1. The Justice of God in relation to His providential Care.
In the light of manís willful disobedience is perfectly understandable how this world is subjected to vanity, and is the theatre of suffering, war, human injustice, and other evils. For God punishes sin with sin (Romans 1).
Meanwhile, in considering His providence, the believer will continue to affirm that ďAll his ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and right is heĒ (Deuteronomy 32:4).
Because of His care for His own, He works all things for their own good and spiritual benefit (Romans 8:28). God knows His own and deals with them according to His loving purpose for them. But this never implies that He is unjust. As soon as Adam sinned, he died (according to Godís threat), even though he was then promised a Deliverer. When Moses struck the rock twice, in unbelief and rebellion, he was not allowed to enter the promised land. When Zecharias disbelieved the angelís message he was struck dumb until he should see the accomplishment of all things spoken to him.
In justice God also restrains the evil and raving passions of men, as He, for instance, dealt with Pharaoh whose heart was hardened against the Lord. In justice God eventually destroyed him for having opposed His will to let the people go.
But as Augustine says, there is enough divine justice executed so that we may be convinced that God is a living God, moral and holy, and yet there is not full justice executed so that we may keep in mind that a final day of reckoning is coming. In justice God destroyed the cities of the plain, and this catastrophe is held forth as ďan example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fireĒ (Jude 7). What happened to Cain and Korah and Balaam, all mentioned by Jude in his short epistle, is likewise to have us be persuaded that Godís justice is certainly not lacking in His providential dealings with mankind.
While unbelievers mock, the faithful observe these events and are warned thereby; they are admonished and take it to heart that ďour God is a consuming fire.Ē
2. The Justice of God in relation to Punishment.
Justice is punitive; it is not mere manifestation of benevolence, or of Godís disposition to secure the highest happiness of His creatures.
In justice God is morally bound to impose law in conscience and Scripture. He executes the penalties of law: it shall go ill with the wicked.
Justice is not a matter of arbitrary will. It is a revelation of the inmost nature of God, in all His dealings with mankind.
As God cannot but demand of His creatures that they be like Him in moral character, so He cannot but enforce the law which He imposes upon them.
Justice just as much binds God to punish as it binds the sinner to be punished. All arbitrariness is excluded here. God is what He is - infinite purity.
Neither justice nor righteousness bestows rewards. This follows from the fact that obedience is due to God, instead of being optional or a gratuity. No creature can claim anything for his obedience (Luke 17:7-10). Punishment is the wages of sin, but salvation is the gift of God (Romans 6:23).
What the creature cannot claim, however, Christ can claim, and the rewards which are goodness to the creature are righteousness to Christ. God rewards Christís work for us and in us believers.
Justice in God is devoid of all passion or caprice. There is in God no selfish anger. The penalties He inflicts upon transgressors express the revulsion of Godís nature from moral evil; they are the self-assertion of infinite holiness. God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked.
Hellís eternal punishment, awesome and terrible as it might be, is Scriptural. We are warned of it from the holy lips of Christ Himself. Sin committed against the God of infinite holiness demands a punishment of infinite duration. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
3. The Justice of God in respect to Chastisement.
Godís purpose for His adopted children is that they may be emancipated from the condemnation of sin. But not only so: being justified by faith alone in Christ alone implies that we enjoy a new relationship with God our Father. God also desires and sees to it that we are delivered from the practice and dominion of sin in our lives. In this respect we are being saved, being renewed progressively in the image of His Son.
In His providential dealings with His own, whenever they hide iniquity in their hearts, God visits them with the rod. A token of love, indeed, but of justice too, for God will not tolerate sin indefinitely in those whose purpose for them is good and benevolent.
Since in His justice it was necessary that Christ suffer the penalty of the cross, it is also in His justice that all partakers of grace be effectively walking in the paths of righteousness. When they become slack and devious, God intervenes and reproves them. As a just and loving Father, He chastises them, so that they may not be condemned along with the world. His interest in them is such that He is always moved to action for their benefit and for the honour of His name. ďThen shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations. Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord God, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of IsraelĒ (Ezekiel 36:31,32). The primary factor in Godís dealings with His wayward people is the upholding of His righteousness and justice, just as much as Christ being exposed on the cross was a vindication of Godís righteousness.
Sin in His covenant people is even more loathsome and has to be dealt with. It is never excused or overlooked. The Father is not indulgent towards His children; His justice is never sidetracked.