About Jesus Steve Sweetman
God's Love Vs. God's Justice
Unless I am mistaken (and I could be), I think we as Christians tend to see God as more just in the Old Testament and more loving in the New Testament. We see God as more judgmental and angry before the cross, and more loving and gracious after the cross, as if God has a split personality, divided by one moment in time.
I think we tend to view the cross as a victory of God's love over His justice, as if these two attributes were in conflict with each other When we think this way we put part of God's nature over against another part of His nature, resulting in an internal conflict within God. This cannot be. God cannot be divided, nor can He be in conflict with Himself.
God is the sum of all of His attributes. We cannot stress one attribute over against another, pitting attributes against each other, resulting in such conflict. When we think that God's love conquered His justice on the cross, we are doing just that.
1 John 1:9 says, "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins..." John says that God is both faithful and just. God's faithfulness did not win any battle with His justice. Both justice and faithfulness work together, providing us with forgiveness.
Paul, in Romans 4:26 says that Jesus went to the cross "to demonstrate His justice ... so as to be just and the one who justifies the man who has faith in Jesus". Justification is the process by which God views us as perfectly righteous, even as He Himself is perfectly righteous. The only way in which we can be justified is by God acting justly. Our justification is not possible by God's love alone. His love is fulfilled by His act of justice as seen in the cross. As Paul says, "God is just and the one who justifies the man who has faith in Jesus".
Therefore the cross was a demonstration of God's justice. We often think that it was a demonstration of God's love, yet it was first a demonstration of His justice.
Our modern day's concept of love and forgiveness appears to be "letting bygones be bygones". We say in response to someone asking our forgiveness, "don't worry, its okay". We sweep the offense under the carpet and try to forget and forgive. This was not the case with Jesus when He was murdered on the cross. No sin was swept under the rug. The cross was not a matter of letting "bygones be bygones". It was a demonstration of God's perfect justice, resulting in God's anger being poured out on Jesus.
God's justice that should have been directed towards us was directed towards Jesus while He hung on that cross. There was no battle between God's attributes. God, in His justice had to punish someone for our sin. In punishing Jesus, He demonstrated that He is a just God and that He cannot tolerate sin. If He had not acted in this just manner, then He would not have been just. The result of this demonstration of justice is that we do not have to experiences God's judgment and anger. We only experience His love.
The simple fact is that God's love was fulfilled by His just act, as seen on the cross. God has not changed from Old Testament days. He is just as just as ever, and He is just as loving as ever. These two attributes cannot be separated from each other, and they are definitely not in conflict with one another. This is the core of the gospel we love and accept as true. We have experienced God's love because He is just and has demonstrated this justice by the sacrificial death of our Saviour, His Son.