Why God Is Not an Abomination to Himself
Meditation on Proverbs 17:15
He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord.
Then why is God not an abomination to God? For according to Romans 4:5 God “justifies the ungodly.” And not only that he condemns the righteous, namely, his Son Jesus. “He was wounded for our transgressions.” So the Bible says that he who justifies the wicked is an abomination, and he who condemns the righteous is an abomination. But the Bible also says that God justifies the ungodly and God put Jesus to death for sins that were not his. Why is this not an abomination?
When a human court acquits the wicked what makes that an abomination?
Two things: 1) one is that it fails to require due compensation for the way that wickedness dishonors the law and society. Whenever a crime happens the law is demeaned and the society is degraded. Usually an individual is also hurt. Justice says that a recompense is necessary that requires from the offender a loss of honor equal to the honor he took from the law or society or the individual. For example, he may be fined or imprisoned or executed. Justifying the wicked does not require any just recompense. So it is an abomination.
2) The other reason acquitting the wicked is an abomination is that it unleashes onto society a person who is very likely to commit the same crime again. Letting him go free is no guarantee that he will reform. So it is an abomination to let him go.
Condemning the righteous is an abomination for the same two reasons in reverse. It exacts a loss of honor which does not enhance the honor of the law or society. And it takes from society the good influence of a person who is righteous.
So if a mother tried to take the place of her hardened criminal son so that she would be executed and he would go free, this would be an abomination. It would not exalt the worth of the law but exalt the worth of her son at the law’s expense. And it would release a dangerous criminal. Meanwhile the mother’s apparent goodness would be lost.
But God’s putting Christ in our place on the cross is very different from this abomination. Christ’s willingness to die in our place is an exaltation of the worth of the glory of God and his law. “For this purpose I have come to this hour. Father glorify thy name” (John 12:27). Christ is not like a mother wanting to die for her son. He has a view to the honor and glory of God and his law. And so the loss of honor that came to the Law and to the name of God through our sin was in fact restored through the death of Jesus.
Not only that, the justification of the ungodly does not unleash any criminals onto the world. On the contrary the death of Christ secures the reform of all his people: “He gave himself for us . . . to purify for himself a people zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:14).
Not only that, the death of Christ did not take from society the influence of a good man. He rose from the dead to continue his powerful positive influence in the world.
The point is this: God’s act in justifying the ungodly is so different from the human act justifying the wicked that it is not an abomination. On the contrary it is the apex of love and righteousness in one great event.
Standing on the Rock of His Righteousness,
© Desiring God Foundation. Distribution Guidelines
Share the Joy! You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in physical form, in its entirety or in unaltered excerpts, as long as you do not charge a fee. For posting online, please use only unaltered excerpts (not the content in its entirety) and provide a hyperlink to this page. For videos, please embed from the original source. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Desiring God.
Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. © Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org