6. Righteous and Just

By James M. Rochford

God’s moral character is the definition of goodness, and he will repay every act of good and evil. Of course, those covered by the blood of Christ will have their payment placed there. Several passages speak of the justice of God:

(Mt. 5:48) Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

(Mk. 10:18) And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.”

(Gen. 18:25) Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?

(Jer. 9:24) I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord.

(Job 34:10) Therefore, listen to me, you men of understanding. Far be it from God to do wickedness, And from the Almighty to do wrong.

(Hab. 1:13) Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, And You can not look on wickedness with favor Why do You look with favor On those who deal treacherously? Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up Those more righteous than they?

(Jas. 1:13) Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.

(Deut. 7:10) [God] repays those who hate Him to their faces, to destroy them; He will not delay with him who hates Him, He will repay him to his face.

(Ps. 58:11) And men will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely there is a God who judges on earth!”

(Rom. 12:19) Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

Does God dictate what is good, because it is good? Or does he decide capriciously what is righteous and good?

Euthyphro asked Socrates (pronounced YOU-thuh-fro): “Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?” To put this question in modern terms, we would ask:

Option #1: Is rape wrong, because God commands that it is wrong?

If rape is wrong, because God commands it, then what if he commanded that it was right? We would be morally obligated to rape! Would this make it right? Under this view, God could have willed us to murder, kill, and destroy, and we would have been morally obligated to do so!

Option #2: Or, does God command that it is wrong, because it is wrong?”

On the other hand, if God commands that it is wrong, because it is already wrong, then why do we need God for morality at all? Doesn’t this prove that morality exists independently of God?

We can solve Euthyphro’s dilemma by adopting neither option. Instead, as Christians, we would argue that God’s nature is the Good. It isn’t above him or independent of him. It is him. Therefore, he commands morality based on his nature, which is good. God could not command men to forcibly rape women, because this would contradict his very nature. It would be like him trying to create a square-circle; it is logically impossible.

At this point, critics often retort, “Is God controlled by his own nature then?” But, this is really a superfluous question. It is, after all, his nature—not something outside of (or above) himself.

Application

When we reflect on God’s righteous and just nature, a number of practical applications spring to mind:

We do not “deserve” anything but judgment. We should never ask God to give me “what I deserve” or to be “fair” with us. The moment that you sin the first time, you forfeit forever any chance for justice to operate toward you in a positive way.

We do not need to seek vengeance. To avenge another in interpersonal relationships is to usurp God’s role as the just judge (Rom. 12:14, 17, 19). This is one reason why all bitterness is wrong. It is therefore not appropriate to speak of justice or rights within interpersonal relationships.

God’s justice is either our peace or our horror. For those outside of Christ, God’s justice is a terror. It is the source of God’s wrath and retribution upon them. But, for those who are in Christ, this justice becomes the source of their justification.