Coming to Terms: Justice

Terms in the Bible are specialized words of particular significance. In Coming to Terms we explore the significance of these terms to deepen our understanding of biblical truth through a question and answer format.

Unpacking the term

The original Hebrew and Greek words translated “justice” are also rendered “righteousness.” Our English word “justice” comes from the Latin jus meaning right or law. The two words convey the related ideas of doing what is right and giving to each one what is rightfully due them.

Where does understanding justice begin? The term “justice” begins with God. Justice is rooted in the character of God and is not an outside principle to which He must conform. “He is the Rock; his deeds are perfect. Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is!” (Deuteronomy 32:4). “For there is no other God but me, a righteous God and Savior” (Isaiah 45:21).

When God created everything there was perfect justice and righteousness. But sin entered the world (Genesis 3). Now we live in a fallen world where injustice prevails. God promised to restore all things but for now we live in parentheses between creation and the restoration of all things (Revelation 21).

Because God is just and righteous, what does He still require even though people are sinful? “…to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). God established laws and their application on how to be right before Him and how to treat others justly. “For I, the Lord, love justice. I hate robbery and wrongdoing” (Isaiah 61:8).

Justice is to be applied to all areas of life including business, where just weights and measures are demanded. “The Lord demands accurate scales and balances; he sets the standards for fairness” (Proverbs 16:11). It is demanded in courts where the rights of rich and poor, Israelite and sojourner, are equally to be regarded (Ezekiel 45:9–10).

The exercise of justice also requires that God establish governmental authorities in the world with power to achieve justice by establishing rights and interpreting and administering laws (Romans 13:1–7). This is why Christians are commanded to submit to them. “Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers” (Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13–14).

Doesn’t justice require someone to make judgments? Yes, God’s nature compels Him to judge based on His laws and then to give to each one that which is due them. He rewards good with good and evil with evil (Matthew 16:27; Revelation 20:12).

God alone is capable of judging rightly because He is everywhere, knows everything including men’s motives and thoughts. And only God is all-powerful and able to carry out His judgments.

While we live in the parenthesis of this sinful world everyone is not going to get what they really have coming to them. For the believer who trusts in a just God, the question is not whether there will be justice, but when. God promises to right all the wrongs in the end (Matthew 16:27).

Before the restoration of all things, at The Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20), God will take all the deeds of all people and He will give to each one what is due. The righteous will be rewarded and the unrighteous punished. And then the parenthesis ends in Revelation 21 and we are back into a perfect righteous environment again.

In the meantime, how can we, in this unjust world, trust that God is just? God’s justice is still seen in the moral law that is written on men’s hearts expressed in a sense of right and wrong (Romans 1:18–20). The supreme display of God’s justice is the cross: “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness” (Romans 3:25 NIV).

Jesus took on the punishment for our unrighteousness so that we could be declared righteous. “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18 NASB).

What should we do about the justice of God?

  • Embrace Jesus today as your Saviour, rather than meet Him as your righteous Judge later. Do not succumb to self-righteousness believing that you are just and right with God apart from Jesus
  • Refuse to take revenge when treated unjustly. Remember that God will judge perfectly (Romans 12:19) 
  • When you experience injustice find comfort knowing God will balance the scales either in this life or the next (Psalm 73) 
  • Seek justice in our world especially for the poor and marginalized (Isaiah 1:17)
  • Meditate on the reality of the Judgment and the promise of heavenly rewards. Make changes now so that it will be better later (1 Corinthians 3:12–15