When a man criticizes and complains about a subject for a very long time, claiming to possess special insight into a matter and endeavors with great energy to prove his case, but is later shown to be woefully incorrect, he is made to look like a fool. His reputation is marred. He may sputter and back peddle with great emphasis, but sensible onlookers recognize the man’s error for what it is and pay little attention to his excuses. The amount of time and energy dedicated to such criticisms, as well as the degree of passion employed, will inevitably heighten the embarrassment. In other words, if a man dedicates the entirety of his life to a subject, and argues vociferously against a certain view, his error will more greatly impugn his reputation.
In the case of Satan, he has argued with unparalleled passion against God’s righteousness, urging that God unjustly overlooks sin. As far as time is concerned, his complaint has spanned the ages. Countless centuries have rolled by with him complaining in the background. So in terms of degree and duration, Satan’s accusations against God and His people have been unequaled.
Consider the following by way of reminder. When King David committed adultery with Bathsheba and later learned that she was with child, he conspired to have Uriah killed, so as to preserve the secrecy of his sin. Naturally, none of this was hidden from God, so He sent Nathan the prophet to confront David. When David admitted to doing evil, various judgments were pronounced upon him and those involved. But strikingly, the following words are recorded, “David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the LORD.’ And Nathan said to David, ‘The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die’” (2 Sam 12:13). David was spared.
Can one even begin to imagine Satan’s caustic accusations and cries of injustice? What would he have said when he heard these words from David, “He [God] does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:10)? “Exactly!” Satan must have cried. “God isn’t dealing with you as He should- as He must! He is no better than us!”
To Satan’s absolute horror, the cross solved this apparent problem. According to Romans 3:24-26, in what Martin Lloyd Jones described as “the acropolis of the Bible,” that Himalayan height where the grand resolution of forgiveness and righteousness intermingle, the world learns how this could be so. Paul says that believers are justified by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood. “This was to show,” as Paul stresses, “God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show His righteousness at the present time, so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom 3:25-26).
Here Paul readily acknowledges the predicament of the OT. God’s very righteousness was at stake. This is why the cross is so crucial. It shows God’s righteousness at the present time, “so that He might be just.” Don’t miss that. The question isn’t how God could be righteous if He didn’t forgive. Quite the opposite. The crucial issue for Paul was: How could God be righteous if He did forgive sins?
Leon Morris writes,
“Often and often people had sinned. You would expect that a just God would punish them. That is what justice means. Paul is arguing that sinners deserve to be punished for their sin. Sinners have gone on living, just as they were. Now you can argue that this shows God to be merciful, or compassionate, or kind, or forbearing, or loving. But you cannot argue that it shows him to be just. Whatever else the absence of punishment of sins shows, it does not show us justice.”
With the cross we see how God can forgive sins while also judging them. By presenting Christ as a propitiatory sacrifice, God provided a means whereby He could justly justify those who place their faith in Christ. Actually, it can be stated even more strongly. If God is going to be just, He must justify those who place their faith in Christ. Justice now demands it. This, it must be stressed, has made Satan’s accusations of the brethren and blasphemies of God utterly baseless (Romans 8:33-39).