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Very nice.

I think the resolution to the tension is found as you suggest in Paul's letter to Timothy. God desires all men to come to repentance, for the way that we think to be changed such that we can be in fellowship with Him. And one way that our thinking needs to change is about the relationship between Justice and Love or, to say the same thing differently, Law and Gospel.

I was raised in a Southern Baptist Dispensationalist tradition, and they are not the only ones that have this flaw certainly, but Dispensationalism is a good way to see an error that is in perhaps all of our sin natures. They talk about 'the church age', a 'parentheses' where Grace is operative and Law is in some sense suspended. We don't all go so far, but I think we all see Law as a kind of Ultimate Reality, anything that is not Law is sort of an exception, and this goes hand in hand with the idea that Justice belongs to the Essence of God.

Justice is not an essential attribute. It is not a divine perfection. Justice is a tool that God uses. Uses when and for what? Uses to bring men to Himself. Justice, and it's nastier cousin Wrath, are manifestations of Grace. Any father knows that sometimes we are severe in the hope that severity now will make the child more able to receive our love and grace later. I have said before that I don't understand mercy well, the most merciful thing that I know how to do is to hit soon enough and hard enough that I don't have to hit more than once. Sometimes Our Lord does the same thing. But the purpose is always to bring us to repentance, not feeling bad but seeing ourselves in a new light.

The summary of the whole is simply that the Command does not come before the Promise. Grace is the ultimate reality and the foundation on which Law is built. Never the other way around. I like to think of Justice as a bar like in a pole vault. Everything under the bar is failure and slavery. Everything above the bar is Freedom, is Grace. But God Himself never aims at the bar, He always goes far above the bar.

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