Thursday, November 07, 2013

God is just - The Instructor

This is a continuation of my series on Clement of Alexandria and his book, "The Instructor." If you are new to this series or are unfamiliar with Clement and his book, you may want to first read the introduction to this series.
"But that God is good, all willingly admit; and that the same God is just, I require not many more words to prove, after adducing the evangelical utterance of the Lord; He speaks of Him as one, 'That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us: that the world also may believe that Thou hast sent Me. And the glory which Thou hast given Me I have given them; that they may be one, as We are one: I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one.' God is one, and beyond the one and above the Monad itself." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 8)
God is good and He is also just. In asserting this statement, Clement proceeds to show from the scriptures, and the words of the apostles, that Jesus and the Father are one and that, together, they are good and just. While I have abridged his prove in  the following quotes for brevity sake, his key point is that if the Father is just and an adjudicator of mankind, then the Son is also just and judges with the same authority as the Father.
"And that He who alone is God is also alone and truly righteous, our Lord in the Gospel itself shall testify... This is He 'that visits the iniquities of the fathers upon the children, to them that hate Him, and shows mercy to those that love Him.' For He who placed some 'on the right hand, and others on the left,' conceived as Father, being good, is called that which alone He is—'good;' but as He is the Son in the Father, being his Word, from their mutual relation, the name of power being measured by equality of love, He is called righteous. 'He will judge,' He says, 'a man according to his works,'—a good balance, even God having made known to us the face of righteousness in the person of Jesus, by whom also, as by even scales, we know God. Of this also the book of Wisdom plainly says, “For mercy and wrath are with Him, for He alone is Lord of both,' Lord of propitiations, and pouring forth wrath according to the abundance of His mercy. 'So also is His reproof.' For the aim of mercy and of reproof is the salvation of those who are reproved." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 8)
God shows forth forgiveness out of His mercy and reproves out of His justice. However, in both case the goal is our salvation. How can one turn to salvation without first being reproved of his wrong conduct? How can one find forgiveness until he has first returned to the God of mercy? God is just and He judges that we might be converted from our unjust ways and return, through forgiveness, to a just and righteous life before God. In this, His justice is good.
"Now, that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus is good, the Word Himself will again avouch: 'For He is kind to the unthankful and the evil;' and further, when He says, 'Be merciful, as your Father is merciful.' Still further also He plainly says, 'None is good, but My Father, who is in heaven.' In addition to these, again He says, 'My Father makes His sun to shine on all.' Here it is to be noted that He proclaims His Father to be good, and to be the Creator. And that the Creator is just, is not disputed. And again he says, 'My Father sends rain on the just, and on the unjust.' In respect of His sending rain, He is the Creator of the waters, and of the clouds. And in respect of His doing so on all, He holds an even balance justly and rightly. And as being good, He does so on just and unjust alike." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 8)
God is good to all, to the just and the unjust, yet His approach to our salvation differs based on our present state; reproving one and forgiving another, each in turn to secure our salvation.
"So that it is veritably clear that the God of all is only one good, just Creator, and the Son in the Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen. But it is not inconsistent with the saving Word, to administer rebuke dictated by solicitude. For this is the medicine of the divine love to man, by which the blush of modesty breaks forth, and shame at sin supervenes. For if one must censure, it is necessary also to rebuke; when it is the time to wound the apathetic soul not mortally, but salutarily, securing exemption from everlasting death by a little pain." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 8)
God is love, yet God is also just. Neither are these two characteristics of God are mutually exclusive, nor does one negate the other. If we have any difficulty in accepting that love and justice can coexist together in the same heart then maybe its because we have failed to see this demonstrated by the people around us, or even by ourselves. However, God is not like men that He should love without justice or judge without love. God is love and God is just, and His loving justice is for our salvation.
"Great is the wisdom displayed in His instruction, and manifold the modes of His dealing in order to salvation. For the Instructor testifies to the good, and summons forth to better things those that are called; dissuades those that are hastening to do wrong from the attempt, and exhorts them to turn to a better life. For the one is not without testimony, when the other has been testified to; and the grace which proceeds from the testimony is very great. Besides, the feeling of anger (if it is proper to call His admonition anger) is full of love to man, God condescending to emotion on man’s account; for whose sake also the Word of God became man." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 8)
God is just and God is good. Therefore, let us accept His reproof, correction, discipline, and punishment in our lives as tokens of His love sent to awaken us and restore us to right relationship with Him. Without the justice of God we would be people left to our own devices whose end would be certain indeed.

David Robison

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