The Attributes of God (Part Eleven)

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

Enriching Your Prayers

img_16752 Chronicles 20:6-12

If we will all be very honest for a few moments, we must all admit that at times our prayer life can seem lifeless, very routine and predictable. When I was in college, five thousand people would repeat the Lord’s prayer together in chapel services, and it was a great struggle to have it retain meaning, because it seemed that many were interested in how quickly they could push through the required recitation. We are instructed to give thanks at meals (1 Timothy 4:4-5), and if we do what we ought, we can easily fall into a meaningless habit, unless we concentrate on what we are doing. And I could multiply examples.

This makes the prayers we read in the Bible precious to us. As God tells his story, he graciously includes accounts of the conversations that his people have had with him. Their prayers written in the word provide hope concerning how we may talk with the true and living God in our life situation. Let’s look at Jehoshaphat’s prayer.

  • Jehoshaphat declared God’s rule (20:6). There are four key ways that YHWH (Yahweh, the Lord) is described in the Old Testament Scriptures: he is Creator, Ruler, Judge, and Savior. Notice how three of these are prominent in this prayer. He worshiped God for his sovereign authority and power to exercise that authority. He knew he was in the presence of the Boss. We focus on God’s rule, because it is the one of the core elements of prayer. Why would you worship a God who lacked power and authority to make changes in the world? God claims that he has both in his word. Listen to his voice and respond in worship.
  • Jehoshaphat claimed a covenant relationship with God (20:7). “This God is our God.” He boldly reached out on the basis of past grace. God had given the land to Abraham, God’s friend (cf. Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23). So then, he appealed to the Lord about a gift given to his friend. We ought to claim our covenant relationship with God when we pray. In Christ, we have the relationship with God set forth in the new covenant (Hebrews 8:10c). So then, this ought to influence our conversations with the Lord. Consider how the apostle Paul prayed. “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (2 Corinthians 1:3; Ephesians 1:3). However, you can only really pray this way when you have a saving relationship with God in Christ. How can you have this? First, have a change of mind about sin in the way you live. What does this mean? Turn from a life of rejecting God’s right to rule your life. Turn from a refusal to love God with all that you are. Turn from rebelling against what God tells you to do. Second, believe in Jesus. Rely on Jesus Christ and his death on the cross as the only way you can have forgiveness of sin and a righteous standing before God. Perhaps you know you need to be saved. Right now is an excellent time.
  • Jehoshaphat set forth their covenant worship (20:8-9). Later in Jeremiah’s time, this idea was to be abused, since sinners tend to abuse everything! But Jehoshaphat used it, not for a sense of false security, but as an evidence of their repentance. He pointed back to Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple (2 Chronicles 6:14-42; 7:12-22). He appealed to the progress of redemptive history. About ninety years before, Solomon had prayed similar words at the temple dedication, while praising God for keeping his covenant to David. Now Jehoshaphat built his request upon what God had done. At this point we must recognize that we interact with God in Christ and his better covenant. We need to apply what we find in this passage, using new covenant realities. In Christ, his people, the church, are his temple (1 Corinthians 3:16-17), because of the finished work of our Great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ. We should remember that accomplishment of redemption every day. So then, in this new covenant age, we don’t regard any earthly building as special, because in Christ, we are God’s building, in which he lives by his Spirit. And also all our repentance and faith is based on the finished work of Lord Jesus, God’s Anointed One.

Read and think carefully on Ephesians 1-3 or Colossians 1-2. Drink in what the Spirit has written for your delight in Jesus. Feel the vibrancy of the Lord of Glory in Colossians; admire the beauty of his accomplished work in Ephesians. For example, consider each phrase in Ephesians 1-3 as a masterpiece of redeeming love. But do all this in the Spirit: “Holy Spirit, touch my eyes that I may see the wonders of salvation!”

Grace and peace, David