March 30 I Friday
“God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of His blood—to be received by faith.” —Romans 3:25-26
The cross is God’s ultimate act of mercy, but if His mercy was all that mattered, there would have been no need for Jesus to die on the cross. God does not forgive our sin on the basis of mercy, but on the basis of justice.
Justice and mercy are seemingly incompatible traits. To exercise justice and mercy toward the same person in regard to the same thing is not possible. To illustrate, if you were facing a charge of speeding and were found guilty, the judge would have two options. He could deal with you mercifully and dismiss the charge or he could deal with you justly and enforce the penalty, but he could not do both. If we can stretch our imaginations—the judge declares you guilty and imposes a fine of $250, but out of sheer kindness and mercy, he decides to pay the fine for you. That would be an entirely just act, thanks to a third party. The records of the court would show the verdict of guilty and the fine paid in full. In the eyes of the law, you leave the courthouse a free person, not because of mercy, but because the fine has been paid and justice served.
The crucial issue about sin is not what it does to us, but what it does to God. We were created to be in the likeness of God’s moral character and sin violates His character, hurts those He loves and provokes His anger and wrath. The penalty for sin is death, but this is where justice and mercy meet at the cross. A third party stepped in and took upon Himself the penalty we deserve in order to satisfy the just wrath of a just God.
With the demands of His justice satisfied, God is legally and morally obligated to forgive us. It is not presumption to believe our sin is forgiven, but it is on the basis of the justice and integrity of God that we hold to be true. If we think forgiveness is the result of God being merciful, we are left with the realization there is no moral obligation on God’s part to forgive. We may conclude that having sinned so often we have exhausted God’s mercy, but this thinking is what lies at the foundation of ongoing guilt that only impedes our walk with God. It is actually bypassing the significance of the cross.
Mercy is absolutely involved, but our salvation and eternal relationship with God are secured because Jesus is both “just and the one who justifies” (Romans 3:26), satisfying on the cross the Father’s judgment so that we could be forgiven and made righteous before God.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, words cannot express how thankful I am for Your sacrifice. Thank You for Your love, Your mercy and for satisfying the Father’s wrath and judgment on my behalf.