Most beautifully do the Canons make mention of the Christ in this connection. He is “from eternity appointed the mediator and head of the elect, and the foundation of salvation.” And God, has chosen His people unto “redemption in Christ.” And hence, “this elect number . . . . God hath decreed to give to Christ.” Our election is therefore not to be separated from the election of Christ. He has been from eternity appointed the mediator and head of the elect. The relation of Christ and the elect is that of head and body, both in the legal and in the organic sense of the term. Appointed He is to represent them before the bar of God’s justice, so that legally they stand or fall with Him. Their righteousness can be only in Him. And appointed He is also to be their Head in the organic sense of the word, so that they are members of one body, all deriving their life and glory from their head. He is the head; they are the members who can have no life in separation from the head. He is the vine; they are the branches. As their head, He is the mediator, who must redeem and deliver them out of sin and death, accomplishing our reconciliation to God. And therefore He is also called “the foundation of salvation.” Notice, that the Canons refer here to salvation, not to election itself. The ground of ourelection is God’s good pleasure. But the sole foundation of our salvation is Christ Jesus our Lord. God did not choose us because of Christ and His redeeming work. But God chose us to be redeemed on the basis of Christ’s work.
In passing we may make two remarks. In the first place, it is indeed difficult, even in view of the terminology which the Canons employ, to harmonize the infralapsarian conception of the position of Christ in the decree of God with the presentation of the Scriptures. The Canons themselves do not very clearly delineate this position of Christ at this point. But the traditional infralapsarian view places the election of Christ as mediator, in order to realize the redemption of the elect, after the decree of election and reprobation. And while the Canons place the decree of election after the decree of the fall, the language of Article 7 does not necessarily depict the election of the mediator as following the election of the saints. Now certainly, it is difficult to conceive of the election of the Head as logically following the election of the body. And it is also difficult to conceive of God decreeing to give the elect to Christ logically before the election of Christ as head and mediator. And especially if we view the question of the order of God’s decrees as not merely a question of logic,—which is after all rather academic,—but as a question of what is means, and what is purpose in the counsel of God, it becomes more difficult to conceive of the election of Christ as following the election of the church. And especially from this latter point of view, it can scarcely be denied, in the light of Scripture, that Christ, as the Head of the elect, stands not last, but first, in God’s decrees.
A second remark which must be made in connection with the election of Christ is that it is at this point that the traditional view of the covenant of redemption, or the counsel of peace, (raad des vredes), is introduced by many Reformed theologians, a view which, happily, has not found its way into the official literature of our Reformed churches. This so-called covenant of redemption is supposed to be an agreement, or pact, or covenant, between the first and second persons of the trinity (sometimes the third person is also introduced), with mutual stipulations and conditions, according to which the Father demanded of the Son all that which was necessary to acquire eternal salvation for the elect, promised Him the reward of His mediator’s glory, and in which the Son agreed to comply with the Father’s demand, in turn demanding the fulfillment of the promises made, for the benefit of both parties, Now it is not our intention to enter into a detailed criticism of this view. We merely wish to point out the fact that while theologians may present, the idea, and undoubtedly introduce a goodly element of philosophy when they do so, their presentation is not at all confessionally binding in the Reformed churches. And in the second place, we venture the suggestion that if in the light of Scripture we are to speak of a “counsel of peace,” hit would be much more correct to conceive of it as the eternal decree of God to reveal His own triune covenant life in. the highest possible sense of the word in the establishment and realization of a covenant outside of Himself with the creature, in the way of sin and grace, of death and redemption to the glory of His holy name. This of course, places the counsel of peace in a much different light, and presents it as the all-dominating element in God’s eternal good pleasure.
The foregoing in passing.
Returning now to the presentation of Article 7, we must now notice that the fathers do not at all conceive of election as a thing by itself, nor as including merely the final salvation; but they emphasize that the decree of election includes the whole of our salvation. For the article states: “This elect number . . . God hath decreed to give to Christ, to be saved by him; and effectually to call and draw them to his communion by his word and Spirit, to bestow upon them true faith, justification and sanctification; and having powerfully preserved them in the fellowship of his Son, finally, to glorify them . . . .” It is not necessary at this point to discuss each one of the elements mentioned here, since they will arise in a different connection in the following chapters of the Canons. Besides, it would possibly becloud the main point to discuss them here. Now let us briefly notice that the Canons here teach: 1) That God’s election includes all of our salvation. We are given for the purpose of being saved by Him, which in this connection refers to the work of Christ for us. We are given to Christ to be called into His fellowship effectually. Further, this election includes the gift of faith, justification, sanctification. Significantly, it includes the powerful preservation of the elect. And finally, it includes our glorification. 2) That the various elements here mentioned are part of one process. In relation to the last element mentioned, our glorification, therefore, they stand in the position ofmeans and end. All this is of the utmost significance. In fact, this may be called the crucial point of theCanons in opposition to the Arminians. For if it be maintained that the whole of our salvation is included, and therefore in reality finished, in the counsel of God, then all Arminianism is forever destroyed. Then there is no possibility of introducing a doubtful, conditional element in the salvation of the elect anywhere along the line.
It is undoubtedly for that reason that when the fathers came to quoting proof texts for this article, they chose two passages which emphasize that very thought. To be sure, these passages also provide Scriptural proof for other thoughts in this article. But on the foreground in both the passage from Ephesians 1and that from Romans 8 is the pertinent fact that God did not choose His people merely unto the end of glory, in order then to suspend both the election and the glory on the condition of faith and repentance. On the contrary, both these passages teach that the decree of eternal election includes the means and the way as well as the end. God has chosen us “in order that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.” And in Romans 8:30 the whole process is literally included in the decree of predestination. For the text certainly does not teach that whom God chose in eternity He calls, justifies, and glorifies in time. But it places the calling, justification, and glorification of His people in as complete a state of realization as the predestination. Otherwise the language of the text would have to be changed completely. But now it teaches that just as God did predestinate, so He alsodid call, did justify, and did glorify. The latter, therefore, are as eternal, as sovereign, as complete, and as certain as the former.
One more element there remains in this article, which we have reserved to the end, even though it appears in the very first part. We refer to the teaching of theCanons that God chose “a certain number of persons.” In the original this is even stronger, and might well be translated: “a certain definite number of persons.” Election is therefore definite. It concernspersons. And the persons and the number of persons are both eternally fixed. This does not mean, of course, that our fathers conceived of the elect as a mere multitude, a crowd of saints. This is very evident from the Heidelberg Catechism, Ques. 54, where they speak of an elect church. The elect, therefore, form one organic whole, the one church, the one body of Christ, in which body each elect saint occupies his own appointed position as a member. But over against the, Arminians, who by their corrupt conditional view made the election of God indefinite, and made it possible that the number of the elect could be increased or diminished, according as the condition of faith was fulfilled or not fulfilled, it was necessary to emphasize this other point, that election is personal, and that the number of the elect is fixed eternally and sovereignly.
Lastly, we may briefly notice that the fathers are thoroughly theocentric in their view: all centers around the glory of God. Not the salvation of the elect is ultimately the purpose of God. But the demonstration of His mercy, and the praise of the riches of His glorious grace is the purpose of the sovereign God of our salvation. And indeed, beholding the marvelous works of our God, how fitting it is that the redeemed elect should forever praise the riches of such a grace. He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord!