They Declared God Just

but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves.

Luke 7:29-35 (ESV)

(When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they declared God just, having been baptized with the baptism of John, but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.)

“To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,

“‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’

For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.”

Verses 29 and 30 divide the audience into two groups: those who declared God just, and those who rejected the purpose of God for themselves, based on whether they were baptized by John. How are those two things opposites and how does John’s baptism distinguish them?

In verse 29, some translations say, “they justified God,” instead of, “they declared God just.” This means, “they praised God’s justice,” the same way, “to glorify God,” means, “to praise God’s glory.”

This is in reference to the preceding verse, where Jesus declared that the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than John. This agrees with John’s preaching, which has always been pointing to “the one who is to come.” – Luke 7:20 (ESV)

John’s baptism is a baptism of repentance. The people who have been baptized by John understand that this is all about the kingdom of God. Everything is all about the kingdom of God; that’s why the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than John. God’s kingdom is not man’s kingdom, thus it requires repentance/humility. That’s magnificently just.

The ones who reject John’s baptism reject the whole package, including the purpose of God for themselves. They are out of step with everything going on around them. They can’t hear the music and end up just sniping at the musicians.

The rest of the passage paints this picture.

Praise God for how the gospel is just! We don’t often think about that. Without justice, there would be no need for the cross.

God’s justice and His goodness go hand-in-hand. Imagine if God were not just.

That’s a pretty good vision of hell.

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Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.