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God’s justice, mercy, and creation

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 Sanders, 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.

Published: 31 December 2016

Helpful Resources

Christianity for Skeptics
by Drs Steve Kumar, Jonathan D Sarfati
US $17.00
Soft cover