What is the Gospel? Part 2: God the Holy, Righteous and Just One
In my previous blog post, I discussed “God the Creator.” This is a major foundation of Christianity as a whole. In this post, I want to discuss more of who God is: “God the Holy, Righteous, and Just One.”
If you are anything like me, you have spent a good part of your life thinking you are a pretty good person. I’ve never killed anyone. Maybe I have lied, but nothing too major. I am nice to people and have worked pretty hard in life. For many people, this can be the foundational understanding of how we get to heaven: do “good” things and don’t do “bad” things. I put good and bad in quotation marks because there is little consensus on how these are defined. I know that we most often define how good or bad we are by comparing and contrasting ourselves with others. Maybe we aim to do more things that we deem good than other people we know. We aim to do less bad things than others. But this is a flawed standard based on who our maker is.
God is the standard by which we measure good. He is perfectly holy, righteous, and just, all three of which seem to be a strong embodiment of good. Exodus 15:11 says, “Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?” God does amazing wonders and glorious deeds. Think about Exodus 34:6-7a to understand God’s nature: “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” These descriptions from Moses truly show God’s goodness. A person who is merciful, gracious, loving, faithful, forgiving, and slow to anger would be deemed a really “good” person in this world.
But God’s goodness does not stop there. Exodus 34:7b says, “but who will by no means clear the guilty.” The loving and compassionate God does not leave the guilty unpunished. The guilty are those who have sinned against Him, which we will look at more in the next blog post. Despite so many protests to the contrary, God’s love does not cancel out his justice and righteousness. Ultimately, we would not truly want to worship and serve a God who was not just at His most foundational level. All of us are broken over the evil we see around our cities, states, nations, and the world as a whole. We cry out for justice because we are image bearers of the One who is completely just (Genesis 1:26-27, which we discussed in the last blog). God is the One by whom we truly know justice. He does not leave the guilty unpunished.
Psalm 33:5 says, “He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.” Psalm 89:14 speaks similarly: “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.” Deuteronomy 32:4 sums up so much of God’s character: “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.” God is perfect. God is just. God is faithful. God is sinless. This is the God whom we serve.
One of the first verses I remember memorizing in the summer of 2011 after becoming a Christian a few months prior was Psalm 5:4-5, which says, “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.” God hates evil and because He is perfect, evil cannot even come into His presence. Is God like a grandfather who just winks at the mischievous deeds of a grandson, understanding that we just have shortcomings? Or does God hold people accountable, since He Himself is perfect in His holiness, righteousness, and justice?
Psalm 145:17 says, “The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.” This is a loaded verse. Can God really be righteous in every aspect of who He is and also be kind while maintaining justice?
It is easy to see the shortcomings and sins of others. It is even normal to want God to punish people for their obvious sin (whether that sin is directed towards you or towards a large part of humanity). There is undeniable evil that exists in this world. When we are confronted with evil, something within us wants justice. We want justice for the murderer or abuser or any other of the many heinous crimes that exist in our world. But there is also a lot of sin and evil that dwells in each of us as a result of the Fall. Is God truly just if He only deals with the big, outward evils and not the internal evil within each of us? In What is the Gospel?, Greg Gilbert argues, “You see, nobody wants a God who declines to deal with evil. They just want a God who declines to deal with their evil” (44).
God deals with all evil because He is holy, righteous and just. In my next post, we will talk more about evil by addressing “Man the Sinner.”