the good way

Biblical Justice Teaching Supplement

Session 7 • Justice & peace • Teaching

This document serves as a supplement to the October 18, 2020 teaching on Biblical Justice (Micah 6:6-8) by Patrick Boatwright at Oaks Church Brooklyn. The teaching is available on the Oaks Church Brooklyn Podcast and the Youtube channel.

There are two word concepts that can help ground our understanding of justice, tov (good) and shalom (peace) in light of our teaching text, Micah 6:6-8.


In verse 8, Micah states that God has shown us something good (the Hebrew word tov) and our correct response is to chiefly do justice. The use of tov here is foundational. In semetic languages, like Hebrew, words start concrete and then, over time and use, develop abstract meanings. The concrete meaning of tov can be understood through the Genesis 1 Creation narrative. The earth is formless and empty then God makes light and brings form to the earth, but he does not label it tov. It is not until the third day, when there is land, and vegetation and sustenance for life does God examine his work and calls it good, or tov.

From this we can understand that what is good is, in a sense, is anything that produces life and contains the potential for more life within it, literally and figuratively. In view of this proper order, or established peace, we are given the very task assigned to Adam, to steward it. In a fallen world, justice becomes stewarding creation back towards what God called good.


Continuing our understanding of how Hebrew language works, the word translated peace, shalom, also provides a rich context for understanding biblical justice. The concrete meaning of shalom is that of a stone lacking cracks or blemish or a stone wall with each brick tightly laid. Returning to the creation narrative, we see Adam and Eve as complete individuals, without blemish or lack, and we also see them in a fortified relationship with each other and Yahweh. There is individual wholeness within communal wholeness. That is shalom. The theme of individual wholeness intertwined with right relationship with others and the Creator runs throughout scripture. This is the peace that justice fights for, an unblemished wholeness of individuals and communities.

Before moving directly to justice, it helps to understand the ideas on which it is built and see how each precursor matures us into people of justice.


Love is seeking the peace (shalom) of another above my own (1 Corinthians 13 and 1 John 4). 1 John 4 tells us that God is love, it all shows us that our understanding of God, and therefore love, is chiefly understood through the way in which he brought wholeness to mankind at great cost to himself. God is more than we can fathom, and so our entrance to understanding what contours of God we can, is through the lens of self sacrifice for the sake of the other. It is this primary love that secures, inspires, and empowers us to demonstrate it to others.


Where love seeks peace, hospitality creates spaces and expression of that peace toward others. The Greek word for hospitality (philoxenos) is, at the root, a combination of the words friend and stranger. Hospitality is not just for the poor, oppressed, or marginalized, the people of God treat everyone like a friend. In a kingdom community, you belong before you believe. (1 Peter 4:9, Heb 13:1-2)


Mercy is the sharing of peace with those lacking it. Because we live in a broken world, love and hospitality are not a given. Often, they are the exception to treatment instead of the rule. This is the space where mercy operates. In the New Testament, the two words translated mercy (Eleos & Oiktirmos) both denote a showing of compassion or forbearance. Whether food to the hungry, clothing to the naked, or water to the thirsty, when we meet the needs of those in lack, we’re being obedient to Jesus. (Luke 6:36, Matthew 25:31-46, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Prov 14:21)

Functions of Biblical Justice Recap

While the understanding and pursuit of justice is not unique to the Christian worldview, there are definitive markers of biblical justice.

Biblical justice is restorative not punitive

While biblical justice is retributive, that aspect is reserved for God who alone is capable of judging what each person is actually due (Romans 12:19). Therefore, for our purposes, justice is about restoration, bringing heaven to earth. Revelation 21:3-5 is a vision of the culmination of God’s good work. Justice is seeding that work, dismantling broken peace in preparation for the full peace El-Ashiyb is bringing.

Biblical justice is holy not self serving

Holy means set apart or sacred, it points to a division between clean and unclean. Biblical justice is holy because it flows from God, it is the goodness found in Eden. But, like Adam and Eve after eating the fruit, we who are under sin are naturally bent to serving ourselves and protecting our own comfort. This often clashes with justice because justice typically demands a level of self-sacrifice. Luke 10:27-29 records a moment where a religious leader outwardly says he wants to live in right relationship with God and others—a just world, but inwardly, he is concerned with himself and how little he can give to actually live justly. We see this in his question to Jesus, “who is my neighbor?”

Biblical justice is equitable not deferential

Deuteronomy 16:19 compares perverting justice with showing partiality, especially to those of wealth, power, and influence. Because justice is holy and based on Adonai, it becomes a level standard. Unlike legal systems of the world where power and influence can heavily determine how justice functions, we are all equal at the cross and the communion table. And yet, verses like Romans 2:6 and 12:3 illustrate that there is equity in God’s justice. He alone knows the fullness of each person and their actions and gives us all exactly what is due. Under this standard, we then are called to be people of respect and love all, but are partial to none.

Biblical justice is Spirit fueled not anger driven

In and outside of Christian community, injustice can naturally spark an emphatic response. These responses can often be defined by anger, and anger is not necessarily a bad thing (Ephesians 4:26). While anger can be a great use as a spark, its unstable nature makes it unsustainable as a fuel for the work justice requires. That is why biblical justice is fueled by the Holy Spirit who does not tire, knows exactly what is required, and brings lasting peace. Philippians 2:13 speaks of this power and through and by this Spirit power we can actually live lives that please God.

Biblical justice is active not passive

Because justice often requires sacrifice and hard work, it can be tempting to exchange justice, active sustained peace, for order, which, because of entropy, is a temporary peace. But there is a longstanding judicial concept that justice delayed is justice denied. Prov 31:8 demands that we speak up for those under injustice. Luke 18:8 says the justice Jesus administers will be quick. In Amos 5:24, Yahweh calls for justice to a mighty rolling stream. Biblical justice is active, swift, and rolling. As agents of said justice, we are called to not trade temporary peace for a sustained whole peace.

How Do We Become People of Justice?

Right thinking about justice won’t produce justice. To be Jehovah Rapha’s ambassadors, we must commit ourselves to actively living out a pursuit of justice.

Become justified

Ephesians 2:1-10 lays out a clear path from causers of injustice to pursuers of biblical justice. We cannot give what we haven’t received. The gospel reminds us in places like verses 3-5 and Romans 3:23, that by nature we as people resist true justice. Even more, we actively live in ways that break peace with God, others, ourselves, and the world around us. This is sometimes malicious and intentional, and other times we are completely ignorant to the destruction we cause in the world. Regardless, this puts us naturally at odds with God whose standard is higher than we could ever live up to.

So how could we ever become people who embrace the true peace of the Good Shepherd? Ephesians 2:4 -9 is the good news that God met our innate destruction with active, self-sacrificing, restorative love by dying on the cross and conquering death through resurrection. It is this primary act of justice, God freely trading our shame for his honor, that invites us into lives that rest in Him and are then given the Spirit that starts the restoration process within us.

Be guided by the Spirit

As if Jesus’ free gift of justification was not enough, as justified people we are given his very Spirit which guides, teaches, corrects, and restores. Philippians 2:13 and Ephesians 2:10 work together to show us that good works, including justice, are from God, laid out by God for us, then the Spirit gives us the desires to fulfill those works, and if we surrender to those desire, the Spirit then provides the energy to see them through to completion.

Resist Apathy

If we are to truly become people of biblical justice, there is much work, hard deep work, to be done. The nature of that work, at a fundamental level, is not being dismayed by the starting point, deterred by the obstacles, or, most importantly, disinterested by our comfort, power, or distance from felt injustice. Philippians 2:1-10 gives us the example of Jesus who did not find his rightful glory or comfort something to be bound by, but he freely gave it up to actively enter suffering so that we could be justified, which led to the full return of his glory. Likewise, as we surrender whatever comfort, glory, and power to take up our own crosses, we may find ourselves given to death, but that will not be the end. We will ultimately share in Jesus’ glory if we persist in doing good (Galatians 6:9-10, Romans 8:17).

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