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.

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16 thoughts on “God Did Not Save Us On A Whim”

  1. Jason says:

    Kevin, this is all right and true of course, but In the New Covenant, God also says that He will remember our sins no more, so in a respect, He does “fuggidaboudit”, right?

  2. Noel says:

    Thinking about justice lately in terms of recent current events. This is a good perspective.

  3. L. Westerlund says:

    If “Many Christians do not really grasp why God has forgiven us of our sins,” I submit that it is because many Christians do not grasp the seriousness of sin and the certainty of judgment. N. T. Wright is criticized for his re-definition of justification, but I do not read about the reason for this: If sin is merely that which gets in the way of things being as we would like them to be, justification is a minor matter. Though I am baffled how one can read the OT with its piled-up, horrific images of divine judgment, believe that all of God’s Word is written for our instruction, and not grasp the offense that sin is to a holy God! I read that history seeing the judgment Christ Jesus bore instead of me. If forgiving sins were easy, why did the Father have to watch his dearly-loved son tortured, mocked, flogged, and nailed on on boards? We do not grasp the Cross, if we do not grasp the demands of justice. And we will not daily give thanks, with all our heart, that we are delivered from the eternal wrath of God. That rescue is the source of our joy and strength, and desire to serve Him.

    In your fine blog-report on South Africa, you mention that “Newer resources from the YRR movement seem to be having a salutary effect as well,” but the YRR, in my reading, fails on just this crucial point. They would rather talk about transforming the culture here and now, than about our salvation from future punishment. In that, I believe they have been much influenced by the humanistic perspective of Wright et. al.

  4. Simon says:

    Great article KdY!!!
    Thanks for taking the time to type it.
    I love this statement;
    ” 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.”

    It really sums things up for us relativist humans. How we love to pretend there is a difference between small sins and great. While we know there are vast differences between some sins in their social ramifications (e.g. murder has far more dramatic effects on society than stealing does), the simple fact is ANY sin in ANY form is odious to a Holy and perfect God. Thus, the “perfect and final sacrifice” satisfied God’s justice 100%.

    Think I’ll be sharing this article with a few people!

  5. anaquaduck says:

    Dawkins(the atheist) tends to think sin is no big deal & God is over reacting.Yet if it could be measured in terms of impact, it is very severe, so to have it removed & replaced with something wonderfully pure is something worthy of praise (Psalm 103).

    There is nothing cheap about grace & people who treat it as such have lost a sense of its true value.

  6. Jim Heethuis says:

    Re: the seriousness of sin & God’s justice– If even an eternity in hell would not eventually satisfy God’s just judgement against my sin, then my sin must be a very serious matter indeed.

  7. L. Westerlund says:

    Jim, what exactly do you mean? Is this straightforward, or ironic? If it is a direct statement, I am not sure I understand your point.

  8. Jim Heethuis says:

    L.Westerlund,
    I meant to be strait forward and in agreement with your comment. Sin is eternally and enormously serious. Even an eternity in hell will not release me from God’s just wrath against it. We can’t be condemned to hell for our sins, “do our time” and, in some million years or so, get “released.” Only the atoning work of Christ’s sacrifice can satisfy this holy and perfectly justified wrath of God against my eternally offending sin. Huge offense. Even bigger the atoning Grace to pay for it.

  9. Jim Heethuis says:

    cont. I found R.C. Sproul’s, “The Holiness of God” helpful here.

  10. L. Westerlund says:

    Thanks, Jim. Sorry for the skepticism–I have encountered too many sarcastic remarks. You make an excellent point…or, rather, points. We can not begin to realize what the Atonement means until we understand the offense of our sin.

  11. Jason,

    You are right. God casts our sins into the “sea of iniquities”(Mic. 7:19) and “removes them as far as the east is from the west.” (Ps. 103.12) This picture is painted for us during OT sacrifices when they would send the scapegoat into the wilderness with the sins of the Israelites on it’s back. The sins are out there somewhere, we just don’t know where, they can’t be found. HOWEVER, I think the point he was trying to make is in regards to God’s attitude towards sin isn’t light. Forgetting doesn’t equal levity.

    Great post though! John Stott’s book The Cross of Christ really goes into detail on all of this and more, great stuff.

  12. Hope Henchey says:

    Wow I really needed to be reminded of the gospel in this way.
    I think for a long time I had thought that when I became a Christian, God thought “Oh awesome, now let me look around and find some work for you to do!”
    But the doctrine of election changes everything. I have been shown mercy for a specific purpose or He wouldn’t have chosen me!
    Glorious.

  13. Dirk says:

    Stunning story there. What occurred after? Good luck!

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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