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Justice (of God)

(15 posts)

There Is Conquest

Among the truths that are lost when we fail to recognize God as the “outside God” is his power over evil. [W]ithout his holiness God is reduced to being kind, amiable, approachable, and harmless, but for all his likeability he is incapable of dealing with evil in the world. The perspective of the Bible, by contrast, is that God’s patience and forbearance will one day run out. The time will come when he acts in judgment because of his holiness. And when he does, he will place truth forever on the throne and evil forever on the scaffold. All that has broken and defiled life will be finally, and irrevocably, overthrown. This doctrine of God’s judgment should not be an embarrassment to the church. It is not simply a negative doctrine. It is profoundly positive. It is this doctrine that carries the church’s hope. For in this world evil often triumphs, goes unpunished, and what is good and righteous is often dismissed or even penalized. However, this applies only to the interim period. In the end, evil is judged, the world is cleansed, and the church is finally redeemed. This is why Christians have hope. All the injustices, the upside-down nature of things morally will be set right. God’s holiness will descend upon the rebel creation. And then, as John saw, the “night will be no more.” And God’s people “will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 22:5). This vision of the end of time now throws back its clarifying light into the muddled present. Sin, grace, love, and faith . . . Have nothing but a superficial meaning until we see them in relation to the Holy, arising from it, and setting it forth. God’s love is his holiness reaching out to sinners; grace is but the price that his love pays to his holiness; the cross is but its victory over sin and death; and faith is but the way in which we bring our worship to him who is holy. —David Wells, The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth Lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World (Eerdmans, 2008), 130.

Why the God-Man?

Tuesday··2008·09·23 · 3 Comments
In his work Cur Deus Homo? (Why the God-man?), Anselm of Canterbury (1033–1109) sought to answer the question of why the incarnation was necessary. R. C. Sproul writes, At the heart of Anselm’s answer to that question was his understanding of the character of God. Anselm saw that the chief reason a God-man was necessary was the justice of God. That may seem to be a strange answer. Thinking of the cross and of Christ’s atonement, we assume that the thing that most strenuously motivated God to send Christ into the world was His love or His mercy. As a result, we tend to overlook the characteristic of God’s nature that makes the atonement absolutely necessary—His justice. God is loving, but a major part of what He loves is His own perfect character, with a major aspect being the importance of maintaining justice and righteousness. Though God pardons sinners and makes great provision for expressing His mercy, He will never negotiate His justice. If we fail to understand that, the cross of Christ will be utterly meaningless to us. —R. C. Sproul, The Truth of the Cross (Reformation Trust, 2007), 18–19.

Cosmic Treason

Sin, R. C. Sproul writes, “is cosmic treason.” We rarely take the time to think through the ramifications of human sin. We fail to realize that even the slightest sins we commit, such as little white lies or other peccadilloes we are violating the law of the creator of the universe. In the smallest sin we defy God’s right to rule and reign over His creation. Instead, we seek to usurp for ourselves the authority and power that belong properly to God. Even the slightest sin does violence to His holiness, to His glory, and to his righteousness. Every sin, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is truly an act of treason against a cosmic King. There are two aspects of the one problem we must understand if we are to grasp the necessity of the atonement of Christ. . . . God is just. In other words, He cannot tolerate unrighteousness. He must do what is right. . . . The other aspect of the problem [is that] we have violated God’s justice and earned His displeasure. We are cosmic traitors. We must recognize this problem within ourselves if we are to grasp the necessity of the cross. —R. C. Sproul, The Truth of the Cross (Reformation Trust, 2007), 32–33.

Why the God-man? (2)

Friday··2008·09·26 · 6 Comments
R. C. Sproul draws three circles illustrating the separation between God and man that made a substitutionary atonement by a God-man necessary. The first circle represented the character of man. Sproul continues: Imagine a second circle, just like the one we had for man, to represent the character of God. How many blemishes would we see in this circle? Absolutely none. We are totally depraved, but God is absolutely holy. In fact, He is too holy to even look at iniquity. He is perfectly just. Here, then, is the crux of the problem: how can an unjust person stand in the presence of God? Or, to put the question another way, how can an unjust person be made just, or justified? Can he start all over again? No. Once a person commits one sin, it is impossible for him ever to be perfect, because he’s lost his perfection with his initial sin. Can he pay the penalty for his sin? No—unless he wishes to spend an eternity in hell. Can God simply overlook the sin? No. If God did that, He would sacrifice His justice. Therefore, if man is to be made just, God’s justice must be satisfied. Someone must be able to pay te penalty for man’s sin. It must be a member of the offending party, the human race, but it must be one who has never fallen into the inescapable imperfection of sin. Given these requirements, no man could qualify. However, God Himself could. For this reason, God the Son came into the world and took on humanity. As the author of Hebrews says, “He had to be made like His brethren . . .” (Heb. 2:17a, emphasis added). —R. C. Sproul, The Truth of the Cross (Reformation Trust, 2007), 90–91.

A Biblical View of Grace

Grace is a word we hear often in the church, as well we ought. Sadly, it is a word that is not as commonly understood as spoken. J. I. Packer points out that many who speak the word have actually put their faith in something else. “What is it,” he asks, “that hinders so many who profess to believe in grace from really doing so?” The answer, he says, is that they have a basic misunderstanding of the relation between themselves and God. At the root of this is a failure to grasp “four crucial truths . . . which the doctrine of grace presupposes.” 1. The moral ill-desert of man. Modern men and women, conscious of their tremendous scientific achievements in recent years, naturally incline to a high opinion of themselves. They view material wealth as in any case more important than moral character, and in the moral realm they are resolutely kind to themselves, treating small virtues as compensating for great vices and refusing to take seriously the idea that, morally speaking, there is anything much wrong with them. . . . The thought of themselves as creatures fallen from God’s image, rebels against God’s rule, guilty and unclean in God’s sight, fit only for God’s condemnation, never enters their heads. 2. The retributive justice of God. The way of modern men and women is to turn a blind eye to all wrongdoing as long as they safely can. They tolerate it in others, feeling that there, but for the accident of circumstances, go they themselves. . . . The accepted maxim seems to be that as long as evil can be ignored, it should be; one should punish only as a last resort . . . In our pagan way, we take it for granted that God feels as we do. The idea that retribution might be the moral law of God’s world and an expression of his holy character seems to us quite fantastic. Those who uphold it find themselves accused of projecting onto God their own pathological impulses of rage and vindictiveness. Yet the Bible insists throughout that this world which God in his goodness has made is a moral world, one in which retribution is as basic a fact as breathing. . . . 3. The spiritual impotence of man. Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People has been almost a modern Bible. A whole technique of business relations has been built up in recent years on the principle of putting the other person in a position where he cannot decently say no. This has confirmed modern men and women in the faith which has animated pagan religion ever since there was such a thing—namely, the belief that we can repair our own relationship with God by putting God in position where he cannot say no anymore. Ancient pagans thought to do this by multiplying gifts and sacrifices; modern pagans seek to do it by churchmanship and morality. . . . but the Bible position is as stated by Toplady: Not the labours of my hand Can fulfill Thy law’s demands. Could my zeal no respite know, Could my tears for ever flow, All for sin could not atone —leading to the admission of one’s own helplessness and to the conclusion: Thou must save, and Thou alone. . . . 4. The sovereign freedom of God. Ancient paganism thought of each god as bound to his worshipers by bonds of self-interest, because he depended on their service and gifts for his welfare. Modern paganism has at the back of its mind a similar feeling that God is somehow obliged to love and help us, little though we deserve it. . . . But this feeling is not well founded. The God of the Bible does not depend on his human creatures for his well-being (see Ps 50:8–13; Acts 17:25), nor, now that we have sinned, is he bound to show us favor. We can only claim from him justice—and justice, for us, means certain condemnation. God does not owe it to anyone to stop justice taking its course. He is not obliged to pity and pardon; if he does so it is an act done, as we say, “of his own free will,” and nobody forces his hand. “It does not depend on man’s will or effort, but on God’s mercy” (Rom 9:16 NEB) Grace is free, in the sense of being self-originated and of proceeding from One who was free not to be gracious. Only when it is seen that what decides each individual’s destiny is whether or not God resolves to save him from his sins, and that this is a decision which God need not make in any single case, can one begin to grasp the biblical view of grace. —J. I. Packer, Knowing God (InterVarsity Press, 1993), 128–132.

The Righteous Judge

Tuesday··2008·12·16 · 2 Comments
God is love. This, quite naturally, is a major theme in our understanding of God. We speak of God’s love, we sing of God’s love, we “love to tell the story of Jesus and his love.” It ought to be reflexive for Christians to revel in the love of God. However, God is not a one-dimensional being; he is not only love. He is a holy God who is righteous and just, as well; and his love does not nullify those attributes. Not only is he a loving father, he is a righteous judge. His justice will be served. The Old Testament is filled with narratives of the judgment of God falling on both pagans and the people of God. This is not only an Old Testament manifestation of God’s character, nor is this quality limited to the Father. Jesus himself is “the righteous judge.” When we turn from Bible history to Bible teaching—the Law, the Prophets, the Wisdom writings, the words of Christ and his apostles—we find the thoughts of God’s action in judgment overshadowing everything. The Mosaic legislation is given as from a God who is himself a just judge and will not hesitate to inflict penalties by direct providential action if his people break his law. The prophets take up this theme; indeed, the greater part of their recorded teaching consists of exposition and application of the law, and threats of judgment against the lawless and impenitent. They spend a good deal more space preaching judgment than they do prediction the Messiah and his kingdom! In the Wisdom literature, the same viewpoint appears: the one basic certainty underlying all discussion of life’s problems in Job, Ecclesiastes and all the practical maxims of Proverbs is that “God will bring you to judgment,” “God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden sin, whether it is good or evil” (Eccles 11:9; 12:14). People who do not actually read the Bible confidently assure us that when we move from the old testament to the new, the theme of divine judgment fades in the background. But if we examine the New Testament, even in the most cursory way, we find at once that the Old Testament emphasized God’s action as a Judge, far from being reduced, is actually intensified. The entire New Testament is overshadowed by the certainty of a coming day of universal judgment, and by the problem thence arising: How may we sinners get right with God while there is yet time? The New Testament looks on to “the day of judgment,” “the day of wrath,” “the wrath to come,” and proclaims Jesus, the divine Savior, as the divinely appointed Judge. The judge who stands before the door (Jas 5:9), “ready to judge the living and the dead” (1 Pet 4:5), “the righteous Judge” who will give Paul his crown (2 Tim 4:8), is the Lord Jesus Christ. “He is the one who has been designate by God as judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42 NEB). God “has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed,” Paul told the Athenians (Acts 17:31); and to the Romans he wrote, “God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as the gospel declares” (Rom 2:16). Jesus himself says the same. “The Father . . . has entrusted all judgment to the Son. . . . And he has given him authority to judge. . . . A time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear the voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (NEB has “will rise to hear their doom”) (Jn 5:22, 27–29). The Jesus of the New Testament, who is the world’s Savior, is its Judge as well. —J. I. Packer, Knowing God (InterVarsity Press, 1993), 140–141.

Jesus as Judge

Last week in our reading of Packer we saw that “The Jesus of the New Testament, who is the world’s Savior, is its Judge as well.” Today we will see what kind of judge he is. His authority as judge is unlike that of any judge in the human realm. The judge of the world differs from earthly judges in authority, passion, wisdom, and power. What is involved on the idea of the Father, or Jesus, being a judge? Four thoughts at least are involved. 1. The judge is a person with authority. In the Bible world, the king was always the supreme judge, because his was the supreme ruling authority. It is on that basis , according to the Bible, that God is judge of his world. As our Maker, he owns us, and as our Owner, he has the right to dispose of us. He has, therefore, a right to make laws for us and to reward us according to whether or not we keep them. In most modern states, the legislature and the judiciary are divided, so that the judge does not make the laws he administers; but in the ancient world this was not so, and it is not so with God. He is both the Lawgiver and the Judge. 2. The judge is a person identified with what is good and right. The modern idea that a judge should be cold and dispassionate has no place in the Bible. The biblical judge is expected to love justice and fair play and to loathe all ill treatment of one person by another. An unjust judge, one who has no interest in seeing right triumph over wrong, is by biblical standards a monstrosity. The bible leaves us in no doubt that God loves righteousness and hates iniquity, and that the ideal of a judge wholly identified with what is good and right in perfectly fulfilled in him. 3. The judge is a person of wisdom, to discern truth. In the biblical setting, the judge’s first task is to ascertain the facts in the case that is before him. There is no jury; it is his responsibly, and his alone, to question, and cross-examine, and detect lies and pierce through evasions and establish how matters really stand. When the Bible pictures God judging, it emphasizes his omniscience and wisdom as the searcher of hearts and the finder of facts. Nothing can escape him; we may fool men, but we cannot fool God. He knows us, and judges us, as we really are. When Abraham met the Lord in human form at the oaks of Mamre, he gave Abraham to understand the he was on the way to Sodom, to establish the truth about the moral situation there. “The Lord said, ‘The outcry against Sodom and Gamorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down an see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know’” (Gen 18:20–21). So it is always. God will know. His judgment is according to truth—factual truth, as well as moral truth. He judges “the secrets of men,” not just their public façade. Not for nothing does Paul say, “We must all be made manifest before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor 5:10 RV). 4. The judge is a person of power to execute sentence. The modern judge does no more than pronounce the sentence; another department of the judicial executive then carries it out. The same was true in the ancient world. But God is his own executioner. As he legislates and sentences, so he punishes. All judicial functions coalesce in him. —J. I. Packer, Knowing God (InterVarsity Press, 1993), 141–142.

Thou Most Worthy Judge Eternal

Judge—it’s a serious title, and one that does not evoke pleasant thoughts. It’s certainly not the first word we think of when we hear the name “Jesus.” But we do not understand Jesus rightly if we neglect knowing him as our judge. It is not always realized that the main New Testament authority on final judgment, just as on heaven and hell, is the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Rightly does the Anglican burial service address Jesus in a single breath as “holy and merciful Saviour, thou most worthy Judge eternal.” For Jesus constantly affirmed that in the day when all appear before God’s throne to receive the abiding and eternal consequences of the life they have lived, he himself will be the Father’s agent in judgment, and his word of acceptance or rejection will be decisive. Passages to note in this connection are, among others, Matthew 7:13–27; 10:26–33; 12:36–37; 13:24–50; 22:1–14; 24:36–25:46; Luke 13:23–30; 16:19–31; John 5:22–30. The clearest prefiguration of Jesus as Judge is in Matthew 25:31–34, 41: “The Son of Man . . . will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations [everybody] will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another. . . . Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance. . . .” Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire.’” The clearest account of Jesus’ prerogative as Judge is in John 5:22–23, 26–29: “The Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. . . . The Father . . . has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man [to whom dominion, including judicial functions, was promised: Dan 7:13–14]. A time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (RSV). God’s own appointment has made Jesus Christ inescapable. He stands at the end of life’s road for everyone without exception. “Prepare to meet your God” was Amos’s message to Israel (Amos 4:12); “prepare to meet the risen Jesus” is God’s message to the world today (see Acts 17:31). And we can be sure that he who is true God and perfect man will make a perfectly just judge. —J. I. Packer, Knowing God (InterVarsity Press, 1993), 144–145. These last few posts have presented Jesus as quite fearsome, and fearsome he is. But there is more to the story of “Jesus as Judge.” Next time . . .

Judge and Savior

The last three posts in this series have presented Jesus as our judge. He is holy and righteous, and has received all power and authority from the Father to judge all men. The day is coming when he will do just that. This ought to be a cause for terror in the hearts of all who have not bowed to his lordship. But for those who are his, there is another side to Christ. Paul refers to the fact that we must all appear before Christ’s judgment seat as “the terror of the Lord” (2 Cor 5:11 KJV), and well he might. Jesus the Lord, like his Father is holy and pure; we are neither. We live under his eye, he knows our secrets, and on judgment day the whole of our past life will be played back, as it were, before him and brought under review. If we know ourselves at all, we know we are not fit to face him. What then are we to do? The New Testament answer is: Call on the coming Judge to be your present Savior. As Judge, he is the law, but as Savior he is the gospel. Run from him now, and you will meet him as Judge then—and without hope. Seek him now, and you will find him (for “he that seeketh findeth”), and you will then discover that you are looking forward to that future meeting with joy, knowing that there is now “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1). So— Whilst I draw this fleeting breath; When my eyelids close in death; When I soar through tracts unknown, See thee on thy judment-throne; Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in thee. —J. I. Packer, Knowing God (InterVarsity Press, 1993), 146–147.

Meek and Bold

Spurgeon on the unhesitatingly confrontational character of Christ: Brethren, the Savior’s character has all goodness and all perfection; he is full of grace and truth. Some men, nowaday, talk of him as if he were simply incarnate benevolence. It is not so. No lips ever spoke with such thundering indignation against sin as the lips of the Messiah. “He is like a refiner’s fire, and like a fuller’s soap. His fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor.” while in tenderness he prays for his tempted disciple, that his faith may not fail, yet with awful sternness he winnows the heap, and drives away the chaff into unquenchable fire. We speak of Christ as being meek and lowly in spirit, and so he was. A bruised reed he did not break, and the smoking flax he did not quench; but his meekness was balanced by his courage, and by the boldness with which he denounced hypocrisy. “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, ye fools and blind, ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” These are not words of the milksop some authors represent Christ to have been. He is a man—a thorough man throughout—a God-like man—gentle as a woman, but yet stern as a warrior in the midst of the day of battle. The character is balanced; as much of one virtue as another. As in Deity every attribute is full orbed; justice never eclipses mercy, nor mercy justice, nor justice faithfulness; so in the character of Christ you have all the excellent things. —Charles Spurgeon, “Sweet Saviour,” cited in John MacArthur, The Jesus You Can’t Ignore (Thomas Nelson, 2009), 99.

Lord’s Day 9, 2016

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry out or raise His voice, Nor make His voice heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not be disheartened or crushed Until He has established justice in the earth; And the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law. —Isaiah 42:1–4, cf. Matthew 12:20–21 Early Piety Samuel Stennett (1727–1795) How soft the words my Savior speaks! How kind the promises He makes! A bruised reed He never breaks, Nor will He quench the smoking flax. The humble poor He won't despise, Nor on the contrite sinner frown; His ear is open to their cries, He quickly sends salvation down. When piety in early minds Like tender buds, begins to shoot, He guards the plants from threatening winds, And ripens blossoms into fruit. With humble souls He bears a part In all the sorrows they endure; Tender and gracious is His heart, His promise is forever sure. He sees the struggles that prevail Between the powers of grace and sin; He kindly listens while they tell The bitter pangs they feel within. Though pressed with fears on every side, They know not how the strife may end; Yet He will soon the cause decide, And judgment into victory send. —Worthy Is the Lamb (Soli Deo Gloria, 2004). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about "sermon from:thethirstytheo" !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+"://";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

Faith and the Attributes of God (1)

My righteous one shall live by faith —Hebrews 10:38 The efficacy of faith is not in its strength, but in its object. “The object of faith,” writes David Clarkson, “is God in Christ, as made known in his attributes, offices, relations, promises, and providences.” Just as our trust in any person depends on what we know of his character, our trust in God can only rest on his character as he has revealed himself to us. [God’s Divine attributes] are the pillows and grounds of faith, rocks of eternity, upon which faith may securely repose: ‘Though the earth should be removed,’ &c. ‘The name of the Lord’ (i. e., his attributes) ‘is a strong tower, the righteous fly into it,’ and faith admits and there secures them. Hence this is faith’s ordinary plea in Scripture. ‘For thy name’s sake,’ i. e., for the glory of those attributes whereby thou art known to us, as men are known by their names. These are frequently propounded and made use of as the objects and supports of faith. Power. This is it on which the heroical faith of Abraham fixed: Rom. iv. 21, ‘Being fully persuaded that what he had promised he was able to perform.’ Wisdom. This upheld Peter’s faith, when Christ, so often questioning his love, might have made him doubt of it: ‘Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest I love thee,’ John xxi. 17. And David’s faith acts upon the omnisciency and immensity of God, Ps. cxxxix. Justice. This was David’s plea: Ps. cxliii. 11, ‘For thy righteousness sake bring my soul out of trouble.’ And Daniel’s, ix. 16, ‘Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee,’ &c. Faithfulness. This was the foundation on which Solomon raised that prayer, so full of faith, 1 Kings viii. 33, ‘There is no God like unto thee, who keepest covenant and mercy with thy servants;’ and Dan. ix. 4, Heb. x. 23. Truth. David useth this, Ps. cxv. 1, ‘For thy truth’s sake;’ and frequently, ‘Do this according to thy word,’ Ps. cxix. 154. Mercy. Faith never finds more strong support, nor ever fixes with so much delight as here: Ps. cxix. 149, ‘Hear my voice, according to thy loving-kindness;’ Ps. cxxx. 7, ‘Let Israel hope in the Lord: for with the Lord there is mercy;’ Ps. lii. 8, ‘I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.’ —David Clarkson, Of Living by Faith, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:176.

Why God Must Punish Sin

Sin being entered into the world, the Lord was concerned not to let it go unpunished. It is enough for our purpose, which is out of question, that it was the Lord’s will and determination to punish all sin. But there seems to be a sufficient proof, that it was not from the mere pleasure of his will that he should be punished, but there was a necessity for it, from the nature and perfections of God, and from his relation to man as his governor, and from the law enacted as the rule of his government. The Lord is obliged, not only by his truth and unchangeableness, but by his wisdom, holiness, and justice, to punish sin. His truth engages him to it. He threatens it in his law, and if he will rule according to law, it must be inflicted. His truth is obliged for the executing of the threatening, and to make good what he had declared to be his resolution. His unchangeableness makes it necessary. He did determine from eternity to punish it. The event shews that it was eternal purpose, and the counsel of the Lord must stand: he is not as man. His wisdom makes it necessary. The end and designs of his law and government would be lost, his law would appear to be powerless and insignificant, his government would be rendered contemptible, the authority of the one, and the honour of the other defaced, if sin is not punished. The holiness of God requires it. Sin is contrary to him; he hates it. If he will shew himself to be what he is, ‘an holy God, of purer eyes than to behold evil, and who cannot look on iniquity,’ Hab. i. 13, it is necessary to shew his hatred of it by punishing it: Josh. xxiv. 19, ‘he will not forgive,’ that is, he will punish, because he is holy, where, as in other places, the necessity of punishing is grounded upon his holiness. If the Lord be necessarily an holy God, it will be necessary to hate sin; for hatred of sin is essential to holiness, and cannot be conceived or apprehended without it. Now to hate sin . . . necessarily includes a will to punish it. It is essential to holiness to be displeased with sin. Now as the love of God is our chief reward, so God’s displeasure is the chief punishment of it. If then it be not necessary that he punish sin, there will be no necessity that he be displeased at sin. It will be arbitrary to the holy God to be pleased with sin, if it be arbitrary not to punish it. We might conceive that he may as well be pleased with sin as displeased with it, which is intolerable to say or imagine. Finally, His justice obliges him to punish it; for suffering is indispensably due to sin, and the sinner justly deserves it, and justice requires that everything, every one, should have his due, that every disobedience receives a just recompence of reward, Heb. ii. 21, Rom. i. 32, 2 Thes. i. It is righteous with God to give to every one according to his work. —David Clarkson, Justification by the Righteousness of Christ, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:282–283. This is very bad news, but there is good news to come.

God Will Punish Sin

Having seen why God must punish sin, and knowing that we are all sinners, we are left in an apparently hopeless position. Since there is such necessity that sin be punished, and the Lord so highly concerned to inflict the penalty due to sin, either the sinners themselves must bear the penalty, or some other for them; if the sinners themselves must bear the punishment, no flesh could be saved, all mankind must be eternally miserable, for it is the penalty expressed by death and curse. If some other bear the penalty for them, it must be such a person, and in such a way, that will be as satisfactory to justice, and as full a salvo to the divine perfections concerned in his law and government, as if the sinners themselves suffered it. The design of the law must be secured, and the ends of divine government attained, and the justice, holiness, truth, and wisdom of God vindicated and manifested, as much as if the penalty was inflicted upon the transgressors themselves. —David Clarkson, Justification by the Righteousness of Christ, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:284. But there is good news: We have a substitute. It was Christ that undertook this, and the way wherein he effected it was by suffering in our stead. This is it which we are concerned to maintain; Christ suffered in our stead; for if he did not, the punishment due to sin is not inflicted (since his bearing the punishment due to our sin, and his suffering in our stead is all one), neither we nor any for us undergo it. Thus sin, as to all that are saved, will go unpunished every way, and so the ends of government are neglected by the infinite wise and righteous Governor of the world, and the glory of his wisdom, truth, justice, and holiness are by himself exposed and left to suffer without any salvo. If we be saved in a way that will not secure the honour of the divine perfections, salvation will be effected in a way not consistent with the honour of God. But no salvation can be expected on these terms, and therefore either none will be saved by Christ, or else it is upon the account of his bearing the penalty of the law in their stead. But by Christ’s suffering in our stead all is secured, justice is satisfied for them, sin hath its deserts, that which is due to it, and which justice requires should be inflicted for it; his holiness is demonstrated, for what clearer evidence, that he is of purer eyes than to behold it, that he perfectly hates it, than by punishing it in his own Son, when he appeared but in the room of sinners. His truth is manifested, when the Lord of life must die, rather than what the law denounced shall not be executed; his wisdom is no way impeached, the ends of government fully attained, the law vindicated from contempt, the authority of the great lawgiver upheld, and the children of men deterred from sin, when the Son of God must suffer for it. I need not here give an account of that abundant evidence we have in Scripture that Christ should suffer in our stead, only this in short: the several notions whereby his death is represented to us in Scripture, make it plain that he suffered and died not only for our good, but in our stead. His death is held forth as a punishment, as a ransom, and as a sacrifice. His death was a punishment: He was ‘wounded for our transgressions;’ he died for our sins; that is, he suffered what our sins deserved, that we might not suffer; and this is the very thing that we mean by his suffering in our stead. His death was our ransom, Mat. xx. 28. He paid that in our behalf which justice required of him, and this is to pay it in our stead. His death was a sacrifice: he died that we might escape that death which was the penalty of the law transgressed by us. As the life of the sacrifice went for the life of the sinner for whom it was offered; this is to die in our stead, as the sacrifice died instead of the offender. —Ibid. (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:284–285.

God Is Satisfied

God must punish sin, and Christ has taken that punishment. With that, God is satisfied. Christ’s sufferings were accepted for us, and accepted as suffered in our stead. None who believe he suffered will question but his sufferings were accepted; nor will any deny that they were accepted as suffered in our stead, but those who against all evidence of Scripture deny that he suffered in our stead. (1.) The ground of his death and suffering; (2.) The end and design of them; (3.) Their full sufficiency for their end; (4.) The dignity and quality of the person suffering; everything, in a manner, which occurs therein tends to make this unquestionable among all Christians. It was the will of the Father, expressed in the form of a covenant between Father and Son, that the Son taking our nature should thus suffer, Ps. xl. 6–8, Heb. x. 5. The Father promises that these sufferings should be accepted, Isa. liii. 10, 11. The Son, upon assurance of the Father’s acceptance, submits to the sufferings. He suffered all that in justice was required, that way might be made for our acquitment. His sufferings were a full demonstration of his truth, wisdom, holiness, justice, yea, of his mercy too; the Lord was hereby every way transcendently glorified, and that which thus glorifies him must needs be highly acceptable. He that suffered was not only man, but God, of the same essence, power, and will with the Father. His sufferings and blood was the sufferings and blood of him who is God, and therefore of infinite value, and so most worthy of all acceptance, such as could not in justice but be accepted. The Lord was herewith fully satisfied, and that which fully satisfied him was unquestionably accepted. —David Clarkson, Justification by the Righteousness of Christ, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:285.


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