Justice and judgment are the basis of divine government. The throne, or God’s government, is founded upon these two pillars. The throne of God, is founded upon righteousness and judgment. Our sovereign God knows what is right, always does what is right, and is never unjust or unwise in His dealings. He is too holy to be unrighteous in judgment. His decisions are never reversed. The fact that God is a just sovereign should be a source of constant joy to every believer.
These two words demand an explanation. Justice refers to God’s attribute of righteousness and judgment refers to the exercise of that attribute. This implies that God is a law-giver for justice is a law term. God must enforce His law. If He did not He would not be just. A just man is one who is right in keeping God’s law; a just God is the God that enforces His law. Any conception of God that denies His justice is a false conception of God.
Justice demands the punishment of sin. Sin is the transgression of the law of God for which the penalty is punishment. Without a penalty attached there can be no law. It might be advice or exhortation but not a law. Violated law calls for punishment. What is the penalty of violating God’s law? DEATH. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
The sinner is under the curse of the law and is unable to deliver himself from the curse of the law: “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:” (Galatians 3:13) There are two ways the law can be satisfied: (1) by obedience to its precepts, or (2) by suffering the prescribed penalty of eternal separation from God. The law has pronounced a curse upon all who have violated its commands, and unless delivered from its curse, the sentence will be executed in the day of judgment.
The justice of God closes the door to every plan of salvation except the plan of substitution. If men who have sinned escape the punishment for their sins, then for God to remain just someone else must be punished for them. This puts salvation in another one rather than the sinner himself. And the one who saves him must have no obligation to the law himself. If a sinless man could be found on this earth – a man who had never done any wrong – a man who had always been perfect – he could not save anyone else, because all his goodness was required by the law for himself. Therefore we have to go outside the human race for a Saviour. So, in saving sinners, God went into His own divine household and gave His Son – this one who was God and therefore could have no obligations under any law. This was absolutely necessary because there never has been a sinless person on this earth except Jesus. Without Him there wold be no salvation at all.
Salvation does not destroy the justice of God. To do away with the justice of God would be the same as doing away with God’s power. God is necessarily and essentially just, just as He is essentially and necessarily omnipotent. This truth is the death blow to a lot of religious ideas. It kills the idea that if one lives the best he can he will be saved. It kills the idea of salvation by rites and ceremonies and ordinances. It kills the idea of salvation by repentance alone. Judas repented but was not saved: “Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders.” (Matthew 27:3)
Justice pronounces our doom – but grace delivers us. Our just God is also a loving God and a forgiving God when there is both repentance and faith.