IT SEEMS TO ME: THIS IS WHAT BIBLICAL JUSTICE IS…
I need to start by saying, that life is a free gift, not immortality of the soul mind you, but life in terms of God given existence. Immortality of the soul is conditional based on faith in Christ Jesus WHO ALONE LIVES JUSTLY. Human existence is a free gift. Human existence is our lives. Our lives are a free gift that produces deeds. Our deeds are us exercising our freewill… also given to us by God. I would point out we are responsible for our deeds but not our existence.
With that in mind, I do not see the necessity to conflate immortality and justice. I understand the reason people do. That being the assumption that all human souls are or will be made to have immortality, but even under that assumption there is not a need to conflate justice and immortality.
With that said let’s move on…
The Scriptures tell us we will be judged for what we do in the body:
2 Corinthians 5:10: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (ESV)
Matthew 16:27: “For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.” (ESV)
You may also see Romans 2:1-16 on this same subject expressing the same Truth.
Now, this Judgement is rendered by God in accordance to His character/nature. The Scriptures tell us clearly that all have fallen short of the glory of God (His nature) or as we usually hear it, following God’s Word (Romans 3:23). God’s Word is the standard of being a righteous and just person. God’s Word reveals accepted faith leading to life or rejected faith leading to the consequence of death.
JUSTICE IN THE BIBLE: LEX TALIONIS
Now the only standard for justice in the Bible we are given is “Lex Talionis.” A simple way to express this is “justice rendered with equivalent or similar type and degree.” Even simpler… “eye for an eye.”
We must be clear that it is the behavior (immoral deed) that is dealt with, not the free gift (our lives) that the behavior is manifest through. I am attempting to stress that human beings have existence (which is free) in the same way (free from God) both before and after sin entered human reality.
JUSTICE IN THE BIBLE: GOD IS NO RESPECTER OF PERSONS
We must also be clear and keep with the teaching of Scripture that God is no respecter of persons (see Deuteronomy 1:17, Deuteronomy 19:21, Exodus 21:25, Leviticus 24:20). I like Colossians 3:25 where the Scripture says that wrong-doers will be repaid wrong without partiality (paraphrase mine). Favoritism in no way is at play in bringing people to account for their deeds. Favoritism plays no part in drawing people into a relationship with a just-loving God. Therefore, the standard is made plain and anyone who breaks it will be brought to account. Nevertheless, God’s love for you is at play. He has given law to reveal his justice standard with loving and drawing you to himself in mind.
Matthew 5:38-41 reflects this when Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” (ESV)
JUSTICE AS WE LIVE
Living justly towards others always involves suffering and bearing others’ wrongs (see Matthew 5:38-41 above). Why? Because God’s Nature is perfect, unchanging, and life-giving and this is what biblical justice is based on. Our nature, on the other hand, is everchanging and imperfect. This is extremely important and why only leveling out deeds or gratifying feelings never amount to Biblical justice. God is not focused on that… ever. God’s energy is focused toward redemption and maturing us because He is a Life-Giving Spirit.
Again, I must say, God is a Life-Giving Spirit. God never stops offering life even when sin is in the picture. However, I think we need to see God’s life giving in the light of “relational debt paying” over and against “transactional debt paying.” In the relational, Christ purifies what we cannot. He has life to give. We do not. He gives in a manner that transcends the Law because He is Lord of the Law; being without sin. What the Law requires brings with it the just standard to live by, but not forgiveness. You need a person to have forgiveness. Justice is found in the Godman because Christ alone is a Just and Righteous human.
Once we understand this, we can better understand the penal purpose of Jesus Christ and His death for humanity. The ultimate reveal of Justice. His death shows justice far beyond what “Lex Talionis” can bring to our understanding because Christ brings redemption. He died to bring a new life under a new order that sin’s power has no place in or can ever enter.
JUSTICE AS IT RELATES TO CHRIST
Now back to where I started. Life is a free gift. Based on that, it seems to me that there needs to be a differentiation made between the existence God gives us and the life we lived with that gift. That is to say, we don’t retain our existence because of our deeds. We are, however, responsible for them. Regardless, existence remains a free gift to all, but God will not force existence on us.
God, as our Maker, takes on our shortcomings because He is unchanging in His Just-ness and in His Life-Giving character. We see this clearly revealed in Jesus Christ bearing the sin of Mankind. God also sets everything right and lays the foundation of the Age to Come (eternal life). Christ’s death renders justice (God’s will) on Earth. Therefore, Christ’s death redeems mankind’s stewardship, conquers sin, and conquers all powers in rebellion to His Will. Christ reestablished order as a human being in His death by releasing the power of forgiveness to all who repent (turn to God’s ways). However, God did not kill Jesus to achieve this redemption. Rather, God condemned sin in Christ through His love for us. God died as a human rather than leaving humanity to die. This keeps with Matthew 5:38-41 which we read above. Jesus saved us by living justly, or maybe better put, He was just being Himself.
It seems to me… that God gives life and then commands how to live. Man always falls short (“sins”) in response to God’s direction. Man is then cut off from reflecting God correctly. Man is then cut off from reflecting God justly due to sin. We find later in the history of the Bible that God gives the Law to Israel (His people) and through them comes into the world in the person of Jesus the Messiah. Jesus comes to establish a righteous rule based in His own character and in so doing bears and condemns sin once for all. Therefore, overcoming His enemies with love and satisfies Gods’ command for justice by living justly as a human before God.