This is Part 3 of a series.
Part 1 is here.
Part 2 is here.

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I’ve been writing about how the Courtroom metaphor to explain salvation is problematic, and I would say even extremely problematic. David Takle’s book, Lamb of God: Rediscovering the Beauty of the Atonement. helped me put the pieces together. I’ll be quoting from that book below.

As I mentioned in Part 1, I had written about the problems produced by the Courtroom metaphor without even realizing that they all traced their way back to this flawed explanation.

Back in 2014-2016 when I wrote my first Untwisting Scriptures book, I spent a good bit of time focusing on the issue of “rights.” (You can see a video teaching about it here)

That study about rights was so important for me. “Rights” are based on, simply, “what is right.” So what is right? It is that which is aligned with the heart of the Father.

I also learned that this concept is inextricably linked to the concept of “justice.” The concept of justice is all about: Setting things right.

Proverbs 31:8-9
Open your mouth for the mute,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Psalm 82:3
Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.

Isaiah 1:17
Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.

Micah 6:8
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice,
and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

John 18:22-23
When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying,
 “Is that how you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?”

As much as our punishment-centric court system in the Western world focuses on punishment, justice really isn’t about punishing somebody (anybody) for crimes. Justice is about setting things right.

That became crystal clear to me as I worked on that study and that book.

And as you look at the Courtroom metaphor to explain our salvation, you’ll see that it does nothing NOTHING to set things right.

After all, what we have in that scenario is a very angry God, who wants to destroy us in His white hot anger.

We have us, who are very sorry for our sins but can’t do anything about them to placate the angry Father.

We have Jesus, who stands between the angry God and us and offers His life for us.

In this scenario, the Judge accepts this substitution and gives the Son the punishment instead of us.

Then we are saved from receiving the punishment from the Father that we deserved.

So many problems with this, but right now I’m focusing on justice.

He is the God of justice. But where is the actual justice in this scenario?

It’s completely absent.

Oh, when you redefine justice to mean “punishment” because “By jiminy somebody has to be punished because there’s no way a sin could go by without someone being punished for it,” then yes, by that definition (which is not the Biblical definition), justice is there when Jesus gets punished for our sins.

“Justice” by this courtroom definition says that when someone sins, SOMEONE has to be punished. Even if it’s not the person who sinned. I guess they’re saying it needs to be “an eye for an eye” even if it’s an innocent person’s eye.

Does this resonate as “justice”? For the guilty to go scot free and the innocent to be punished?

From David Takle in his book Lamb of God:

I am not aware of anyone who has demonstrated the logic of how justice can be carried out by charging an innocent with a capital crime, knowing full well who the real culprits are. That sounds a lot more like injustice of cosmic proportions, something God would never do.

When we have questions about something that doesn’t make sense, then we often get answers like “We can’t understand the ways of God” or “His ways are higher than our ways” or “He’s God, so He gets to define what justice is.”

If you’re like me, answers like this can drive you a bit batty. God gets to define what justice is. Okay. He has done that: justice is setting things right.

And we must look to Him for the example of what justice is.

We are told—because of the false Courtroom metaphor—that justice is punishing the innocent and letting the guilty off the hook.

It doesn’t make sense.

Could this be one of the reasons so many are walking away from Christianity?

After all, it appears that God is violating His very own standard of justice:

He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous
    are both alike an abomination to the Lord.
Proverbs 17:15

David Takle:

Even if all parties involved were to agree to transfer guilt from one person to another and to carry out the sentence accordingly, what they are really doing is bypassing the demands of justice in order to close the books for some other reason which is considered to be more compelling than justice itself. . . .

 

It might be a workable scheme, if God says so. But this is not justice. The death of Jesus was certainly a travesty of justice on the human level. And if He is being punished for the sins of the world, then it is also a travesty of justice on a cosmic level. We can all pretend it is justice in order to prop up this theory, but that does not make it satisfy the needs of justice. Even Oliver Crisp, who seems to want to salvage this theory (but finds it difficult to do so) admits that “it is unclear how anyone can take on the penal consequences of another person’s crime.”

So maybe instead of just accepting something that doesn’t make sense, we can start questioning the entire paradigm.

Picture being in the Courtroom with that angry Judge glaring at you, pointing to His ledger book. (You are told that this angry Judge is someone who loves you very much.)

You are told that His love wants to save you but His justice demands your punishment.

And you don’t understand, and it doesn’t make sense and you think maybe it’s just because you don’t understand the ways of God. And it keeps on feeling like God is a whole lot like an abuser. (After all, abusers often claim to love their victims.)

So maybe you just try to keep the image of Jesus between you and the Judge, who calls Himself Father, because it’s too terrifying to think of trying to approach that angry Judge, because after all, the innocent Son got punished instead of you, when you deserved it.

It’s a convoluted mess.

When we walk away from the Courtroom, we can start to see things differently.

God’s justice and love aren’t battling it out, as represented by the Father and the Son. They aren’t at odds with each other (more about that here).

Think again about the real definition of justice. It’s not about punishment. It’s about setting things right.

David Takle (emphasis mine):

[God] wants more than anything to destroy the works of the devil so that we can experience the joy and beauty of His holiness and the kind of life that comes from being in an interactive relationship with Him. That is setting right all that has gone wrong for us.

As you re-think the concept of justice to mean “setting things right” (instead of punishing somebody), you’ll see how closely it is connected to the concept of being justified by Jesus Christ.

It is through our justification through faith in Jesus Christ that we are more than simply seen as righteous by the Father. We are actually made righteous. (More about that here.)

We are cleansed. We are reconciled to God.

We are set right.

The sacrifice of Jesus—as shown not in the Courtroom metaphor, but in the symbolisms of the Temple (as discussed here)—serves to cleanse us, purify us, and reconcile us to the Father. Through His shed blood, He is setting right what had gone wrong but what the Father intended for us from the beginning.

From Amos 5:

Take away from me the noise of your songs;
To the melody of your harps I will not listen.
But let justice roll down like waters
And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Our God will indeed punish the wicked who continue to be set against Him and His ways.

But He loves His children and wants joyful relationship with them.

When we see that God is, through the sacrifice of His Son, setting things right, aligning hearts with His, then it makes complete sense that the justice He would undertake when He was on earth was the kind of justice that would say this, from Isaiah 61:

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me;
because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek;
he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all that mourn;
To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion,
to give unto them beauty for ashes,
the oil of joy for mourning,
the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
that they might be called trees of righteousness,
the planting of the LORD,
that he might be glorified.

From David Takle (emphasis mine):

In the ministry of Jesus we see justice exemplified in His healing of the sick and casting out demons, because “those who are sick need a physician” (Mt. 9:12). We see Him finding lost sheep (Lk.15:3-7), raising the dead (Mt.11:5), doing good on the Sabbath (Mt.12:12), and giving hope to those who have lost all hope. He is all about justice, making things right.

Part of the “setting right” our Lord Jesus Christ has accomplished is the reconciliation of loving joyful relationship with the Father.

The Courtroom says nothing about this. It’s not part of the metaphor at all.

But a very clear metaphor has been carried through in the Temple.

Here’s the Joy for the people of God: In the tearing of the veil of the Temple, the Father showed how His Son had accomplished justice.

Our Lord was setting right our relationship with the Father, the God of justice who because of that holy justice is slow to anger and abundant in mercy.

Hebrews 10:12-22.

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins,
he sat down at the right hand of God,
waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,
“This is the covenant that I will make with them

    after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
    and write them on their minds,”

then he adds,

“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

Therefore, brothers [and sisters],
since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,
by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain,
that is, through his flesh,

and since we have a great priest over the house of God,
let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith,
with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Oh how beautiful that because of Jesus Christ we can enter into the Holiest Place, to the presence of the loving Father who is not fearsome to us, because we are His sons and daughters.

This true justice is beautiful almost beyond comprehension.

We can rejoice in this good news.

It’s called “the gospel.”

 

 

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Go here to download your free Guide, How to Enjoy the Bible Again (when you’re ready) After Spiritual Abuse (without feeling guilty or getting triggered out of your mind). You’ll receive access to both print and audio versions of the Guide (audio read by me). I’m praying it will be helpful.

 

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