Wednesday, January 8, 2014

"Mercy, From Justice"

     A good friend frequently tells the story of an organized crime figure convicted and facing sentencing.  His attorney told the man he would ask for justice during the pre-sentencing deliberations.  "Justice?!" responded the convicted felon, "Don't seek for justice!  Plead for mercy!"

    In spiritual terms, justice, particularly God's perfect and pristine version of the principle, would lead to condemnation of the entire human race.  "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 8:23).  Our physical birth constitutes us as sons and daughters of Adam, whose sin plunged us into the mastery of sin and its consequence.  "In Adam, all die" (I Corinthians 15:22).  Moreover, we all make our freely determined choices to distrust and disobey the Creator and Sustainer of our being.  "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way" (Isaiah 53:6).  In a creation originated by One whose "way is perfect," anything less than this standard must be judged and banished.  Therefore, unless another trait, principle, and sensibility exists in God, we would all be left without hope.

    Thankfully, another such disposition does dwell in our Maker, an inclination for mercy whereby He seeks to justify rather than judge sinners.  God cannot, however. simply pardon by mere fiat.  The perfection of His character, nature, and way do not allow that.  The desire to bestow mercy must not conflict with the essence of our Lord's perfectly just and equitable being.  He must maintain who He is in both pardon and justice. 

    This He accomplishes in the Lord Jesus Christ.

    "Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Romans 3:14-26).

    In Christ, justice and mercy unite.  God's wrath and rejection of both sin and sinners finds its full expression on the cross of Calvary where the Lord Jesus died as our sinbearer, and as sin itself (I Peter 2:25; II Corinthians 5:21).  The Lord's pardon flows freely and equitably from justice served in the spirit, soul and body of the Savior, and mercy thereafter served to the spirit, soul, and body of all who believe.  Justice becomes the very basis of mercy as the judgment fires of Divine wrath so burned themselves out in Christ that God can freely offer salvation in a manner that vindicates rather than violates His character, nature, and way.  Indeed, it would be unjust for the Lord not to offer free salvation when the Lord Jesus so completely remitted the price thereof.  "The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all... Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us" (Isaiah 53:6; Titus 3:5). 

    Apart from the person and work of Christ, God could not offer mercy without being unjust.  After the person and work of Christ, God cannot fail to offer mercy without being unjust.  Little wonder that upon contemplating similar truths of redemption, the Apostle Paul rejoices in an exultation that closes our consideration...

"O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!  For who hath known the mind of the Lord?   Or who hath been His counselor?   Or who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?   For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen."
(Romans 11:33-36)
"Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other."
(Psalm 85:10)

Weekly Memory Verse   
    Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.
(Jude 1:24-25)

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