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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
 
Title:Is there injustice on God's part?
Text:LD 4 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Justice
 
Preached:2014
Added:2014-07-15
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Note:  all songs from the 2010 Book of Praise

Hymn 4

Psalm 11

Psalm 92:1,2,6,7

Hymn 1

Hymn 84

Scripture readings:  Job 34:1-20, Romans 9:1-29

Catechism lesson:  Lord's Day 4
 

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Christ,

Part of being a Christian is affirming many things as real, even though we can’t see them.  In fact, a big part of being a Christian is embracing and believing many invisible realities.  We do that on the basis of God’s Word.  God’s Word says that this or that is real and therefore we believe it.  We believe it because of who it is who says it. 

Unfortunately, there are many who deny reality.  When you witness to them, they might say something like, “Well, that might be true for you, but I look at things differently.”  You have your reality and they have theirs.  But imagine for a moment you’re at southern Ontario’s longest suspension footbridge.  Maybe you’ve been there.  It’s at the Scenic Caves, near Collingwood.  Imagine we’re together on this suspension footbridge, maybe it’s swaying a bit in the wind.  We’re over 80 feet above the ground below.  And I start to climb over the edge.  Of course, you would probably freak out.  You’d probably say, “What are you doing?  You’re going to die!”  But what if I were to say, “No, you just have your own reality.  I have my own.  You know what, I’m not the gravity type.”  The problem is gravity is reality.  If you step off the bridge, gravity will take you down no matter what you might say you think about it.  Gravity is reality.

So is a just God.  Romans 1 tells us that this is a reality that all people know within their hearts.  In their hearts, every single human being knows that they are a creature of God and they will be accountable to God for their wickedness.  But according to Romans 1:18, unregenerate human beings suppress this truth.  They want to deny reality, but they can only do that by lying.  They lie to themselves:  “There is no just God.  If there is a God, he must love me unconditionally.  There will be no judgment for me after I die.”  They lie to others, “No, I don’t believe there is a God who is a judge.  I’m basically a good person and if there’s a God, he’ll see that I’m basically good.  I have nothing to worry about.”  But these are lies and everyone knows it.

Certainly the Bible tells us something different.  The Bible gives us the good news of our salvation in Jesus Christ.  You will have a right relationship with God if you turn from your sin and place your entire trust in Christ.  By God’s free grace, forgiveness and acceptance are there for you in Jesus Christ.  That’s good news!  But that good news is only so good because there is the reality of bad news.  The reality is that there is a just God.  The reality is that we have offended this just God.  The reality is what Hebrews 12:28 says, “…our God is a consuming fire.”  Reality is described in 2 Thessalonians 1:8.  There are those who think that wrath is something that belongs to God, but love and mercy belong to Jesus.  Well, 2 Thessalonians 1:8 speaks about the return of Jesus.  It says that he will come “in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”  You see, when we speak about the reality of a just God with an open Bible, we’re also going to be speaking about Jesus.

This afternoon, we’re going to learn about the justice of God with help from the biblical summary we find in Lord’s Day 4 of the Catechism.  We’ll again be reminded of the reality that we all know in our hearts, but that has also been revealed in Scripture.  We’ll take our theme from the question and answer of Paul in Romans 9:14, “Is there injustice on God’s part?  By no means!”

We’ll consider:

  1. What God’s justice involves
  2. How God’s justice is expressed
  3. Why God’s justice is maintained

As we saw last time from Lord’s Day 3, raw human nature is so corrupt that unregenerate human beings are totally unable to do any good and inclined to all evil.  Unregenerate people are not able not to sin.  So then is it fair for God to demand that such people do what they cannot do?  Isn’t God being unjust in his requirements? 

Our Catechism reminds us that God’s requirements came before the fall into sin.  Before the fall into sin, God required man to love him and to love the people around him and to do all this perfectly and consistently.  Man was created able to do this.  Adam and Eve were created in such a way that they could choose not to sin.  They had genuine freedom, given to them by God.  But they deliberately chose the way of disobedience.  That’s not on God.  That’s on Adam and Eve and on all of us.  There is no injustice on God’s part.  God is just.

What that means is that God is always a judge.  He is always a fair judge.  God’s justice means that there is never a moment when he has a lapse in good judgment.  God can always be counted on to make the right judgment on what he sees and hears around him.  So in terms of QA 9 of the Catechism, God is not out of line when he continues to require obedience to his law after the fall into sin.  He continues to be just.  Because it is ingrained in his being, God simply cannot be unjust.

A study was recently done of judges in the court system and the things that might influence their decisions.  Columbia Business School professor Jonathan Levav studied parole judges.  His study showed that when you get your hearing before a parole judge can play a huge role in the decision the judge makes.  Specifically, the sooner after a meal you appear before a judge, the more likely you are to get a favourable outcome for yourself.  So if you appear before a judge right before lunch, you’re not likely to get released.  But if you appear before a parole judge right after lunch, you’re more likely to have things go your way.  Professor Levav concluded that food in the stomach sways justice in human courtrooms.  There are all kinds of factors at play when a human being is on the bench. 

But none of those things are an issue when God is on the bench.  There is nothing arbitrary about divine justice.  It is constant and consistent.  Divine justice is dependable.  It will never change from one day to the next, because it’s rooted in God’s own character, which never changes.  God is a perfectly just judge, always has been, and always will be.       

In Job 34, we read the words of Elihu.  Elihu is an interesting character in the book of Job.  As you know, the book begins with Job being plunged into horrific suffering.  His three friends come to him and try to help him.  The comfort they offer is cold and judgmental.  Then along comes this other character, Elihu.  Elihu rebukes Job’s friends, but he also rebukes Job on certain points.  Elihu is closer to what God will say at the end of the book, but there’s still a mixture of truth and error in his words.  Even when he speaks truth, sometimes he misapplies it to Job’s situation.  

Well, in Job 34, Elihu speaks some words of truth about God’s justice.  It might be argued that he is misapplying these words to Job at this point.  Nevertheless, what he says about God is in fact true.  I’m thinking especially of what he says in verses 10-12.  In verse 10, he insists that God will never do wickedness or wrong.  In verse 11, Elihu says that God always renders the perfect payment for what a person does.  In verse 12, he repeats that God will not do wickedness and he will not pervert justice.  He will always uphold what is right.  God is a just judge.  Later in the chapter, Elihu reminds us that this just judge sees all the wickedness that takes place.  Nothing escapes his attention and everyone will get their due.                 

That brings us to look at how God’s justice is expressed.  There are a few different ways that one could look at that.  For starters, we could look at God’s justice being expressed through rewards for the righteous.  In Scripture, God promises to reward those who are obedient to him.  We could think of how this was fulfilled through Christ.  Christ was obedient unto death and God justly rewarded his obedience by raising him from the dead and bringing him to sit at his right hand in glory.  That’s a good example of God’s justice through rewards for the righteous.  But that’s not the focus in Lord’s Day 4. 

Lord’s Day 4 focusses our attention on God’s justice being expressed through punishment for the wicked.  You could say “retribution” or more colloquially, “payback.”  God will not allow disobedience and apostasy to go unpunished.  Because he is just, he will punish sins with a just judgment.  That judgment begins already in this world, but it continues in the hereafter.  In fact, because it is such a high majesty that is sinned against, it needs to be an eternal punishment, never-ending because the height of God’s majesty is never-ending.  As QA 11 puts it, “his justice requires that sin committed against the most high majesty of God also be punished with the most severe, that is, with everlasting punishment of body and soul.”     

Loved ones, just hearing that should make us tremble.  This is what we deserve.  This is what we have earned for ourselves before God.  If you want to talk about wages and merits, this is as far as we go.  Your wage before God is death for your sin.  “The wages of sin is death,” says Romans 6:23.  Through all your life, all you have ever earned from God is his wrath in hell.  Do you acknowledge that reality?  That should make us tremble also when we consider the lost around us.  If you’re looking to Christ, this is what you’ve been saved from.  You have been brought back from the brink of ruin.  But the lost are still in danger of this.  The lost are still under the spectre of God’s judgment.  That should break our hearts and make us plead before the Lord in prayer for them.   

That’s what we see Paul doing in Romans 9.  When he speaks about his fellow Jews at the beginning of that chapter, he says that he has “great sorrow and unceasing anguish” in his heart for them.  He even goes so far as to say that if it were possible, he would be damned in their place.  It really weighs heavy on his heart seeing all these fellow Jews rejecting Christ.  They were so blessed in so many ways.  Yet they slap God in the face by refusing to believe in the Messiah he sent.  For Paul, this is not an academic question.  This is not a little tidbit of Bible trivia.  This is something that tears his heart apart.  The lostness of his fellow Jews burdens him.

Paul knows what God is really like.  He understands the justice of God.  That’s why he feels the burden he does for the lost around him.   In verse 22, he writes about God showing his wrath with the unbelieving.  He says that some are vessels prepared for destruction.  Verse 28 speaks of the Lord carrying out his sentence upon the earth.  This is the language of judgment.  This is the language of a Judge meting out justice.  It should strike terror in the hearts of those who do not have Christ as their Saviour.  It should break the hearts of Christians for those who do not have Christ as their Saviour.  Eternal, just wrath is waiting for those who those refuse to turn from their sin.

Loved ones, that bad news reminds us again of our desperate need for the good news of Jesus Christ.   No one is going to heaven without Jesus.  No one is going to live in the presence of this holy and just God without having Jesus as a Saviour.  You will not and neither will your unbelieving family member, or friend, or neighbour.  It’s a terrible thought, but it’s reality.  Without Christ, there is only one thing waiting after death and that is a just judgment which leads to eternal wrath.

At the cross, God’s justice was expressed in his wrath poured out on Jesus.  There on Golgotha, the Lamb was sacrificed, a Lamb who is our propitiation.  Remember propitiation?  That’s the turning away of God’s just wrath, and the return of his favour.  On the cross, all of God’s wrath against our sins was poured out on Jesus.  He took the curse for us.  God’s justice was firmly expressed with the suffering Jesus in those three hours of hellish darkness at Calvary.

God’s justice continues to be expressed for those who believe in Christ.  This is something sometimes forgotten, but it is a great encouragement for believers.  If we place our trust in Jesus Christ alone, if we believe that he took the punishment we deserve on the cross, then we can be assured that God’s justice has been satisfied.  In the words of John Newton’s hymn Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder,

Let us wonder, grace and justice

Join, and point to mercy’s store;

When, through grace, in Christ our trust is,

Justice smiles and asks no more. 

“Justice smiles and asks no more.”  Without Christ, God’s justice is sheer terror.  With Christ, God’s justice is a comfort.  You can be comforted by God’s justice, because you know that if the sacrifice has been made to pay for your sins, perfect justice means that nothing more can be or will be asked of you.  When sin is paid for, it’s paid for.  Period.  You can’t add to that and no one can take away from it.  With Christ, God’s perfect justice means that you’re declared righteous because of Christ and there is nothing in heaven or on earth that can change that.  Once the judge has spoken, there is no appeal.  There are no further arguments that will be entertained.  The verdict is final and if the verdict is in your favour, nothing can change it.  Now I ask you, isn’t that a comforting and wonderful thought?  We can be thankful that there is truly no injustice on God’s part.  God’s justice works in favour of those who rest and trust in Jesus alone.  So why wouldn’t you do that?  Why wouldn’t anyone want to hear that “justice smiles and asks no more”?

When we hear about God’s justice and it leads our hearts to love and praise him, then that’s definitely fulfilling one of the purposes for God’s justice, why he maintains it.  If we look at Romans 9 again, Paul writes about the reasons why God’s justice is maintained.  He speaks of vessels of wrath and vessels of mercy.  God is the potter and he creates one and the other.  This is comparing people to pottery.  Some of the pieces of pottery he creates for wrath and some for mercy.  Those who receive mercy are here on this earth to make known the riches of his glory.  Those who receive mercy are those saved in Jesus Christ.  God mercifully pours his justice on Jesus Christ in their place.  They believe in Christ and then glorify God.  God’s justice is maintained through Christ so that his elect will praise his Name for his mercy. 

But then are also the vessels of wrath.  There are those whom God passes by and who he leaves in their sin and misery, under his justice.  These are the reprobate.  In Romans 9, Paul mentions Pharaoh as an example.  He quotes from Exodus 9:16 where God says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”  God left Pharaoh under his justice so that God could show his power over Pharaoh, so that God’s Name would be proclaimed and praised.  What is true of Pharaoh, says Paul, is true of all the reprobate, both Jews and Gentiles.  There is no injustice with God.  God will give them all what they deserve in terms of a just judgment.  And there will be a good reason for his maintaining his justice:  to show his power and to magnify the praise of his Name. 

We see this in the last book of the Bible too.  Revelation powerfully describes the last judgment and the maintenance of God’s justice over the wicked.  But it also portrays praises for God at the maintenance of his justice.  The saints and the angels together praise God when he executes his just judgments on the wicked.  Just listen to these words from Revelation 19:1-3 [read].  God’s justice is maintained for his own glory and praise.  No one will ever say in eternity that that was some injustice on God’s part at any point in history.  Instead, we will say, “He was always faithful to his own just character in everything he did.  We praise him for that!” 

Brothers and sisters, this first section of the Catechism contains some hard teachings.  It’s about our sin and misery, our big problem with a holy and just God.  Nobody wants to hear about that.  But the Bible teaches us that this is all reality.  The reality is that we are sinners through and through.  The reality is that without Jesus Christ, we are in serious trouble for today and for eternity.  The reality is that we need to heed the call of the gospel again and again.  We must turn away from our sins and look to the Saviour God has provided.  Loved ones, let me urge you to do that or continue doing that.  As you entrust yourself to Jesus, I assure you that all your disobedience and apostasy has been punished.  The full measure of God’s just judgment and curse on you was placed on Jesus at the cross.  The most severe punishment of body and soul has been turned away by God’s grace in this Saviour.  Your God looks upon you with favour and pleasure.  Let us love and sing and wonder, let us praise the Saviour’s Name!  AMEN.     

Prayer:

O righteous God,

You are holy and good and just.  In ourselves we are not.  In your being is eternal and holy justice.   In your actions, you never do wrong, you always do what is right and just.  We know that the problem between our race and you has its origin with us, not with you.  With our sins, we deserve a just judgment now and eternally.  We have earned nothing from you except everlasting punishment of body and soul.  Father, we ask you to have mercy upon us in your Son Jesus Christ.  We look to Jesus to take your just punishment for us.  We look to him because there is no other to whom we can look for rescue.  Help us with your Spirit to continue looking to him.  Thank you for the assurance that the sins once paid for on the cross will never have to be repaid.  Thank you that the verdict in our favour stands, never to be appealed or overturned.  This gives us such encouragement and we praise you for it.  We praise you for the comfort we get from your justice. 

Father, again we plead with you for the lost around us.  So many we know are in danger of your just judgment.  So many are on their way to everlasting punishment of body and soul.  We pray that they will hear the gospel, and repent and believe in Jesus Christ.  We pray that you will soften our hearts for the lost in our lives.  Lord God, please take your Holy Spirit and let him break our hearts to mourn and plead earnestly for these lost souls.  We confess that we don’t care nearly enough, but we want to.  We want to care more, we want to love more, we want to have compassion.  These things can only come from your hand.  We pray that you would work them in us with your Holy Spirit so that we can be instruments in your hand to draw in your elect.      




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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