POSTED - 5/23/2001
A Display of Christ - Part III (The Covenant of Redemption Between the Father and the Redeemer)
- John Flavel
"Therefore wilt I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors, and he bare the sin of many, and wade intercession for he transgressors" - Isa. 53:12.
In the fifty-third of Isaiah, the Gospel seems to be epitomized: the subject is the death of Christ, and the glorious issue thereof. By reading it, the eunuch of old, and many Jews since, have been converted to Christ. Christ is here considered absolutely, and relatively. Absolutely, and thus his innocency is clearly vindicated, verse 9. Though he suffered grievous things, yet it was not for his own sins; for "he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth." But, he is considered relatively, in the capacity of a Surety for us: thus the justice of God is fully vindicated in his sufferings, "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." Verse 6. How he came to sustain this capacity and relation of a Surety for us, is in these verses plainly asserted to be by his compact and agreement with his Father, before the worlds were made. Verses 10-12.
In this verse we have, 1. His work, which was indeed a hard work, to pour out his soul unto death, aggravated by his being "numbered with the transgressors;" his "bearing the sins of many;" and by the manner of his bearing it, namely, meekly and forgivingly: "he made intercession for the transgressors:" this was his work. 2. The reward or fruit which is promised him for this work, "Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;" wherein is a plain allusion to conquerors in war, for whom are reserved the richest garments, and most honorable captives to follow the conqueror, as an addition to his magnificence and triumph; these were wont to come after them in chains, Isa. 45:14; see Judg. 5:30. 3. The relation between that work and this triumph. Some will have this work to hold no other relation to that glory, than a mere antecedent to a consequent; others give it the respect and relation of a meritorious cause to a reward. However, it is plain, that the Father here agrees and promises to give the elect to the Son, if be will undertake their redemption by pouring out his soul unto death; of all which this is the plain result:
The bussiness of man's salvation was transacted upon covenant terms, between the Father and the Son, from all eternity.
I. Consider the persons transacting arid dealing with each other in this covenant. And indeed they are great persons, God the Father and God the Son; the former as a Creditor, and the latter as a Surety. The Father claims satisfaction, the Son engages to give it.
II The business transacted between them; and that was the redemption and recovery of all God's people: our eternal happiness lay now before them, our dearest and everlasting concerns were now in their hands. The elect (though not yet in being) are here considered as existent, yea, and as fallen, miserable, forlorn creatures: how these may again be restored to happiness without prejudice to the honor, justice, and truth of God: this, this is the business that lay before them.
III. This manner, or quality of the transaction, was federal, or of the nature of a covenant; it was by mutual engagements and stipulations, each person undertaking to perform his part in order to our recovery.
IV. More particularly, we will next consider the articles to which they do both agree; or, what it is that each person doth for himself promise to the other. And, to let us see how much the Father's heart is engaged in the salvation of poor sinners, there are four things which he promiseth to do for Christ, if he will undertake that work.
These are the encouragements and rewards proposed and promised to him by the Father. This was the joy set before him, as the apostle expresses it in Heb. 12 which made him so patiently "endure the cross, and despise the shame."
- He promiseth to invest him, and anoint him to a threefold office, answerable to the misery that lay upon the elect, as so many bars to all communion with and enjoyment of God; for, if ever man be restored to that happiness, the blindness of his mind must be cured, the guilt of sin expiated, and his captivity to sin led captive Christ must, "of God, be made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." 1 Cor. 1:30. And he is made so to us as our Prophet, Priest, and King; but he could not put himself into either of these; for if so, he had acted without commission, and consequently all he did had been invalid; "Christ glorified not himself to be made an High Priest, but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son." Heb. 5:5. A commission, therefore, to act authoritatively in these offices, being necessary to our recovery, the Father engages to him to seal him such a threefold commission.
He promiseth to invest him with an eternal and royal priesthood, "The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Meichisedec." Psa. 110:4. This Meichisedec being king of righteousness, and king of Salem, that is, Peace, had a royal priesthood; and his descent not being reckoned, it had an adumbration of eternity in it, and so was more fit to typify and shadow forth the priesthood of Christ than Aaron was. Heb. 7:17, 24, 25.
He promiseth moreover to make him a Prophet, and that an extraordinary one, even the Prince of prophets; the chief Shepherd, as much superior to all others as the sun is to the lesser stars; so it is said, "I will give thee for a light to the Gentiles, to open the blind eyes," &c. Isa. 42:6, 7.
And not only so, but to make him King also, and that of the whole empire of the world; "Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost ends of the earth for thy possession." Psa. 2:8. Thus the Father promises to qualify and furnish the Son completely for the work, by his investiture with this threefold office,
- He promiseth to crown his work with success, and bring it to a happy issue: "He shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand." Isa. 53:10. He shall not begin, and not finish; he shall not shed his invaluable blood upon hazardous terms; but shall see and reap the sweet fruits thereof; as the joyful mother forgets her sorrows when she delightfully embraces her, living. child.
- The Father promiseth to accept him in his work: "Surely," saith the Son, "my work is with my God." Isa. 49:4. And, "I shall be glorious in the eyes of the Lord" Verse 5. His faith hath therein respect to this compact and promise. Accordingly, the Father manifests the satisfaction he had in him, and in his works even while he was about it upon the earth, "when there came such a voice from the excellent glory, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." 2 Pet. 1:17.
- He engaged to reward him highly for his work, by exalting him to singular and super-eminent glory and honor, when he should have dispatched and finished it. So you read, "I will declare the decree; the Lord hath said unto me, thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee." Psa. 2:7. It is spoken of the day of his resurrection, when he had just finished his sufferings. And so the apostle expounds and applies it. Acts, 13:32, 33. For then did the Lord wipe away the reproach of his cross. As if the Father had said, Now thou hast again recovered thy glory, and this day is to thee as a new birth-day.
And in like manner Jesus Christ gives his engagement to the Father; that, upon these terms, he is to be made flesh, to divest, as it were, himself of his glory, to come under the obedience and malediction of the law, and not to refuse any, the hardest sufferings it should please his Father to inflict on him. So much is implied in Isa. 50:5-7. "The Lord hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; I hid not my face from shame and spitting. For the Lord God will help me, therefore shall I not be confounded; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed." And the sense of this place is well delivered to us in other terms, "Then said I, Lo, I come; I delight to do thy will, O God, thy law is within my heart." Psa. 40:6-10. Oh see with what a full consent the heart of Christ closeth with the Father's offers and proposals! like some echo that answers your voice twice or thrice over. So doth Christ here answer his Father's call, "I come; I delight to do thy will; yea, thy law is in my heart."
V. I will briefly show how these articles and agreements were on the part of both performed, and that precisely and punctually.
VI. When was this compact made between the Father and the Son? I answer, it bears date from eternity. Before this world was, then were his delights in us, while as yet we had no existence, but only in the infinite mind and purpose of God, who had decreed this for us in Christ Jesus, as the apostle speaks, 2 Tim. 1:9. What grace was that which was given us in Christ before the world began, but this grace of redemption, which was from everlasting thus contrived and designed for us, in the way which has been here opened? Then was the counsel, or consultation of peace between them both, as some understand Zech. 6:13.
- The Son having thus consented, accordingly he applies himself to the discharge of his work. He took a body, and in it fulfilled all righteousness, even to a tittle. Matt. 3:15. And, at last, his soul was made an offering for sin, so that he could say, "Father, I have glorified thee on earth, I have finished the work which thou gayest me to do." John, 17:4. He went through all the parts of his active and passive obedience, cheerfully and faithfully.
- The Father made good his engagements to Christ, all along, with no less faithfulness than Christ did his. He promised to assist, and hold his hand, Isa. 42:5, and so he did; "there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him." Luke, 22:43. In his agony in the garden, this was seasonable aid and succor. He promised to accept him in his work, and that he should be glorious in his eyes: so he did; for he not only declared it by a voice from heaven, "Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," Luke, 3:22; but it was fully declared in his resurrection and ascension, which were a full discharge and justification of him. He promised him that "He should see his seed," Isa. 53:10, and so he did; for his very birth-dew was as the dew of the morning; and ever since his blood has been fruitful in the world. He promised gloriously to reward and exalt him; and so he hath, and that highly and super-eminently, "giving him a name above every name in heaven and earth." Phil. 2:9-11. Thus were the articles performed.
- We see the abundant security God has given his people for their salvation, and that not only in respect of the covenant of grace made with them, but also of this covenant of redemption made with Christ for them; which is indeed the foundation of the covenant of grace. God's single promise is security enough to our faith, but his covenant of grace adds further security; both these, viewed as the effects and fruits of this covenant of redemption, make all fast and sure. Happy were it, if Christians, in perplexity and distress, would turn their eyes from the defects in their obedience, to the fullness of Christ, and see themselves complete in him.
- Moreover, hence we infer the validity and unquestionable success of Christ's intercession in heaven for believers. You read, "that he ever liveth to make intercession," Heb. 7:25, and, that his blood speaks good things for them. Heb. 12: 24. Now, that his blood shall obtain what it pleads for in heaven, is undoubted, and that from the consideration of this covenant of redemption. For here you see that the things he now asks of his Father, are the very same which his Father promised him, and covenanted to give him, before this world was. So that, besides the interest of the person, the very equity of the matter speaks its success, and requires performance. Whatever he asks for us, is as due to him as the wages of the hireling, when the work is ended. If the work be done, and done faithfully, as the Father hath acknowledged it is, then the reward is due, and due immediately; and no doubt but he shall receive it from the. hands of a righteous God.
- Hence, in like manner, you may be informed of the consistency of grace with full satisfaction to the justice of God. The apostle tells us, we are saved "according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Jesus Christ before the world began," 2 Tim. 1:9, that is, according to the gracious terms of this covenant of redemption; and yet you see, notwithstanding, how strictly God claims satisfaction from Christ. So then, grace to us, and satisfaction to justice, are not so inconsistent as some adversaries of the truth would make them: what was debt to Christ, is grace to us. "Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." Rom. 3 : 24.
- Hence judge of the antiquity of the love of God to believers; what an ancient Friend he hath been to us; who loved us, provided for us, and contrived all our happiness, before we were, yea, before the world was. We reap the fruits of this covenant now, the seed whereof was sown from eternity; yea, it is not only ancient, but also most free: no excellencies of ours could engage the love of God; for as yet we were not.
- Hence judge how reasonable it is that believers should embrace the hardest terms of obedience unto Christ, who complied with such hard terms for their salvation. They were hard and difficult terms indeed, on which Christ received you from the Father's hand; it was, as you have heard, to pour out his soul unto death; "Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he be. came poor." 2 Cor. 8:9. Blush, ungrateful believers; oh, let shame cover your faces; judge in yourselves now, hath Christ deserved that you should hesitate at trifles, that you should shrink at a few petty difficulties, and complain, this is hard, and that is severe? Oh, if you knew the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in this his wonderful condescension for you, you could not do it.
- How greatly are we all concerned to make it sure to ourselves, that we are of this number which the Father and the Son agreed for before the world was; that we were comprehended in Christ's engagement and compact with the Father! But some one will say, who can know that? I answer, you may know, without ascending into heaven, or prying into unrevealed secrets, that your names were in that covenant, if (1.) You are believers indeed; for all such the Father then gave to Christ: "The men that thou gayest me, (for of them he spake immediately before,) they have believed that thou didst send me." John, 17:6, 8. (2.) If you savingly know God in Jesus Christ. Such were given him by the Father: "I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me." Verse 6. By this they are discriminated from the rest: "The world hath not known thee, but these have known." Verse 25. (3.) If you are men of another world: "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." Verse 16. May it be said of you, as of dying men, that you are not men for this world, that you are crucified and dead to it, Gal. 6:14, that you are strangers in it! Heb. 11:13,14. (4.) If you keep Christ's word: "Thine they were, and thou gayest them me; and they have kept thy word." John, 17:6. By keeping his word, understand the receiving of the word, in its sanctifying effects and influences, into your hearts, and your perseverance in the profession and practice of it to the end: "Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth." Verse 17. "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will." John, 15:7. Blessed and happy is that soul upon which these blessed characters appear, which our Lord Jesus has laid so close together, within the compass of a few verses, in the 17th chapter of John. These are the persons the Father delivered unto Christ, and Christ accepted from the Father, in this blessed covenant.
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