If you are wondering why we are talking about GOD’s righteousness and justice at the same time, it is because they are both from the same root word both in Hebrew and Greek! Who knew? I definitely didn’t know that before my study of this topic!
Definition: God’s righteousness means that GOD always acts in accordance with what is right and is Himself the final standard of what is right.
If you are anything like me, that last phrase may be irritating, but we must keep in mind that He is GOD. He is the only One who is able to be righteous and just and set the final standard of what is right. A statement like that last phrase always comes across as arrogant…except for the fact that He is GOD! cf. Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 19:7-10.
Because GOD is perfectly righteous, He must treat people according to what they deserve (perfect justice).
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law,
although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—
the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.
For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
and are justified by his grace as a gift,
through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood,
to be received by faith.
This was to show God’s righteousness,
because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
It was to show his righteousness at the present time,
so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
As you see, Paul sets out the case for how GOD’s not punishing our sin (for those who are in Christ) is just and right. It is not because our sin has been forgotten and ignored, but because it has justly been dealt with!
How do we know what is right?
What ought to happen? The answer to that question is whatever conforms to God’s moral character. He is the final standard of righteousness.
As Americans, we have very little understanding of a standard set for us that we must follow. People who live in cultures with dictators or Kings/Queens have a much better understanding of what this is like. We Americans are much more focused on our individuality. We think we must build our self-esteem. That kind of thinking isn’t the most helpful when it comes to GOD, obedience to Him and His Word and following His moral commands.
We as GOD’s creatures have no right to say GOD is unrighteous or unjust in His dealings with us.
Righteousness and justice are two adjectives that describe who He is in His essence! Of course He is just and righteous. Our understanding of what He is doing may be out of sync with that belief, but what He is doing at any given moment IS just and righteous. cf. Romans 9:20-21; Job 40: 2,8; Job 38:4-15; 40:3-4.
God is righteous, just AND omnipotent!
Thankfully, GOD is both righteous, just AND omnipotent! If He were only righteous and just without being omnipotent, He would not be worthy of worship because we would have no guarantee that His justice would ultimately prevail in the universe. If He were only omnipotent without being righteous or just, think how awful this world would be!
We can be grateful that GOD is righteous and just. He is good. He does not forget when His righteous standards are broken! His timetable for meting out justice is not the same as our would be! Justice will be served…eventually!