Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way (Psalm 25:8 ESV).
Another aspect of God’s holiness is his righteousness, yet it is an attribute that people are very uncomfortable with, since we are unrighteous by nature and accountable to God for our unrighteousness. God is righteous (Ezra 9:15; Psalm 7:9; 25:8; 129:4; Isaiah 30:18; Zephaniah 3:5) and always does what is righteous (Genesis 18:25; Nehemiah 9:33; Psalm 145:17; Luke 18:7-8). He loves (Psalm 11:7; 33:5: Isaiah 61:8) and delights in what is right and just (Jeremiah 9:24), and he hates what is evil (Psalm 5:5; 11:5; Romans 1:18). If we examine the Lord’s rule of all things, we find that all that he does as Ruler rests on the foundation of justice (Psalm 45:6; 89:14; 97:2). All this means that there is no wickedness in the Lord (Psalm 92:15). Whatever imperatives God gives to people are righteous commands, since they come from the righteous God (Psalm 119:137). God is called the Judge (Genesis 18:25; Judges 11:27; 2 Timothy 4:8; Hebrews 12:23). When God judges people, he judges as the righteous Judge (Psalm 96:13; Acts 17:31; 2 Timothy 4:8; Revelation 16:5).
“God’s justice is the rectitude of his nature, whereby he is carried to the doing of that which is righteous and equal” (Watson, A Body of Divinity, pp. 87-88). He sets forth six positions about God’s justice.
- “God cannot but be just. His holiness is the cause of his justice.”
- “God’s will is the supreme rule of justice; it is the standard of equity.”
- “God does justice voluntarily. Justice flows from his nature.”
- “Justice is the perfection of the divine nature… To say God is just, is to say, he is all that is excellent…”
- “God never did nor can do the least wrong to his creatures.”
- “God’s justice is such that it is not fit for any man or angel to expostulate with him, or demand a reason of his actions.”
“God’s absolute justice is technically defined by theologians as the general rectitude of character, intrinsic in His own will. His relative justice is the acting out of that rectitude towards His creatures. His distributive justice is the quality more precisely indicated when we call Him a just God, which prompts him to give to every one his due. His punitive justice is that phase of His distributive justice which prompts Him always to allot its due punishment to sin” (Dabney, Lectures in Systematic Theology, p. 166). By the constraint of his own character, God must do what is right, seek what is right, tell his creatures what is right, and uphold what is right because of its great value and significance.
Since the righteous God rules the universe, he must judge his creatures in a righteous manner, and this is what we find revealed in the Scriptures. God does not show favoritism (Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:25), but his justice always expresses retribution—rendering to everyone what he or she deserves (Psalm 62:12; Proverbs 24:12; Matthew 12:36-37; 16:27; 24:45-51; John 5:29; Romans 2:2, 5-10).
So then, the great question is, “Since God is righteous and all humans are sinners (Romans 3:9-20), how can anyone be right with God?” The one and only answer to this question is through the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. On the cross, he satisfied the demands of God’s justice when he died as a propitiation for our sins. Then God was able both to be just and to justify those who believe in Jesus (Romans 3:24-26). This is the good news of the gospel of Christ that we proclaim. When we trust in Jesus the Messiah as our Lord and Savior, God fills our hearts with a glorious and inexpressible joy! Do you know this joy? It may be yours today when you turn from your sins and trust in the Savior.
Grace and peace, David