Justice to Victory

“We deserve bare bones justice, and what we get is grace upon grace upon grace.”

Here is My Servant,  

whom I have chosen,  

My beloved,  

in whom My soul delights.  

I will put My Spirit on Him,  

and He will proclaim justice to the nations.  

He will not quarrel or cry out;  

no one will hear His voice in the streets.  

A bruised reed He will not break,  

and a smoldering wick He will not extinguish,  

till He leads justice to victory.  

In His name the nations will put their hope. (Matthew 12:18-21) 

This prophecy about the Messiah, which first appears in Isaiah 42:1-3, says that he will proclaim justice to the nations, and that he will lead justice to victory. I wondered, what does that mean – leading justice to victory? Does it mean what it looks like at first glance, that He will finally bring justice and condemnation on all the evil in the world? Will He finally judge all the rebellious and sinners? I know that will happen someday, at His second coming. But I think that the “justice to victory” that He brought the first time was something else. Something wonderful. 

Matthew is clear in repeating this prophecy about the Messiah from Isaiah that he is referring to Jesus first incarnation, or first coming, for the verses leading up to it say: Large crowds followed Him, and He healed them all, warning them not to make Him known. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah (Matthew 12:16-17). 

The Hebrew word translated “justice” in the original prophecy is mishpat, which means judgment. It comes from shapat, which means to avenge, condemn, contend, execute judgment. Throughout the Bible God warns that the judgment for sin is death: 

And the LORD God commanded the man … “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Genesis 2:16-17 

When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. Romans 5:12 (NLT) 

Each one shall be put to death for his own sin. Deuteronomy 24:16 

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 

Pure justice then is death for all who sin. That’s all of us, who in our selfishness and greed and lust have killed and maimed and impoverished each other – physically, mentally, spiritually.  For what we do, even secretly, even what we secretly think, affects those around us – “so death spread to everyone.” 

But, instead of pouring out His judgment on us, God’s judgment on sin was poured out on Jesus at the Cross. As Pastor Troy Gentz preaches, “we deserve bare bones justice, and what we get is grace upon grace upon grace.” In willingly dying as a sacrifice for our sin on the Cross, Jesus was victorious over sin and death. He brought justice to victory. 

For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8: 3-4 

You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross. Colossians 2:13-15 (NLT) 

“He [Paul] applies to us personally what Christ accomplished perfectly. When we are united to Christ by faith, his punishment becomes ours and his righteousness becomes ours, and God counts our sins against us no more.” — John Piperi  

God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Romans 3:25-26 

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:57 

Thanks be to God that He brought my justice – the justice due to me – to victory by the shed blood of Jesus for us on the Cross!

Come to Him, wounded and fading and He will give you life. For “a bruised reed he will not break and a smouldering wick he will not extinguish.” Salvation 

iHow Did the Cross Disarm the Devil? https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/how-did-the-cross-disarm-the-devil 

Image by Jack Bair

Overcoming

Jesus showed us what overcoming means, what success and failure in this world mean.

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 1 John 5:4-5 (ESV) 

The word translated “overcomes” in the above verse is nikaó (from nike = victory) and means to conquer, be victorious, to prevail, overcome, subdue. According to Kenneth S. Wuest, “The verb implies a battle.” i 

Yes, to overcome in this world is a continual battle, but one primarily with my “self.” There is an enemy of my soul who wants to destroy me, but the battle to overcome is for holiness, for sanctification, for putting down the flesh and fighting off “human reasoning and to destroy false arguments” and “every proud obstacle that keeps [me] from knowing God” and to capture my “rebellious thoughts” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5 NLT).

We must overcome the world in us. The way the world has influenced us to think and respond, the world branded on our broken hearts, the world mangling our souls and deforming our hearts. For, before we can truly help anybody else, before we can begin to overcome the evil in the world outwardly, we must first do battle within our own hearts. The Apostle John talks a lot about this battle. 

No New Testament writer makes such frequent use of the metaphors of combat and victory as this gentle Apostle John. None of them seem to have conceived so habitually of the Christian life as being a conflict, and in none of their writings does the clear note of victory in the use of that word ‘overcometh‘ ring out so constantly as it does in those of the very Apostle of Love. Equally characteristic of John’s writings is the prominence which he gives to the still contemplation of, and abiding in, Christ. These two conceptions of the Christian life appear to be discordant, but are really harmonious.MacLaren’s Expositions 

Can the contemplation of our Lord, the fixing of our eyes on Jesus, the abiding in Jesus, be the key to victory in this battle, to overcoming the world? And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 

“Remember, that this is much more important than I can express: fix your eyes on your crucified Lord, and everything will seem easy to you.” — Saint Teresa of Avila ii 

Well, I don’t know about being easy – at least not yet, not for me – yet. But Teresa echoes God’s word and the promise throughout the Bible: 

Be still and know that I am God. The battle is not yours, but God’s. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. iii  

I have overcome the world. 

Where did John learn the expression? Who was it that first used it? It comes from that never-to-be-forgotten night in that upper room; where, with His life’s purpose apparently crushed into nothing, and the world just ready to exercise its last power over Him by killing Him, Jesus Christ breaks out into such a strange strain of triumph, and in the midst of apparent defeat lifts up that clarion note of victory:- ‘I have overcome the world.’ He had not made much of it, according to usual standards, had He? His life had been the life of a poor man. Neither fame nor influence, nor what people call success, had He won, judged from the ordinary points of view, and at three-and-thirty is about to be murdered; and yet He says, ’I have beaten it all, and here I stand a conqueror!’ That threw a flood of light for John, and for all that had listened to Christ, on the whole conditions of human life, and on what victory and defeat, success and failure in this world mean.” — MacLaren’s Expositions 

Jesus showed us what overcoming means, what success and failure in this world mean. Not the outer accumulations and renown, but the inner triumph, the doing of God’s will, the being faithful to the end. Jesus has overcome, and – Praise God! – he accomplishes the overcoming in us. It’s only when you think of things this way, that all of a sudden, scriptures like this one in James make sense. 

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:2-3 

This sort of success, this overcoming, is an invisible victory as far as the world is concerned. What J.D. Walt calls this “learning the way of ‘yetting,’ the mystery of joy, and the practice of ‘rejoicing in the Lord,’ and yes all of this before anything changes.” It happens deep down. 

“As we learn to rejoice in the Lord at the bottom, we find a strange shifting of the center of our gravity. We go from all manner of striving after any form of strength we can find (including endlessly asking God to help us) to realizing ‘The Sovereign Lord is my strength.’” — J.D. Walt iv 

“Discipleship does not mean to use God when we can no longer function ourselves. On the contrary, it means to recognize that we can do nothing at all, but that God can do everything through us.” — Henri J.M. Nouwen 

Each self-thing as God puts his finger on it, every lingering Eden-sin, he will give me the grace to overcome, to subdue. God will work his overcoming in me. But I have to cooperate with this working, I have to renounce the sin, hate the sin, be brutal with the sin. I have to cut off the hand and gouge out the offending eye (Matthew 5:29-30). As Charles Spurgeon said, “grace saves no man to make him like a log of wood.” We have something to do; we need to “work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).  

There is so much more to overcoming I am finding. So, I would like to continue this wonderful discovery of hidden treasure next time. 

“He conquered once for all, and His victory will pass, with electric power, into my life if I trust Him.” — Alexander MacLaren 

i Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans. 

ii Saint Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle, or, The Mansions https://archive.org/details/St.TeresaOfAvilaTheInteriorCastleOrTheMansionsIncludingSomeOfHerMoreInterestingLetters 

iii Psalm 46:10; 2 Chronicles 20:15; Matthew 11:30 

iv J.D. Walt, Why the Glass Is Not Half Empty, Nor Half Full—There Is No Glass https://www.seedbed.com/why-the-glass-is-not-half-empty-or-half-full-there-is-no-glass/ 

Image of lightning by Duane Schoon https://flic.kr/p/8nTDnP

%d bloggers like this: