True Justice: H.C. Lord's Day 4

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord’s Day 4

Q9. But doesn’t God do us an injustice by requiring in his law what we are unable to do?
A9. No, God created human beings with the ability to keep the law.  They, however, provoked by the devil in willful disobedience, robbed themselves and all their descendants of these gifts.

Q10. Does God permit such disobedience and rebellion to go unpunished?
A10. Certainly not. God is terribly angry with the sin we are born with as well as the sins we personally commit.

As a just judge, God will punish them both now and in eternity, having declared: “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law.”

Q11. But isn’t God also merciful?
A11. God is certainly merciful, but also just. God’s justice demands that sin, committed against his supreme majesty, be punished with the supreme penalty—eternal punishment of body and soul.

There is a lot of talk about love these days.  Whether it’s the now famous slogan “Love wins,” or the rather unique and emotional poetic proclamation that “love is love is love is love is love,” it seems like everyone is proclaiming that love is rather important.

People do this too when we talk about sin.  They may shrug or scoff that Christians focus too much on sin and that the “hellfire and brimstone” God that used to be preached is not the God of today.  God is love; that is what He is.  So do we really need to talk about judgment, punishment, and wrath?  Isn’t God merciful?

Quite simply the answer is Yes.  Yes, God is merciful.  Yes, God is love.  Yes, God forgives.  Yes, God is also just.  As a matter of fact, these two things are inextricably linked together, woven and bound in such a way that you cannot have one without the other.

Far too often we talk about God’s justice, God’s wrath, and God’s punishment for sin as if it is somehow unfair.  If we are all sinners and have been since we have been born, it’s impossible for us to keep the law.  You wouldn’t punish your 8-year old for not doing his advanced calculus correctly; God shouldn’t punish us for sin, then, either.

The reality of our questions this week is that we were indeed created with the capability of following the law.  However, because of Adam, we all inherited sin.  We call this “Original sin.”  It is something that we are born into and something we have to face, even though, like Adam, we are created with the capability of following the law.  Simply put, though, we just don’t.  In the same way that we yell at the T.V. when a ref makes a bad call, so too is God angered by the sins that we commit against Him.  He has every right to be as well.

If God is holy, and completely set apart, He is the very antonym of sin.  As that is the case, sin (and all those who commit it) must be held accountable.  God is just in doing so.  When someone breaks the law, they have to pay a fine; that is the natural way of things.  No one questions a police officer for writing a ticket to a speeding driver or arresting someone who drives drunk.  Why, then, do we somehow think that God should just overlook sin in the name of “love” and “grace?”

Grace isn’t sweeping sin under the rug.  Love isn’t overlooking sin for the sake of the sinner.  What would God’s love amount to if He just let us get away with whatever?  It would actually be less fair, less just, and downright harmful to His creation.  Sinners need to be held accountable… sin needs to be punished.  “Overlooking sin does not exalt God’s mercy, it undermines it,” says Kevin DeYoung in his book The Good News We Almost Forgot.

Enter Jesus.

God sent His Son to this earth to take on that burden.  Jesus lived the perfect life as a human and then died, taking on the punishment of a sinful universe, all so that our relationship with God could be put right again.  God’s justice and wrath are satisfied in Jesus’ death… Sin as been dealt with in Jesus Christ and because of that (and only that) God can and does freely extend His grace and mercy to those who place their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Consider this parable of Jesus.  The debt that is owed by both men is not simply swept aside; the money lender doesn’t look the other way and not acknowledge the lack of repayment.  The debt is FORGIVEN.  This means that the money lender himself has to take that debt on, and the magnitude of the forgiveness is amplified by the amount of the debt.  So it is with us.  Thanks be to God!

Luke 7:36-50

Jesus Anointed by a Sinful Woman

36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

4 Responses to “True Justice: H.C. Lord's Day 4”

  1. staci says:

    i’ve been meaning to respond to this post for a while now and just usually have my phone when i read. (:

    so. i feel like there is so much a movement of acceptance on the part of Christians and i’m super struggling with it. i tend to be a part of it as well so this isn’t judgment on anyone. i just want your thoughts.

    is the mantra today more about ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’ than anything and just truly living that? i mean, i’m divorced. i understand sin and i empathize wholeheartedly (almost too much) with anyone struggling with a life of sin be it homosexuality, addiction, etc.

    but i almost feel like it’s so much about acceptance that we are almost reluctant/resistant (?) to holding anyone accountable. like, if i struggle with some sin and my Christian brothers and sisters know it, shouldn’t they feel obligated to call me out on it (in a loving way, of course) all while still loving me because of their Jesus posture?

    i think i’m rambling and i don’t know how to say it but i just feel like we have swung the pendulum too far on sin and now everything is about what ‘my Jesus’ allows. i heard many kids in the youth group say things like that and i couldn’t grasp how their Jesus was different than mine. now i’ve officially outed myself. anyway, just wanted to get your thoughts.

    • Jon VanderWall says:

      I think you’re right in that we have kind of missed that part of the equation a little bit. I also think that, despite what we are being told in culture, there is a differentiation that needs to take place between identifying sin and judging people. There is considerable fear within churches and Christians that if we acknowledge a sin, especially one that fits within the current cultural hot button issues, that we will be labeled as racist, bigoted, phobic, etc.

      With this, like everything else, we need to look to Jesus as our example. I’m about 99.9% sure that no one would call Jesus any of those things that Christians fear being labeled as. But Jesus was quick to call out sin where He saw it as well. The difference, I think, is that Jesus took the judgment on Himself.

      The term “my Jesus” is part of the problem. We don’t get to talk about Jesus that way because “my Jesus’ and everyone else’s Jesus is (or should be) the Biblical Jesus. He was quick to call out sin but was also quick to defend sinners that were being used/marginalized by sinners who thought themselves righteous.

  2. […] justice demands judgment against sin.  Does this make God unloving?  No.  As we discussed last week, God’s love and God’s wrath are 100% linked together.  Emphasizing one over the other […]

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