Forgiveness & Justice

"In Him we have redemption through His blood and the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace…" - Ephesians 1:7 (MEV)

Romans 3:23-26 (MEV) – For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith, in His blood, for a demonstration of His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins previously committed, to prove His righteousness at this present time so that He might be just and be the justifier of him who has faith in Jesus.

Redemption is a big and recurring theme in the bible. The Old Testament provides the background for our understanding of redemption. The nation of Israel is essentially a redeemed nation. They were slaves in Egypt for a few hundred years. God redeemed them. The idea of redemption is setting free a person so that he might belong to another. God redeemed the Israelites to make them His treasured possession (Deuteronomy 7:6).

Redemption is through the blood of Jesus Christ for New Testament believers. However, in the Old Testament before Christ came, God provided atonement for sins through the blood of bulls, goats and lambs. When a person sinned, he had to lay his hands on the animal and confessed his sins. Symbolically, the sins were transferred to the innocent animal. The priest would then slay the animal – the innocent dying for the guilty. That is the idea. This is a prophetic imagery and a shadow of the reality, which is Jesus Christ, shedding His blood for our sins.

Why did God require the shedding of blood? Why does the Holy Scripture say that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin (Hebrews 9:22)?

In a nutshell, it is because of the holiness, righteousness and justice of God.

While most people, including Christians, are familiar with the love of God, they are unaware, even uncomfortable, with the notion of the justice of God. Because God is holy and righteous, He must be just. A just God cannot overlook or turn a blind eye to sin. He cannot and will not forgive without punishing the sinner. God will not be moved by soft sentimentality and ignore righteousness and justice. This explains why
the penalty for sin must be paid and the blood of Christ must be shed for the forgiveness of sin.

Human forgiveness operates differently at the relational level. While a penalty for a wrongdoing might be deserved, it is usually not imposed. Usually, an apology is enough to settle the matter and the offence is overlooked.

But the same cannot be said of the law. Imagine a judge who is always dispensing lenient judgements for convicted fraudsters, murderers, rapists and hardcore criminals. Soon, the entire community or nation would become lawless and consequently unsafe. Righteousness demands that the law be justly executed and the penalty paid.

Similarly, a holy, righteous and just God punishes sinners and He forgives them on only one basis, that a penalty has been executed. That is why Christ had to shed His blood and die for our sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, the innocent for the guilty. Paul says that this is to demonstrate God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23-26).

Notice the word, propitiation in Romans 3:23-26. God’s wrath was poured upon Jesus when He was hanged on the cross carrying the sins of all humanity. Jesus took our punishment for sins. He also bore the wrath of God on our behalf. That is why Jesus is the propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:2, 4:10). In Christ, God’s wrath was appeased and satisfied.

If God has the attribute of love but not righteousness, then justice would not have to be considered. If that is the case, then it would not have been necessary for Jesus to die on the cross. But because God is both love and righteous, justice demands that sins be punished but love necessitates His Son to take our place of punishment. Jesus fulfils both the justice and love of God on the Cross of Calvary. How beautiful!

Pastors Les & Adeline Chua