God is Just – Doctrine 101

Standard

Discussion:
a) What would the world be like if God did not love righteousness and hate sin?

It’s almost a meaningless question. Our present reality exists as an expression of God’s character, including His love and justice. If we lived in a deistic world created according to those rules, then abandoned by God, then despair or absurdity would be the only rational responses.

b) In what ways is it right to imitate God’s wrath, and in what ways is it wrong for us to do so?

The key, I suppose, is to faithfully represent God’s wrath within our sphere of authority, neither tolerating sin nor overstepping our own bounds (and limitations).

Journal:
If the reason for the delay in bringing about justice in a sin-filled world is so that people have more time to repent, what should you be doing in the area of evangelism to make the most of the opportunity that some of your family and friends still have before it is too late?

Homework:
Read RCS #18 (incl. Bible passages).

Written work:
1. Write the words for a 4-line worship song that celebrates God’s holiness.
From GraceFather:

In a garden dark with guilt and shame
I hid from the Light that calls my name
Having failed the Law I once held dear
All my brokenness becomes so clear
Then Love comes crashing through that day
Smashing all my self-made chains away
With a voice of Hope, and a hand of Grace
My precious Lord dies in my place

2. In 4 or 5 sentences, explain why grace and mercy (God not treating us as we deserve) are not an expression of injustice. (For if God is just, surely he should treat people as they deserve!)

IMHO, it is dangerous to try to separate out God’s different attributes. Both His mercy/grace and His justice are expressions of His overall character, and exist in service to His overall purposes: His own glory. “Justice” in the abstract is meaningless, and carried to extremes is actually unjust. The deeper reality is that none of us deserve anything, and are all treated better than we deserve (though some “more better” than others, for reasons I frankly can’t comprehend).

3. Summarize the conclusions to the class discussion questions above.

4. Complete your answer to the Journal questions above.

I don’t quite agree with premise, so I’m not bound by the conclusion. 🙂 Still, I agree I should be praying more precisely — and acting more strategically — to build bridges of God’s love to my neighbors and co-workers.

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Doctrine 101: Learning about God
Worksheet 9 – God is Just

1. Write down the definition of “right” from the lecture notes.

Whatever conforms to God’s character.

2. Why is punishment necessary?

Unclear. The notes imply it is so that God would not “seem” to be unrighteousness — but why should He care about appearances? A more precise answer might be “to reveal His justice.”

3. What is Rom 3.25 explaining about God’s righteousness? (Refer to section 2 in your lecture notes.

That (at least one aspect of) Christ’s crucifixion was to demonstrate that God’s righteousness required a price to be paid, and that He paid it.

4. On what basis can we be confident that absolute justice will prevail? (Refer to section 2.)

Because justice is an absolute aspect of God’s character, and thus will ultimately be revealed.

5. Describe God’s wrath. (Refer to section 3 in the lecture notes.)

The natural response to anything that detracts from His glory.

6. How should we respond to God’s wrath?

Very, very carefully! 🙂
Seriously, we should treat it with both gratitude and humility, knowing that it is necessary and yet that we are very fortunate to be recipients of His mercy.

7. Look at the R. C. Sproul‘s third summary statement on p. 54 (p. 53, PDF).

Injustice is outside the category of justice and is a violation of justice.
Mercy is outside the category of justice but is
not a violation of justice. (emphasis mine)

Compare James 2.13. How does the verse from James help explain what Sproul has written? Why is what James writes true?

James implies that Mercy is larger than and “contains” Judgement; thus, anything that denies mercy is inevitably less than fully just.

8. In the second last paragraph on p. 54 (third para., p. 53, PDF) Sproul writes, “Mercy and grace are forms of nonjustice.” What do you think he means?

That they go beyond what “simple justice” would expect.

Do you think this is a good way to express the relationship between mercy and justice? Why or why not?

The idea of “nonjustice” vs. “injustice” is an interesting and useful distinction, though apart from a deeper understanding of justice I’m not sure how helpful it is in practice.

9. Look at Gen 18.25. What particular action is Abraham saying would not be just?

Destroying many righteous people along with the wicked of Sodom.

What is Abraham actually asking the Lord to do? Is he pleading for justice or is he pleading for more than justice? Explain.

A fascinating question. Read literally, Abraham is not explicitly asking for mercy on the “wicked” Sodomites, merely for reassurance than the righteous among them will not unjustly share in their fate. Yet, I sometimes wonder if his larger goal was in fact to save Sodom (in which case, of course, he failed).

10. Read Exod 34.6-7. How do the Lord’s words reveal that He is just?

He rewards the faithful for many generations, and punishes the wicked for 3-4.

11. Read Neh 9.30-33. Identify the focus in each of the following. Is it justice or mercy?

30 However, You bore with them for many years,
And admonished them by Your Spirit through Your prophets,
Yet they would not give ear.

Mercy

Therefore You gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands.

Justice

31″Nevertheless, in Your great compassion You did not make an end of them or forsake them,
For You are a gracious and compassionate God.

Mercy

32″Now therefore, our God, (F)the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps covenant and lovingkindness,
Do not let all the hardship seem insignificant before You,
Which has come upon us, our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers and on all Your people,
From the days of the kings of Assyria to this day.

Justice (?)

33″However, (H)You are just in all that has come upon us;
For You have dealt faithfully, but we have acted wickedly.

Justice

  • What was necessary for God to be faithful to His people?

Both justice and mercy.

12. Read Psalm 145.17. How do the Lord’s deeds relate to His ways?

His specific deeds are instances of His general ways, and exemplify their overall trend.

13. Read Rom 9.14-16. Does justice depend on a man’s choosing or acting? Explain

Ultimately, no. God will work out His justice eventually, one way or the other, whether or not any one of us chooses to cooperate.

Does mercy depend on a man’s choosing or acting? Explain

Not at all; if anything, the other way around: everything we do is by His mercy.

14. Is God always free to do as He pleases with justice? Explain your answer.

Define “free”. He is, as always, limited only by His will and character. Yet, justice is in some sense a “fixed point” in His character, in that He can go beyond it but never beneath it, so it is “less free” than, say mercy.

Is God always free to do what He pleases with mercy? Explain you answer.

As far as I can see, mercy appears to be completely discretionary with God. To be sure, He has promised mercy in certain circumstances, but it does seem “contingent” in the sense that God could have chosen to show mercy in ways different than what He actually did.

15. Now look at Rom 9.22-23. What is being said about God’s justice in v. 22?

That even His justice requires a certain amount of patience and mercy. Also, that we have no right to complain whether we receive justice or mercy.

Why did God handle His justice the way He did? (See v. 23)

As usual, to reveal His glory.

For whom did He handle His justice the way He did?
Huh. To us, as objects of His mercy. Amazing.

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