Donovan Neufeldt Existence and Majesty of God: Final Assignment The objective of this paper is to explain the attributes

of justice and mercy, and how they are both expressed by God simultaneously in completeness and perfection. The primary point of emphasis is how these attributes relate to soteriology, so that it answers the questions, how does God express mercy (and grace) to people deserving of hell s eternal torment if He is truly just? and, how can a merciful and loving God send people to hell? . The answer is summarised in the assertion that Jesus received our just punishment at the cross, that we might be pardoned. This cross is the expression of the wrath and justice of God, as well as the love and mercy of God. God s justice is, in essence, His zeal make wrong things right, or one might say it is the yes to the question, Shall not the judge of all the earth to right? (Genesis 18:25). It is Heaven s proclamation that all God s works are true and righteous (Revelation 16:7; 19:2).The justice of God is inextricably linked to his righteousness, holiness, love, and wrath, without contradiction. A.W. Tozer even states that justice and righteousness are scarcely to be distinguished from each other.1 Because of his blazing holiness and righteousness, he cannot allow sin to go unpunished (justice). It is not because God is constrained by an outside force that He must enforce or oversee of moral equity that we ascribe the attribute of Justice to Him. Like the other attributes, God s justice originates within God and is defined by His very nature. God is just simply because that is how God is, and although there is no outside force constraining him to act justly, we can depend

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Tozer, Aiden Wilson. The Knowledge of the Holy. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 1961. p. 86.

Donovan Neufeldt on His justice because He has revealed that it is His nature and because he does not change (Malachi 3:6). The mercy of God is displayed most powerfully in His forgiveness toward the repentant, but also in the restraint and delay of his judgement. The essence of mercy is not receiving what one deserves, while grace works in a similar yet different fashion by giving one what he or she does not deserve. Every moment of time in one s life is given by the mercy of God. To the unbeliever, every moment is undeserved time to repent; although they deserve to go to the lake of fire immediately, God patiently withholds judgement to woe and to warn, that the sinner may turn from wickedness and turn to God through the person of Jesus. An example is the Jezebel who was in Thyatira, who did not receive the offer God s patience, mercy, and forgiveness, but received the just due for her wickedness (Revelation 2:20-23). For the believer, the greatest act of mercy and forgiveness has taken place at the new birth, yet mercy continues to be extended during the process of sanctification via the finished work of Calvary, because believers continue to sin in immaturity, ignorance, and weakness, they require the continued mercy of God to preserve them in righteousness before God. God delights to extend mercy to those who are weak and immature, yet have a heart of obedience and love for God. The salvation of believers is efficacious by the grace and mercy of God working together through the faith of the repentant. Mercy gives room for the release of power to live in the righteousness of the new life in Christ, and is therefore extended into justification, sanctification, and glorification. The two attributes of justice and mercy do seem to be in tension with one another, for with both these attributes in mind the question shifts from the most

Donovan Neufeldt common accusation, How could a loving (and merciful) God send people to hell? to How could a just God not send everybody to Hell? . The former question is answered in the light of God s justice and holiness, as well as our sin, rebellion, and scorn of His love, which reveals that eternal torment is the just due for all. The latter question is answered in the light of God s delight in mercy. Even with these perspectives, however, the tension has not been entirely resolved, because it would seem that God must suspend his justice in order to exercise mercy, or vice versa. Indeed this would be so if God had chosen to redeem humanity apart from the cross of Christ. At the outset it must me noted that the author does not believe that this tension can ever be completely resolved or explained in human terms. Fully explaining what happened at the cross is as difficult as comprehensively explaining other biblical mysteries such as the trinity, the incarnation, or the union and inter-indwelling of Christ to His bride (the community of the redeemed) through the Holy Spirit. However, we have been given an invitation to search out the mysteries of God, so with regard to these attributes of love, wrath, justice, and mercy, one is driven to their ultimate expression at Calvary, which also gives the greatest explanation of God s non self-contradiction. His righteous judgements and justice do not in any way contradict other attributes such as love and mercy of God, but are rather according to them and act to remove all that hinders love. Although there are many facets of this truth to develop, the primary focus here is the cross, because it is the pinnacle of God s self-revelation. In the cross, the guilt of sin was placed on Jesus when He [the Father] made Him who knew no sin [Jesus] to become sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21, NKJV). Jesus did

Donovan Neufeldt not leave sin unpunished; he did not contradict His justice and holiness by ignoring sin. This is the essence of what the doctrine of justification is about; the just and legal penalty of our sin was placed upon Jesus. The language of propitiation is also used to describe the justice and mercy of the cross. Propitiation means that God s wrath (which is good, righteous, and just) is placated and appeased. On the cross, God poured out His wrath on his perfect Son, Jesus, thus satisfying the justice of God for all who would receive it through faith and repentance. Allen hood puts it this way, We need to understand that the cross demonstrates God s wholehearted commitment to judge all that is unholy. Jesus bore the wrath of God for you, but if you do not accept His sacrifice, He will dispense that wrath upon you on the last day
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There is one more pressing question related to the cross, however, and that is how it is just for one who was and is perfectly sinless, and in fact God himself, to receive the punishment for the crimes he did not do. What is left in mystery on this point should by necessity draw one s heart into loving adoration of God s unfathomable love, behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! (1 John 3:1, NKJV). The first consideration one must make is that is that Jesus was determined to go to the cross and was fully aware that he was born to die (Mark 8:31-34, 9:30-31, 10:32-34, 10:45). He fully consented to the cross the whole way through; to every lash of the whip, to every beating, to every mockery, and to every nail, while maintaining perfect love for his tormentors. We know this because Jesus could have summoned at least 12 legions of angels for his deliverance with only a
Hood, Allen. Excellencies of Christ: An Exploration into the Endless Fascination of the God-Man. Kansas City, Missouri: Forerunner Books, 2006. p. 229.
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Donovan Neufeldt word (Matthew 26:53). More significant yet, is that He consented to becoming sin for us and thus experiencing the most painful separation from His heavenly Father by which He cried out My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? (Mark 15:34). Furthermore, the cross was the deepest desire of Jesus heart because it is the means by which he might reconcile and redeem mankind unto himself, and provide the greatest revelation of who He is and who the Father is (John 17). Because of the incarnation, the cross, and the resurrection men may now know what God is like; when one sees Yahweh in the flesh hanging on an accursed tree, dripping with blood and crying out in agony, one cannot help but weep at this terrifyingly glorious display of unfathomable love. The last consideration one must make is that the cross does not disagree with God s character, but is in perfect harmony with His other attributes. It agrees with His holiness, justice, and wrath because He has manifested these, displaying the horrors of sin s consequence, with his love and mercy because the cross openly reveals God s burning passion for reconciled relationship and delight in mercy, with his humility because there is nowhere more humiliating to die than on the cross of a criminal, as one marred more than any man (Isaiah 52:14, Philippians 2:5-8). In the cross, it becomes plain that the reason God requires all men to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with the Lord (Micah 6:8) is because justice, mercy, and humility are at the very core of who God is. These attributes are gloriously manifested together in the cross, so that we might know God and know the lifestyle God esteems not only through command, but also by Jesus own leadership by example.

Donovan Neufeldt

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