God's Word For You is a free Bible Study site committed to bringing you studies firmly grounded in the Bible – the Word of God. Holding a reformed, conservative, evangelical perspective this site affirms that God has provided in Jesus Christ his eternal Son, a way of salvation in which we can live in his presence guilt free, acquitted and at peace.



© Rosemary Bardsley 2024

Some of the most frequent criticisms and questions about God, from both sceptics and believers, focus on the concept of justice, and particularly on the perceived tension between the biblical teaching that God is good, powerful and loving, and the seeming injustice of the way things are in the world. To a large extent, these questions are unanswerable apart from the presence and reality of God’s grace.

Interestingly, at the same time, and often from the same people, there is an underlying expectation that ‘god’ – whatever or whoever they mean by that term – ought to be just. Justice is expected of ‘god’. The human heart seems to crave for justice (except, perhaps, when it is being applied as judgement/punishment on them).

This human expectation that God ought to be just, and ought to exert justice, arises from the persistent presence of evil in the world.

We have seen in previous studies that justice is part of God’s essential nature, but it is not the only part, nor is it in conflict with the other aspects of his nature. In this study we will look again at the relationship between God’s justice and his mercy, and we will look at the future, final implementation of his justice.


The concept of ‘mercy’ is significant only where there is an expectation of judgement or justice. If there was no such thing as judgement/punishment, under any system of law, there would be no need for ‘mercy’. Mercy is the non-application of deserved judgement/punishment.

Read these two passages. What answers do they give to the question of God’s justice?
Exodus 34:4 – 7

2Peter 3:3 – 10

In both of the above, we find both mercy and justice. God will implement his justice, but in his mercy he delays his justice, offering grace and mercy so that we can escape the penalty required by that justice. In the meantime, for our sake, for as long as he delays his justice, such is his goodness that he exposes himself to our human accusations that he is not just, because evil multiplies and those responsible seem to get away with it. Human injustice runs hand in hand with human rejection of God, intensifying the human desire/expectation for God to implement justice.

This merciful delay in implementing justice, this patience of God, is evident in the human history recorded in the Bible. We see again and again that although it is delayed, justice does fall when human sin reaches saturation point. As long as mercy is available (as long as justice is delayed by the availability of mercy), sin and suffering increase and intensify on earth, ultimately reaching a point where God deems that enough is enough.

How do these verses speak about this maxing out of evil that evokes God’s justice?

At the time of the flood – Genesis 6:5 – 7:

The delay in Abraham’s descendants occupying the land of Canaan – Genesis 15:13 – 16; Deuteronomy 9:4 – 6:

Abraham bargaining with God about his intention to pour judgement on Sodom and Gomorrah – Genesis 16:16 – 33.

The increasing and pervasive sin of Judah making judgement inescapable – Isaiah 1:4 – 6; Jeremiah11:9 – 14:


The Bible affirms that God is just. Justice is part of his nature, his being, just as much as ‘love’ and ‘goodness’ are. It constitutes who he is.

What do you learn about God as ‘just’ from these verses?
Genesis 18:25

Deuteronomy 32:4

Psalm 99:4

Daniel 4:37

2Thessalonians 1:5,6

1John 1:9

Revelation 15:3; 16:7; 19:2

God, his actions and his judgements, are repeatedly defined as ‘just’. What he does is legally just, true and right.


Similarly, the Bible associates God with ‘justice’. Even people who seriously misapplied God’s justice, or could not at the moment perceive God’s justice, expected God to act with ‘justice’. Justice is understood to be a foundational aspect of not only God himself, but of his sovereign authority and his unfailing love. God’s justice attracts the praise of his people.

What do these verses say about God’s justice?
Psalm 9:8, 16

Psalm 11:7

Psalm 33:5

Psalm 36:6

Psalm 89:14

Psalm 97:2

Psalm 101:1

Isaiah 5:16

Isaiah 61:8

Ezekiel 34:16

In addition, God loves and values justice, and requires it of his people. The social injustice that followed when Israel rejected God attracted God’s severe criticism.


Old Testament anticipations of Jesus Christ include reference to his justice and the justice of his kingdom. Jesus aligned himself with these prophetic anticipations, and taught that God had given him the authority to judge. In several of his parables he is identified as the one who dispenses justice and judgement. But again, as we saw above, that justice includes the availability of mercy.

How are Jesus Christ and his justice described in these verses?
Psalm 45:6

Isaiah 9:7

Isaiah 11:3 – 5

Isaiah 42:1, 3, 4; Matthew 12:18, 20

Isaiah 51:4, 5

Isaiah 61:1 – 3; Luke 4:18 – 21

C.1 Jesus as Judge
In John 5 Jesus teaches us that God the Father has placed all judgment in his hands: ‘the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son ...he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man’ – 5:22, 27. This authority of the Son to judge is in focus in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14 – 30), and the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31 – 46). It is affirmed by the apostles – Acts 10:42; 17:31; 2Timothy 4:1. (We will look further at Christ as Judge in Section E.1 below.)


Both God’s justice and his mercy acknowledge human sinfulness. Paul’s lengthy exposure of our sinfulness in Romans 1:18 to 3:20 teaches us that not one person is exempt. Not one of us could stand in the presence of God and merit his acquittal. We all deserve the application of God’s justice; we all stand in need of his mercy.

Read Romans 3:21 – 26. What does Paul teach about the justice of God in the cross of Christ?



The ‘righteousness of God’ of which Paul speaks is God’s declaration of legal acquittal, a ‘not-guilty’ verdict announced and given by God. It has nothing to do with our personal innocence. It has everything to do with the fact that Jesus Christ, the innocent one, took our place under the justice of God, bearing our guilt and its full legal penalty. In and through Christ’s sacrifice of atonement:

Our sin and guilt, as defined by God’s justice, is taken by Jesus Christ

The full penalty required by God’s justice is borne by Christ

God is demonstrated to be ‘just’ – to have fulfilled the requirements of his justice

Those who have faith are justified – that is, declared legally innocent, acquitted.

From our perspective, as the beneficiaries, this is an action of incredible, indescribable, mercy and grace.

From God’s perspective it is all about law and justice: that in his life Jesus Christ, as our representative, fully met the just requirements of God’s law, and that in his death Jesus Christ, as our substitute under the justice of God bore in full the condemnation and punishment that God’s justice demanded of us. We are saved because Jesus Christ in his life and in his death fully accomplished for us everything that God’s justice required of us. We are saved because he kept the law – both in its requirements of us and its just penalty.


Scattered through the Old Testament are references to God’s ‘vengeance’, upon those who have in some way mistreated his people, and upon those whom he considers his enemies. This aspect of God’s justice is also found in the New Testament. Although this ‘vengeance’ of God had at times a limited, temporal application, ultimately, it is the final and global expression of God’s justice that will bring all that is evil to an end.

What do these verses say about God’s vengeance? (Think in terms of local/global, temporal/final, its impact on God’s people/God’s enemies)
Deuteronomy 32:41 – 43

Isaiah 34:8

Isaiah 35:4

Isaiah 59:17, 18

Isaiah 61:2

Isaiah 63:4 – 6

Jeremiah 11:20

Jeremiah 46:10

Jeremiah 50:15, 16, 28

E.1 The day of God’s final vengeance
The final day, the day of judgement, is described as the day of God’s vengeance – the day when all that is evil is brought to an end, a day when God avenges the harm done to his people.

What do you learn from these verses?
Luke 18:7,8

Romans 12:17 – 19

2Thessalonians 1:5 – 10

Revelation 6:9 – 11

Revelation 18:4 – 8, 20, 24

Revelation 19:2

The concept of God taking vengeance does not sit easily with us. We are too ‘nice’ in our thinking. We have too small a concept of what sin/evil has done and continues to do to the physical world God created and to the humans that he created. We are too familiar with sin and suffering.

God, in his great mercy, allowed Adam and Eve to live despite the destruction and pain they brought into God’s earth. God, in his great mercy, allows people today to continue to live, despite their evil and the pain they inflict on others, giving them time to repent and receive his gift of eternal life. But the day is coming, for those who do not repent, when he will apply his justice, when he will avenge all the pain and the suffering and the death that humans have inflicted on each other. Sin will be forever stopped. Suffering will be no more. Tears will cease.

Thus, the day of God’s final vengeance is also the culmination of his saving purpose, a day of liberation from all that is evil, not for humans only, but for the created universe. After that day, nothing will remain that entered the world in Genesis 3. And there will be no possibility of it ever returning.