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God’s justice, mercy, and creation

Published: 31 December 2016 (GMT+10)
wikipedia.org abraham-isaac
Sacrifice of Isaac-Caravaggio (c. 1603)

Jackson S., U.S., writes:

God is just by killing humans. Why are humans not just by killing other humans? God did command David to kill others, so this was casting judgement on them similar to the Flood. God essentially kills all of us because we all eventually die because the wage of sin is death. Why then, am I not just by killing my neighbor unless God orders me too? Abraham would have been just in killing Isaac similar to how David was just in killing those that God commanded be killed. David was not just by killing his friend, whom God did not order the execution of.

Also, atheists claim that God is unloving for requiring the act of seeking forgiveness from God in order to be forgiven. 1 John 4:8 says God is love, yet atheists say God is unloving for not forgiving everyone regardless of whether or not we believe.

Lita Cosner, CMI-US, responds:

Dear Jackson,

Thanks for writing in. First, it is good that you realize that God is not unjust when He kills people in judgment. For instance, all the people and land animals outside the Ark perished in Noah’s day. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed and only Lot and his daughters escaped (Genesis 19). God killed the Egyptian army in the Red Sea (Exodus 14), and commanded the Israelites to slaughter every last Amalekite (1 Samuel 15). And, as you point out, we all die, and this is a result of sin, both generally and our own personal sin (Romans 5:12).

God has the right to judge humans, including by killing them, because He is the Creator. He is perfectly righteous, so He has the perfect standard from which to judge. He is all-knowing, so He has all the relevant information to judge every individual person. And He is all-powerful, meaning that He is able to perfectly bring judgment to bear.

If you are tracking with me so far, you might guess my reasoning for why you can’t kill your neighbor without a God-given authority to do so—you’re not perfectly righteous, knowledgeable, or powerful. Also, you are not the Creator, so you are not the authority over your neighbor.

You will notice I said, “without a God-given authority”, and it is important to define what that is. In the Bible, God spoke to the leaders of His special nation, Israel, regarding using them as instruments of His judgment against various wicked nations. Israel’s army functioned in much the same way that a drought or tsunami could have—they were just the instrument that God used to judge these people groups.

Now, does God do this today? Well, not exactly. God gives governments the authority to execute criminals, so someone carrying out a legal execution is not a murderer, because they have the warrant of the government, to whom God has granted the authority to take life (Romans 13), specifically for the sin of murder (Genesis 9:6). But God does not go around commanding individuals to kill people today.

Also, it is important to note that even though we are talking about God’s justice here, God’s mercy is also important. God does not judge our sin immediately, because if God fully and completely judged everyone’s sin immediately, human history would come to an end. That’s because a single sin deserves death, and all of us have sinned. So God in mercy withholds judgment for a time to allow for repentance, and to allow history to continue until the end time He has appointed.

And of course, God’s mercy is shown foremost in the coming of Jesus, the Son of God, who took the just judgment for the sins of all who would believe in Him, so that we will never have to face God’s judgment—we do not have to die for our sins, because Jesus already has. So when we see someone who deserves to die because of their sin (that’s every single person apart from Christ), our first instinct should be to share the Gospel which presents the only way to escape judgment.

Now, the Gospel requires repentance, or seeking forgiveness. Is it unloving of God to require someone to turn from their sin to be forgiven? Frankly, that assertion is so ridiculous as to be nearly nonsensical. The offer of forgiveness is so undeserved, so gracious on God’s part, and so costly. God’s own Son had to die to even make it possible for us to be saved. Now God requires those who would be forgiven to love and worship the One who died to save us. Is that an unloving, selfish request? No! In fact, love and worship of the Son is the automatic response of the one who has been redeemed by Him. And only someone who rejects the Gospel and wants to make a mockery of the Saviour would think of making this argument.

Every single one of us deserves God’s just condemnation and eternal judgment for our sins. The glorious fact of the Gospel is that God Himself made a way for us to be saved without compromising His own nature which demanded payment for sin. Jesus, whose life combined perfect obedience and sinlessness, is the only man in all of history who never deserved to die, and He died on behalf of those who would trust in Him, and rose again to show His victory over death. When we believe this, we benefit from God’s mercy and do not need to fear His justice.

Helpful Resources

Christianity for Skeptics
by Drs Steve Kumar, Jonathan D Sarfati
US $10.00
Soft Cover

Readers’ comments

Richard G.
hank you for the Article. If I may add a few my own thoughts. Humanity finds it difficult from our limited perspective to understand the judgements of God against civilisations, nations or individuals. But, if we were to consider that sometimes we take some drastic actions against things that are interfering with the balance of our reality and existence, which we rarely question. Then we have to look at it from God’s perspective, because We are living in His Reality/World.
He is Most High God who rules over all of the affairs of mankind (Dan 4:17). He lays claim to the earth and all that is in it (Psalm 24:1-2). Therefore, He restrains the course of evil that is upsetting the balance from time to time, in order to accomplish His purpose – Which is to bring forth Children in His own Image and Likeness (Gen 1:26-27)
The Apostles taught that the World has been subjected to futility, in Hopes of the Revelation of the Glorious Liberty of the Sons of God at the End of the Age (Rom 8: 20-26). Therefore, we should Marvel that He has been so Longsuffering and Patient towards us, in order to save as many as He can (2 Pet 3:1-10) Because there is a time coming when The Most High will executes His Final Judgement (Rev 22:11) that will eradicate all evil from the face of the Earth (Rev 20:11-15). But for now, He has made A Way of Salvation for everyone willing to accept it (John 3:16-20). Which is why He commands us to repent from our sinful, destructive course of life and turn to Him and be saved (Isaiah 45:22-26). For one day soon, The whole earth shall be filled with the Glory of YHWH God as the Waters Cover The Sea (Hab 2:14), and the sinners (those who reject His offer of salvation) in Zion will not be able to abide in His Presence (Isaiah 33:10-16; Psalm 1:1-6)
Neavei I.
The wages of sin is death. In your article you see this as Judgement; that is , punishment for sin.
If I don't like the law of gravity, and decide to ignore it as inconvenient, I might then walk off a cliff as the quickest way to get down below. When I am broken on the rocks below ought I see that as punishment? Or is it mere consequence?
So too, "The wages of sin is death", may be seen as consequences; the natural outworking of damage done to our spirit (and body?) by ignoring Laws of the Cosmos.
God created the Cosmos and its Laws, so He takes responsibility for their outworking.
In this sense He judges us, but not without warning us of the consequences of not following His advice. Then He goes further and makes a way for us to avoid those consequences.
He is a loving God.
Daniel P.
Jackson S. noted Abraham's willingness to kill Isaac.

God did not intend for Abe to *accomplish* that killing. God merely intended for Abe to *believe* that God wished it. Abe passed this final, and historically unique, test. Then he understood why God had posed the incredible request. During the test, we may suppose Abe reasoned that he was going to see the *restoring privilege* that Adam may have initially hoped for for himself: resurrection soon after death. But, the *prophecy* of a saving resurrection could not be given through a dead man. It had to be given through a *living* man through one of that man's living ancestors. In this final test of Abe, God put both Abe and Isaac in the role of prophets. But Abe was the one of the two most severely tested.

And, so that no one is short on how to reason on that incredible test, Hebrews 1:17-19 tells us what Abe reasoned *during* the test. But Abe was the only human to be put to that kind of test. This implies much as to the extent of Abe's knowledge of God. Specifically, Abe, along with his father, Terah, had been an idolater before first encountering God (the OT itself contains only minimal record of this, such as Joshua 24:2 and Genesis 31:53). Only upon Abe's finally being converted did God then pose to Abe a first test (essentially the same God posed to Moses regarding the Children of Israel): telling Abe to leave his father, without every effort on Abe's part to convert Terah. The final portion of Genesis 11 implies he passed that first test, too.

The whole Bible is to instruct us as to God's side of the issue. But Genesis 22 is not told from God's point of view of our testings. For that, we should consider the first part of Job. Only, Job was merely the epitome of each of us: the most righteous of fallen humans.
Renata R.
Thank you so much for posting this article. I have struggled with this subject of killing in the old testament and this gives me some understanding and comfort. I will save this article, re-read & meditate on it and share with others. No need to post my reply. I just wanted to thank you.
J. M.
Beautiful response Ms. Cosner. I am going to save this for future reference.
Kirk H.
Agree with most of what you say, but not so much that God judged people in those mass killings - the Flood, the Exodus, the Ammonites, Moabites, etc. In a way, Adam killed them, not God. God's work of creation became much harder after the Fall - lots of thorns and thistles and sweat for Him as well. Nowhere in scripture do I see any hint of eternal condemnation, except for the book of life second death scene in Revelation, which just doesn't feel right to apply here. I see it more that God was preserving and protecting the womb of the Incarnation. We'll certainly find out for sure someday, but I do hope to talk with these people, repentant and redeemed, and watch those kids play with lions, tigers, bears, and wolves.
Lita Cosner
If you want to argue that God was not the one who killed people in the Flood and by judgments, then you have to grapple with the language of Scripture which clearly indicates otherwise. For instance, God said to Noah, "I have determined to make an end to all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth" (Genesis 6:13). I could multiply examples.
Travis E.
Thanks Jackson and Lita for your perspectives on this important and incredibly misunderstood issue. I found Lita's comment regarding the authority governments give particular individuals to carry out corporal punishment very illuminating.
The word that encapsulates the last forgiveness idea is repentance, which goes beyond asking for forgiveness to actively turning away from sin and walking in the opposite direction. If I punched someone in the face and then said sorry and asked for forgiveness and then after receiving this forgiveness immediately punched this person in the face again my apology means nothing. God asks us to repent from sin to make way for right relationship with Him and so we don't continue in self destructive actions. If you think of Christianity as a relationship with God, and accept that all relationships are built on love then what's so hard about accepting a few common sense actions to ensure a healthy relationship, that's what forgiveness and repentance are. Just my 2 cents. Trav
Jack L.
To quote the author: "...Also, atheists claim that God is unloving ....". But I thought atheists don't believe in the existence of GOD, so how can they make any claim? That argument would seem invalid to begin with. Am I missing something?
Lita Cosner
Well, they would phrase it, "If the God of the Bible existed, he would be unloving."

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