Redemption Effectually Applied

by Robert Shaw

Section VIII.— To all those for whom Christ hath purchased redemption, he doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same; making intercession for them, and revealing unto them, in and by the Word, the mysteries of salvation; effectually persuading them by his Spirit to believe and obey; and governing their hearts by his Word and Spirit; overcoming all their enemies by his almighty power and wisdom, in such manner and ways as are most consonant to his wonderful and unsearchable dispensation.


This section relates to the extent of Christ’s death with respect to its objects, and in opposition to the Arminian tenet, that Christ died for all men—for those who shall finally perish, as well as for those who shall be eventually saved; it affirms that the purchase and application of redemption are exactly of the same extent. In the fifth section we were taught that Christ purchased redemption only for "those whom the Father hath given unto him;" and here it is asserted, that, "to all those for whom Christ hath purchased redemption, he doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same." It was formerly remarked, that at the period when the Confession was framed, the phrase to purchase redemption was nearly synonymous with the phrase to make atonement for sin. What language, then, could affirm more explicitly than that here employed, that the atonement of Christ is specific and limited - that it is neither universal nor indefinite, but restricted to the elect, who shall be saved from wrath through him?

The sacrifice of Christ derived infinite value from the dignity of his person; it must, therefore, have been intrinsically sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole human race had it been so intended; but, in the designation of the Father, and in the intention of Christ himself, it was limited to a definite number, who shall ultimately obtain salvation. This important truth may be confirmed by the following arguments:—

1. Restrictive terms are frequently employed in Scripture to express the objects of the death of Christ: "He bare the sin of many." "He gave his life a ransom for many."—Isa. liii. 12; Matt. xx. 28. Does not this intimate that Christ died, not for all men, but only for many?

2. Those for whom Christ died are distinguished from others by discriminating characters. They are called the sheep, John x 15; the church,—Eph. v. 25; God’s elect,—Rom. viii. 33; the children of God. - John xi. 62.

3. Those whom Christ redeemed by his blood are said to be "redeemed from among men" (Rev. xiv. 4), which, if Christ had redeemed all men, would be an unmeaning and inconsistent phrase; they are also said to be "redeemed out of every kindred," &c. (Rev. v. 9), which certainly implies that only some of every kindred are redeemed.

4. The redemption obtained by Christ is restricted to those who were "chosen in him," and whom the Father gave to him to redeem by his death.—Eph. i. 4, 7; John xvii 2.

5. Christ died in the character of a surety, and therefore he laid down his life only for those whom he represented, or for his spiritual seed.—Isa. liii. 10

6. The intention of Christ in laying down his life was, not merely to obtain for those for whom he died a possibility of salvation, but actually to save them—to bring them to the real possession and enjoyment of eternal salvation.—Eph. v. 25, 26; Tit. ii. 14; 1 Pet. iii. 18; 1 Thess. v. 10. From this, it inevitably follows, that Christ died only for those who shall be saved in him with an everlasting salvation.

7. The intercession of Christ proceeds upon the ground of his atoning sacrifice; they must, therefore, be of the same extent with regard to their objects; but he does not pray for the world, but only for those who were given him out of the world; his sacrifice must, therefore, be restricted to that definite number.—1 John ii. 1, 2; John xvii. 9.

8. An apostle infers from the greatness of God’s love in delivering up his Son to death for sinners, that he will not withhold from them any of the blessings of salvation; we must, therefore, conclude that Christ did not die for all mankind.—Rom. viii. 32.

9. The same apostle infers the certainty of our salvation by the life of Christ, from our reconciliation to God by his death; now, since all are not saved by his life, we must conclude that all were not reconciled by his death. – Rom. Y. 10.

10. Christ, by his death, procured for his people not only salvation, but all the means leading to the enjoyment of it; consequently, his intention in dying must be limited to those who do repent and believe, and not extended to the whole human race.

11. The doctrine that Christ died for all men leads to many absurd consequences, such as,—That Christ shed his blood for many in vain, since all are not saved; that he laid down his life in absolute uncertainty whether any of the human race would be eventually saved; that he shed his blood for millions who, at the very moment of his death, were consigned to the pit of everlasting destruction; that he died for those for whom he does not intercede; that he died for those to whom he never sent the means of salvation, yea, to some of whom he even forbade his gospel to be preached,—Matt. x. 5; Rom. x. 14; and that God acts unjustly in inflicting everlasting punishment upon men for those very transgressions for which he has already received full satisfaction by the death of Christ. To affirm any of these things, would be blasphemous in the highest degree, and, therefore, that doctrine which involves such consequences must be unscriptural.

Universal terms are sometimes used in Scripture in reference to the death of Christ; but reason and common sense demand that general phrases be explained and defined by those that are special, and which can only admit of one interpretation. The meaning in each case may usually be ascertained from the context; and one obvious reason for the use of indefinite and universal terms in relation to the death of Christ is, to intimate that the saving effects of his death extend to some of all nations—to Gentiles as well as Jews—to all classes and descriptions of men.


From The Reformed Faith by Robert Shaw 8.8

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