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THEOLOGY > God > God's Essence > God is Righteous 


God is righteous. He can do no evil for He is not evil (Gen. 18:25; Deut. 32:4; Neh. 9:8; Ps. 9:8; 11:7; 36:6; 89:14: 111:3; 112:3, 9; 145:17; Isa. 41:10; Jer. 9:24; 12:1; Rom. 2:6-11).

The Hebrew (tsedek) and Greek (dikaios) terms for righteousness speak of conformity to a standard. For God the standard is God; it is not outside of Him but the standard is Himself, His very essence, His holy essence. He can only do right for He is righteous, and He cannot act contrary to what He is. Pure water flows from a pure fountain.

God’s righteousness speaks of His holiness in relationship to His creatures—His acts toward them are right for they issue from His holy nature; He only does what is right, and He is just in all His dealings with His creation. God’s holiness guarantees the rightness of divine actions.

Man may not understand certain deeds or acts of God, but that which man does not comprehend and that which does not make sense from his perspective man leaves with God, who is holy. The believer walks by faith not sight, and to the degree that faith accepts God’s holiness and, therefore, the rightness of His actions, to that degree faith rests. Faith does not question—faith is trust, trust in God who does all things well.

God is right even in judgment (Dan. 9:14; Rom. 2:5), and His justice has been called God’s “official righteousness” (Erickson, CT, I, 288) and “a mode of holiness” (Shedd, DT, I, 364). The Psalmist relates the two: “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne” (89:14). Righteousness guarantees justice, and justice is according to righteousness; and upon these pillars God’s throne—His Sovereignty—rests.

As the One who is righteous and just, God is the One who will be the final and ultimate Judge, and “shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:25). God will give to each man his due (Matt. 16:27; II Cor. 5:10; Rev. 20:12), with some receiving punishment, while others will receive rewards. “God is the Judge, so justice will be done” (Packer, Knowing God, 130), and the wicked who currently seem to prosper (Ps. 73) will in eternity be brought to the bar of God’s  just justice.

The justice of God is God’s holiness responding to human evil, and the Almighty will do what is right regarding sin. God’s moral holiness and ethical Law demand that sin be dealt with; it cannot be otherwise. Three thoughts are suggested.

One, sin is wrong; it is an attack on God’s holiness and a violation of His Law. It is an attack upon His right to rule; it is the creature in rebellion against the Creator. Sin is revealed for what it is when considered in terms of God's righteousness.

Two, sin must be punished; if it is not punished, God is not just and justice is not maintained. Sin cannot be allowed to exist indefinitely without being dealt with by the righteous Judge. If it does, it brings into question the justice of God and the omnipotence of God. Either He is not good or He is incapable.

Three, sin will be punished because God is good and capable; and in punishment God’s wrath, which is God’s holy response to sin, is manifested.

Note: These three dimensions of God’s justice provide the basis for properly interpreting the Atonement.

God’s justice is a source of comfort to the believer who lives in a sinful world and must trust God ultimately to rectify all wrong. Believers have long struggled with the fact that the wicked seem to prosper in their wickedness while the one who believes in God suffers injustices and wrongs that are never addressed in this life. Without the knowledge that God in eternity will do what is right, the believer might be brought low in despair.

For all His ways are justice,
a God of truth and without injustice;
righteous and upright is He.
Deut. 32:4

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