The justice of God belongs to the manifold wisdom of God. And an inspection of its many colors will reveal the beauty and holiness of God’s justice. Some, without a proper assessment, have claimed God to be unjust. It is therefore my hope to examine the justice of God in light of the scriptures, to change any man’s doubts into confidence toward God.
One who questions the justice of God should first consider God’s attitude toward injustice: Proverbs 17:15, “He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, Both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD.” Injustice is an abomination (lit. a disgusting thing) to God. We will not find God justifying wrong or the wrongdoer, nor will we find Him condemning those who do what is right. This is Justice. Justice, according to Merriam-Webster, is “the process or result of using laws to fairly judge and punish crimes and criminals.” Does this definition harmonize with the quality of God? Those who consider God unjust have not considered that justice demands law, executing judgments for those operating against the law, and without question, justice demands punishment of wrongdoers. This is exactly what we can expect from God, bringing judgment on those who do wickedly (2 Thessalonians 1:6 “since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you”), and rewarding those obedient to the law (2 Thessalonians 1:7 “and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels”).
Those who lack confidence in the justice of God are not looking at the full picture as we are encouraged to consider in Romans 11:22. “Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.” “Goodness” is an interesting characteristic of God. It literally means “moral goodness, integrity” (Thayer’s Lexicon). For God to hold to His integrity, disobedience to the law must be punished. Therefore, God cannot be good, unless He is also severe. “Severity” literally means “decisiveness, rigor” (Strong’s Definitions). That is to say that the severity of God demands consistency and certainty. Indeed, God could not hold to severity and reward some of the wicked with heaven. That is injustice, an abomination to the LORD, and contrary to the character of God. In order for God to be just, he must reward the obedient and punish the disobedient. To do one and not the other is injustice.
I believe some read the biblical account of Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10:1-3, or Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11, and their faith is shaken when they witness the action of the loving God toward these individuals. How could God bring these individuals to an early death? And how does His actions harmonize with His justice? Job understood the justice of God when he said “naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). This was his understanding after he heard the news of the death of his ten children and the loss of all his livelihood. Verse 22 says “in all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.” How often does man blame God for the pain and loss in their life? Men continue to charge God with injustice, but Job understood that the LORD giveth and the LORD taketh away. Job saw that it is God’s right to take away one’s life, because he gave it (Romans 9:20-21).
But why did Nadab and Abihu, or Ananias and Sapphira die, and not everyone else who has sinned? First I’d like to say that this is not a question of the justice of God, for God had every right to take their lives and still be consistent with His justice. Secondly, without a doubt these two events (one at the start of the Law of Moses, and the other at the start of the Law of Christ) were set forth as examples to all who would come after. I believe this is why the punishment of these evildoers was more immediate. Notice the lesson God teaches by these examples: in Leviticus 10:3, after Nadab and Abihu were devoured, God declared “By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.” The lesson learned by the children of Israel is that God must be regarded as holy (set apart, not common), and He must be glorified (to make weighty, take seriously). Man must not count the commandments of God like the words of men, for God’s words are set apart from man’s. God must be taken seriously. This is exactly what Nadab and Abihu were not doing. Likewise, the actions of Ananias and Sapphira taught all the people that God is not deceived by man, but whatever a man sows that he will reap. Did the people get the message? Absolutely: “So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things” (Acts 5:11).
Interestingly, if one would read through Acts 5:1-16, they will find the severity of God in his justice toward Ananias and Sapphira, and immediately following this account, they will find the goodness of God in the healing of a great multitude. In one context one can witness both the blast of God and the blessing of God, and I am reminded: “Consider the goodness and severity of God.”
The justice of God is evident in His every judgment. What makes the judgments of God different than the judgments of men, is the inexistence of fallacies: “we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things” (Romans 2:2). The judgment of God is according to truth (i.e. fact, reality, integrity, not according to appearance). In judgment, God considers every work: “Also to You, O Lord, belongs mercy; For You render to each one according to his work” (Psalm 62:12), “including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). In the last day, the Lord himself will judge in justice and righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8), “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works” (Matthew 16:27). We will be judged by Him in truth, not appearance, and according to our own works, not someone else’s. The bible’s outline of God’s judgments is in exact harmony with man’s definition of justice. In fact, the way God judges would be everything a person could want out of the courtrooms of this world, but men still kick against the goads with great difficulty to say that God is an unjust God.