March 7, 2013
VI. Although the work of redemption was not actually wrought by Christ till after His incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefits thereof were communicated unto the elect, in all ages successively from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices, wherein He was revealed, and signified to be the seed of the woman which should bruise the serpent's head; and the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world; being yesterday and today the same, and forever.
VII. Christ, in the work of mediation, acts according to both natures, by each nature doing that which is proper to itself; yet, by reason of the unity of the person, that which is proper to one nature is sometimes in Scripture attributed to the person denominated by the other nature.
VIII. To all those for whom Christ has purchased redemption, He does certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same; making intercession for them, and revealing unto them, in and by the word, the mysteries of salvation; effectually persuading them by His Spirit to believe and obey, and governing their hearts by His word and Spirit; 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.
The final sections of chapter eight continue in their summary of Scripture's teaching on Christ as mediator, particularly in relation to the application of redemption to His people. In section six we confess that while Christ's work of redemption was not actually done until after his incarnation, "the virtue, efficacy, and benefits" of it were "communicated to the elect, in all ages successively from the beginning of the world." Adam, Eve, and Abel were saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, just as Noah was, and Abraham, Moses, David, Ezra, the apostles--all believers through church history to the present. Our confession here is of the unity of God's covenant of grace, through its old and new testament administrations. Christ was revealed in the Old Testament era, and his virtue, efficacy, and benefits communicated to the elect "in and by those promises, types, sacrifices" in which "he was revealed, and signified to be the seed of the woman" who would "bruise the serpent's head... the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world... the same yesterday, today and forever." (Gen. 3:15, Rev. 13:8, Heb. 13:8)
Christ's work of mediation involves his whole person--we confess that he "acts according to both natures." The Westminster divines judiciously summarized Scripture's teaching and advised a careful hermeneutic regarding the revelation of the person of Christ, his natures, and his work. All of this was in response to Roman Catholics who argued that Christ is mediator only as man.
The chapter concludes by turning to the application of redemption. That is, the divines are summarizing the Bible's teaching on redemption in relation to the individual believer. Christ saves all those for whom he "has purchased redemption." Not one will be lost. He certainly and effectually applies and communicates his purchased redemption to each one. He makes intercession for them. He reveals to them in and by the Word the mysteries of salvation, and effectually persuades them to believe and obey. He governs their hearts by his Word and Spirit--overcoming all his and our enemies--in exactly the ways that are best.
The reality that it is God's sovereign grace towards those he has chosen does not negate the sincere and free offer of the gospel of Jesus Christ to all; nor does it negate his complete sufficiency to save any. Rather, our confession of Scripture is that while he proclaims "Come, everyone who thirsts... listen diligently to me... come to me, hear, that your soul may live" (Isaiah 55:1-3), all by nature willfully reject His gracious call--unless by the Spirit he regenerates and transforms our hard hearts and minds. This is a truth both profoundly humbling, in revealing our utterly fallen natural condition, and profoundly comforting. Our responsibility is to come, to run to him as he welcomes us to do! As we run to him, we look back and see it is the Father who has given us to the Son--the Son who is our Mediator--and the Holy Spirit is working in us to will and to do his good pleasure. Realizing this Triune love, what can we do but sing in worship and adoration? "What shall separate us from the love of Christ? ... nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom. 8:35, 39).
Dr William VanDoodewaard is Associate Professor of Church History at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary and Visiting Professor of Church History at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.