The justice we deserve and the justice we get

If our understanding of Justice starts with the right that God has to justice then it will help us to see more clearly the justice we deserve.

God warned Adam and Eve in Eden that if they ate from the Tree of Knowledge then they would surely die.  This was a justice issue.  It was not just a warning about the tragic consequences that they would face if they crossed a boundary.

Satan’s temptation encouraged Adam and Eve to doubt God’s Word and God’s goodness. In other words, it was calculated to insult, mock and shame God. It was an attempt to diminish his glory. Satan’s temptation encouraged Adam and Eve to rebel against God and become his rivals. This meant that God’s claim over his creation was denied. Satan was encouraging rebellion, war and rebellion.

So, when God acts against Sin, as we have seen, he acts first for his own glory, his own name’s sake, his own justice.

It means that because the Son loves the Father, he acted for the Father’s glory when he died on the Cross. It also means that because the Father loves the Son, he will vindicate, honour and glorify him so that

“At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth.”[1]

And

“The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.”[2]

This is important because it means that the Gospel is Trinitarian and Christocentric. This means that mission is Christocentric too. I am writing here about justice and I have a concern for how we stand up for the victims of injustice but we must never confuse these proper concerns of godly living as God’s people together with the mission of the Church.

It is right to be passionate about things like racism, sexism, classism, euthanasia and abortion. However, our passion for those things must never come at the expense of our passion for the Gospel. This is not least so because it is only the Gospel that can provide true and lasting hope for the victims of injustice.

It is also a vital reminder that even those examples of injustice described have at their root cause our sin and that we as the Human Race share collective responsibility for this because all sinned in Adam (c.f Romans 5:12-17). This means that although we may find this uncomfortable to hear, there is no-one who is just a victim, no-one who is completely innocent.

So, death including spiritual death and alienation from God in this life, mortality and then the eternal punishment of Hell is the justice that we deserve.  Living in a fallen world with all its pain, suffering and injustice is also part of that justice we deserve.

But we don’t get the justice we deserve. We get something different.  Paul makes the following contrasts:

Wages v gift

Works v faith

Adam v Christ

In Adam, we receive the wages (death) of our works (sin). In Christ we receive the free gift of Eternal Life because we are justified through faith. Justification is all to do with justice. It’s a legal term. It means that someone stands up in court and is declared in the right.

The Bible is clear that our justification is based not on our own righteousness. We receive Christ’s righteousness. In other words, the decision in our favour is dependent completely on the verdict about him.

Another dimension to this is that we receive Christ’s verdict because we are in him, we have been united with him, we belong to him and so his verdict and status belong to us, just as Adam’s verdict and status used to belong to us.

This justice means that rebel sinners who were at war with God are reconciled to Him and adopted into his family so that we can share the privileges of sons and heirs.

[1] Ephesians 1:10.

[2] 1 Peter 2:7.

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