I have heard it said that God would never send anyone to Hell because He is love. I agree with this. He would never send anyone to Hell. God has given us a choice and the choice is ours. We can choose Heaven or we can reject Heaven which will leave us in Hell. People who do not understand this, do not understand the righteousness of God. And that brings us to our Verse of the Day.
For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed —a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
When we think of righteousness, there is a general sense of holiness, godliness, but what is it really? Righteousness is the adjective we use to describe something that makes things right, things that right a wrong that has been committed. God is righteous.
When Adam ate from the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, he messed everything up. Man was created to forever be the recipient of God’s unconditional love, but more than this, God created man to be in relationship with man. If God never gave man a choice to love Him or reject Him, it would not be a loving relationship. It would be like the stuffed animal I had as a child. “Sassy” (not sure who picked the name) had no choice. My will was Sassy’s will. Sassy did not love me. Sassy did not have the capacity to love. This is why God gave us a choice to stay with Him or to be separated from Him. This is where the righteousness of God comes in to the situation.
God wanted to make it right. To make it right, He sent the Holy Spirit to create a child in the Virgin Mary’s womb. This child would be God in the flesh, taking on the makeup of man. This is why the Scripture says that Jesus was tempted (Hebrews 4:15). But God, the Father cannot be tempted (James 1:13). So Jesus came as a man, capable of sin, yet in every moment of His entire life, choosing to honor God, never sinning. This put Jesus in a unique place. Because He never sinned, He did not deserve death (Romans 6:23). So God the Father had a plan that this perfect man would stand in the gap for all of humanity. He would take the punishment of death and Hell for all who have ever sinned.
If God had not sent Jesus to die for sin, things would not have been made right because every single man and woman rejects God every time they have a sinful thought, say a sinful word, or commit a sin. The only way to restore man to the relationship was for there to be a man who always chose God, never rejecting Him in sin so that He could be punished for the sins of the world. Anyone else punished would have been punished for their own sin, but Jesus, who was without sin (2 Corinthians 5:21) took our punishment upon Himself. But this does not fully make things right.
When Christ lived a perfect life, always choosing God, it only qualified Him to get into Heaven. And He did not have to die to get into Heaven because He had never sinned. But He died for us. What does this mean? It does not mean that since Christ died that all sin is forgiven.
God has given man the opportunity to take the punishment of Christ and apply it to their own sin since it cannot be applied to the sin of Christ because He never sinned. So now, I can claim His punishment as my own and declare that my sins have been punished and made right so that I can go to Heaven. If we don’t apply His punishment and claim it as punishment for our personal sin, then our personal sin is not covered. We might ask why God made it so that we have to do this? Why wasn’t the punishment of Christ enough to allow every soul into Heaven? Well…that goes back to love and relationship and this requires a choice.
Adam, representing all of mankind, did not choose to love God every moment of His life as God loved Adam. The righteousness of God has restored our choice. He redeemed our ability to choose Him. By taking our punishment upon Him, Jesus restored what Adam forfeited. So that now, all who accept His sacrifice to be applied to their own sin will be saved. The struggle with this concept is that it is transcendental. It is hard to define or know if we have chosen God and chosen to apply His punishment to our sin. How do we know?
We know by the way we live our life. We are still imperfect and sinful beings. But if we sincerely want to choose Christ, our life will reflect that as we see a lifestyle that, more and more, chooses to honor God instead of satiating the flesh. Little by little we will choose God and honor Him for who He says He is. Everything in the Bible, all of the commands, if we obey them with the right attitude teach us how to love better (Matthew 22:40). When God gives us a command, following that command with the right attitude will constitute a choice to love Him and remain in relationship with Him. And when we fail, the righteousness of God allows the punishment of Christ to continue to cover our sins and continually restore our ability to choose God (1 John 2:1-2). We repent and keep working to choose God more and more every day. This is a life driven by the faith that God really did what He says He did, sending His Son to restore our choice every day to honor Him as God, love Him, and remain in relationship. Those who live like this have been made right again. The righteous shall live by faith.