Sundays: 9 & 11am LATEST MESSAGE

Day 9 | How Can God Be a God of Justice and Mercy at the Same Time?

Written by Charlie Boyd

We live in a world where many people try to make a God in their own image—a god, like themselves—a god who likes what they like and is okay with what they do, no questions asked.

What is God really like? We’re going to look at what is undoubtedly the least popular attribute of God, and that is the justice of God—how God is just—how God is our judge—how God is loving, merciful, and compassionate, but also how God is a God of wrath. So, how do we make sense of all this? How can God be a God of justice and a God of mercy at the same time?

READ Exodus 34:6-7

This is the longest, most detailed description of what God is really like in the entire Bible. Do you feel the tension in this text? We like the part about how God is compassionate and gracious and patient and loving and faithful and forgiving and slow to anger. That’s the kind of God we want. But the passage also talks about how God is a God of justice. He will not leave the guilty unpunished—and that’s pretty scary. So, how do you relate to a God who you think is loving most of the time, but then you’re worried that if you mess up, then he’ll punish you and maybe even your children and grandchildren?

First, you have to understand this passage in its context. This passage is part of a larger story. God says, “This is what I’m like—this is the kind of God I am” after something terrible has happened among God’s people. The story and Exodus 34:6-7 show us how God can be both merciful and just at the same time. No contradiction.

But what about the point of God visiting the sins of the fathers on the children and grandchildren? What’s that about? This is not about some “generational curse” that hangs like a dark cloud over families for generations. It’s about “generational sin” perpetuated by successive generations. God holds everyone accountable for their own choices—their own sins. So that’s God’s self-revelation, self-description in the Old Testament. Now, let’s look at how the New Testament says the same thing.

READ John 3:16-18

Jesus is saying, when he came the first time, he did not come to judge the world, but to save the world from judgment. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus has made a way for us to step into life with God. This rebellious world stands under the judgment of God. That means every person in this rebellious world who rejects the salvation offered in Messiah Jesus stands under the judgment of God, and on the last day, they will perish. But in Christ, God has made a way for us to be saved. That is Good News—really Good News—that is the gospel of grace—and it’s available to us all if we will receive it (READ 2 Corinthians 5:18).