Like Button

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Justice or Mercy?

I've already staked out my position on the Atonement Christ accomplished on the cross. I'm going with the version known as "Penal Substitutionary Atonement". That is, sin has a penalty that justice requires. Christ paid that penalty. He did not pay it on His own behalf, but as a substitute for me. This payment of the penalty for sin on my behalf is the means by which I can now be reconciled to God. That's the idea.

There are objections, of course, to this view. I'll dismiss out of hand, "You know, modern scholars say ..." or the like because they're irrelevant. What does Scripture say? And I'll also throw out, "I don't like the way that feels" and its siblings. You know, "It's barbaric for a God to require blood to satisfy His wrath." Or, "My God is just forgiving and merciful, unlike you're mean version." Because how you feel about it is also irrelevant. What does Scripture say? There is an objection worth noting, however.

"If Christ satisfied God's justice by dying in our place, in what sense is it forgiveness? How can it be both justice and mercy?" Reasonable question.

I heard an illustration once that made sense to me. Imagine you're at your favorite bakery. (If you don't have one, imagine you do ... and you're there.) You're picking out your favorite goody when a boy comes in, asks for a cupcake, and when he receives it says, "I don't have the money." You kindly offer to pay for his cupcake. Question: Is the proprietor required to accept your payment? The answer is yes. No crime has been committed. No harm is done. There is no reason not to accept your money on the boy's behalf. Okay so far. Now, imagine instead that the boy comes in, sneaks behind the counter, snatches a cupcake, and heads for the door. The owner nabs him before he gets out. You, again, kindly offer to pay for the cupcake. Again, is the proprietor required to accept your payment? In this case, no, he is not. You see, in this case a crime has been committed. Justice must be served. Now, in the case of a boy stealing a cupcake, the proprietor may feel that justice is served if he gets paid, or he may opt for some punishment for the boy to teach him not to steal, but it isn't your call. It's his. Because a crime was committed.

In the same way, a crime has been committed by each of us. It is a crime against our Maker. We have stolen His glory. And there is justice to pay. Christ comes along and offers to pay for your crime. Is the Maker obligated to accept the payment on your behalf? No. He is not. Justice makes no such demand. Thus, if God chooses to accept as payment the sacrifice of Christ on my behalf, He does so 1) as a satisfaction of His justice and as an act of mercy (and grace).

Is the forgiveness we receive because of Christ's payment for sin on our behalf a matter of justice or a matter of mercy? The answer is "Yes". Both. And that is an wonderful, amazing thing.

No comments: