A Walk through the 1689 Baptist Confession, pt.16: The Covenant of Redemption and Christ’s Election as Mediator

1689conf

Chapter 8: Of Christ the Mediator, para 1

1._____ It pleased God, in His eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, his only begotten Son, according to the covenant made between them both, to be the mediator between God and man; the prophet, priest, and king; head and saviour of the church, the heir of all things, and judge of the world; unto whom he did from all eternity give a people to be his seed and to be by him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified.
( Isaiah 42:1; 1 Peter 1:19, 20; Acts 3:22; Hebrews 5:5, 6; Psalms 2:6; Luke 1:33; Ephesians 1:22, 23; Hebrews 1:2; Acts 17:31; Isaiah 53:10; John 17:6; Romans 8:30 )

 

Understanding the Confession

The Covenant of Redemption and Christ’s Election as Mediator

Chapter 8 of the LBCF is masterfully written and by simply reading the 10 paragraphs which make it up will provide any believer in Christ with a sound and robust Christology to better understand his person and his mediating work on their behalf. I am hesitant to charge head long into expounding this chapter as it is so vital and the words of the confession are so well done, but as always I will do my best to add further clarity on the major thrust of what each paragraph is teaching us. As always, I highly recommend reading the confession and the Bible references in your own personal study before reading anything I write, learn to be a student of the Word and confessions yourself, challenge them in accordance with Scripture, and grow from their insight into the Word of God. You will be far better off for it than just reading me. ***Warning, we will be in chapter 8 of the confession for a good bit of our upcoming blog posts, as it is such a dense chapter.***

We briefly touched on the Covenant of Redemption in our last post regarding chapter 7 of the confession “Of God’s Covenant.” However, in LBCF 8.1 which is noted above it is laid out quite explicitly and provides the eternal basis for Christ’s role as Mediator for God’s people. And so in this blog we want to focus just on that paragraph and  provide a bit more insight into the Covenant of Redemption made between Father and Son.

The Covenant Parties

The parties of the Covenant of Redemption are the Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is evidenced by many passages in the Scriptures where God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit make commitments to one another, with the promise of some kind of reward related to those commitments. Perhaps the clearest example of this is found in Isaiah 42:1-7: “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law. Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it: “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.”

These verses describe the Servant of Jehovah, The Spirit of Jehovah, and Jehovah. Jehovah will give the Servant as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations. The servant has a mission and he will accomplish that task. We see the Servant’s willingness to undertake this mission in Isaiah 50:4-9, “The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward. I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting. But the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame. He who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who is my adversary? Let him come near to me. Behold, the Lord God helps me; who will declare me guilty? Behold, all of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up.” 

Jehovah has anointed and equipped the Servant for His task, and the Servant has set Himself to fulfill it completely and perfectly because He knows that He will be sustained by Jehovah. Now we know for a fact that the servant of Isaiah being spoken of here is Jesus because Jesus says so himself. Luke. 4:17-21, “And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.

What we can glean from all of these passages is as follows, The Father and Son are presented as the primary parties of the covenant, but the Holy Spirit is still very much present and active in the Covenant. We see this because Jehovah (the Father) in this specific context promises to supply HIs Spirit to the Servant to equip and sustain him for His mission. The Servant declares that the “Spirit of the Lord is upon Him.”

So we can see that this covenantal plan of redemption to save an elect people from every tribe tongue and nation, is a clearly Trinitarian plan. The Father and the Son as the acting parties, and the Holy Spirit serving as the participating Agent to ensure the accomplishment and the application of this eternal covenant.

The Covenant Commitments

A. The Commitments of the Son

We have seen how in the servant songs of Isaiah, God the Father gave a mission to HIs servant, and we know from Jesus’ own words that he is the servant of Isaiah. So the son of God came under certain obligations or commitments which were laid upon him by the Father. These commands included the fact that the Son would need to become incarnate, to obey the law perfectly, and to offer himself up as a substitutionary sacrifice for the people whom the Father would give him.

The Covenant of Redemption was a covenant of works, God the Son had to fulfill the commands of God the Father to obtain the blessings of the covenant. Those blessings would extend to every person who is represented by the Son, because the Father has establish him as the Federal head in this covenant. All the authority and power of Christ  necessary to accomplish his mediating work was established in this eternal covenant. Jesus speaks of this often throughout the gospel accounts.

We read in John 10:17-18 where Jesus says, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”  And we see this continued in that same chapter, verses 27-29, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

The Father gave a people to the Son, and the Son was commanded to lay down his life for that people as their Federal head. God the Son was sent to die, but his mission included much more than simply his death. He was appointed by the Father to be a mediator for his people, an as that mediator to be the Prophet, Priest, and King to all who were given to him. And we see that threefold office being ascribed to Jesus throughout the Bible.

Psalm 2:6-9 describes the Kingly role of the Son of God, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron. and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” 

In Psalm 110:4 we see that the Servant of the Lord would also be a Priest, “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” 

Now because the Servant King is appointed as a priest by God the Father, where there is a change of priesthood there must be a change in law. Thus in the New Covenant, the Father appointed the Son to this greater priesthood, which is the whole argument of Hebrews 7.

Hebrews 7:20-28: And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, 21 but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever.’ ” 22 This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. 23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. 26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. 28 For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever. 

A Perfect new covenant had come because a new priesthood with a perfect Priest and perfect Sacrifice had been found in Christ Jesus.

Isaiah 61:1-2, another servant song, describes the Servant as also one who receives and delivers the Word of God, which is the basic qualification of a prophet. It says, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 

The Servant of the Lord is God’s spokesman, his mouthpiece, and that is the office of a prophet. And Jesus tells us that is exactly what he was doing in his earthly ministry, John 17:8 in his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, he states, “For I have given them the words that you game me, and they received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me.” 

The Words of Christ, were the Words of the Father. At the mount of transfiguration, the Father says to the apostles regarding his Son Jesus,” Listen to Him” (Matt. 17:5). In Hebrews 1:1-2 we read, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.”

So Christ’s commitments in the Covenant of Redemption was to be perfectly obedient to the commands given to him by the Father, and thus to be appointed as an eternal Prophet, Priest, and King mediating blessing to all who were under his federal headship, all who were given to him by the Father.

B. The Commitments of the Father

Though the Son, the Servant,  has laid upon himself many commitments to the Father, the Father also commits Himself to the Son by not only promising to equip the Son for His mission, but also to help Him accomplish it:

Isaiah 42:6a – I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you;

Isaiah 49:8 – In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you; I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages, 

Isa. 50:7-9 But the Lord God helps me…Behold the Lord God helps me.

This is a contrast to the Davidic covenant, even though the Davidic King was supplied by God’s Holy Spirit to help at times, there was no guarantee by God for assistance. In the Covenant of Redemption, God the Father engaged himself to assure and secure the success and completion of the Servant’s mission.

C. The Role of the Spirit

The Father promised to sustain and uphold the Son in his mission, and he did this through the Holy Spirit. Jesus was fully conscious of this promise. At the beginning of his earthly ministry Jesus applies the words of Isaiah 61 to himself:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
(Luke 4:18-19)

In Luke 1:35, Mary was told that the incarnation would take place by the power of the Holy Spirit. In Matthew 12:27-28, Jesus said that he cast out demons by the Spirit of God, and in John 3, Jesus said that he speaks the words of the One who sent him because the One who sent him gave him the Spirit without measure. Hebrews 9:14 says that Jesus offered Himself up through the Eternal Spirit.

So whether it was the incarnation, the miracles, the message, the ministry, or the sacrifice of Christ, there was no part of his mission in which the Holy Spirit was not helping him and empowering him in His human nature to fulfill his commitments and obligations in the Covenant of Redemption.

The Covenant Rewards

Remember, covenants are commitments with attached rewards or blessings guarded by sanctions. The reward promised to the Son if He faithfully and perfectly completed the commitments and obligations of the covenant was resurrection and exaltation.

In Isaiah 53:10-12 we read, “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.  Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. 

The Son will suffer for a people, according to the will of the Father, but he shall see His offspring. He shall see the will of the Lord prosper. He shall see and be satisfied, and many will be accounted righteous because of him, his days will be prolonged. He will be rewarded and magnified.

Paul declared in Philippians 2:8-11, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Jesus prays to the Father in John 17:4-5, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”

The Covenant of Redemption is a wondrous truth. The Father sent the Son on a mission as the federal head of his elect, constituted Him as a Prophet, Priest and King, sustained him in his work, and promised him a reward of an eternal, resurrected, glorified life for himself and all of his people in a new creation, which he will usher in.

The Covenant of Redemption is the fuller explanation of God’s promise that the seed of of the woman would crush Satan’s head (Gen. 3:15). Adam’s covenant of works was designed to bring man to a consummated creation in communion with God. God the Son’s covenant of works was designed to rescue an elect multitude from what would be the ashes of Adam’s broken covenant of works and elevate them to an eternal invincible inheritance in a new creation.

As 1 John. 3:8 says, “The reason the son of God appears was to destroy the works of the Devil.

The Covenant Fulfillment

God the Son willingly took up the mission given to Him from God the Father, and was perfect in fulfilling it. We see that in Philippians 2:5-8, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.:”

Even from the earliest recording of Jesus’ words at 12, he told Joseph and Mary “he must be about his Father’s business” (Luke 2:49). The gospels show Jesus as one who could never be deterred or distracted from the mission he came to accomplish. He perfectly accomplished that mission in every way, despite the persecution, suffering, and abandonment he faced. No one took his life from him, he laid it down (John 10:18).

Jesus accepted the mission of the Father and he perfectly accomplished it. In so doing, he fulfilled the commitments of the Covenant of Redemption and earned the reward being raised from the dead and forever glorified. The New Testament is painted with pictures of this fulfillment.

Acts 2:32-33, “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.

Hebrews 10:12-14, “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”

After successfully offering his sacrifice, the Son sat down at the right hand of God, in exaltation and glory, and the angels of heaven and the saints who are their praise this ascended Christ, as we see in Revelations 5:12, “saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 

The Lamb entered heaven heaven to loud praise, he was worthy because he was slain, he was glorified because he was successful. Christ had perfectly fulfilled the Covenant and he has received his reward in full.

What the Father planned, the Son accomplished, and the Spirit applies. The result of the Father’s commitments, the Son’s commitments, and the Spirit’s participation is nothing other than the eternal salvation mediated through Christ to all his elect in time through their redemption, calling, justification, sanctification, and ultimately glorification. 

There will be no dropouts from this eternal chain of redemption because the work needed to bring it about has already been accomplished by Jesus, which is why Paul in Romans 8:29-30 writes these actions in the past tense, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

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