Our salvation in its entirety is a wonderful gift that both reveals and magnifies God’s goodness on so many levels. As we consider the character and actions of God, there are several concepts that though complementary in relation to God’s nature and actions are very difficult to reconcile in our finite minds. Consider for a moment the justice and love of God. In Exodus 23:7, God states clearly: “I will not justify the wicked.” In Proverbs 17:15 He says that “whoever justifies the wicked, and condemns the just, are an abomination to the LORD.” In Romans 2:2, Paul say that the judgment of God “is according to truth,” and in verse 11 he says that there is “no partiality with God.” The question is not how can a loving God send a kind person to hell, but how can a holy God justify the sinner, and forgive sin when this is a blatant compromise of justice. If I am guilty of murder and stand before an honest judge, there is no pleading for mercy, commitment to reformation, or apology that should free me from prosecution to the fullest extent of the law. Judges are to be impartial and uphold the law, they are not in the position to forgive, and human justice in its purest form is but a feeble reflection of the perfect justice of God. Judges are bound by their own integrity and the demands of the laws of the land, and God also is bound by His holiness, justice, and righteousness. Consider the following questions: How can God forgive the sinner without compromising His own justice, what is the human response that He demands, and what is the nature of this forgiveness?
First, how can God forgive the sinner without compromising His own justice? The answer is found in many texts, but I will focus primarily on Romans 5. In Romans 5, Paul presents the helplessness of men apart from God, and the beauty of the gospel. He says in verse 6, that “when we were without strength…Christ died for the ungodly.” In verse 8 He says that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” In verse 9, he says that we have “been justified by His blood, and that we are saved from wrath through Him.” Verse 10 says that we who were “enemies to God were reconciled to God by the death of His Son and shall be saved by His life.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 says that Christ “died for our sins according to the scriptures was buried and rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” These are comforting words that reveal to us God’s uncompromising justice, untainted holiness, and unparalleled love for fallen humanity. God literally took on humanity and offered Himself as our substitute. Philippians 2:7-8 says that He came in “the likeness of men…and humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” 1 Peter 2:24 say, that He himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, and 2 Corinthians 5:21 say that He “became sin for us though He knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” Christ received the full wrath of the Father satisfying the judicial wrath demanded by God’s justice for our unbridled rebellion and lawlessness. Isaiah 53 predicted the nature of the incarnation of Christ and His sacrificial death with the following explanation: “it would please the LORD to bruise Him. He would put Him to grief. He would make His soul an offering for sin. He would bear the iniquities of men. He would pour out His soul unto death, and be numbered with the transgressors. He would bare the sin of many, and make intercession for the transgressors.” But perhaps the most important statement in the passage is found in verse 11. Isaiah wrote that the Father would “see the travail of His soul and be satisfied.” This means that Christ death satisfied in full the wrath of the Father, and that there was nothing else to be done to enable God to pardon sinners. We can be forgiven only because of the substitution death of Christ.