Is God Just and Righteous?

The character of God is declared in the Bible and is revealed in His actions to humanity. For example, Scripture says that God is both just and righteous. “The Lord our God is righteous in all His works.” (Daniel 9:14) “The just Lord is in the midst thereof: he will do no iniquity.” (Zephaniah 3:5) The Bible affirms repeatedly the justice and righteousness of God. What does this mean?

The Biblical words translated “just” and “righteous” do not mean precisely what is meant by those same words in modern English. In English the word “just” has a connotation of legal justice that does what is right in dispensing the law. A just judge passes judgment rightly, lawfully and without bias. A just rebuke is one that is rightly deserved. In English the word “righteous” has the connotation of moral behavior. The righteous man is honest, faithful and ethical. Just is often perceived as having a bent towards the judicial and legal. Righteous is seen as referring towards the personal and moral. This distinction did not exist in Hebrew or Greek. Instead, the Bible brings both concepts together into one package. One Hebrew word is translated as “just” in some places and as “righteous” in others. The same is true in Greek. In the original languages, the words translated just and righteous are identical. The Bible does not consider just and righteous to be two different ideas.

The Biblical words combine the legal and the moral aspects. To be righteous and just is to live in accord with the law of God. The just one keeps the moral and civil laws of God. The one who is just and righteous will respond fairly to all. The just business man will not cheat his customers. The righteous ruler will not bend the law to suit his own ends, or show favoritism in passing judgment. One who is just and righteous always acts in accord with the law of God.

To say that God is just and righteous is to say that God always acts in accord with His own law. His actions never violate His law and He always judges fairly. When Abraham pled with God for Lot he appealed to the justice of God. Because justice gives to all men what they deserve and does not punish the innocent Abraham pled accordingly. He knew the character of God. Because God is just He will not punish the righteous for the actions of the wicked. “That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25)

The justice of God is also a perfect justice which judges according to complete knowledge of the situation and the individual. (Psalm 7:9) When God condemns, His judgment is always accurate and right. (Revelation 16:7) He never condemns the innocent or acquits the guilty. Every decision and ruling is always the correct ruling and in perfect keeping with all His laws.

To say that God is just and righteous is also to say that He is always moral and upright in His deeds. God never acts immorally or unfaithfully. He always does what is proper and right. He does not sin. (Zephaniah 3:5) This means all can trust God to do what is right, to execute perfect judgment and to always act in accord with His perfect law.