JUSTICE CALLED; GRACE ANSWERED
by Bob Wheeler
But if God is both just and compassionate, what should He do about man’s sin? Justice demands that He punish it; but compassion wants to forgive the sinner. And if He punishes sin He destroys man, whom He originally created. What should He do?
It should be noted that the problem was created by man, not by God. There is nothing wrong with justice; there is nothing wrong with compassion. The problem is man’s sin, and man created the problem by doing things that he himself knows is wrong. The problem lies with us, not with God.
But that being said, what should God do? There is one possible way out of the dilemma. If a substitute could be found, someone to take our place and pay the penalty for our sins, God could forgive us while at the same time uphold His justice. Sins could be punished and forgiven at the same time.
But who would be willing to do such a thing? And more to the point, who would even be qualified to do such a thing? The substitute would have to be absolutely innocent himself, or else he would merely be paying for his own sins. And he would have to be a person whose life would be equal to that of millions of human beings combined, or else he could be a substitute for only one other person. The rest of us would be lost. The whole scenario seems highly unlikely.
But then something extraordinary happened. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4,5; NKJV). “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
As it turns out Jesus was the only Person qualified to fill the role. First of all, He was completely sinless Himself. He was “in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). He can sympathize with us, having lived here on earth as a human being, yet He never succumbed to temptation. Yet because He was also God, God the Father’s own dear Son, His blood was of infinite value, and could atone for the sins of all those who would come to Him in faith.
And yet at what a cost to God the Father! “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son . . .” Jesus was the Father’s “only begotten Son.” God has many adopted children, but Jesus was His only eternal Son by nature. And it was His only begotten Son that He sent into the world to die for our sins. Jesus was born under the humblest circumstances, was arrested under false charges and given a mockery of a trial. He was mocked, scourged and suffered an agonizing death on a cross. And all of this happened to God’s only begotten Son, the only human being who was absolutely without sin Himself, the last Person on earth who deserved to die. No greater travesty of justice ever occurred in human history. And He did that of us, to atone for our sins and obtain forgiveness for us.
Christ would not have done it unless it had been absolutely necessary to satisfy the demands of divine justice. “. . .without the shedding of blood there is no remission” (Heb. 9:23); and yet “it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (Heb. 10:4). Therefore God “sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (I John 4:10).
At the same time God would not have sent His Son to die for our sins if He had not had a great love for us. “But God demonstrates His own love towards us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). God sent His Son to die for us, not because we were lovable – “we were still sinners” – but because of the pity and compassion He has for His ruined and suffering creatures. And He demonstrates His love for us, but by excusing our sin, but by sending His own Son to die on the cross and atone for it.
“Amazing love, how can it be
That Thou my God shouldst die for me?”
In this way the demands of both justice and compassion can be met simultaneously. Sin is both punished and forgiven at the same time. God is able to “demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). “Mercy and truth have met together; / Righteousness and peach have kissed” (Psalm 85:10).
It is important to mention that this is the reason why there is no salvation outside of Christ. It simply not true that Jesus was one of several different great religious teachers down through history, and that “all roads lead to heaven.” Man’s real problem is his sin and guilt before a holy God, and the only solution to that problem is Christ’s atonement on the cross. Christ was much more than a great prophet or religious leader; He is the Savior, the only Savior. “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all . . .” (I Tim. 2:5,6a).