*Pastor’s Note: Remember because of the need to explain at times in detail, the lessons will have to be divided up into parts.
In the last lesson we left off with the Moral Attribute of God’s Love. Remember, God is Love and thus Love, true, Agape is God. They cannot be separated.
To remind the readers and especially concerning the Attributes of God that can be imitated, at least to an extent, I want to reiterate the Apostle Paul’s statement in his letter to the Ephesians:
“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” – Ephesians 5:1-2.
As I stated before or at least hinted at, I believe that the following attributes that we study are based on and stem from the fact that God IS love. Thus, without love, none of the following attributes would exist in God and by that token, God would NOT be a God Who is love. As you follow along and do your own study of God’s Nature and Character and especially what many call the Communicable Attributes, those that can be imitated, realize that to some degree this is a departure from other teaching because I believe, again, without God BEING Love, you couldn’t have these attributes. I believe these are a further manifestation of not only Him as Love, but of His actions to Love and thus it applies to us as well.
JUSTICE: I would add for clarity of thought this would include “Just-ness,” His Being JUST and also Righteousness. In the Bible and through the many translations derived from the original languages for Justice, the word righteousness is most often interchangeable. So when speaking of Justice, we are also speaking of God’s pure and unadulterated “rightness” or ability to always do and say the right thing no matter what.
Remember the first attribute we discussed was Holiness, or the pure nature of God Himself to be absolute without spot, impartiality, etc., or as James states in his Epistle, “With whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” (James 1:17). This simply means that in God He does not change on a whim or shift as do shadows in the light, for God Himself IS light (1 John 1:5), there is no shadow or darkness in Him. His BEING Holy dictates every other attribute about Him, within Him, is pure and undefiled. Thus, His Love is pure and holy and so His other attributes must be as well.
Justice as an attribute of God is devoid of all and any passion or whimsy. God does not base anything He does on emotion, change of emotion or impulse. His justice vindicates by affirming, demonstrating, proving, defending and justifying rather than being vindictive; spiteful, vengeful, mean-spirited and unforgiving.
Because of this attribute, if there IS a difference in God’s righteousness and His justice, it would be in the sense that His righteousness demonstrates His absolute love for holiness and in His justice, His absolute hatred and abhorrence of sinfulness. So it can be said that in God’s justice, He always acts according to His righteousness. The one cannot be divorced from the other.
There is absolutely no unjustness within God. If you think of it, He REWARDS everyone according to their ways. If people sin and disobey God, they are rewarded according to what they deserve due to disobedience. He does not “punish” based on emotion, or the “level” of the sin. To Him ALL sin, ANY sin, deserves its JUST reward; banishment from His presence. He doesn’t stop loving the person who sins, but His Love for all demands that those who sin, have made their choice as to their “reward.” Because God IS Love, He can’t stop loving His creation, but that doesn’t mean He isn’t also saddened by their own choices. His righteousness demands that He follows through with a sinner’s “reward.” Otherwise, He would NOT be just OR righteous.
When you think on it, it also shows His love to those who DO follow after Him in obedience. What kind of love would it be, let alone justice or righteousness to let a guilty party off from their sins, while demanding that those who follow after righteousness are doing what is expected through obedience?
Which leads to the “other side of the coin,” so to speak, concerning rewards. Just as God is impartial and unemotional concerning those who walk in guiltiness, He is the same way towards those who walk in obedience and righteousness. Emotion does not enter the picture where God is concerned, He already Loves His creation. His justice though demands that His actions toward the obedient be righteous in according to their obedience. Thus those walking in obedience and righteousness themselves are vindicated, redeemed, affirmed, absolved, acquitted, etc., you get the picture.
With God being just, actions MUST demand appropriate consequences for true love to exist. The RIGHT or righteous circumstance must be applied to any situation. This does NOT remove our ability to make choices though if you are thinking the “system” is rigged. We ALL, everyone of us has the ability to choose how we want to live our lives. Will we choose to rely upon our own intellect and reason, or will we choose to rely upon the very ONE that created us for a purpose? The choice has always been and still is, ours!
Even in this natural world, laws and rules have been set forth to cause the interaction of mankind to get along in an orderly way. A person has a choice whether to go along with them or not. But those choices have consequences. In the natural, the application of the justice used to “reward” a person’s actions may not be perfect by any means, but God is Sovereign and Supreme and His actions will ALWAYS be perfect.
It has been stated that:
Just as divine love is not the same as human love, so divine righteousness is not the same as human righteousness. But just as human love can correspond to divine love, so human righteousness can anticipate and foreshadow divine righteousness.
Human righteousness is conformity to the universal dictates of conscience. It means giving each person his or her due or deepening respect for human dignity and freedom. Divine righteousness is bringing people into a right relationship with one another and with God. Social justice is guaranteeing that the rights and just claims of people are duly satisfied. Divine righteousness is making people willing to forego their rights and claims for the sake of another. Social justice is preventing the wounds that estrange people from each other from festering by the resort to law and force. Divine righteousness brings healing to these wounds.
So let’s make something clear; because God is always just and always right, depending on our choices, we will all receive a just “reward.” Now, I’m not trying to be clever or anything of the sort when I use the word “reward.” However, you understand that a reward is based upon our character, motives and choices leading to our actions. If we follow the path of disobedience, in essence our “reward” is applied in the form of a debt. We OWE for the actions we took that were contrary to the right and just commands of God. In other words, punishment or the reward for sinning, is a matter of debt. Sin MUST be paid for; plain and simple.
God cannot refrain from the principle of His righteous and just Nature by ignoring the “rewards” that go with sinning! But here’s the thing:
It is a serious misunderstanding of Christianity and the nature of forgiveness to say that believers are those whose guilt is rescinded and whose sins are not punished. Our guilt and sin were fully imputed to our substitute, Jesus, who suffered the retributive justice in our stead.
Here’s why I keep saying “rewards”: Psalm 103:10 says this, “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.” (NASB). The NKJV uses the word punish, but in the original language the word used actually means, to reward! It’s not often you think of a punishment as a reward, but consider it; it is something we have earned. Punishment has a negative connotation and reward seems more positive, but the truth is, it is what we deserve based on what we have done.
However, because of God’s justice AND righteousness which again is pure and undefiled, He made a way for that “reward,” that debt to be taken care of. It HAD to be paid, a righteous and just God cannot let it go, but it WAS paid, the debt was satisfied, we have been vindicated, justified, by the debt Jesus Christ stepped up and paid for each of us who accepts that payment!
Make no mistake though; you STILL have a choice. The payment for the debt owed, is free to all who are willing to accept it. It is a gift from the ONE Who loves us beyond measure. It satisfies God’s Justice and Righteousness, but it is STILL our choice to make.
In closing, understand this; the debt is paid and we can choose to accept it for what we individually owe, or we can choose to walk away from it. However, if you don’t accept the payment already made on your behalf, then YOU will be responsible for that debt. The “reward” for however you choose, is ETERNAL.
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