What do Christians believe? Why is the cross the symbol of their faith? In this series Pastor Tim Schouten of the Prince George Canadian Reformed Church explains some of the fundamental beliefs of the Christian faith. Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Perhaps you’ve seen these words on a church sign or a social media post: “God is good. All the time.”
These words are intended to be comforting. But are they? Perhaps we might think differently if we inserted a synonym for “good.” Imagine that we changed the words to, “God is just. All the time.”
Last time we explored the Christian concept of sin. Today we turn to the related topic of the justice of God and the consequences for sin. As we do so, we’ll see that the hardest part of Christianity is the belief in a God who is perfectly and eternally just.
According to the Bible, part of the essence of God is that he does not change. God revealed himself in the Old Testament by the personal name Yahweh (usually translated in English as “the LORD”), which means “I AM WHO I AM.” He said about himself through the prophet Malachi, “I the LORD do not change.”
Another way to think about God’s unchanging nature is to think about his faithfulness. He is always faithful – to himself, to his creation, and to his words. It is because he is faithful that the sun rises and sets every day. It is because he is faithful that the seasons come and go.
It is also because he is faithful that he will never compromise his own goodness or justice, and it is this that results in the central problem of humanity. God had said to Adam and Eve about the fruit of the forbidden tree, “when you eat of it you shall surely die.” Then they went ahead and ate from it. Now what?
Remember that this was about much more than simply taking a fruit. This one command was a definitive test of their loyalty and loving submission to their Creator. When they broke the command, they consciously rejected his authority and love. In doing so they fell under the just punishment that he had prescribed. They deserved to die.
In the Bible, death is more than the physical shutting down of our bodies. To die is to be severed from a relationship with God. Since God remains good while people, because of their sin, have become evil, there is a natural separation. This separation from God is death, and it is worse that we can imagine. We experience some of it within this life, but its ultimate form is what the Bible calls hell – the place where we will finally and fully experience the absence of God.
“God is good. All the time.” These are hard words. Christians believe that because of our sin we are rightfully separated from God, the ultimate good, the source of all life, and our only true happiness.
Author Rev. Tim Schouten