PREACHER’S POINT: How does God’s love and justice coexist?
By Timothy Johnson
“How can a loving God send someone to hell?”
“If God loves us, how can He allow things like this to happen?”
“A God that would send someone to hell is not a God I want to follow.”
Over the years, if God had given me a dollar every time I heard these or similar statements, I would be wealthy.
These statements bring the question – since God is love and God is also just; how do those two characteristics coexist (1 John 4:8; Deuteronomy 4:24; Hebrews 12:29)?
In our society, interventions occur frequently. There are three necessary actions included in an intervention. Someone hears of the destructive activity they are involved in, the adverse outcome that awaits, and the essential work needed to avoid the worst-case scenario. By definition, anyone engaged in intervening needs to be judgmental (“What you are doing is wrong, you need to stop, or your life will be ruined”).
Everyone involved in the intervention does this because of their love for the person needing help.
God is performing interventions every moment of every day.
Some will say, an intervention and God sending someone to hell is comparing apples with oranges. That is not the case because God does not send anyone to hell. Just as the alcoholic who does not heed his friends’ warnings loses his job, going to hell is the natural result of rejecting God’s warnings. Each person stands at a fork in the road – either heed to the warnings or suffer the consequences.
The law saves no one, but what God does for our salvation is because of the law.
We have all broken God’s law at one time or another. Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” Romans 5:12, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:”
Because of the law, all are guilty. The law also informs us of the penalty and remedy for sin.
The penalty is death. Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The “death” in Romans 6:23 is both physical and spiritual. We all have physical life, and one day we will eventually die physically. On the spiritual side, however, we start dead because of our sinful nature (see Romans 5:12 above). John 3:18 explains. “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
The remedy for breaking the law is blood. Leviticus 17:11, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.”
Ok, the law has condemned us because we are sinners, and the punishment is death. Spiritual death, being cast into hell after physical death, is, therefore, a result of our lack of action – similar to the addict increasing his suffering by not listening to his friends. It is not his friends’ fault – they gave him warnings. The same is true with hell. God gives warnings, but many do not heed.
What about the remedy?
In the verses above, there is an explanation of the remedy side-by-side with the bad news concerning sin.
John 3:18, “He that believeth on him is not condemned…”
Leviticus 17:11, “…for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.”
Through His crucifixion, He was the blood sacrifice needed for the remedy of sin. Jesus is called “the Lamb of God” for this very reason. He is the required sacrifice for the sins of humankind.
How do God’s love and justice coexist?
He loves us; therefore, He offered the sacrifice no one else could offer – the blood of the Son of God. Now the law has been satisfied.
It is at this point the sinner needs to act. The action necessary for the pardon is faith that what God has done is enough – faith in His blood; trust in His forgiveness.
As the judge, God offers a pardon. This pardon comes through the blood of Christ. If the guilty refuse the mercy, the judge has no other recourse than executing the sentence. The sentence is spiritual death. The guilty have made their choice – I will not accept God’s pardon.
Just as people have given warnings to a loved one about their destructive behavior in life, God has given us warnings about our sin. Sadly, many people who have done everything they can to persuade their loved one to make the right choice, see it end in tragedy.
The same is true with God. He has done everything He can to satisfy the law. All that is needed is for the guilty to have enough faith in the judge to accept the pardon.
Through the love of Christ, His blood accomplishes pardon. Because of disbelief, God must execute judgment. Therefore, God’s love and justice coexist.