Some Questions Concerning the Righteousness of God

God is not so sovereign that He can lie and yet still call Himself righteous because He is God. I don’t know that anyone actually believes this, but I do know some people consider it erroneous or even wicked to think of God justifying Himself. I’m left to wonder about these people, do they think God has lied, but because He is sovereign He can still call Himself righteous?

In God’s word we find God stating in no uncertain terms that He is holy. And yet we then find Him putting Onan to death for doing what was wicked in the sight of the Lord (Genesis 38:6-10), but not putting David to death for committing another wickedness in the sight of the Lord (2 Samuel 11). We find Him overlooking ignorance in one part, but not overlooking it in another. We find Him passing over some people’s sins, while not passing over other’s.

This discrepancy does not exist purely from the fact God is sovereign. That is, God did not arbitrarily have regard for His holiness in respect to Onan, but then disregard His holiness in respect to David. No, there was a just and righteous reason why God took Onan’s life, but not David’s.

I ask a series of questions below. Every one of these questions relate directly to God’s righteousness. I recently presented these questions on Facebook and was surprised to find no one able to answer them. In the face of a question concerning God’s sovereignty, every person who tried to answer came back with something about God’s sovereignty.

Why, for instance, was God righteous to harden Pharaoh’s heart? Says 100% of the people who tried to answer, “because God is sovereign.” This makes me wonder whether they believe God actually was unrighteous to harden Pharaoh’s heart, but because He is sovereign we still have to call His hardening a righteous act anyway.

No.  God was righteous to harden Pharaoh’s heart, because God had from eternity determined that Christ shall not die for Pharaoh; therefore, God had also determined from eternity that He shall raise Pharaoh up so that He might proclaim His power throughout all the earth.

All these questions are answered by the gospel. The gospel is the revelation of God’s righteousness. Therefore, any question concerning God’s righteousness must be addressed by the gospel. The gospel is not only God is sovereign.

Why was God righteous to harden Pharaoh’s heart?

Why is God righteous to have mercy upon whom He has mercy and compassion upon whom He has compassion?

Why is God righteous to hate Esau but love Jacob before either were born and could do anything either good or bad?

Why is God righteous to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? one vessel for salvation and the other vessel for destruction?

Why is God righteous to forgive those He has chosen for salvation from before the foundation of the world, but not forgive those vessels who have been prepared beforehand for destruction?

Why is God righteous to save not only Jews, but also Gentiles?

Why is God righteous to save only some people, but not all?

Why was Christ righteous to die only for His sheep and not also for goats?

Why was God righteous to overlook former ignorance and pass over former sins?

About David Bishop

Gospel of Grace Church
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3 Responses to Some Questions Concerning the Righteousness of God

  1. markmcculley says:

    Romans 9 does not only ask: “who are you to talk back to God”. Romans 9 explains that it is inappropriate for that which is made to sit in negative judgment on the maker. That which is made is instead to make the positive judgment that God has the righteous right to harden as many as God hardens.

    Romans 6 deals with the objection that God justifying sinners will cause sinners to rationalize their sins, so that they not only say that their sins were predestined but also that they say that more sins result in more grace.

    The Romans 6 answer is that grace is either grace or not. There is not more or less grace, but either grace or no grace. More sin does not get the elect more grace, because all those God justly justifies have all the grace any other elect person has. If you have grace, then you are justified from sin, and if you don’t have grace, you are a sinner “free from righteousness” (6:20).

    While unbelievers trust in God to help them to sin less, those who have been delivered to the gospel know that there are only two kind of sinners, two states—guilty sinners and justified sinners (justly justified by Christ’s death to sin.)

  2. markmcculley says:

    The theodicy of Romans 3 announces that God is true even if every man is a liar. We justify God because God has revealed Himself. And God has revealed that God is more than sovereign. God’s words reveal God to be Righteous and Just. God’s word is justified in history by what God did when Christ gave Himself up to death on the cross because of the imputed guilt of the elect.

    We were wrong: God was right and God is still right. God prevails, but it is not only a matter of “might makes right” or “sovereignty always wins”. We have no right to make a negative judgment on God, since it is God who will be making a negative judgment on many sinners. But we are called to make a positive judgment about God who is both at the same time just and the justifer of the ungodly

    Not only does God do everything God pleases to God. God’s pleasure is holy pleasure. What God pleases to do is right. And there is no better proof of that than the way God justifies elect sinners. The wisdom of the cross shows God’s righteousness. Christ’s death makes it just for God to not only let elect sinners go free but also to give them faith and all the other blessings of salvation.

    Romans 3: 26 God presented Christ Jesus as a propitiation to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be righteous and declare righteous[u] the one who has faith in Jesus.

  3. markmcculley says:

    Bavinck—“Christ is a gift of love from the Father and that love precedes the sending of the Son. The Son did not move the Father to forgiveness, because electing love originated with the Father Himself.” 2:365

    God does not love us because we are justified

    this means not only that there is no eternal justification

    but that eternal election is before justification

    which means that justification cannot be eternal

    there is an eternal purpose for the glorification and exaltation of the elect in Christ

    there is an eternal purpose for the justification of the eternally elect in Christ

    I John 4: 9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world in order that we would live through Him. 10 Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins

    Romans 5: 8 But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! 9 Much more then, since we have now been declared righteous by His blood, we will be saved through Him from wrath. 10 For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His resurrection.

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