Just and Justifier: To fulfill justice even while setting the guilty prisoner free.
Can you imagine one of your loved ones being horribly murdered, the killer being apprehended, brought to trial, and found guilty. The judge says, “Guilty, but set free.” Set free?
Where is the accountability for the criminal? How has his being forgiven by the judge and set free changed the criminal for the better? Where is the justice for you and your loved one? How has the judge shown compassion for the victim? Guilt demands justice, an accounting, a payment for the heinous deed! Just so, the evil of sin demands a final payment. Perfect love demands perfect justice…
How can God be both just and justifier. How can he declare us just even as we are guilty? Sin cannot go unanswered if God’s justice is as perfect as His love is perfect. His perfect love cannot be perfect if His justice isn’t perfect also. Perfect love requires perfect justice. Every sin requires an accounting of (payment for) that sin. “The wages of sin is death.” Either by the redeeming death, burial, and resurrection of Christ or the death of the sinner. But every sin waged against man by man must bring an accounting of just payment according to God’s law. If this isn’t so then God is telling the victim he isn’t loved perfectly enough to require recompense as the victim. And we are all possessors of being victimized by sin, and all are guilty of perpetrating sin against God, others, and ourselves. Sin demands an accounting and God can’t simply ignore it or hide it and “sweep it under the rug.”
So how can He deliver us from our sin and guilt and at the same time weigh out perfect accounting of that sin for love’s sake? There can’t be forgiveness only; that would mean allowing the criminal to go free though proven guilty of the crime. Justice demands the criminal be accountable for his crime through just punishment. The just punishment is death by God’s own law, His own decree, and His own nature. (God’s perfect nature is such that an imperfect creature cannot come into the presence of his Glory without being consumed. Much like a tissue paper can’t come into the presence of the flames of an industrial blast furnace without being totally consumed. That is the difference between the properties of our natural state and God’s Glorious state. It is sin that renders us so vulnerable to God’s Glory. We need a new nature in order to not only survive, but also thrive in his presence.)
So how can the Perfect Judge say, “Guilty, but set free?” It requires a propitiatory substitute, a legal representative to take our place in punishment. But the propitiation must be completely guilt free, perfect, absent any guilt at all. But who? Searching mankind God finds nothing but sinful man. There is none good enough, perfect enough to represent man and pay the price for mankind. There is only one answer. That answer is for God to come to earth in the Person of Jesus Christ and offer Himself as propitiatory representative in man’s stead. All is not lost. Love has found a way![[i]]
At the same time it also requires complete turn-around from sin on our part. This can’t be accomplished by one who is sin by nature. It takes an act of God to put within us a new nature to begin the process, and to further that process along over a period of time. This is what Jesus meant when he told Nicodemus in John 3:3, “…I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” Born of a new nature, a spiritual nature. One capable of receiving instruction and of communication with God in the way needed for regeneration. The Old Testament called it a “new heart.”[[ii]] Having a new heart, a response is expected from us. This response, this turn-around from sin, the bible calls “repentance.”
Now recognizing God’s great love how can we not respond? It would take an insane person to not respond. Ah! But having a new heart also means being put in our right mind and our responding is proof of no longer being insane. The Amazing Grace of Almighty God in Christ!
[I] Romans 3:22-26 (NIV)
22 This righteousness is given through faith in[a] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,[b] through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
[ii] 26 “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.…