A representative view of justice is represented by the Statue of Liberty, with the lady holding an old-fashioned balance scales. She is blindfolded to represent an unbiased opinion on her part as to which way it goes. True justice has no favorites.
The handwriting on the wall interpreted by Daniel was “Tekel: thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting (lacking)” (Daniel 5:27). Wanting—coming up short. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Muslims understand that every good deed counts for anywhere from 70 to 700 good points to one’s account. On the other side of the scales, they say, every bad deed takes away one point, or maybe even two good points. Talk about stacking things in one’s favor!
Rabbi Beryl Epstein says everyone will go to heaven. For the Jew, he is to keep 613 laws. For all others, they are to follow the seven laws of Noah and thus all go to heaven. Epstein said God keeps a score card—both for evil and good. He also said that people can do more good than they think they can, which qualifies them for entrance to heaven.
A bus load from our Lancaster County churches went to New York City in early December. Others went deer hunting. We don’t know how the hunters made out, but we came back loaded! We sat under the teaching of a Jewish rabbi for a day. My mind was full!
Epstein said that man is 98% soul and 2% physical. He said, “We marry to get closer to God. We spiritualize everything.” Some say, “Don’t marry to be holy.” We say, “Do marry to be holy.” Amazing! Also encouraging, right? These are Hasidic Jews—orthodox. There is more than one orthodox group, so variables in teaching can occur. We visited those in Crown Heights and they are a very large group.
What do Anabaptists say about God’s justice? Anabaptists also range from ultra-conservative to ultra-liberal, even as do the Jews. One cannot evaluate any group as representative of them all, either theirs or ours. We say again, that God is fair and He has no people as favorites.
Unfortunately, some Anabaptists also view God as having a score card. Or maybe a balancing scales, that is easily tipped in one’s favor. At any rate, the idea prevails among some that we must strive to do good so it will somehow outweigh the bad.
Being accepted by God on the basis of one’s good works is a hallmark of false religions. There is a certain line of reasoning in all of us that God should favor me for being a Christian for 70 years, or being preacher for 40 years, or for serving Him since I was 12 years old, or because I gave multiplied thousands to missions. Then some think denying themselves of life’s pleasures will surely cause God to notice and that it will evoke His mercy. This is the balance thing—the score card.
No! To every such thought, God says, “No.” From the “mostest” to the “bestest” among us, the answer is “No!” Maybe the disadvantaged and poorest can make it because of their condition. The answer is “No.” How about just me as an exception? “No.”: Kindly and lovingly, “No.” Maybe because of His kindness and love there is a crack here where I can somehow get into God’s favor by my you-know-what. Emphatically and consistently and eternally, “NO.”
None can make it on his own; all are excluded by even their best merits. Peter was an eager learner and quite impetuous when it came to doing good in the short term. He said, “We have forsaken all and followed thee, what shall we have therefore?” This was right after Jesus told His disciples how hard it would be for the rich to enter the kingdom of Heaven.
Jesus told Peter that his—and the rest of the disciples—reward comes later, after this life. They will sit on thrones to judge Israel, and “everyone that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life” (See Matthew 19:23-29). The word “inherit” stands out here. Not a paycheck every two weeks. Not a yearly salary from God. The inheriting comes later, after this life. In our case, it is after our death. In earth life, an inheritance is received when the testator dies.
Eternal life is not based on works—more good than bad—as in a favorable score. It is not based on how long one has served, not on how well one lived in comparison to others, as in having enough to tip the scales in one’s favor. It is not on how much one suffered, incurring much discomfort and pain and expense. It is not tipped in favor of those who have much more wealth than average. God’s scale of acceptance is never by any person’s experience or service or giving, regardless of how outstanding it may be.
One layman in our church of 60 years ago, said we should do all the good works we possibly can and then God takes it from there and makes it reach for our entrance into heaven. “No,” God says, by answering, “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not [for salvation], but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Romans 4:4,5).
The emphasis here is on believing on Jesus Christ for right standing with God based on what He has done for us in Christ as opposed to attempting any of our supposedly good works that we might do for God. God has no need, being all-sufficient in Himself. We are the ones who have every kind of need, and lack any sufficiency in ourselves.
Another layman from my adolescent years spoke to our congregation about God almost needing an in-between category of those not good enough for heaven but too good for hell. God is also clear here, using the previously quoted verses from Romans 3:10-12. The Bible teaches it elsewhere just as sure and emphatic. Good works do not, cannot, will not, tip the scales of God’s justice in anyone’s favor. The line is clear by God for every person—those saved by Christ and those not saved.
God doesn’t withhold His favor and His grace in refusing our good works to tip the scales. By consistently and totally denying everyone’s good works for salvation. He then can magnanimously pour out the full measure of His grace to both save all from sin and to keep everyone saved for a lifetime. Everyone is equally so; none is excluded by God in this provision.
At precisely this point in my writing, I provided taxi service for a neighbor. He is about my age. They are building a retirement house. He spoke of how much money it takes for just small amounts of material. He looked at me and in all seriousness, said he is a poor man, but he believes that increases his chances for heaven. Uncharacteristic for me, I emphatically and immediately refuted his statement. I shared a few Bible verses and he also shared some in defense—from the Bible, mind you!
The rich might assume they are favored already and they then tip the scales additionally by their giving to the poor and needy. But the poor also feel the scales of God’s justice is tipped in their favor since they are not consumptive like the rich and really do suffer lack. Besides, God speaks favorably of the poor, and chides the rich.
The Bible is clear about the need and adequacy of Christ for salvation. I think Romans 8 is one of the most exciting chapters in the Bible. Although there are many other such passages, you will profit the most from the following comments if you take your Bible and open it to Romans 8:29-39.
In verse 29, God has undertaken a program of predestination of the believer in Christ Jesus. The goal is to conform believers to the image of Christ. Christ Himself is the first born among brethren. “Firstborn” in the Bible always means there will be many more.
In verse 30, those predestinated are called and justified and glorified. Justified means to be made righteous, accepted by God in Christ (by His atonement, or payment). Satisfactory payment with God is always and only by the blood of Christ.
Verse 31 has that conclusive logic, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” It is a statement that goes beyond logic based on how God is, being without limitation. Being saved from sin by Christ is a standing no one can take from us, thus being against anyone who tries to do so.
Verse 32 shows how lavish God is with His love. God gave up His Son which shows what God would, by comparison, do for our sakes.
Verse 33 uses an earthly counterpart to say that since the debt is already paid for our redemption, who can charge us again, making us debtors again? A debt can be paid only once.
Verse 34 has another question, as in a persistent inquiry—like a judge might do in a trial by cross-examination. “Who is he that condemneth?” This is it: Christ died (payment). He rose again (validation); He sits at God’s right hand and makes intercession for us (as the supreme lawyer in heaven and earth).
Verse 35: Our subject is the adequacy of salvation in Christ. The argument against the believer is forever taken away from the devil, for the enemies of the cross of Christ, from any and all objections anyone could raise—there is no separation from God.
Verses 37, 38, and 39 boldly and judicially declare that justice has been served, the Judge of heaven and earth pronounces no separation by any from above or beneath, or on the earth. Nothing in death or life can separate us from God’s love. Neither can angels do so—nor can the evil angels (usually included in the phrase “principalities and powers.”) Nothing from above us or beneath us, nothing behind us nor before us can “separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Wow! I could just shout aloud, “God be praised! Hallelujah!”
Grandpas have license to bragging rights, so here goes. Actually for the sake of illustration on point of exuberance. Three-year-old grandson, Andrei was nearing his fourth birthday. He said to me, “Grandpa, I will soon be four years old and Johann is almost seven. We are getting old fast. I could just whistle!” Then he whistled!
We also are the children of God (little in understanding), so like Andrei, we could whoop it up a bit sometimes for our status in Christ. My brethren and I in Christ have come a long way already. But as for Andrei, he has no clue about another 80 or 90 years ahead of him in this life. Likewise, or shall we say, even much more so, do we not know what God has reserved for us in eternity for those who love Him. I can’t whistle anymore, but I can shout: Hallelujah! Amen! Hosanna in the highest! Amen!
The Bottom Line is that the scales of justice are not needed anymore. It also has no need as far as God is concerned, for those who have been justified by Christ. “We are more than conquerors though him that loved us” (Romans 8:37). “For so an entrance shall be administered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” 2 Peter 1:11).
Yea, and Amen!