Summary: God’s justice is more than fair, especially when it is stacked up next to his grace.
GOD IS JUST!
I recall playing basketball with my two nephews several years ago. We divided up into teams, the two of them against me. I did pretty well at first… and why not? I was almost twice the size of my nephews. After a little while, though, one of my nephews caught on. He began to make up rules that made things more fair, rules like, “Uncle Eddie has to shoot the ball with his left hand while standing on one foot.” Suddenly the score became more even. He changed the rules.
The desire to change the rules is a temptation for a lot of people, especially when it comes to religion. Some people would like to change the rules about God’s justice. They doubt that God can judge people for eternity. Yet, God’s Word tells us differently. He is infinitely holy, infinitely mighty, and eternal. As the apostle Paul says, GOD IS JUST! This fact is proven in Scripture and in people’s lives. 1) Persecution Proves It, 2) Suppression of the Truth Proves It, and 3) Salvation in Glory will Prove It.
1) Persecution Proves It
Justice and punishment are often two closely connected concepts in the Bible. God’s justice is often expressed through punishment. But there’s more to God’s justice than that. He isn’t some uninterested being who mechanically hands out retribution at the drop of a pin. God is actively interested in people’s lives. Think about your life as a believer in Christ. Has it always been easy? Has a friendship ever been broken because of your faith? Were you ever honest with a group of friends, told them about your faith in Jesus, only to have them laugh in your face?
What if you lost the love and support of your family because of your faith? In Japan, we have an active mission effort. There are missionaries sharing the gospel with much success. Quite often, when a Japanese person comes to know Jesus, he is ostracized from his family. I’ve met some of those young people who’ve been rejected by their families. Imagine how it must feel to have mom or dad tell you that they hate you; to have your grandfather curse you; or your grandmother spit in your face because you believe in Christ. There are two ways to respond to something like that. One way is to fall into despair, feel sorry for ourselves, and lose heart. The other thing we can do is turn to the Lord and find comfort in his Word. Listen to what the apostle Paul says about God’s justice. “All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God.” Trial and suffering come along, and it’s easy for Christians to think that maybe their suffering is God’s judgment for their sins. But that’s not what God says. God does not give us what we deserve for sin. He doesn’t punish us. God punished sin on the cross. God punished his own Son for our sins. God put our sins on his Son, nailed him to the cross in our place. As a result he nailed our sins to the cross, so that he wouldn’t have to nail us there. We believe that. Because we have faith in God’s grace, we will face persecution and ridicule. But those trials are not punishment. Rather, persecution, suffering because of faith, is “evidence” of the fact that God is just. In his good judgment, he declares us to be believers. God proves it through persecution.
2) Suppression of the Truth Proves It
The apostle Peter also explains how persecution and faithfulness during persecution are evidence that we belong to God: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, if you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.”
Why are people mocked for their faith? Why is there persecution? It’s partly because there are so many people who are suppressing the truth. Satan wants to keep the truth down. He’s hard at work right now. Just think of how many people mock the concept of God’s justice. In today’s modern world, the concept of hell is really more of a joke than a reality. We’ve seen it in Far Side cartoons; we’ve heard David Letterman give us hell’s “Top Ten Headlines -- #1) Ice Water Canceled …Again!” Now, these things are somewhat humorous and might even be harmless. But, if anything, they serve as an indicator as to how the majority of people feel about God’s justice. It seems that talk about hell has about the same impact that warning labels on cigarette packages have on smokers: “Maybe it’s bad, but it’ll never happen to me.” Most people don’t see God as just. They don’t fear his wrath.