Last week we introduced the topic of God’s justice and love. I said in that column that God’s justice and love were displayed through the cross of Christ. Many have a difficult time with this idea. They feel that it is unjust for God to require a sacrifice for sin. I have had many people say to me that they could never worship a God who would allow His qwn Son to be cruelly executed on the cross in order for another to be forgiven. I for one marvel that God would do such a thing!
Now, before we get deeper into this, we must understand that God’s Son, Jesus, was not forced against His will to die on a cross so that we could be forgiven. Orthodox Christianity believes in a very difficult concept when it comes to God. We believe He is Triune. This concept is often referred to as “the Trinity.” We believe that there is one God, but in the unity of the Godhead there are three eternal, coequal beings, the same in substance but distinct in subsistence. We do not believe that there is a plurality of Gods who make up One God, nor do we believe that there is One God who reveals Himself in three different ways. We believe God is one in unity. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. These three beings are not in order of power or importance; they are the same in substance, that is they are all God of very God, but distinct in subsistence. I don’t understand that at all, but because it is something that God has revealed about Himself through His Special Revelation (the Bible), I accept.
The importance of this statement is to remove the false argument that God would be unjust in sending His Son to die for our sin. Since God is the One wronged by our sin, it stands to reason that only He can make the necessary sacrifice for that sin. The Apostle Paul put it this way, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV). The theological concept for this is the substitutionary atonement of Christ. God’s justice demands justice. Since we cannot pay it because we are all sinners (see Romans 3:23), God Himself took upon Himself the penalty of our sin, and notice He did this not so that we could continue blissfully in that sin, but so that we might become right in His sight. You may complain that it is unfair; I rejoice in the fact that God took the initiative on my behalf!
This then is why I said last week that God’s love and justice are seen at the cross. God loved me so much He didn’t want to punish me, but He hates my sin that demands His justice. Now, lest you go off on a different thought, the reason God hates sin is because He knows what it does to us! Sin destroys everything it touches. Paul reminds us, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23, NIV).
A wage is something I earn; one might say, something I deserve. If I agree to work for a certain wage, I have the right to expect that wage. Paul says here the rightful wage of rebellion against God is death. That means separation from God for all eternity. It is not that God sends us to hell, it is that God gives us what we’ve insisted upon all our lives — to simply leave us alone. That is what hell is; we are granted our wish to be finally completely free from God. What we think is a dream come true is a nightmare we will endure!
As opposed to our proper wages, God, in love, offers us a free gift, eternal life in Christ Jesus. How can He do this? Well, like any gift we receive, someone had to pay for it. In this case, God the Son paid the debt I owed gladly and willingly for me. Justice and love are combined at Calvary. If you’ve not come to know this for yourself, I implore you to consider it and instead of complaining “it’s not fair,” thank God that He Himself did what we consider unfair so that we can have life.