah: Therefore will he instruct sinners in the way. The meek will he guide in justice; And the meek will he teach his way.”
· Retributive Justice (Punishment)
“the just Judge must punish evil” ~Sproul
a) AGAINST HIS PEOPLE FOR THE PURPOSE OF BRINGING THEM BACK INTO RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM
Deut 28:15-19 covenantal curses
Nehemiah 9:33 “Howbeit thou art just in all that is come upon us; for thou hast dealt truly, but we have done wickedly” Nehemiah commenting on the deportation to Babylon while renewing the covenant with God.
Psalm 51:4 “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, And done that which is evil in thy sight; That thou mayest be justified when thou speakest, And be clear when thou judgest.”
b) AGAINST THE WICKED FOR THE PURPOSE OF DISPLAYING HIS RIGHTEOUS JUSTICE
Psalm 58:10-11 “The righteous shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance: He shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked; So that men shall say, ‘Verily there is a reward for the righteous: Verily there is a God that judges in the earth.’”
Romans 1:24 Sometimes the action of sin is considered punishment itself: “Wherefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts unto uncleanness, that their bodies should be dishonored among themselves”
Romans 12:19 “Vengeance belongs to me; I will recompense, says the Lord.”
II Thessalonians 1:6-8 “ it is a righteous thing with God to recompense affliction to them that afflict you … at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire, rendering vengeance to them that know not God…”
· “God has appointed the state to be His
instrument of justice” ~Sproul
Romans 13:3-4 The State ruler is to praise what is good and execute wrath on him who practices evil.
· Societies look to their God for law. For those in totalitarian governments (ancient Rome, Cuba, N. Korea, etc.), the state God is the dictator, so he is the lawgiver and judge. In humanistic societies (modern USA, France, India), man is God, so law is created and judged by representatives or by popular votes. In religious societies (early American colonies, modern Muslim states), a transcendent deity is God, so laws and judgments are based upon revelation from that deity.
· However, it doesn’t matter what the society believes to be God, the true God is there upholding His standard, whether they realize it or not, and He will bring them to judgement. God’s righteousness is the ultimate standard of civil law. As Sproul states, “Every law of every society will be judged by God’s standard of righteousness. The justness of a law can never be determined by a majority vote…”
· There will be times when the State is out-of-sync with the standards of God and will either outlaw what God commands (Saudi Arabia decapitating Filipino missionaries) or will permit what God forbids (abortion). In such cases we exercise our Moral right and not just Legal rights. As Sproul says, “Conscience is often shaped by the mores of our culture, and an unthinking person may accept as ‘right’ whatever is the prevailing morality. No Christian can afford to do that. With every law and every behavioral choice, we must ask the question, ‘Is it right?’”
1) If God defines right and wrong, what’s to keep Him from suddenly changing the rules and becoming evil?
- Genesis 18:24-25 “Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?”
- See study on immutability of God.
2) Can we define right and wrong and hold God accountable to what we believe is right and wrong?
- Job: The answer is not “Why?” but “Who?”
3) Why do the wicked prosper?
- Luke 18:2-8 (parable of the unjust judge) “Shall not God avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?”
- “Here we find an unqualified promise from Jesus: The injustices of this world will be rectified. He declares that though God forbears injustices in this world, He ultimately will establish justice” (Rev. 19)
- Isaiah 30:18 “Jehovah is a God of justice; blessed are all they that wait for Him.”
- II Peter 3:9 “9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
- Rom 1 – their punishment is already begun as God gives them over to their lusts and they wallow in the filth of sin.
4) Is vengeance wrong?
- Rom. 12:19 “vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” – vengeance is an expression of justice
- Rom. 13 – the state is a God-ordained avenger
5) How can we reflect the justice of God?
- Teach justice to our children - Gen 18:19 “ For I have known him, to the end that he may command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of Jehovah, to do righteousness and justice…”
- Be impartial for the truth - Exodus 23:1-3 “Thou shalt not take up a false report: put not thy hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness. Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to turn aside after a multitude to wrest justice: neither shalt thou favor a poor man in his cause.”
- Use accuracy in reporting measurements - Lev. 19 35-36 Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in measures of length, of weight, or of quantity. Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye have: I am Jehovah your God.”
- Seek political office in order to bring justice to society - I Kings 10 – “therefore made He thee king, to do justice and righteousness” The queen of Sheba commenting on God’s purposes in establishing godly men in political positions.
- Praise God for His justice - Psalm 33:3-5 “Sing unto Him a new song; Play skilfully with a loud noise. For the word of Jehovah is right; And all His work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice: The earth is full of the lovingkindness of Jehovah.”
- Pray for God to bring justice in unjust situations - Psalm 35:22 “Keep not silence: O Lord, be not far from me. Stir up thyself, and awake to the justice due unto me”
- Seek social justice - Isaiah 1:16 “Wash yourself, make yourself clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mye eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.”
- Integrate humility and kindness with justice - Micah 6:8 “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth Jehovah require of thee, but to do justly, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with thy God?”
- Think about justice - Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just… think on these things.”
- Look forward to heaven - II Peter 3:11-13 “…what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness, looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God, by reason of which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? But, according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”
· Isaiah 64: 6 “For we are all become as one that is unclean, and all our righteousnesses are as a polluted garment: and we all fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”
· We have no righteousness and therefore no justice. Our best works are like dirty rags. We deserve eternal punishment.
or False: “The only way God will ever clear the guilty is by the atonement of
False: Ex.34:7 “Jehovah… will by no means clear the guilty”
· Justification: Not arbitrarily declaring a guilty man innocent – that would be unjust - but, by mutual agreement, transferring the punishment due a guilty man to a righteous man and accounting the righteousness of that man, Jesus, to the guilty sinner. There is no injustice here. Sproul again, “God meets the deficiency in our righteousness by supplying us with righteousness from someone else. Herein is our salvation, that Jesus has taken my guilt and given to me His righteousness. Because we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ, we will be able to survive the Last Judgment. Without that righteousness we would surely perish, for God would not abandon or in any way compromise His righteousness.
· Romans 3:23-26 “for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God; being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, in his blood, to show His righteousness … at this present season: that He might Himself be just, and the justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus.”
Romans 5:8-9 “But God commends His own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by His blood, shall we be saved from the wrath of God through Him.”