The Full Picture of Salvation, Part 5
Last time I started to take a lengthy look at the grounds for our justification, ending specifically with how Christ secures our justification on the cross. I ended by saying that the mere fact justification is possible for anyone is an act of God’s mercy. He doesn’t owe us anything.
However, this provision of justification cannot undermine his established laws. That would amount to a defamation of God’s own character. As I said before, we can’t call someone just who doesn’t do what’s right, who doesn’t punish sin. So these two concepts of “justice” and “mercy” must somehow co-exist to their fullest measure. One cannot give way to the other or you are stuck with an inconsistent and wishy-washy god. Who wants that? (Rhetorical question.)
Which leads to the second way Christ secured both justice and mercy.
Knowing that his own law must be upheld, the penalty for it must be exercised. God is holy and hates sin. His hatred of sin demands that it be punished. His law and the penalties for sin that it contains are a reflection of his character. The two are inseparable. The penalty against sin is a perfect penalty. Unlike in our world where there might be disagreement as to what is a “fair” penalty for lying on your taxes or robbing a bank, God’s system of justice is perfect. There is no discussion. It perfectly reflects his perfect morals. Thus, as the Law Giver, he and he alone decides what satisfies his own law. Whatever satisfies his own wrath also satisfies the penalty of the law, because the two cannot be distinguished.
Keeping all of this in mind, the options were to punish the sinners directly (which would be fair, or just), or for him to provide a substitute which would absorb the guilt of the sinners — which he had already established was legitimate through the animal sacrifices. That’s the mercy. In either case, justice is served and wrath is propitiated, the difference is the object of wrath. We, of course, know that Christ willingly laid down his life (John 10:17-18). And we know that Christ “died for our sins” (1 Cor 15:3; cf 2 Cor 5:21). But what does that mean? What has it got to do with propitiating God’s wrath, with the sacrifices, with justice?
I’ll start opening that can of worms next time.