“In whom we have redemption through His blood.” (Eph. 1:7) We are here informed that the source and genius of redemption is not in ourselves. We do not redeem ourselves. We have redemption, but only in Him, Christ. Redemption means deliverance, a deliverance by the payment of a price which purchases the redeemed and sets them free.
No subject is more misunderstood than that of redemption. The general impression most people have of it is wrong. They think of it as being first a “possible redemption,” which can then become an actual redemption. “Possible redemption” requires a surrender to Christ and an accepting of His atonement to make it availing, and so secure it as an actual redemption. A mere “possible redemption” is unavailing! It does not purchase or redeem! It is merely a conditional deposit put to the account of all men. It cannot, for this reason be said that the price has been paid for certain men and that therefore those men shall never be called upon to pay it! This is the philosophy of “universal redemption,” namely, that Christ died for every son of Adam. But the theory of universal redemption: although it seems to be one which cannot be more charitable and benevolent, and seems to hold out to all men the most comforting of prospects, is really a very gloomy hypothesis, and one doomed to disappointment. For unless a universal redemption be actually founded on a universal salvation, it cannot have a well-meaning universality. To offer all men a universal redemption unfounded upon the basis of a universal salvation is to offer them an elusive phantom redemption, which can never be materialized. Universal redemption without the support of universal salvation is a vain, visionary, hopeless and impossible ultra-pious wish.
But let us go back to the meaning of the word, which is that of deliverance. Redemption means the procurement of deliverance by the payment of a, ransom price. With the payment of the price the ransomed go free. The term does not denote mere part payment, nor an offer of full payment, nor simply the good intention to pay. It denotes such full payment that there is nothing more to pay and consequently those for whom the price was paid are bought with a price, delivered and free! Therefore on the basis of what the Presbyterian and Reformed churches have always confessed, and on the basis of Scripture, we speak not merely of an intended redemption, but of an effectual redemption. The latter is one which brings about the results intended! It is a prevalent Arminian error that redemption “is inherently universal.” This is misleading, because the language-does not refer to real, actual redemption; it refers to the dream of “possible redemption.” But this dream of a possible redemption has no basis of an inherently universal salvation to fall back on; hence it merely shimmers on the background of a mirage. Nor is the dream of hypothetical redemption according to the Reformed Confessions. “The saving efficacy of the death of God’s Son extends to all the elect, bestowing uponthem alone justifying faith, and bringing theminfallibly to salvation. Christ by the blood of the cross effectually redeems out of every people, tribe, nation and language (the only universality of redemption the Reformed confessions allow—RCH), all those and those only who were from eternity chosen to salvation. (Note also the particularity of the redeeming cross: not “every people”, but “out of” every people!—RCH). All the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit He purchased for them (chosen from eternity—RCH) by His death, and preserved them to the end” (condensed from Canons II, 8). “The idea of redemption in the Reformed Confessions is not that of an inherently universal redemption, but of effectual redemption, nothing else, nothing less. This is also borne out in the Belgic Confession. “By offering Himself on the tree of the cross and pouring out His precious blood, Christ made a full satisfaction for the remission of our sins. This only sacrifice, once offered, is that by which believers are perfected forever. This is also the reason why He was called Jesus, that is, Savior, because He should save His people from their sins (condensed from Article XXI).” This reveals that Christ’s death was not merelypossibly redemptive. It was redemptive, and whatever is redemptive is saving. According to the confessions, redemption has an inherently “saving efficacy.” The Heidelberg Catechism, is in harmony with this. “Jesus Christ, with His precious blood, hath fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil, and so preserves me and assures me of eternal life.” The result of that full satisfaction and redemption through His blood is that He “makes me sincerely willing and ready henceforth to live unto Him (condensed from HC, 1)” Therefore it is not man’s willingness and readiness that makes redemption effectual; but rather effectual redemption produces the fruit of willingness and living unto Him. Also HC, 54 tells us that Christ does now on the basis of His death as a once-for-all full satisfaction of saving efficacy: “The Son of God from the beginning to the end of the world, gathers, defends, and preserves to himself by His Spirit and Word, out of the whole human race (note the particularity-RCH), a church chosen to everlasting life.” (condensed) This means that Christ does not fail to seek, gather, win and save all the ransomed church He redeemed with His own blood. This is the “all mankind” of HC, 37. Mankind is saved, but saved in the elect. That, because redemption and election are co-extensive. None but the elect are redeemed. This is evident from the Ephesian passage before us. “Chosen in Him before the foundation of the world! predestinated to the adoption of sons, we, (the chosen ones) have redemption!” (Eph. 1:4-7).
Universal terms there are which Scripture uses in connection with the redemption of Christ. But it isnon sequitur reasoning to think that this connection infers universal redemption. For the Bible also uses particular and restrictive terms in connection with redemption. But if the universal terms are to be understood in the unlimited sense, then why did the Spirit inspire the secondary authors of Scripture to use any particular terms at all? The particular texts tell us that Christ died for “the sheep,” “the church,” “His people” and “God’s elect,” etc. There are universal terms used in connection with His death, such as “world,” “all,” and “every.” The universal terms’ harmonize with the particular, but the particular never will with the unlimited.
Redemption is very specific. Negatively, it is redemption from bondage, from death, from the curse of the law, from all iniquity. Positively, it is redemption unto God. “Universal redemption” does not redeem universally, and so is inherently contradictory. It redeems from nothing to nothing. This is true because, although a “universal redemption” is supposed to be sufficient for all, it is not able to effect the deliverance of any. Only effectual redemption can do that. If, then, there is only one redemption, and it is “universal redemption,” and on the basis of it God offers deliverance to all men, does He not mock while He offers? What comfort would it be to me to know that God offers me a salvation sufficient for all but not efficient for all? Only effectual redemption is truly kind, gracious and of service to me.
Redemption is therefore not to be interpreted as pious men might wish to think of it, as expressing the divine will as wanting everybody saved and nobody lost; but as Scripture has it, that none should be lost of those given to Christ (John 6:39). We have no right to say to all men to whom through us the gospel is sent that “Christ died for you” or “Christ redeemed you.” We have the right only to say to them what Scripture says, as, e.g., “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for He hath visited and redeemed His people.” (Luke 1:68) To the question, “Did Christ die for me?” many answer rather glibly, “Of course He died for me. He died for all men. Therefore He died for me.” Here is a use of the universal term “all” in a way contrary to Jesus’ usage of it. He spoke of “all Mine.” That is the meaning of “all” when used in connection with redemption. It is to be understood in the limited sense. When Johns disciples referred to Jesus’ baptizing, they said, “the same baptizeth, and allcome unto Him.” They did not mean that all men come to Him. The Pharisees said, “If we leave Him thus alone, all will believe in Him.” They did not include themselves among those believers. Luke, recording the healing of the lame man, writes, “forall glorified God for that which was done.” But he did not include the Sanhedrin in that “all.” Jesus himself said, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all unto Me.” Admitting that the word “all” has a limited meaning elsewhere in Scripture, is it a non sequiturto maintain that it has the limited meaning in connection with Christ’s death? It is not. Jesus did not mean that He would draw “all men” to himself, but “all Mine,” i.e., “all that the Father giveth Me.” Isaiah wrote that “He shall bear their iniquities,” and explains that this was done thus: “the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” He never said, “the iniquity of all” (which “universal redemption” theorists try to make it). Of what is the “us” embracive? The context answers, “For the transgression of My people was He stricken.”
Now that “us” is the restricted and very well known “us” of the particular gospel. “The Spirit himself maketh intercession for us,” which means, as the words following prove, that “He maketh intercession for the saints.” Referring to them, Paul states, “If God be for us, who against us?” Then he says that God gave up His Son for us, and that the risen Son makes intercession also for us. Nor does Paul leave it in doubt as to whom he means by “us:” “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” That the “us” are the “elect” is plain from, “God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that we might live through Him.” (I Thess. 5:9f)
Christ could not have died to render the salvation of all men possible, for when .He died there were multitudes already in hell, and so beyond the possibility of salvation. Nor could He have made only a conditional redemption, which He left to the will of man to render, by man’s act of faith, effectual, or by unbelief, leave it as it is, ineffectual. For He made it for such as will have it (we haveredemption), but none will have it, except such as God makes willing, as He certainly does all His elect, and them only. In no sense is Christ Redeemer without redemption.