Two Types of Justice
We often hear the statement, “God is a God of love but He is also a God of justice.” What is wrong with this statement is the obvious error that it equates God’s justice with all that is negative. It makes God’s justice appear as the inverse of His love. God’s justice, on the contrary, is a product or an attribute of His love. It is not and will never be in any way divorced from His benevolence.
It must be remembered that the primary function of law is to secure the happiness and well-being of any given society. Laws are never intended as ends in themselves, but as means to an end. Laws can be replaced or dispensed with only if, in so doing, the end which they uphold is not damaged.
An effectual substitute for the normal execution of the penalty for lawbreaking is what King Darius labored earnestly but failed to find. God, on the other hand, was able to provide an adequate substitute and satisfy the demands of public justice. An exception would be made and a pardon granted. The biblical word for this substitution is atonement. God’s solution to His “lion’s den” problem was the governmental substitution of the sufferings of Christ for the punishment of sinners.
It is crucial to our discussion of reconciliation that we do not confuse these two types of justice. If this does occur it will thoroughly confound our understanding of the nature of forgiveness.