The Bible tells us the gospel is the revelation of God’s righteousness. Gospel means “good news.” It is the good news concerning the righteousness that God’s only begotten Son established for His elect. This good news reveals to us how God is just and right to save His people from death even though they have disobeyed Him and thereby have earned from God the just punishment of death for their sins. (Romans 1:16-17, Genesis 2:16-17, Romans 6:23)
This good news begins with the announcement that long ago, before He created the world, God determined to glorify Himself by sending His Son to die for a people whom He purposed to save from the just punishment for sin. (Romans 8:29, Ephesians 1:5)
He also determined to glorify Himself by condemning everyone else to death whom He did not choose to save. The Bible calls this determined choice, PREDESTINATION. (Romans 9:14-24)
In determining to save and condemn, God also chose who He would save and who He would condemn. The choice He made was unconditional. That is, it had nothing to do with the people He chose.
In other words, God did not base His decision to save and condemn on anything we human beings would do at in point in time. Rather, His decision was based solely upon His own good purpose and will.
God was not wrong to make this choice either. After all, He is the Creator, and as the Creator He has the right to fashion His creation for whatever purpose He sees fit. He would only be wrong if He had later lied about the purpose of its creation. He did not.
What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
After choosing whom He would save and whom He would condemn, God also determined that both groups of people would fall into sin so that He could justly save and condemn them. Due to this fall into sin He had already determined to send His Son to die for those whom He had chosen for salvation, thereby glorifying His mercy and kindness, as well as His holiness and justice.
For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
To fell all man into sin, God determined that both groups of people would fall through the disobedience of one man. That is, by treating the first man, Adam as the representative of the entire human race, God IMPUTED Adam’s sin to both groups of people; the would be saved, as well as the would be condemned. Impute is a word sometimes used in accounting. It refers to the transfer of a value from one account to another account. Reckon, charge, and credit are similar words.
To accomplish His purpose of felling the entire human race into sin, God charged Adam’s disobedience to every person’s account. Adam disobeyed and now we each and every one of us get stuck with the bill. (Psalm 51:5, Psalm 53:3-4, Romans 5:13-21)
This fall into sin, brought about by the imputation of Adam’s guilt, is often referred to as TOTAL DEPRAVITY, because the totality of man’s mind and body was affected by the imputation. There is no part of man now which desires to honor and worship God by submitting to His authority and obeying His commandments. Although he knows by observing nature that God exists and is worthy of honor and worship, man nevertheless suppresses this knowledge in unrighteousness. (Romans 1:28-32)
For this reason, because God reckons all men guilty of Adam’s sin, God now rightly and justly demands the punishment He promised to Adam for Adam’s sin. Death. This was the promised punishment for Adam’s sin.
Genesis 2:16-17 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
What’s more though, in addition to this imputation of Adam’s sin, and due to total depravity, each man goes on to add his own sinning to Adam’s sin. That is, his disobedience compounds. He begins with Adam’s guilt imputed to him, and then adds the guilt of his own disobedience to this. Thus, both groups of people, those whom God had determined to save, and those whom He had determined to condemn, find themselves in utter need of salvation from God’s good and right punishment for their sins.
God had predetermined from eternity to send His own Son to die for those whom He had predetermined to save. This occurred in the fullness of time after Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, partook of human flesh. He who was and is the eternal Son of God condescended to be born of a virgin, born under the law in order to redeem those of His elect who were under the condemnation of the law. This Son of God is the eternal second Person of the Holy Trinity, the only begotten Son of God, God of God, Jesus Christ.
Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons
John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made.
God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, took to Himself human flesh and humbled Himself to be born of a virgin. He, who had always been fully God, consented to become also fully a man without ever ceasing to be God. Though He was fully a man, He was nevertheless conceived by the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit, rather than by natural means. This means He was not born of Adam’s seed. That is, Adam did not represent Him. He came into the world unblemished by the imputation of Adam’s guilt. (Philippians 2:5-7, Luke 1:26-35)
To accomplish the salvation of His elect, Christ had to do several things. First, He had to REDEEM His people from God’s wrath. Redeem is a word that means “to purchase” or “to buy back.” Jesus had to buy back His elect from God’s righteous anger which justly stood against His elect for their sins. He had to also buy back His elect from the punishment of death which was justly due them for their sins.
But in order to redeem them, Jesus had to also PROPITIATE God’s wrath in order to redeem them. Propitiate is a word that simply means “to satisfy.” Jesus had to satisfy God’s wrath. This was the only way He could buy them back.
Third, Jesus had to also ATONE for His people’s sins. Atone is a word that means “to repair” or “make amends.” In other words, Jesus had to offer something to God to make peace between God and His elect by propitiating God’s wrath and thereby redeeming His elect.
But lastly, and maybe most importantly, Jesus had to justify God. That is, He had to prove to the world that God was right and just to not only immediately kill Adam even though He had promised Adam death for disobedience, but also that He was right and just to count Adam as righteous after He had counted sin to him. The Bible refers to this as “passing over sins previously committed.”
In other words, God had promised Adam that in the day he ate of the forbidden tree he would die. Adam ate, but he did not die that day even though God promised him he would. In addition to this, even though Adam had sinned and God had counted this sin to all the rest of mankind, God nevertheless turned right around and declared Adam guiltless. Jesus had to do something to justify this.
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 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.
To reiterate, Jesus had to redeem His elect, propitiate God’s wrath, atone for His people’s sins, and justify God’s act of passing over the sins of the Old Testament elect while counting His elect righteous. All of this He accomplished by offering His body to God at the cross as a sacrifice for His people’s sins.
By dying for His people’s sins, He justified God, propitiated God’s wrath, reconciled His people to God, and redeemed His people from death. And all of this He did in perfect, complete obedience to His Father’s will. His death is His righteousness. His death is the righteousness which accomplished all these things. His death is what God imputes to His elect for their justification. This is why God raised Him from the dead, and why God will raise His elect at the last day.
At the cross, God imputed all the sins of His elect to His Son, Jesus Christ. That is, He reckoned Jesus guilty for every act of disobedience His people had done, were doing and would ever do.
Jesus did not Himself become sinful in this transaction. Rather, the sins of His elect were only charged to His account. That is, He was reckoned as or counted as guilty for His people’s sins, but He did not actually become sinful in His Person. The bill which His people had earned with their sin had only been transferred to His account (2 Corinthians 5:21). He paid the bill with His death.
With Christ thus reckoned guilty of His elect’s sins by imputation, God then poured out upon Christ the full and eternal measure of His wrath. God punished His Son for the sins His of His elect. Jesus died their death, the death they had merited with their disobedience, as well as the guilt Adam had merited for them. (Matthew 1:21, John 10:14-15, John 10:26-29). This is the righteousness He established for His elect. This is the very righteousness God imputes to them for their justification.
Jesus’ decision to die on the cross for His elect was an act of obedience. He, whose will had always been in perfect agreement with the Father’s, now agreed once again with His Father even to the point of death. Thus, His work was perfect in its obedience.
For this reason, God raised Christ from the dead. This act of raising Christ from the dead was God’s way of announcing to the world that Jesus Christ is righteous. (Romans 1:3-4)
But there is still the matter of His elect’s depravity, for although Christ has taken the punishment due His elect for their disobedience, His elect are still nevertheless lost in the effects of total depravity. To accomplish this total rescue of His elect, God first reckons them righteous. That is, in the fullness of time, in some due course within each of their lives, God imputes to each of His elect the righteousness Christ earned for them by His perfect obedience. This righteousness which He earned for them is made theirs by imputation. (Romans 4:3-5)
As an immediate consequence of this imputation, the Holy Spirit overcomes the willful suppression of God’s truth in each elect person’s mind. That is, He makes the elect person to understand the gospel, as well as to believe it. The Bible refers to this as new birth.
Having been imputed righteous and born again, the elect person is now declared righteous. He did nothing to earn this declaration. Rather, God Himself did all the work, and so therefore receives all the gratitude and glory for accomplishing it. The Bible refers to this declaration as justified.
Realizing that God’s holy law can no longer accuse him because Christ has suffered the law’s punishment for his disobedience, the justified man now delights in God’s law. Though his body is still under the influence of evil desires which he can never escape in this life, the justified man nevertheless does still desire to please God. (2 Corinthians 1:22, Ephesians 1:13-14)
In addition to this, the justified man also is made to agree with God that Christ is going to return one day to judge those whom He did not choose for salvation and to resurrect those whom He did.
Because Christ’s resurrection was a declaration of His righteousness, the same resurrection He underwent will be the same resurrection His elect will undergo. (John 5:24-25, Romans 6:5)
This is the gospel, and God commands all men everywhere to repent of all their false gospels and to believe only this gospel. Only His elect shall do this.
Romans 3:21-26 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith. This was to show 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.