The question is whether man’s salvation is held up as the great goal of the covenant of redemption, or whether God’s glorification is the primary goal of the covenant of redemption. If the benefit of man were allowed to become the ultimate purpose of the church, it would actually be a failure. Man was created to have a higher purpose than himself. If the blessing of man becomes the ultimate motivation, then he is living far below and for far less than that for which God created him.
Before all time; prior to all worlds; when there was nothing “outside of” God Himself; when the Father, Son and Spirit found eternal, absolute and unimaginable blessing, pleasure and joy in their Holy Trinity – it was their agreed purpose to create a world which would fall, and in unison – but at infinitely great cost – to bring (some to) grace and salvation.
We can find our firm foundation in a covenant contracted among the three Persons of the Triune God, even before time began. This plan to rescue and re-create damaged and guilty bearers of the divine image was initiated by the Father, to be executed by the Son, and to be applied by the Spirit to those very persons on whose behalf the Son would keep covenant.
Simply stated, the covenant of redemption is a covenant God the Father made with God the Son before the foundation of the world was laid, that is the Son would offer Himself up as and offering for sin, the Father would give Christ all those for whom He would die as a love gift.
Here is what God the Father laid down as the conditions of the covenant of redemption: The Son must assume a true human nature, however, without sin (Heb. 4:15; 10:5). Emmanuel must become their Substitute, remove their sins from them, and take their sins onto His account as if He Himself had committed them (Gal. 3:13). On their behalf, He must bear all the punishment which their sins had merited, and He must suffer, die, and rise again (Jn. 10:18). On their behalf, He must fulfill all righteousness in order to make them righteous (Rom. 5:19). He must make the elect to be partakers of this merited salvation by declaring the Gospel to them, regenerating them, granting them faith, preserving them, resurrecting them from the dead, and ushering them into heaven (Jn. 6:39).
This covenant reveals a love which is unparalleled and exceeds all comprehension. Think of what a blessing it is that you and I have been considered and known in this covenant, to have been given by the Father to the Son. Think of what a blessing it is that you and I have had our names written by the Son in His Book of Life. Think of what a blessing it is that you and I have been the objects of the eternal mutual delight of the Father and the Son to save us.
Neither God nor Christ were moved by necessity or compulsion, but by eternal love and volition. Jeremiah 31:3 states, “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love.” Love moved the Father and love moved the Son. It is a covenant of love between those whose love proceeds from within themselves.
In his systematic theology, Charles Hodge lists eight promises the Father gives to the Son in (the covenant of redemption) made in eternity. Briefly they are: that God would form a purified church for His Son; that the Son would receive the Spirit without measure; that He would be ever-present to support Him; that He would deliver Him from death and exalt Him to His right hand; that He would have the Holy Spirit to send to whom He willed; that all the Father gave to Him would come to Him and none of these be lost; that multitudes would partake of His redemption and His messianic kingdom; that He would see the travail of His soul and be satisfied.
Each of the Persons of the Trinity plays a unique role in the salvation of the elect. The Father elects to save His people in Christ (Eph. 1:4). The Son is appointed and willingly offers Himself as Savior and Mediator (Lk. 22:29; Heb. 10:5-7). The Holy Spirit furnishes Christ with the gifts necessary to accomplish His saving work (Lk. 1:32; 3:21-22; 4:18), and also applies the benefits of Christ’s work to those whom the Father gives to the Son (Jn. 6:38-39; Jn. 17:4). Thus, in a delightful harmony of mutual love and purpose, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit eternally covenant to redeem an elect community.