Monday, 3 October 2011

Either / or, or both / and

I had a really interesting conversation with a man recently in which he was objecting to various matters relating to God and His justice and mercy.

He said he believed in God but not the way the Bible presents Him.  So I asked him was the God he believed in a righteous God.  He said that He was (I mean, you can't sensibly say anything else! How could God be unrighteous? What standard would He fall short of?)  So I asked him was the God he believed in merciful.  He said He was.

So I asked him how could God be righteous and merciful?  He didn't immediately see the problem, so I asked him had he ever broken God's law, and he admitted he had.  I wanted to know then how he hoped to escape the punishment that deserved.  He said because he was sorry, but I told him that being sorry for sin doesn't pay for sin!  We ought to be sorry for sin - not being sorry is only an additional sin!  A judge would not be righteous if he let a rapist or murderer go free because he was sorry.  I told him if God let him off for breaking His law it would be mercy, not justice, but if He punished Him it would be justice, not mercy.  So what righteous basis did God have for showing mercy.  This question really got him thinking, and he couldn't come up with an answer. 

I told him that the good news is, God has provided the answer:

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.  Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.  But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith.  Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.  Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.  Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.
Romans 3 v 19-31
The answer is found in the blood of Christ - He paid sin's penalty at Calvary, and provided a righteous basis upon which God can show mercy to those who repent and avail of the value of Christ's sacrificial death.

At this stage he asked me how God's Son being nailed to a wooden cross paid the penalty for sin - I told him it didn't!  It wasn't what men did at all, it was what God did!  When the Lord was on the cross, then God laid on Him the judgment due to sin (Isaiah 53 v 5-6, 10; 2 Corinthians 5 v 21; 1 Peter 2 v 24).

That's mankind's only hope.  If you want mercy, you need Christ.