Many Christians do not really grasp why God has forgiven us of our sins. It’s not as if God the Father woke up one morning and was having a great day, just feeling terrific about being the Sovereign of the universe, then decided on a whim to have mercy on his elect and look past their iniquities. God did not save us because the loving part of him finally out balanced the justice part of him. We must not picture God up in heaven muttering: “You know your sin? And all your rebellion and failures and disobedience? You remember all that? Well fuhgettaboutit. It don’t bother me. I love youse guys and I ain’t gonna mention your sin no more.”
Without giving it much thought, many of us picture the atonement as nothing but undeserved mercy from a loving God. We forget that the mercy we receive is a mercy merited on the cross. God has not saved us by the removal of justice, but by the satisfaction of it.
Justice is shot through the entire plan of redemption. God never once set aside his justice. There is a hell because God is just. And people go to heaven because God is just. Our sins are counted to Christ, so that he died in our place. His life and his death counted to us, that we might live.
We are not forgiven and given eternal life because God waved a magic wand and decided he would just overlook our sins. He has not overlooked the smallest speck of your sin. The good news of the cross is that the tiniest little speck of your sin, and all of the great big sins as well, have been paid for by the perfect and final sacrifice.
We were not saved on a whim because God decided one day he might as well have mercy on sinners. We are saved because God sent his Son to become the curse for us. Every last lustful look, every proud thought, every gossiping tongue, God demands justice for all of it. And the resurrection of Jesus bears witness to the glorious good news that all the demands of justice have been met so that Christ would be the first to conquer death, but not the last. Divine satisfaction through divine self-substitution.