Second Head of Doctrine
Christ's Death and Man's Redemption Through it
Article 1 - The Punishment Which God’s Justice Requires
God is not only supremely merciful but also supremely just. And as He Himself has revealed in His Word, (Ex 34:6-7) His justice requires that our sins, committed against His infinite majesty, should be punished (Rom 5:16; Gal 3:10) 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.
Article 2 - The Satisfaction Made by Christ
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. (Jn 3:16; Rom 5:8) For us or in our place He was made sin (2 Cor 5:21) and a curse on the cross (Gal 3:13) so that He might make satisfaction on our behalf.
Article 3 - The Infinite Value of Christ’s Death
This death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sins, (Heb 9:26, 28; 10:14) of infinite value and worth, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world. (1 Jn 2:2)
Article 4 - Why His Death Has Infinite Value
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, (Heb 4:15; 7:26) but also the only-begotten Son of God, (1 Jn 4:9) 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 (Mt 27:46) which we by our sins had deserved.
Article 5 - The Universal Proclamation of the Gospel
The promise of the gospel is that whoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish but have eternal life. (Jn 3:16) This promise ought to be announced and proclaimed universally and without discrimination to all peoples and to all men, (1 Cor 1:23; Mt 28:19) to whom God in His good pleasure sends the gospel, together with the command to repent and believe. (3 Acts 2:38; 16:31)
Article 6 - Why Some Do Not Believe
That, however, many who have been called by the gospel neither repent nor believe in Christ but perish in unbelief (Mt 22:14; Ps 95:11; Heb 4:6) does not happen because of any defect or insufficiency in the sacrifice of Christ offered on the cross, but through their own fault.
Article 7 - Why Others Do Believe
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. (2 Cor 5:18) God owes this grace to no one. (Eph 2:8-9)
Article 8 - The Efficacy of the Death of Christ
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. (Jn 17:9) It was His most gracious will and intent to give to them alone justifying faith and thereby to bring them unfailingly to salvation. (Eph 5:25-27. Lk 22:20) This means: God willed that Christ through the blood of the cross (by which He confirmed the new covenant) (Lk 22:20; Heb 8:6) should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and tongue (Rev 5:9) 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, (Phil 1:2:9) 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, (1 Jn 1:7) both original and actual, both those committed after faith and before faith; and that He should guard them faithfully to the end (Jn 10:28) and at last present them to Himself in splendour without any spot or wrinkle. (Eph 5:27)
Article 9 - The Fulfilment of God’s Counsel
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. (Mt 16:18) In due time the elect will be gathered together into one, (Jn 11:52) and there will always be a church of believers, (1 Kgs 19:18) 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) (Eph 5:25) and celebrate His praises here and through all eternity.
Rejection of Errors
Having explained the true doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, Synod rejects the following errors:
Error: God the Father has ordained His Son to the death of the cross without a specific and definite decree to save any. What Christ obtained by His death might have been necessary, profitable, and valuable, and might remain in all its parts complete, perfect, and intact, even though the redemption He acquired had actually never been applied to any person.
Refutation: This doctrine is offensive to the wisdom of the Father and the merits of Jesus Christ and is contrary to Scripture. For our Saviour says: I lay down My life for the sheep , and I know them( Jn 10:15, 27). And the prophet Isaiah says concerning the Saviour: Though the LORD makes His life a guilt offering, He will see His offspring and prolong His days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in His hand ( Is 53:10). Finally, this error contradicts the article of faith concerning the catholic Christian church.
Error: It was not the purpose of Christ’s death that He should confirm the new covenant of grace by His blood, but only that He should acquire for the Father the mere right to establish once more with man such a covenant as He might please, whether of grace or of works.
Refutation: This militates against Scripture, which teaches that Christ has become the Surety and Mediator of a better, that is, a new covenant, and that a will takes effect only at death. (Heb 7:22, 9:15, 17)
Error: By His satisfaction Christ did not really merit for anyone either salvation itself or faith by which this satisfaction of Christ to salvation is effectually made one’s own. He acquired for the Father only the authority or the perfect will to deal again with man, and to prescribe new conditions as He might desire. It depends, however, on the free will of man to fulfil these conditions. Therefore it was possible that either no one or all men would fulfil them.
Refutation: Those who teach this error think contemptuously of the death of Christ, do not at all acknowledge its most important fruit or benefit, and bring back out of hell the Pelagian error.
Error: The new covenant of grace which God the Father, through the mediation of the death of Christ, made with man, does not consist herein that we are justified before God and saved by faith, inasmuch as it accepts the merit of Christ. It consists in the fact that God has revoked the demand of perfect obedience of the law and regards faith as such and the obedience of faith, though imperfect, as the perfect obedience of the law. He graciously deems it worthy of the reward of eternal life.
Refutation: This doctrine contradicts Scripture: They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood ( Rom 3:24, 25). Those who teach this error proclaim, as did the ungodly Socinus, a new and strange justification of man before God, against the consensus of the whole church.
Error: All men have been accepted into the state of reconciliation and into the grace of the covenant, so that no one is liable to condemnation on account of original sin, and no one shall be condemned because of it, but all are free from the guilt of original sin.
Refutation: This opinion is in conflict with Scripture, which teaches that we are by nature objects of wrath ( Eph 2:3).
Error: As far as God is concerned, He wished to bestow equally upon all people the benefits acquired by the death of Christ; however, some obtain the pardon of sin and eternal life and others do not. This distinction depends on their own free will, which applies itself to the grace that is offered indifferently, and not on the special gift of mercy which so powerfully works in them that they rather than others apply this grace to themselves.
Refutation: Those who teach this, misuse the difference between the acquisition and the application of salvation and confuse the minds of imprudent and inexperienced people. While they pretend to present this distinction in a sound sense, they seek to instil into the minds of people the pernicious poison of Pelagianism.
Error: Christ could not die, did not need to die, and did not die for those whom God loved in the highest degree and elected to eternal life, since these do not need the death of Christ.
Refutation: This doctrine contradicts the apostle, who declares: The Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me ( Gal 2:20). Likewise: Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? It is Christ Jesus who died ( Rom 8:33, 34), namely, for them. And the Saviour assures us: I lay down My life for the sheep ( Jn 10:15). And: My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends ( Jn 15:12, 13).
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