Justice, Mercy, and Grace

God is righteous and cannot be unjust at any time. To administer justice is to give people what they deserve. If God gave us what we deserve, we would all end up in hell. But God is also merciful and therefore did not want to give us what we deserved. So Jesus satisfied the righteous demands of God by paying the price for our sins. Mercy is not giving somebody the punishment they deserve. If you stand before a judge and beg for mercy; you are saying, “I am guilty, but please don’t give me what I deserve.” “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we have done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:4,5).

Grace is giving people what they don’t deserve. Grace is unwarranted favor. It cannot be purchased and it cannot be earned. One can only respond to a gracious gift by humbly receiving it, being thankful, and then praising the character of the giver. Because of God’s mercy, He looked for another way to satisfy His justice so that we would not have to pay our own wages for sin, which is death. Because of His gracious nature, He gave us eternal life. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8,9).

In order to bear the sins of all humanity, Jesus “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Phil. 2:7). Being omniscient, God fully understood the suffering and hardship of fallen humanity. He didn’t have to become one of us in order to feel our plight. God already knew what we thought, how we felt, and His plans were in place long before Jesus came. The difficulty is in our understanding, not His. Jesus was tempted, tortured, mocked, falsely accused, whipped, humiliated, and crucified. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).

People don’t want to share their burdens with someone who can’t relate to them, nor understand their situation. Nor do people unburden themselves to others who are unable to help them. None of us have been as ill-treated as Jesus was. His duel nature, being fully God and fully man, helps us to know that He does understand our lowly state, and has the means to help us. “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). “For once you were not a people [of God], but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Pet. 2:10).

Now the goal is to “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Lu. 6:36). In other words, don’t give them what they deserve, but don’t stop there. Take the next step and give them what they don’t deserve. Love one another.

Dr. Neil

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