Lesson Two: God's Justice And Mercy
When people think of God, they usually imagine Him to be a mean, strict Judge. Or, they picture Him as a loving, caring Grandfather type of god. Believe it or not, both of these views are wrong. God is strict, but He is also loving. God is caring, but He is also a Judge. So to think correctly about God we have to understand that He is both of these things. God shows Justice as well as Mercy.
Ephesians 2:4,5 Let's take our time and look at each one of these aspects of God's character. First, read this verse and see if you can tell what it is that makes God angry.
If you said "ungodliness", you are right. Sin is what makes God angry. The Bible goes on to say that every human sins. "There is none righteous, no not one". Now look at these other verses and see what kind of punishment this sin deserves.
We read from these verses that we deserve "hell" or the "lake of fire" for our sin. This is what is called the bad news. This describes God's justice. Because we sin, we deserve to be punished. Now let's move on to the good news, or God's mercy.
In verse 25, we see a special word, atonement. This word comes from an Old Testament concept of the Temple and God's holy presence.
Israel had a special place where they would meet God. The outer room of the Temple was called "The Holy Place", and the back room beyond it was called "The Holiest of Holies". This is where the Ark of the Covenant was kept(the container for the Ten Commandments). The Ark was covered with gold which was called "the atonement cover" or the "propitiation". Once a year the High Priest would enter the Holiest of Holies and sprinkle the blood of a sacrificed lamb on the cover of the Ark. This act represented the washing away of Israel's sin. Or in other words, the blood of a lamb kept God's wrath or anger from falling on the people of Israel.
Now, we know this to be a shadow or symbol of the coming of Christ. Jesus was the propitiation or atonement for our sin before God. An easy way to define atonement is to say it is a "sacrifice that takes away the wrath of God". Going back to Romans 3:21-26, Paul is teaching us that the way God shows His justice and His love is by sending Jesus to die on the cross. Think about it, if God let us get away with sin, He would not be just. However, if He chose to pour out His wrath on us He would not be merciful. So when He sent Jesus to be punished for our sins, He carried out His justice while at the same time mercifully providing us with an escape from His wrath.
In the cross of Jesus the justice and mercy of God meet. Sin is punished, but Jesus is offered in our place. Jesus was our sacrifice, or "atonement" to take away God's wrath.
1. What are the two aspects of God's character?
2. What do we all deserve because of our sin?
3. What is an atonement?
4. How does God show His justice and mercy at the same time?