Questions God Asks, Pt. 6
Study Guide, November 6, 2022
Pastor Clay Olsen
There is one subject in the Christian life over which there is much confusion. And it has to do with ‘justice’. But in the midst of a teaching on perseverance in prayer Jesus also gives a teaching on justice…God’s justice for His people. And He gives it in the form of another question. Let’s look: Luke 18:1-8- “Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’ And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly…” NASU
This is kind of an unusual teaching on persevering in prayer because the Lord didn’t mean that persistent prayers bother Him, nor will we ‘wear Him out’ to the point that He just gives into us like this unrighteous judge; no, just the opposite. The point was that if this unrighteous judge would become willing to help this woman with a genuine need, how much more is our righteous Father willing to hear our prayers and help us in our genuine needs as well. So certainly, bring your cares and concerns and needs and hopes to your loving Heavenly Father. Choose prayer as your first, foremost, and faith-filled response to any and everything you ever have to face in life, because your loving God cares about your prayers, and is more than willing to help you.
But in the midst of this encouragement on praying faithfully Jesus injects another encouragement about God’s justice on behalf of His children. And His question is – “…will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly…” How interesting that the King James Version states God’s justice in these terms: Luke 18:7-8- “And shall not God avenge His own elect, which cry day and night unto Him, though He bear long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily.” KJV Now, as far as the timing of God doing justice for or avenging His people, the point was that as soon as any injustice is done to one of God’s children, He is already preparing the justice that will be done and determining the vengeance that will be carried out. And, as always, we can be sure of that, yet we need to wait on God for His timing.
But what we are examining here is one of the most misunderstood and confused aspects of the Christian life, especially when it comes to justice and forgiveness. For example: Many assume that somehow wrong doers can get away with doing wrong…especially to God’s people, since God’s people are obligated to forgive others. But not only is this a completely false assumption by those who have been wronged and even by wrongdoers themselves, but it is also a completely false understanding about ‘forgiveness’, which then unnecessarily burdens and disturbs them with this sense of injustice about it all.
So let’s look at what is often overlooked about ‘forgiveness. So many believers tend to think that justice delayed means justice denied. Oh, justice may seem to be delayed at times, but justice will never be denied nor will it be ignored. Many do not understand that in God’s promise to do justice on behalf of His children that He is promising, as John Gill put it in his exposition of this passage: “God has loved them with an everlasting love, and hence they are peculiarly His: and these He will avenge and vindicate, right their wrongs, do them justice, and deliver them from their adversaries, and take vengeance on them; as may be concluded from His hatred of sin, His justice, and His holiness, from His promises, and from His power, and from the efficacy of prayer, and the regard He has to it…whose prayers He always hears; whose tears He (even) puts up in His bottle…” (John Gill’s Exposition of the Old and New Testaments)
Does that sound like God permits wrongdoers of God’s people to ever get away with any wrongdoing against God’s people? Not at all! For not only is God the God of all love, He is also the God of all justice! So again, be sure…justice delayed is never justice denied. God has not only promised to right every wrong ever done to us, but He has even promised to do what we cannot do as powerfully and judicially as He can. What do we mean? Perhaps we all need to become far more familiar with what God declared about Himself throughout the Old and New Testaments in over 50 places, but we’ll just give some of these striking examples to help us understand what God is teaching us when it comes to avenging His people.
Deut 32:35-36- “Vengeance is Mine, and retribution, In due time their foot will slip;
For the day of their calamity is near, And the impending things are hastening upon them.’
For the Lord will vindicate His people, And will have compassion on His servants…”
2 Sam 22:47-48- “The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock; And exalted be God, the rock of my salvation, The God who executes vengeance for me…”
Isa 35:4- “Say to those with anxious heart, “Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; The recompense of God will come, But He will save you.”
Nah 1:2-3- “A jealous and avenging God is the Lord; The Lord is avenging and wrathful.
The Lord takes vengeance on His adversaries, And He reserves wrath for His enemies. The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, And the Lord will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.”
Rom 12:19-20- “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord.” NASU
One thing we need to very clear about, even for the sake of our own spiritual, emotional, and physical wellbeing, is this fact that no injustice ever done to any believer…ever done to us, will ever be ignored by God, or gotten away with by the wrongdoer. For God is our ‘Avenger’ who has declared “Vengeance is Mine” and has promised us “I will repay”. Have you added that identity of God’s yet to your understanding of Who your God is? Yes, God is my light and my salvation, my Rock and my refuge…yes, and God is also ‘my Avenger’! And regardless of what Hollywood has ever imagined an Avenger to be, there has never been nor will there ever be an ‘Avenger’ like our God is our ‘Avenger’. Anyone who wrongs God’s people in any way and does not repent of their wrong and make it right before God and to God’s people are going to have to face God’s vengeance, God’s justice. And, again, God’s vengeance will be far more that we could ever do.
And so, as you understand this and then dwell on what God is telling His children about what He is going to do in defense of them, this will not only answer your questions about injustice and unrighteousness and about any wrong doing ever done to you or to others of God’s people, it will also satisfy your rightful sense of the need for justice to be done and the need for the guilty to be punished. And why does it satisfy our need for justice to be done? Because God has declared to the whole world, and especially to His children who have been wronged by this world: “Vengeance is Mine…I will repay! I will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.”
Know this: You have a personal Avenger. God is your personal Avenger. And therefore, no one who has ever wronged you in any way, without making it right by you through confession and even restitution if needed, will ever get away with that injustice toward you, for God is your Avenger who has promised to repay the wrongdoer with His judgment upon them.
We have a very powerful statement about this from the Apostle Paul’s own experience when he was writing to Timothy from a prison cell in Rome. Note what he said: 2 Tim 4:13-15- “When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments. Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Be on guard against him yourself, for he vigorously opposed our teaching.” NASU One remarkable thing about this is that this man is believed to be the same man that was causing division in the church in Ephesus, whom Paul called for the church to discipline him through disfellowshipping with this carnal believer. Apparently, he was still causing trouble later. So here is Paul revealing to the other believers that God’s justice and judgment was coming to Alexander because of his divisiveness in the church. And remember, those who cause division among the Brethren is one of the top seven sins listed in Proverbs six that God says that He hates!
But note carefully what Paul knew about God’s justice here, and what we are to know about it, too. Just like with Paul, we, too, are assured here that God will repay anyone for any harm they have ever caused you, for which they have not made it right with God and with you, whether that be from unbelievers or even believers. And what this understanding did for Paul was that it assured him that justice would be done on his behalf concerning any injustice ever done to him from destructive unbelievers outside the church or even from divisive believers from inside the church…because God was his personal Avenger. God is your personal Avenger. God will not allow any injustice against any of His children to stand without His vengeance being carried out upon them.
Now, factor this fact of God’s sure justice back into the teaching of forgiveness. Sometimes Christians confuse the whole concept of forgiveness because they fail to factor in God’s vengeance, or God’s justice. They think: ‘How can you forgive someone when justice has not been done?’ The point is: Justice has already been set into motion and it will be done, that’s how! In fact, in God’s eyes, this justice is already as good as done, for God sees what’s going to be done because He is going to do it. Without repentance over their wrongdoing, God will carry out His sure and certain justice upon them.
And this is another reason that we are to walk by faith and not by sight, because we can’t yet see the rest of this picture about God carrying out His justice that God already sees. That’s why we are to look at every instance of injustice through the Scripture’s lenses of what God says He is already doing and is going to do about it. We need to know what God says about what He sees in order for us to then see the situation through ‘eyes of faith’ about the justice that is going to be done. Remember, sin against God and against God’s people sets God’s justice, God’s vengeance, into motion against them. Only repentance and confession to God and to the one who was wronged averts this vengeance. And God taught us this in His Word so that we would know this and that it would comfort us and assure us that every injustice ever done to you will be made right for you…God has promised to see to that!
Therefore, that’s what we are to see when it comes to this step of forgiving offenses toward you. Your forgiveness doesn’t release the offender of their injustice toward you, rather it releases them from your hands into the hands of the God of all justice, who will then carry out justice on them. Plus, and here is the real healing and helping purpose of forgiveness; it releases you from having to carry the burden of the offense anymore or being controlled by it anymore. You see, often when a believer has been offended by another, the believer tends to carry the offense, dwell on the offense, and unknowingly, that just allows it to continue to offend. But what the offended believer needs is a way to be released from that offense. Therefore, through forgiveness God gives us a way to release the offense by having us release the offender to Him. We release them from our hands into God’s hands. And think about it: When through forgiveness you release the offender from your own vengeance by releasing them over to God, well, realize this: God’s vengeance is far more than you could ever impart to the offender anyway! Your Avenger is going to take care of the offender for you.
Did you know that the real benefit of forgiveness is first for the sake of the one doing the forgiving, even before the one being forgiven? This is a remarkable revelation about ‘forgiveness’ that we find in what God says to us in Isa 43:25- “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins.” NASU How about that? God forgives us first for His own sake. Think about it: God so loved us so much that He found a way that He could satisfy the justice necessary against us because of our sins against Him, and therefore could forgive us so that He could then have us become His forever children, redeemed from sin and death. And so our forgiveness was foremost for God’s own sake, so that He could then fully love us because His justice was fully satisfied toward us. But again, note this carefully, even with God’s forgiveness, God’s forgiveness could only be given to us by Him first giving His Son to carry out the justice that was required in order to forgive sin.
And that’s something we are to always remember…Biblical forgiveness is never detached from Biblical justice. When we choose to forgive an offense and the offender, it’s not like we’re just shoving ‘justice’ off the table onto the floor. No, forgiving someone who has harmed or offended you is not like letting them off the hook. No, not at all! No, you are just moving them to another hook…from your hook to God’s hook. Certainly, as we forgive them we also pray that they will repent of their offense, repent of their sin or sins, and confess and forsake their sin, apologize for their sin, and thus be released of their sin, since justice has then been satisfied. But if they do not or will not repent of their sin, then again, in order for forgiveness to be granted, justice must also be satisfied.
So here it is: The reason we can forgive even unrepentant sinners is because God is going to see to it that justice will be satisfied. It’s just like with Jesus’ sacrifice for sins. Jesus bore the just penalty for our sins in our place, and His sacrifice became the satisfaction of the just punishment for our sins. That’s why when people reject or neglect the salvation offered to them by Jesus, based upon His sacrifice to cover the justice due because of their sin, well, if they will not receive His sacrifice for their sin, then they must endure the just penalty themselves for their sins.
But the point is, God can forgive us because Jesus bore the just penalty of our sins for us. God could pour out forgiveness upon us because justice was poured out upon Jesus for us. Still, that blessed exchange was not automatic for us…our repentance was first required by us in order for God’s justice to be satisfied towards us.
Which takes us back to this…so now when we forgive someone for their offense against us, we are not excusing their offense or eliminating the consequences of the justice that they will face; rather, we are simply handing them over to the God of all justice who will then justly deal with them as their sins deserve. And they will either repent of their offense or offenses and seek to make it right with God and with us, or, if they will not repent, then they will face God’s just vengeance, for God is just and His justice will be done!
This understanding that God is our Avenger is meant to be one of the greatest sources of consolation for anyone who has ever been unjustly treated in any way, by either an unbeliever or a believer…for you can rest assured that justice is coming to you. Plus, God also intends for this to be a caution and a correction for even His own people in how they treat one another, for His timeless principle of sowing and reaping also applies to God’s children. If there are offenses and wrongs done that were not accounted for on Earth, they will accounted for at the Judgment Seat of Christ, so that all accounts are settled before God’s children move into the New Earth. Death does not remove accountability before God even for God’s children; it actually reveals it. As the Apostle Paul said to the believers in Rome: “So then, each one of us will give an account of himself to God.” Rom.14:12 NASB
We’ll continue exploring this next time.