The most merciful God has taken action on our behalf both in freedom and in power. In freedom: for our sin and guilt were not His and did not have to become so. Because this is so, faith believes in God's grace and election in virtue of which we receive what we have not deserved. But also in power: for He has really taken to Himself and removed from us our sin and guilt. Therefore faith is joy and gratitude, an assurance which can no longer look back, only forwards. In freedom and power, awakening a humble but assured and unshakable faith, He took our place because He was God's eternal Son, because it was manifest in Him that God's eternal being is mercy, because there is nothing more real and true behind and beyond this substitution, because this substitution is the very essence of God's own being, of His divinity, for which we must glorify Him in joy and gratitude if we are not to sin wantonly against Him, if we are to let God be God.
This, then, is how God loves. His love is merciful love. In the nature of the case, we do not need to emphasize the point that God is as merciful in Himself as He is merciful in His action. For the idea of mercy itself refers back from God's attitude and act to the depths of God's being, to His heart, His mind, Himself. All misunderstanding in regard to the idea of grace, as if it were not eternal in God Himself, becomes quite impossible when we have understood it as merciful grace. For it is then understood, not simply as God's turning towards us, but as His free, effectual compassion. Looking backwards, therefore, it is seen, not simply as an appearance, but as the disposition of the heart and being of God. Viewed as merciful grace the love of God descends to earth more deeply, and climbs higher to heaven, than the idea of grace in itself would permit us to suppose."
- Karl Barth, CD II.1, 374-375.
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