· Justice Is Part Of God’s Original And Current Vision For How Mankind Is To Live.
· Part Of God’s Vision For Justice Among Humans Has To Do With Functioning As His Image Bearers.
In this post we continue discussing the importance of biblical justice by setting forth the remaining points of the narrative, starting with the third.
3. After The Fall This Vision For Justice Became Restorative In Nature
The New City Catechism provides helpful commentary on the effects of the entrance of sin into the world when it affirms in the answer to question 13 (“Can anyone keep the law of God perfectly?”): “Since the fall, no mere human has been able to keep the law of God perfectly, but consistently breaks it in thought, word, and deed.” In answer 14 we find the reason behind the just-mentioned inability: “…because of the disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, all of creation is fallen; we are all born in sin and guilt, corrupt in our nature and unable to keep God’s law.” Consider the following biblical confirmation:
· “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5)
· “‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.’” (Rom. 3:11-12)
· “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Eph. 2:1-3)
In other words, humans think, act, and relate to God and each other in ways that are not in keeping with God’s character, in ways that are unrighteous (Rom. 1:18). Since God created us to glorify him as his image bearers who create, work in, and give order to this world in righteous ways (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:15) and since the renewed and restored world in the future will involve his God-glorifying renewed image bearers creating, working in, and bringing order in that renewed and restored creation in righteous ways (Rom. 8:30; Rev. 14:13; 21:3-7, 24-26), how we relate to God, to one another, to his creation, and in relation to self is central to our carrying out his will to his glory.
To take this a step further then, if we will glorify God in this life and the life to come, it means we must live righteously in relation to God and others, as our King wills for us to do. This is one of the reasons Jesus tells his followers: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness…” (Mt. 6:33).
This is why one of the key notes struck in the Bible is that mankind must move to restore righteousness and justice after the fall, since the assumption is that naturally there will be unrighteousness and injustice. Consider the following Bible passages:
· “For I myself, Yahweh, continually love justice, hating robbery for burnt offering; and I will give their work in truth, and I will cut an everlasting covenant with them” (Is. 61:8, my translation). This is found in a context of the LORD promising to save his people and bring salvation, liberty, and justice, where there has been bondage, suffering, and also false worship. So, what is contrasted here with justice God loves is false worship that involves a profession of faith and yet the mistreatment of others. God is promising that instead he will transform his people—making everlasting covenant with them—so that they work in truth.
· “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound…. I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations.” (Is. 61:1, 10, 11) Here we see that in the future God’s servant will work to bring a transformation, a salvation, that will bring about righteousness—both in a display of God’s righteousness and God’s people reflecting God-like character toward him and one another.
· “Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” (1 John 3:7-10) We discover those who truly know Jesus and are children of God do righteousness—as Jesus is righteous. Those who don’t are of the devil. We also see here that practical righteousness involves loving brothers and sisters. See also the preceding context (esp. 2:29, in light of 2:3, 10, 15-17, 23).
One of the reasons that helping and defending the cause of the poor and needy are so often mentioned along with righteousness and justice (e.g. Jer. 21:12; 22:15-16) is because the world is sinful, fallen, broken, and this brings great suffering and bondage. God has acted to restore righteousness and justice (e.g. Is. 61:1-2, 8)—to help those who are poor and needy, which spiritually is all of us—and so he calls his people to do the same. Created and recreated in his image, “because God is a God of justice, a God who loves justice and hates injustice, his people are to be a people of justice as well. Theirs are to be actions, relationships, and communities that reflect the character and values and goals of God.” 
God does not save people merely so they have a ticket to heaven, but also so that they can be restored to God-glorifiers in their relations to God, self, others, and the creation. God wants us to reflect his grace and glory in how we treat others. This demands righteousness and justice.
Tony Evans captures well and summarizes what I am affirming when he writes: “The kingdom agenda is the visible manifestation of the comprehensive rule of God over very area of life…. Through the establishment of the church along with His overarching rulership above it, God has created a reflection of his kingdom in heaven on earth.” he then adds: “…theology must find a relevant demonstration in society, that the God of the Bible is not too highly removed that He is not also a God of everyday miry and mucky realities, and that His heart for the suffering and for the poor should be our own.”
We must also see the fourth main truth of the justice-filled biblical narrative from the passages we just cited, as well as additional ones.
4. God’s Vision For Justice Is Restored Fully Only Through The Righteous One, Jesus Christ
In Luke 4:18 we find out that Jesus is the servant who fulfills the words of Isaiah 61:1-11. He is the one who brings righteousness and justice to the world through saved and restored people. In 1 John 3:7-10 John makes the same point, namely that the righteous Savior restores his people so they practice righteousness (“and justice” is implied).
This is why, when Matthew in chapters 5-7 of his Gospel gives us a sample of the “gospel of the kingdom” Jesus proclaimed (4:23), he records that Jesus affirmed that when a person comes to him in grace, realizing he is poor in spirit and thus becomes part of the kingdom (Mt. 5:3), he will hunger and thirst after righteousness (5:6), will seek that righteousness and the kingdom as a priority (6:33), will even sacrifice his life for this Jesus-exalting righteousness (5:10-12), and the resulting good works will lead to God’s glory (5:16). Yet, apart from the restoration that comes through Jesus a person cannot live out the fruits of this righteousness (see John 15:1-16).
Paul also makes this abundantly clear in Ephesians 4:24, where Paul writes that the “new self,” the new person we are in Christ, is : “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
This does not mean that a level of justice cannot be achieved in the world apart from faith in Jesus Christ. It can. Yet, the justice will never be full and it will always be short-sighted and lacking apart from him. This is much of the reason why today’s advocates of social justice, though some of the things for which they advocate are part of biblical justice, dismiss things that ought to be sought for full justice at the same time they seek some things that are unjust by God’s standards. What is more, no person, apart from Christ, will desire anywhere near the same priorities of God for justice.
The big take-away, then, from this point is that Christians cannot pit the gospel against justice. They must advocate the propagation and acceptance of the gospel at the same time they advocate for justice. Both go together. Advocating for involvement in the public square without the gospel is incomplete and, at the same time, advocating for the gospel without the resulting focus on the public square is also incomplete.
Yet, we must remember that we will never see full and perfect justice even among saved and transformed people this side of heaven, because we will not be free from sin in this world. This leads to the fifth and final main truth of the biblical narrative in regard to justice.
5. God’s Vision For Restored Justice Will Be Fully Realized Only At The Future Coming Of Jesus Christ And In The New Heaven And New Earth
Because we will not be perfect in this world (James 3:2; 1 John 1:8; Heb. 12:23), perfect justice will not be realized this side of heaven, even though lives transformed by Christ should live much more justly toward others. This is why Peter (2 Pt. 3:13) writes: “But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”
The result is that we live with a tension. On the one hand, we should seek and do justice, realizing this is a way of glorifying God. And we should see justice grow. On the other hand, we will not live in perfect justice, nor will we ever experience perfect justice in this world. God at times will even use injustice to change and grow us (Rom. 5:1-5; 2 Cor. 4:17-18; James 1:2-3, 12).
We must remember that the ability to pursue greater justice is already here in Jesus and yet full perfect justice is not yet here. It awaits the future coming of Christ. Any approach that has sought to force the issue and set up a utopia (such as with communism) has usually devolved into even greater injustice.
We have now seen through both an examination of passages that deal directly with righteousness and justice and through looking at the overall narrative of Scripture just what justice is. “Justice identifies the moral standard by which God measures human conduct…[his own character as reflected in his moral will]…. Biblical justice, therefore, is the equitable and impartial application of the rule of God’s moral law in society…the understanding and application of God’s moral law within the social realm,” with the understanding that this justice is what is best for all.
We also have seen how important justice is. It is not something that the church can ignore. In fact, the sense that we have picked up on is that in a pursuit for justice we should live for a great cause, the cause of meeting the physical and spiritual needs of others all for God’s glory. That is why I have titled this series of blogs, “Live For A Great Cause, Not a Great Comfort: Move Toward Need.”
What we have left to do is to unpack several specific topics and find out how to pursue biblical justice in each.
Joyfully Pursuing Justice With You,
 Roy, “Embracing Social Justice:” 8.
 Tony Evans, Oneness Embraced, 42, 44.
 Ibid., 195.
 All but the bracketed clause and the last clause of this definition is taken from Tony Evans, Oneness Embraced: Reconciliation, The Kingdom, And How We Are Stronger Together (Chicago: Moody, 2011), 260.