Justice Summary

I will be joining John Mark Comer to teach the foundational concept of Justice at Solid Rock this Sunday. The recording will be here. Since sermons go really quickly, I prepared a summary for further study. You can get it MS Word format here.

1. Dimensions of God’s Righteousness

a. Attribute (Character): God is perfectly pure and righteous Ezra 9:15; Dan. 9:7-11, 14; John 17:25; Rom. 1:17; 3:22

b. Actions: God acts righteously and sacrificially. He not only is good, but does good Gen. 18:25; Psa. 71:15-19; 145:17; Jer. 9:24; Micah 6:5

c. God’s righteousness is a gift He gives to faith. Rom. 1:17; 3:21; 10:3-4; Gal. 5:5; Phil. 3:9

2. Definition of righteousness (Tsedekah) and justice (Mishpat)

a. Righteousness means community life with all relationships – with God, others, self, and the rest of creation – well ordered, full of shalom, all things flourishing as God designed them to be.

b. The righteous person is one who contributes to such life.

c. Doing justice is inconveniencing yourself for the sake of the “worthless person” especially the widow, orphan, stranger, and poor. Injustice is keeping my stuff for my own comfort.

d. The reason for doing justice: loving and being like the LORD who gives Himself in creation and redemption (Psa. 68:4-5; 146:7-9; Jer. 9:23-24).

The righteous are willing to disadvantage themselves to advantage the community. The wicked are willing to disadvantage the community to advantage themselves. . . . Righteousness is a pattern of life, not merely specific acts. What is at stake is personhood, not merely performance, disposition rather than mere deeds; character behind and beyond conduct . . . this kind of life and behavior has a religious dimension as well as an ethical one, since the righteous depend on the LORD. . . . “righteousness” refers to the moral quality that establishes right order and “justice” refers to the moral quality that restores order that order when they are disturbed. (Bruce Waltke, Proverbs, p. 97-98)

Righteousness is not a matter of actions conforming to a given set of absolute legal standards as the Pharisees taught, but of behavior which is in keeping with the two-way relationship between God and man. Thus the righteousness of God appears in his God-like dealings with his people, i.e. in redemption and salvation (Isa. 45:21; 51:5f.; 56:1; 62:1). He who longs for redemption calls upon God’s righteousness, i.e. he pleads for God’s intervention (Pss. 71:2; 143:11). Israel’s enemies, by contrast, find God’s righteousness to be the root of their downfall (Isa. 41:10f.; 54:17; Ps. 129:4f.). For Israel’s sake, even the very land itself may be restored through the gift of God’s righteousness (Hos. 10:2; Joel 2:23; Isa. 32:15ff.; 48:18f.). Dwelling in the land as he does, Israel partakes of God’s righteousness (Ps. 24:5) and such righteousness may actually be referred to in spatial terms (Pss. 89:16; 69:28). (adapted from “Righteousness” in New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology)

The Abraham narrative is the foundational description of righteousness/justice.

Genesis 12 is YHWH calling a guy to be His tribe through whom He will do His divine rescue mission. YHWH calls Abram, follow Me to Eden as it turns out. He blesses him and says, “I will give you a people and a Person through whom all peoples will be blessed in the divine rescue mission.” This promise of the nation through whom all nations will be blessed is a central theme through the rest of the Bible.

Abram is called to go to somewhere. I will make


Bless to bless

Name great

Bless all peoples/tribes/nations/families = the Gen 11 one turned over to angels

Offspring = descendents = Nation

THE offspring

What must Abram do? Go (trust), receive blessing,

YHWH calls Abram to be loyal to Him rather than the demon gods that are like pimps and drug dealers in the heavenly realm (Psa. 82 is one of the places that speak of them). Abram does sacrifices to YHWH only when he gets to the land despite the fact that he used to worship other gods (Josh. 24:2), the gods of that land.

Genesis 15 YHWH calls Abram to trust that what He says is true. YHWH will arrange for a son even though it has been a long time since the promise was given, despite the physical fact that he is 90 and Sarai is 80. This kind of trust is a primary dimension of righteousness (6)

Genesis 18:18-19 YHWH choose Abraham to teach his household to follow the way of YHWH and teach them righteousness (Tsedekah) and justice (Mishpat)

Genesis 22 Look to the LORD’s provision in Messiah. Isaac = Son/Jesus, the Abraham = Father. This shows us in dramatic prophecy that the Father and the Son would partner together, both agonizing, to perform the propitiatory sacrifice to satisfy the wrath of the Father and the Son.

Here is the outline:

Gen 12 Loyal (Hesed) to YHWH

Gen. 15 Trust (Amen) the LORD’s promise even when it makes no sense. The LORD says this is righteousness. Live as if His promise is true.

Gen 18 Obey (Shema) = do righteousness and justice

American righteous dude is a decent guy who keeps the rules

Justice is bad dudes getting punished

Social justice is giving handouts [food, welfare, clothing, medical care] to poor people, eradicating classism, doing the Robin Hood thing; stopping sex trafficking,

Righteousness and justice is community life with all relationships – God, others, self, and land – well ordered so that life is full of shalom, all things flourishing as God designed them to be. Shalom is God’s intended state of perfect beauty; peace and completion in all things. Righteous dudes work toward righteousness, in fact they like the LORD, disadvantage themselves for the sake of community.

Gen. 22 = Provide (Yireh) Look to the LORD’s provision in Messiah (Gen. 22:1-14) This pictures the Father and Son partnering together agonizingly to perform the propitiatory sacrifice to appease the wrath of the Father and the Son.


1:10-21 shows that the LORD will not honor “church worship” unless it is lived out. He calls them to “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”

Chapter 58 shows the kind of fast YHWH requires


2:4 = serving other gods = idolatry (4:4-11; 5:26-27)

2:6 = doing injustice

They are addicted to comfort (6:1-13) and callous to hurting people 4:1; 5:11-12; 8:4-6)

Job puts it all together in Job 31.


Righteousness is helping people (Luke 3:8ff; Matt. 25:31-46) as well as personal piety and loyalty to the LORD


Is 2 Cor. 5:21 talking about justification (acceptance as child of God and forgiveness of all sin; imputed righteousness of Christ) or all of the Christlike life (justification + regeneration (new heart and indwelling Spirit + sanctification (become Christlike in character and action)? Gerry thinks the latter. It is in the context of a treatment of the New Covenant, beginning in 2 Cor. 3:3 where indwelling Spirit and new heart (cf. Exek. 36:25ff) are realities from the LORD. 2 Cor. 3:18 speaks of transformation into the image of Christ. This clearly includes both regeneration and sanctification. 2 Cor. 5:10 speaks of the judgment of our deeds as Christians. Verse 15 speaks of living as Christians. Verse 17 speaks of Christians as new creation. All of these make it clear that the righteousness of God in verse 21 must be the full righteousness which includes but is not limited to justification.

This is Ian Nelson’s summary of Jesus and the Gospel:

To sympathize means “to suffer with.” Jesus sympathized — he fought injustice by joining people in the affliction of their injustice. He suffered injustice on the cross (he fought injustice by suffering injustice himself). The only way to fight injustice is to in some way suffer “injustice” yourself. You give away (lose) the possessions that others have lost so that they can benefit. You sacrifice the time that others are in need of. You join people in their pain. You inconvenience yourself in order to help those who have been inconvenienced. You “unjust” yourself for the sake of those who have been treated unjustly.

Some Resources

Sermons on Justice: Blackhawk Church, Madison, WI here and Grace Community Gresham  here

Tim Keller, Generous Justice

Chris Wright, Old Testament Ethics for the People of God

Ken Wytsma, Pursuing Justice: The Call to Live and Die for Bigger Things

Jonathan Martin, Giving Wisely: Killing with Kindness or Empowering Lasting Transformation? 

Brian Fikkert, When Helping Hurts

Robert D. Lupton, Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It)