The Westminster Confession Of Faith. Section VIII. 8

“To all those for whom Christ has purchased redemption, he does certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same (Jn. 6:37, 39; 10:15-16); making intercession for them (Rom. 8:34; I Jn. 2:1-2); and revealing unto them, in and by the Word, the mysteries of salvation (Jn. 15:13, 15; 17:6; Eph. 1:7-9); effectually persuading them by his Spirit to believe and obey; and governing their hearts by his Word and Spirit (Jn. 14:16; 17:17; Rom. 8:9, 14; 15:18-19; II Cor. 4:13; Heb. 12:2); overcoming all their enemies by his almighty power and wisdom, in such manner and ways as are most consonant to his wonderful and unsearchable dispensation (Ps. 110:1; Mal. 4:2-3; I Cor. 15:25-26; Col. 2:15).”

This chapter on the mediatorial work of Christ, and this last section in particular, serve to transition us from the redemption accomplished by Christ, to its application for the elect. As noted with previous sections, this one continues to affirm that Christ died for a particular group of individuals, those whom the Father gave to him. For these and these alone, redemption is certain and effectual. Certainly, God could have saved all people, if that were his intention, but it was not. Rather, the Spirit is given to make his work effectual for his own. Christ also continues to intercede, that is, pray for each one. “Christ, as mediatorial King, seated at the right hand of God, applies the redemption he had effected as Priest.”1

Shaw gives several other Scripture proofs, firstly, that the Christ died for ‘many’, and not for ‘all’ (Cf. Is. 53:12; Mt. 20:28). “2. Those for whom Christ died are distinguished from others by discriminating characters. They are called ‘sheep’ (Jn. 10:15); the ‘church’ (Eph. 5:25); God’s ‘elect’ (Rom. 8:33); the ‘children of God’ (John 11:52). 3. Those whom Christ redeemed by his blood are said to be ‘redeemed from among men’ (rev. 14:4 Cf. 5:9). 4. The redemption obtained by Christ is restricted to those who were ‘chosen in him’, and whom the Father gave to him to redeem by his death (Eph. 1:4, 7; Jn. 17:2). 5. Christ died in the character of a surety, and therefore he laid down his life only for those whom he represented, or for his spiritual seed (Is. 53:10).”2

His redemption is certain, and not just possible or dependant on the recipients (Eph. 5:25-26; Tit. 2:14; I Pet 3:18; I Th. 5:10). 7-10. His intercession and other continuing benefits are for those whom the Father gave to him (Rom. 5:10; 8:32; Jn. 17:9; I Jn. 2:1-2). There were some, even while engaged in his earthly ministry, “to whom he even forbade his gospel to be preached (Mt. 10:5; Rom. 10:14).”3  As to those terms which express a sort of universality, Shaw points to a couple of biblical hermeneutics (or principles of interpretation) which should always be borne in mind. “Reason and common sense demand that ‘general’ phrases be explained and defined by those that are ‘special’, and only admit of one interpretation. The meaning in each case may usually be ascertained from the context.”4

Many such instances, as the context often intimates, seek to teach that redemption is for all classes or races of people throughout the inhabited earth. It is, after all, an election that is not based upon anything in some humans over against others, but is rather of pure unmerited favour. “Christ died with the purpose of executing the decree of election. His design in making atonement was definite, having respect to definite persons.”5 To this end, “he proceeds in the effectual application of redemption in the use of each of the four following methods: (1) By making intercession for the persons concerned. (2) By the revelation of the mysteries of salvation to them in his Word. (3) By the effectual operation of his Spirit on their hearts. (4) By all necessary dispensations of his providence.”6

1. Hodge, (153)

2. (158-9)

3. Ibid., (159)

4. Ibid., (160)

5. Hodge, (155)

6. Ibid., (153)

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