A Compendium of Christian Theology

By William Burt Pope, D.D.,

Volume Two

Chapter 5

The Divine Purpose of Redemption




            Origin and Foreannouncement


            its Mediator

            its Three Forms

            its Dispensations


            the Mystery Revealed





            Supralapsarianism and Infralapsarianism



THE most appropriate superscription of the department of Theology on which we now enter is THE MEDIATORIAL MINISTRY. This term defines the relation of our Savior’s Person to God and man, separated by human sin: as it is expressed in the word Mediatorial. It embraces also the whole compass of our Saviour's work on earth and in heaven: this is better described by the Lord's own word, Ministry, than by any other. A thorough survey of the subject includes, first, the historical development of the Divine eternal counsel of Redemption as exhibited in a series of dispensations or covenants of which Christ, whether unrevealed or revealed, is the sole Mediator. Secondly, it presents to us the full manifestation of the Mediatorial Trinity: the several functions and relations of the Three Persons in the incarnation and redeeming work. This leads, thirdly, to the Person of Christ as the Mediator, whose Divine personality continues in His assumption of human nature and gives its perfection to all that He does and suffers for mankind. Fourthly, what our Lord accomplished once for all, and is still accomplishing, must be viewed in its historical process through a succession of redeeming states and offices. Fifthly, we close with the study of the Finished Work of His objective mediatorial ministry as distinguished from the subjective application of it in the individual and in the Church through the Holy Ghost. In discussing these topics, the very fundamentals of the Gospel, we must adhere rigidly to the revelations of Scripture. But, in this as in other departments, and perhaps more than most others, it will be necessary as we proceed to study the ecclesiastical development side by side with the Scriptural.


We cannot approach the accomplished work of redemption save through the eternal counsel from which it sprang, and the successive dispensations which connected it with that eternal purpose. Before the world existed Christ was ordained to take human nature in order to its renewal; not therefore as a necessary incarnation for the perfecting of the idea of humanity apart from sin. The mystery of the Divine counsel has been gradually unfolded through a series of economies, which occupied the times of preparation for the Gospel. These may be viewed under two aspects. First, the whole world of mankind has been dealt with according to the terms of a covenant dating from the Fall, but not yet fully revealed: a covenant of grace given as a simple promise to our first parents, renewed to Noah, and once more ratified to Abraham, as each the representative of mankind. This may be called the economy of the Gentiles inasmuch as the world was undergoing a negative preliminary discipline for Christ, the Desire of the nations, and at the same time enjoying a certain measure of benefit from His mediation. Secondly, a series of positive dispensations or covenants were given supernaturally to a chosen people, in which the coming Redeemer was foreshadowed and prepared for: in the Mosaic covenant as the law with its expiations, and as prophecy with its Gospel promise. Both the law and the prophets of the Mosaic economy incorporated and carried on the older promise or decree of redemption until the fullness of time when Christ blended all into the unity of the new covenant.


Redemption is in the New Testament declared to have been a purpose of God in or from eternity. This design, having reference solely to the Saviour's work, and apart from its application by the Spirit, is regarded in Scripture as an absolute decree of man's salvation virtually accomplished from the beginning: a mystery reserved for gradual revelation, but a reality underlying all human history.

1. By many various terms is the original design of man's salvation set forth. Love is in the van and in the rear of the long array. God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son: 1 here outo and oste mark the design of love as accomplished in the mission of the Only-begotten. 2 That love is viewed as the spontaneous, absolute, decretive will of God: neither taking counsel nor giving account outside of Himself. The counsel of His own will 3 is simply the decree of His supreme volition: the bouleen is the expression of the Theleema; it represents our redemption as the primitive norm or rule according to which God worketh all things, rather than as a scheme or expedient itself evolved in the Divine mind. Those passages which are sometimes quoted in the latter sense refer to the gradual evolution of the heavenly counsel, the conditions on which personal salvation is suspended, and the methods of the Spirit's administration. In regard to these, there is certainly a plan of Salvation, but not so strictly a plan of Redemption: the latter is as simply a fiat of will as creation: Lo, I come to do Thy will, 0 God.4

1 John 3:16; 2 1 John 4:10;2:7; 3 Eph. 1:11; 4 Heb. 10:9.

2. This decree had its effect in itself and was virtually accomplished: we cannot say from the time of its origination, for it was not a project of time. The fall of the world and its recovery were never separated. The history of mankind is a history of redemption. The Lamb was both foreordained before 1 and slain from the foundation of the world, 2and the virtue of the Atonement, like death, passed through to all men, the heritage of the race. It was the love of God our Savior toward man. 3 His filanthroopía, that appeared in Christ as a mystery revealed. And another of St. Paul's last testimonies speaks of God our Savior; who willeth all men to be saved, 4 as proved by the mediatorship of Christ Jesus, Who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. Under a decree of redemption virtually accomplished the whole world has lived and moved and had its being. The self-devotion of the One Mediator dated back before He became Christ Jesus Man: 5 His incarnation was the testimony in time of an eternal fact in the Divine counsel.

Man has no history apart from Him.

1 1 Pet. 1:20; 2 Rev. 13:8; 3 Tit. 3:4; 4 1 Tim. 2: 3,4,6; 5 1 Tim. 2:5.


The Decree was, however, a mystery slowly revealed, and in a variety of ways: by gradual prophecy and gradual preparation, both of which assumed the form of a series of covenants, or covenant economies.

1. The eternal purpose was preserved in the remembrance and hope of mankind by constant FOREANNOUNCEMENTS. The Gospel was preached from the beginning. The Lord Himself declared it to our fallen parents in words which have therefore been called the PROTEVANGELIUM, or First Gospel. It was said to the serpent: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her Seed; It shall bruise thy head, and thou shall bruise His heel: 1 this first prediction of a coming Deliverer, Who should undo the work of Satan, went forth into all the world, and was mingled with the traditional hopes of all the nations. It was renewed in the new world to Abraham: In thy Seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. 2 This promise was given in prospect of the Atonement on the mount, and, like that Atonement, must carry its meaning backward as well as forward: in the Seed of the woman, limited to the stock of Abraham, all nations, not only should be but were and had been already blessed. Again, the Seed was further limited to the line of David, who transmitted to the prophets the decree which was declared to him. Thus the great prophecies which went before on Christ were restricted to one people who received them as their guardians for the world, and those prophecies kept the Oath and the Promise of God with always increasing clearness before the minds of men.

1 Gen. 3:15; 2 Gen. 22:18.

2. There was also a continuous PREPARATION. This was negative in the demonstration of the sin and impotence of the world, whether of Jews or Gentiles: as to the latter, when the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe; 1 as to the former, the law given to them was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to Whom the promise was made; they were kept under the law, which was a schoolmaster . . . unto Christ. 2 Hence the great preparation running through the ages is summed up: the Scripture hath concluded all under sin. It was also a positive preparation. The history of the ancient economy was one long arrangement for the manifestation of the redeeming purpose. For that the peculiar people was chosen; for that the holy land was prepared; for that the entire system of typical and symbolical ceremony was ordered; for that both the land and the people were finally given into the hands of the heathen. For of a truth against Thy holy child Jesus, Whom Thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel foreordained to come to pass. 3 This first hymn of the Christian Church sings the fulfillment of a decree for which all events had prepared and in the accomplishment of which all the most diversified agents conspired.

1 1 Cor. 1:21; 2 Gal. 3:19,23,24; 3 Acts 4:27,28.

3. The gradual development of the Divine counsel of human salvation is in Scripture the unfolding of a COVENANT OF GRACE. Reserving for the present the fuller treatment of this subject in its application to the work of Christ and its administration in the Gospel, we must now fix our thought upon its connection with the history of that development.

(1.) The term itself bears a special Messianic meaning, as always having in view the fidelity of God to the design of human redemption through the sacrifice of His Son. The Hebrew beriyth, almost always translated in the LXX by diatheékee, signifies, not a compact as between man and man, but the Disposition or Arrangement assumed by the One Supreme purpose of grace. It employs analogically the language of human covenants; and is an example of the anthropomorphic mode of speech which expresses the Divine dealings with our race, in Christ the Mediator. Unlike human compacts it is invariably connected with sacrifice. The original Hebrew word is derived from barah or bara, in allusion to the custom of cutting and passing between the parts of a divided animal on the ratification of a covenant: hence the Greek orkia temnein, and the Hebrew bariyt kaarat. The first express revelation of the covenant to Abraham gives the key to all its history. There all is based on a free Divine promise. 1 The animals divided denoted the two parties to the great transaction; and the flame passing through was God, in His future Son, the Shekinah, uniting the parties alone, and thus ratifying His own covenant. The New-Testament term diatheékee does not preserve the original allusion; but it is never disconnected from the idea. The one covenant of grace has been ratified by an eternal sacrifice; which is at the same time the death of the Testator,2 who disposes the promise of eternal inheritance according to the counsel of His own will.

1 Gen. 15:18; 2 Heb. 9:16,15.

(2.) This covenant of redemption or of grace has been always connected with Christ its unrevealed Mediator. As its MEDIATOR or mesítous, He is the medium through Whom or rather in Whom all its blessings are conveyed: that GRACE, which is the one name and one blessing of the covenant, the free bestowment of favor on sinful man, or the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Therefore the term, which has a wider meaning than its relation to a compact, may be applied to Christ as the yet unknown Redeemer who was at once the ground of the covenant, and its promise, and its virtual administrator. After He came and was revealed, it is the term SURETY or egguos that more precisely expresses His mediatorship in the order of grace: in His Divine-human atoning personality He is the Pledge to man of the bestowment by God of all blessings procured through His atoning work, and the Pledge to God on the part of mankind of compliance with all the conditions of the covenant. In the Old Testament the future Redeemer is not termed either the Mediator or the Surety; though He was in the profoundest sense both as the Angel or Messenger of the Covenant, 2 and Himself the embodied Covenant reserved for the future: I will preserve Thee, and give Thee for a covenant of the people, 3 having all its blessings committed to Him as a great Promise for the last days. What was thus given to Him by promise becomes the heritage of His people through faith, who as Christ's are heirs according to the promise.4

1 Heb. 7:22; 2 Mal. 3:1; 3 Isa. 49:8; 4 Gal. 3:18,19,29.

(3.) This one Covenant has taken three forms in the history of revelation, (i.) As entered into with mankind, represented by Christ, its revelation began with the Fall, was ratified for the world with Noah, and was confirmed to Abraham, as the representative of all believers to the end of time, (ii.) But the covenant with Abraham for the world in all ages also introduced the special compact with his descendants after the flesh. This latter was established through Moses its mediator; and blended the covenant of grace with a covenant of works. The law was given by Moses; 1 and, as an appended form or condition of the original institute of grace, perpetually convicted the people of their sin and impotence, drove them to take refuge in the hope of a future grace, the ground of which was kept before them in the institute of sacrifice, (iii.) Finally, the New Covenant, established upon better promises, 2 was ratified in the death of Christ. It was at once the abrogation of the Mosaic or later Old Covenant, so far as concerns its national relation and its legal condition, and the renewal unto perfection of the more ancient covenant, always in force and never superseded, with mankind: of which more particularly hereafter.

1 John 1:17; 2 Heb. 8:6.

(4.) This one institute of mercy, as progressively revealed, distributes the history of revelation under a series of DISPENSATIONS, which are sometimes called the Patriarchal, the Mosaic, and the Christian. Dispensation and Economy are translations of the one word oikonomia: the former referring rather to the degrees of the Divine bestowment, and the latter to the various forms it has assumed in the arrangements of the one Church. In relation to this, the documents of the former economies are called, after the precedent of the Mosaic book of the covenant, 1 the books of the Old Covenant or Testament, and those of the last dispensation, the New Covenant or Testament. But it must always be remembered that through these dispensations the virtue of the one covenant of grace flowed. They were all preliminary and imperfect, but substantially effectual, revelations of the Gospel. Grace reigned through righteousness in every age. All who have been saved, have been saved through the Atonement, unrevealed or revealed. And in this sense we may add to the series above given a GENTILE dispensation, of which something has already been said, and more will be said hereafter.

1 Exo. 25:7.


The Divine Purpose was fulfilled in the Mission of Christ, including His incarnation and death: the Decree, that is, of the redemption of the world. This fulfillment is the fullness of time; its consummate secret being the ratification of the new and better covenant: new, in contradistinction to the old which was in its final form limited to one people; and better, because revealing all the provisions of grace, for time and eternity, in Christ the Mediator made perfect, on behalf of the entire race of mankind.

1. Our Lord's advent introduced the last days, 1 or the dispensation of the fullness of times,2 or the economy of the mystery (oikonomian tou musteerion riou), 3 or the fulfillment of the promise which was made unto the fathers, 4 or the revelation of the mystery5 . . . made known to all nations for the obedience of faith. 6 Everything in the coming of Christ had its end. The entire current of New-Testament revelation glorifies God in the full manifestation of the Eternal Purpose for the salvation of the human race.

The LAST DAYS are in the Epistle to the Hebrews connected with perfected Revelation: God hath in these last days spoken unto us in His Son; 8 in St. Peter's First Epistle with the revelation of the Atonement: the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times; 7 and in the Pentecostal sermon with the outpouring of the Spirit: It shall come to pass m the last days, saith God, I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh. 9 But in all these three summary instances the accomplishment of a Divine decree of redemption is in the context. What was set forth to Himself in the Divine mind was set forth on the scene of human history in the Passion of Christ. This is the sense of St. Paul's classical passage on the subject: where we have the ETERNAL COUNSEL 10 (on proetheto), set forth or proposed to Himself by God; the gradual WITNESS OF THE LAW AND PROPHETS, on the one hand, and, on the other, the pretermission of sins in the Divine FORBEARANCE AS YET UNACCOUNTED FOR; and, lastly, the NOW of the Gospel times, with the full revelation of the objective and subjective Redemption. This is the emphatic doctrine of those other words: When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son . . . to redeem them that were under the law, 11 where ina must have its full force. The Son was sent to accomplish a predetermined design. And the new covenant is spoken of as a finished transaction. The days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant: 12 instead of the diatheékeen of the Septuagint we read suntelesoo and will complete or bring to perfection. It is not that which decayeth and waxeth old.

1 Heb. 1:2; 2 Eph. 1:10; 3 Gal. 4:4; 4 Eph. 3:9; 5 Acts 13:33,32; 6 Rom. 16:25,26; 7 1 Pet. 1:20; 8 Heb. 1:2; 9 Acts 2:17; 10 Rom. 3:21; 11 Gal. 4:4 12 Heb. 8:8,13.

2. It must be remembered, however, that this fulfillment refers only to the objective work of redemption. The great purpose was accomplished, and the Divine counsel exhausted, in the Tetelestai, It is finished. In the death of the Mediator there was a fulfillment of the one great promise on which all others were suspended. The supreme secret of the ages was made manifest. The mystery of the Gospel, or the mystery which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, 1 being the mystery of Christ, 2 or, as elsewhere, the mystery of God, Christ,3 was in one sense a mystery no longer, though in another sense to remain for ever such a mystery as the angels desire to look into.4

1 Eph. 6:19; 2 Eph. 3:4,9; 3 Col. 2:2; 4 1 Pet. 1:12.

3. It is also true that the purpose still runs on, waiting for another accomplishment, which connects it with the Spirit's work in the administration of redemption. Often the accomplished purpose of human salvation is confounded with the final realization of all the Divine Plans. We must endeavor to keep these two distinct. The language of the New Testament when speaking of the actualization of the Divine decree in the mission of Christ is different from that which is used concerning the gradual fulfillment of other purposes dependent upon that. However difficult it may be to make the distinction it is necessary. The processes of the gradual administration of grace will issue in the salvation of a certain portion of mankind, according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world. 1 But the gradual gathering of the elect, and the gradual salvation of each of the number, is represented as the result of a plan and method in the Gospel.

Whereas of the redemption of man's race or mankind, that is, of all who have ever borne or shall ever bear the name' of man, the Scripture speaks in definitive terms as having been once for all accomplished. We have seen—said the last writer in the last document— and do testify that the Father sent the Son, the Savior of the world: and not only to be the Savior.2

1 Eph. 1:4; 2 1 John 4:14.


1. The Nicene Creed expresses the sentiment of the first Christians, that Jesus Christ was incarnate FOR us MEN AND FOR OUR SALVATION, DI HMAS TOUS ANTHROPOUS; and that the Divine purpose united redemption and creation. So Athanasius: " The Restitution could take place only in that the original Pattern after which man was created was manifested for his salvation." A long series of divines, from Irenseus to the present day, assume that the Incarnation would have taken place if man had not sinned; an opinion of speculative theology which disturbs the free grace of the eternal counsel.

2. The early Church held fast the universality of the object of the redeeming purpose.

From the Apostolical Fathers downwards there is a clear testimony. " Ideo autem passus est, ut tolleret peccatum mundi. Si quis autem non credit in Christum, generali beneficio se fraudat." These words of Ambrose represent the strain of ante-Nicene theology, which knew nothing of a restriction in the Divine purpose of salvation.

3. But his disciple Augustine did not follow his teacher. He first laid down the principle that God in His sovereignty decreed the separation of a certain number from the mass of fallen mankind unto salvation, including the special, irresistible, and inadmissible grace that leads to it: for them and for them alone He provided and sent His Son. This view of the eternal purpose was exaggerated by the followers of Augustine; it gave rise to Pelagian and semi-Pelagian extravagance in the opposite direction. Early Augustinianism made grace dependent on the prodestination of its object; semi-Pelagianism made grace dependent on the Divine prevision of man's good use of it. The Synod of Arausio rejected both, and at the same time condemned " cum omni detestatione," the doctrine of a predestination to evil; and that of Chiercy (853) under Hincmar spoke still more decidedly. The ninth century was full of this controversy, Gottschalk being the representative of Augustine, and the link between him and his still greater representative, Calvin.

4. The Scholastic divines took opposite sides as to the Divine decrees: Thomas of Bradwardine, Archbishop of Canterbury (1349), and Wyclif after him, prepared the way for the rigorous doctrine which Calvin stamped with his name. But the general tendency of mediaeval doctrine was towards the universal redemption which the Council of Trent laid down, and from which the Greek Church had never deviated.

5. Calvin carried the ancient theory of Augustine to its logical conclusion: cadit homo Dei providentia SIC ORDINANTE, sed suo vitio cadit. This is SUPRALAPSARIANISM: the doctrine that God predestined the fall of the race as well as the salvation of some to the glory of His grace and the reprobation of others to the glory of His justice.

INFRALAPSARIANISM seems to have been the accepted method of putting' the dogma of Augustine: it modifies the former so far as to connect the fall with God's silent permission, instead of His foreordination. But the admission of this distinction goes far towards the subversion of Augustinianism. It renounces the absolute Sovereignty, which cannot consist with a mere permission to fall; the whole system is dissolved when the iron bonds of Sovereignty are withdrawn. Accordingly, many of the Reformed have sought to mitigate in various ways their master's severe dogma. France, especially, Calvin's own country, made desperate attempts to shake itself free from the yoke. What has been known as the theory of HYPOTHETICAL REDEMPTION originated in Saumur with Amyraut (1664). Its watchword was the DECRETUM UNIVERSALE HYPOTHETICUM: that is, Christ has made the salvation of all men possible if they believe; but, though the Son's intervention is of universal value, God's efficacious grace is given only to a certain number. This unhappy compromise has found advocates in England also.

6. The Remonstrants of Holland, or Arminians, were the first who, in modern times, protested against the Augustinianism which had found its way into some of the Formularies of the Reformation. Their principle was that the decree of God in Christ was in favor of mankind as such; and that that decree was accomplished in the offering of Christ for the redemption of the whole race. The Lutheran Formularies, especially the later, assert the same universality; as also do the Methodists everywhere. Against this Calvinism or Augustinianism urges that the decree of redemption was in favor only of those who are actually redeemed; that redemption in purpose had not and could not have reference to those who perish; and that, if general appeals and exhortations are found in the Word of God, this anomaly is to be explained by the fact that there is a secret decree behind the open declaration of the Divine Purpose.

7. It is obvious that inscrutable mystery rests upon this whole subject. Its chief difficulty, however, lies in the Scriptural application of the doctrines of vocation and election in their connection with general redemption. In other words, while the eternal will of the Love of God to provide a Deliverer and an atoning deliverance adequate to meet the ruin of mankind is placed beyond the possibility of doubt, the revelation of the Bible thus responding to the instinct of the human heart, it may seem hard to reconcile such a catholic purpose with the partial, progressive, and limited announcements of that supreme truth. But this branch of the subject has its appropriate place hereafter; and it will receive fuller treatment.