by Don Kistler
In Reformed circles, we hear much about the covenants. We are a people who place our trust in God’s covenant faithfulness. We hear about the covenant of grace and the covenant of works, but we hear very little about the covenant of redemption. We also hear much about the saving work of Christ, but give little thought to the fact that the triune God conceived the work that the second person of the Trinity would do that would save sinners.
Simply stated, the covenant of redemption is a covenant God the Father made with God the Son before the foundation of the world was laid, that if the Son would offer Himself up as an offering for sin, the Father would give Christ all those for whom He would die as a love gift. The elect, then, are a gift from the Father to the Son for suffering and dying to redeem them.
God the Father chose from all eternity past, in His eternal and unchangeable decrees, to save some people. God the Son, from all eternity past, agreed to redeem those people from the fallen state that God ordained, from all eternity past, they would be in. If you ask why God ordained the fall of man and the sinful state into which he would go, the answer is that God ordained sin so that we would know Him in the fullness of His revelation of Himself. If God had not ordained sin, we would know Him only as the Creator; because God has ordained sin we can know Him as the Redeemer. Our knowledge of God is much more complete because of sin.
In Zechariah 6:13, this is referred to as a “counsel of peace … between them both,” that is, between the Father and the Son, between God and “the man whose name is the Branch” (v. 12). It is “the Lord of Hosts” who is speaking about the counsel of peace that will be between Himself and “the Branch.” When Christ speaks in John 17 of having been given people as a gift, He is praying to God, whom, He says, gave them. “Thine they were, and thou gavest them me” (John 17:6 kjv). The “thou” and the “thine” both refer to God the Father.
From all eternity past, God the Father determined to create a race of people, of whom He would save some. It is God the Father who is the Author of the plan of salvation. Christ is indeed the Author and Finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2). 1 Peter 1:20 tells us that He was “foreordained before the foundation of the world.” Ephesians 1:4 is clear that the elect are chosen “in Him.” And grace has been given to them “in Christ Jesus before the world began,” according to 2 Timothy 1:9. But it is God the Father who contrived the plan that Christ would carry out. Whatever Christ encountered in this world happened to Him according to the eternal decree, foreknowledge, and determinate counsel of God. So the Father’s will is to redeem by the agency of the second person of the Godhead as a Surety.
God chose to save those who have been elected by God in Christ. The elect belong to God the Father, and they have been given by Him to Christ. “Thine they were, and thou gavest them Me.” Because of this, they are said to be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 21:27).
God, in a holy manner, decreed that our first parents would sin by their own free will, and thus would be reckoned as “children of wrath by nature” (Eph. 2:3). Now in order that the infinite mercy and grace of God should be bestowed upon them in delivering them from this state and bringing them into salvation, it was necessary that there be a Surety to satisfy God’s justice.
The Father thus gave the elect to His Son, and the Son accepted them, recorded their names in His book (the Lamb’s Book of Life), became a Surety for all of them — none excepted — and for them alone, and promised to accomplish His Father’s good pleasure in bringing them to salvation.
We see here also that while Christ died on behalf of the elect, He also died to fulfill the Father’s will. His death was on behalf of the elect, but it was a death that was suffered for the will of the Father.
Here is what God the Father laid down as the conditions of the covenant of redemption: The Son must assume a true human nature, however, without sin (Heb. 4:15; 10:5). Emmanuel must become their Substitute, remove their sins from them, and take their sins onto His account as if He Himself had committed them (Gal. 3:13). On their behalf, He must bear all the punishment which their sins had merited, and He must suffer, die, and rise again (John 10:18). On their behalf, He must fulfill all righteousness in order to make them righteous (Rom. 5:19). He must make the elect to be partakers of this merited salvation by declaring the Gospel to them, regenerating them, granting them faith, preserving them, resurrecting them from the dead, and ushering them into heaven (John 6:39).
Here are the promises made by God to Christ as the result of Christ’s finished work: The Father promised that God’s good pleasure would prosper through Christ (Isa. 53:10). The Father promised to prepare the Son a body which would be a fit tabernacle for Him (Heb. 10:5). The Father promised to endow Christ with the necessary gifts and graces for the performance of His task, and to give Him the Spirit without measure (Isa. 42:1; cf. John 3:31). The Father promised to support Christ in the performance of His work, deliver Him from the power of death, and thus enable Him to destroy the dominion of Satan and establish the kingdom of God (Isa. 42:1–7). The Father promised that Christ would be King over all the elect (Ps. 2:6–8). The Father promised that Christ would have power over all creatures in order to govern them for the benefit of His elect (Matt. 28:18). The Father promised that He would be glorified in an exceedingly magnificent and wondrous manner that would be observed and acknowledged by all His creatures (Heb. 1:3). The Father promised that Christ would be Judge of heaven and earth (John 5:27). The Father promised to give Christ, as a reward for His accomplished work, a seed so numerous that it would be a multitude which no man could number (Ps. 22:27). The Father promised that all the elect would receive the benefits of the covenant of grace through Christ: forgiveness of sin, reconciliation, adoption unto children, peace, sanctification, and eternal glory (Luke 12:32).
This covenant reveals a love which is unparalleled and exceeds all comprehension. Think of what a blessing it is that you and I have been considered and known in this covenant, to have been given by the Father to the Son. Think of what a blessing it is that you and I have had our names written by the Son in His Book of Life. Think of what a blessing it is that you and I have been the objects of the eternal mutual delight of the Father and the Son to save us!
Neither God nor Christ were moved by necessity or compulsion, but by eternal love and volition. Jeremiah 31:3 states, “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love” (kjv). Love moved the Father and love moved the Son. It is a covenant of love between those whose love proceeds from within themselves.
By virtue of this covenant, the Lord Jesus is the Executor of the salvation of the elect. The Father has given us into His hand and entrusts us to Him. The Son, in love, has accepted us and committed Himself not to lose one of us, but to raise us up again at the last day. Christ is omnipotent, faithful, loving, immutable, and possesses everything necessary for our salvation.
Think of how safely we can rest in Him, surrendering everything we are and have to Him! “The Lord is my Shepherd: I shall not want” (Ps. 23:1 kjv). And, Psalm 2:12: “How blessed are all they that put their trust in Him” (kjv). The implications of this for the believer are staggering! The salvation of the elect, then, is unmoveably sure. This is because both parties, the Father and the Son, are fully and mutually satisfied concerning the salvation of the elect and the finished work of Christ in fulfilling the conditions of the covenant.
The elect do not need to keep themselves, but according to this covenant they are kept in Christ; thus they are kept by a sure, almighty, and faithful hand. Besides, the issue of a secure salvation is a much greater one than simply me and my salvation. The elect person is a gift from God to Christ based on Christ’s satisfactory work, not on my satisfactory work. If a person could lose his salvation, it could only be on the basis of God’s dissatisfaction with the finished work of Christ. But He has declared once and for all, and it is written infallibly in the pages of Scripture, that He is satisfied. And if God is satisfied with what Christ has done, the issue is settled.