The last post left Adam in something of a mess; he broke covenant with God, resulting in the corruption and condemnation of the whole human race. In order to understand God’s response, we’ll need something of a flashback to before all of this began. Feel free to imagine the rest of this post being sepia-toned and old-fashioned looking.
We said in the third post that God has freely ordained whatsoever comes to pass; He works all things according to the counsel of His will. While we would say that God predestined Adam to fall, we also must affirm that in predestining this, he did not do any violence to the will of Adam. That is, he foreordained both Adam’s sin and his desire for it. It’s not that Adam didn’t have a choice. He had a choice and he chose sin. And God chose that He would choose sin.
The Plan of Redemption
Many would have started a series on reformed theology by discussing the Trinity. I haven’t done that here, primarily because my main audience is already trinitarian and I didn’t see a need for a separate post. But it is within the redemption of man that we see the Trinity most clearly at work. We see throughout the Bible the members of the Trinity agreeing to do various things in the accomplishment and redemption of man.
God not only chose that Adam would fall, He also chose how He would redeem fallen man. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all involved in this and they were all in agreement on how it was to be done. Jesus did not come to earth unsent by the Father (John 6:38). Everything He did was in obedience to His Father (John 5:19–20). It was the Father who charged the Son to lay His life down for the sheep (John 10:18). He was also charged not to lose any that God would give Him (John 6:39). Jesus came to save the world sent as God’s servant (John 3:16; Isaiah 42:1; 52:13; 52:11).
In the last post, we talked about how no one seeks God. This is true. No one can come to Jesus unless He is drawn by the Father, and those drawn by the Father will be raised up on the last day (John 6:44). Indeed, all that the Father gives to Jesus will come to Him and because Jesus came to obey God, Jesus will not send out anyone whom God gives to Jesus (John 6:37–38). Not only will they not be turned away, but Jesus promises the Father that He will never lose them (John 6:39). Indeed, the Father (who is greater than all) and the Son work to make certain that they will never perish; the picture we’re given is that Christ’s sheep are held in the hands of the Father and the Son, who are One—and this hold is unbreakable (John 10:28–30).
As a reward for His work of redemption, becoming obedient to the point of death on a cross (Philippians 2:8) God exalted Christ, that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:11). Knowing that He would sit at the right hand of the throne of God, Christ endured the cross for the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2). The Father also promises to give the nations to Christ as His inheritance (Psalm 2:8; 110:1).
In all of this, the Holy Spirit also works. His work is less spoken of in Scripture (and therefore by theologians), but we know that He was promised by the Father to empower the Son for His work (Isaiah 11:2; 42:1 61:1; Luke 4:18). It was He who guided the authors of Scripture (2 Peter 1:21), and it is He by whom God gives life to believers (Romans 8:11). He alone gives new birth so that men can see and enter the Kingdom of heaven (John 3:3–5), He assures the children of God that they are in fact His children, and He guides the church into all truth (John 16:13).
It’s important that we understand that this plan of redemption was not a backup plan. God didn’t kick Adam and Eve out of the garden so that He could use it as a planning room for the Trinity. Jesus Christ was foreordained to His role before the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:20). He chose to save the elect before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), and as we emphasized in the second post, all of this was for God’s glory.
Covenant of Redemption?
Some within the reformed tradition have referred to this plan of redemption as a covenant of redemption. There are some very good reasons for this. We see many of the marks of a covenant, including stipulations and blessings. That said, we don’t have any hint of cursings for disobedience and so it’s somewhat difficult to call this a covenant. Some would say that a covenant between members of the Trinity who cannot lie simply would not require cursings since fulfillment was guaranteed. This seems to be a fair argument, but I don’t find it altogether convincing.
It’s also worth noting that the Westminster Confession (8.1) does not refer to this concept as a covenant of redemption, even though many reformed theologians do. I personally don’t, but neither option is required to be considered confessionally reformed.
In focusing on how God’s plan for redemption works, we mustn’t forget what it means. While none of us can come to Christ unless the Father draws them, God has chosen a group of people and given them to Christ. Jesus says that all of those whom God gives to Christ will come to Him. There’s no question here. The assurance of salvation for this group of people is rooted in a promise that the Father and the Son made with each other. No one can come to Jesus unless the Father sent Him, but those whom the Father sends, Jesus promises to raise up on the last day (John 6:37–44).
The ones whom God predestines, He also calls, justifies, and glorifies (Romans 8:30). We’re talking here about two doctrines, known as irresistible grace and perseverance of the saints, because both of these things are implied by the way Jesus speaks about God’s plan of redemption. Those God gives to Jesus will absolutely come to Him and those who come to Jesus will never be cast out or lost. Those who are truly Christ’s sheep cannot possibly remain unfound by the shepherd, and once found they cannot possibly be lost.
This is part of the encouragement I spoke of in my introduction. It’s an encouragement in two ways. First, since no one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws Him, a person’s salvation is not dependent on the person but on God. That means no one is too far gone; God can save anyone. This should encourage us in evangelism because a person’s salvation doesn’t depend on us sharing the gospel perfectly or being convincing enough. It depends on God the Father drawing by the Holy Spirit.
The second way this comforts us is our own assurance of salvation. The one who comes to Jesus in faith will never be cast out. Those whom God chose and gave to Christ will be kept by God the Father and the Son through the work of the Holy Spirit. A man’s salvation is something wrought by every member of the omnipotent Trinity. There is no doubt, then, that God will save all that He has chosen to save.