God is not only supremely merciful but also supremely just. And as He Himself has revealed in His Word, 1 His justice requires that our sins, committed against His infinite majesty, should be punished 2 not only in this age but also in the age to come, both in body and soul. We cannot escape these punishments unless satisfaction is made to the justice of God.
We ourselves, however, cannot make this satisfaction and cannot free ourselves from God’s wrath. God, therefore, in His infinite mercy has given His only-begotten Son as our Surety. 1 For us or in our place He was made sin 2 and a curse on the cross 3 so that He might make satisfaction on our behalf.
This death is of such great value and worth because the person who submitted to it is not only a true and perfectly holy man, 1 but also the only-begotten Son of God, 2 of the same eternal and infinite essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit, for these qualifications were necessary for our Saviour. Further, this death is of such great value and worth because it was accompanied by a sense of the wrath and curse of God 3 which we by our sins had deserved.
The promise of the gospel is that whoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish but have eternal life. 1 This promise ought to be announced and proclaimed universally and without discrimination to all peoples and to all men, 2 to whom God in His good pleasure sends the gospel, together with the command to repent and believe. 3
That, however, many who have been called by the gospel neither repent nor believe in Christ but perish in unbelief 1 does not happen because of any defect or insufficiency in the sacrifice of Christ offered on the cross, but through their own fault.
But to those who truly believe and by the death of Christ are freed from their sins and saved from perdition, this benefit comes only through God’s grace, given to them from eternity in Christ. 1 God owes this grace to no one. 2
For this was the most free counsel of God the Father, that the life-giving and saving efficacy of the most precious death of His Son should extend to all the elect. 1 It was His most gracious will and intent to give to them alone justifying faith and thereby to bring them unfailingly to salvation. 2 This means: God willed that Christ through the blood of the cross (by which He confirmed the new covenant) 3 should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and tongue 4 all those, and those only, who from eternity were chosen to salvation and were given to Him by the Father. God further willed that Christ should give to them faith, 5 which, together with other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, He acquired for them by His death; that He should cleanse them by His blood from all sins, 6 both original and actual, both those committed after faith and before faith; and that He should guard them faithfully to the end 7 and at last present them to Himself in splendour without any spot or wrinkle. 8
This counsel, proceeding from eternal love for the elect, has from the beginning of the world to the present time been powerfully fulfilled, and will also continue to be fulfilled, though the gates of hell vainly try to frustrate it. 1 In due time the elect will be gathered together into one, 2 and there will always be a church of believers, 3 founded on the blood of Christ. This church shall steadfastly love and faithfully serve Him as her Saviour (who as bridegroom for His bride laid down His life for her on the cross) 4 and celebrate His praises here and through all eternity.