IS GOD ALWAYS JUST?
T. PIERCE BROWN
Most of my life I have heard preachers and teachers say something like, “I am glad that, at the judgment day, God will not deal with us justly, or in justice, but in mercy.” One teacher even said, “God is unjust,” perhaps to wake up the class. My opinion is that he might have as properly tried to wake them up by some other erroneous (one might say, blasphemous) statement as “God lied,” or “God did wrong.”
I think I understand and appreciate the purpose of such statements, and may have made them myself. We probably mean something like this: “Since we, by our own goodness can never get to heaven, it must be that by grace we have been and will be saved. Therefore our eternal judgment will not be in terms of justice, but in terms of grace and mercy.” Others would take the opposite position and says, “Judgment will be strictly in terms of justice, for the day of mercy will be over.” In my judgment, both statements have some truth, but both are in danger of perverting or overlooking some wonderful and fundamental facts relating to God and our salvation.
First, we should never imply that one aspect of God’s nature contradicts another. We have no right to suggest that God’s mercy has or ever will cancel out His justice, or vice versa.
The wondrous glory of God’s beautiful plan of redemption is that it enabled God to be just and justify the ungodly (Romans3:26). This does not mean that God justified him IN HIS UNGODLINESS, but in spite of his ungodliness. The reason God can, in mercy and love, forgive our sins is NOT that His love is greater than His justice, and somehow overrules it. It is because He, in infinite wisdom and infinite love provided a way for justice to be satisfied while His love was being shown in the sacrifice of His beloved unique Son.
At the judgment day it may be correct to say, “The day of mercy is over” in the same sense that in the days of Noah the time came for the penalty to be paid and the “longsuffering of God” which waited (1 Peter 3:20) stopped waiting. But if we imply that God therefore ceased to be longsuffering, or that He was not then still merciful and loving, or that on the judgment day, He will cease to be merciful and loving, we make a grievous error. The more fundamental truth is that God will not then be showing or demonstrating love and mercy in the same way He has been showing it, but the idea that His justice has canceled out His love and mercy is a different thing and is not correct.
The childish conclusion that a father ceases to be loving when he punishes his child is unworthy of a gospel preacher. And the erroneous assumption that God’s judgment will not be just at the end of time simply because we will not be condemned for our sins is destructive to the whole system of Christianity. God can justly say, “Enter into the joy of thy Lord” to all who have properly accepted His loving gracious merciful offer. The One who knew no sin, but was made to be sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21) made it possible for God to be just as well as merciful, not only now, but on the judgment day.
God’s love and mercy NEVER allow Him to condone sin. He could “wink at” sin (Acts17:30) only in view of the fact that it would be paid for by Christ, and it was not unjust for Him to so overlook or wink at it.