The gospel is the revelation of God’s righteousness. It reveals the good news of how, even though God is good and right to demand the death of all who disobey Him, He is also good and right to save from death a people who have disobeyed Him. (Romans 1:16-17)
Long ago, before He created the world, God determined to glorify Himself by sending His Son to die for a people whom He had purposed to save from eternal judgment. (Romans 8:29, Ephesians 1:5)
He also determined to glorify Himself by condemning to eternal judgment everyone whom He did not choose to save. The Bible calls this 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 had nothing to do with the people He chose.
In other words, He did not base His decision to save and condemn on anything we would do. 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?
In so choosing who to save and who to condemn, God also determined that both groups would fall into sin. In this way, He could 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.”
God determined that both groups of people would fall into sin through the disobedience of one man. That is, by treating Adam as the representative of the entire human race, God judged both groups of people guilty of Adam’s disobedience. He did this through an act of imputation. Imputation is a word sometimes used in accounting. It refers to the transfer of a value in one account to another.
To accomplish His purpose of felling the entire human race into sin, God credits 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 called Total Depravity. Total depravity, because the totality of man’s mind and body is effected by sin. There is no part of him which desires to honor and worship God by submitting to His authority and obeying His commandments. Although he knows from the observance of creation that God exists and is worthy of his honor and worship, he nevertheless suppresses this knowledge in unrighteousness. (Romans 1:28-32)
For this reason, God’s good and just demand for those who disobey Him is death. He demands this, because this was the penalty He announced beforehand for disobedience.
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.”
In addition to this imputation of Adam’s guilt, each man adds to this guilt. 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.
The method God had determined from eternity to use to save His elect from the punishment of death for their sins was the death of His Son. That is, in the fullness of time God sent forth His Son, born of a virgin, born under the law to redeem those who are 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 humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross. 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.
In so doing, Jesus did not Himself become sinful. Rather only, the sins of His elect were charged to His account. The bill had been transferred to His account. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
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)
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.