Our Father, we love Thee for Thy justice. We acknowledge that Thy judgments are true and righteous altogether. Thy justice upholds the order of the universe and guaruntees the safety of all who put their trust in Thee. We live because Thou art just- and merciful. Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, righteous in all Thy ways and holy in all Thy works. Amen.
-A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy
God is righteous in all His ways. Justice is a part of who God is; not an outside standard to which He lives up. He is a God who rewards righteousness, and punishes wickedness.
Where, then, does that leave us? Well, on the face of it, we’re left condemned. However, we know that God is merciful. He is the justifier of the unjust. How can this be? Anselm explained that God’s being is simple and unitary. None of His attributes (i.e., justice and mercy) conflict with one another. As Tozer summarized, “God’s compassion flows out of His goodness, and goodness without justice is not goodness…When God punishes the wicked, Anselm concludes, is is just because it is consistent with their deserts; and when He spares the wicked it is just because it is compatible with His goodness…” God’s actions flow out of His unified character, and do not conflict.
So how does God justify the wicked? By a glorious transaction. He does not overlook sin, but punishes it in His own Son, Jesus Christ. On Christ, the full weight of God’s wrath for the sin of those who turn to Jesus was poured out in His passion on the cross. He bore the punishment deserved by us. Not only are we now free from this wrath, but we are granted God’s own righteousness through faith in Jesus, and rewarded! And because of this we will forever sing,
Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
‘Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.
Bold shall I stand in Thy great day;
For who aught to my charge shall lay?
Fully absolved through these I am-
From sin and fear, from guilt and shame.
-Count N.L. von Zinzendorf, as quoted by Tozer.