Whenever we consider the sovereign Providences of God which were planned before time and brought to fruition in time; a key Scripture passage that should orient our minds in the way of truth is Ephesians 1:4-11, which states (in part):
According as he [Christ] hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will…In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will
He Works ALL THINGS According to the Counsel of His Will
In this text, Paul teaches us that Christ has chosen “us” to be redeemed “through his blood”, which is “the forgiveness of sins” (vs 7) and that this redemption was predestined “before the foundation of the world”. This predestination was “according to the purpose of him who worketh *all things* after the counsel of his own will“.
The Greek word behind the word “counsel” here is βουλή, which according to LSJ means will, determination, counsel, advice, deliberation, or decree. The word was commonly used in ancient Greek writings concerning the will of the gods and in Athens for the Senate – a ‘counsel’ of elders.
Eternal Counsel of Redemption
Theologians have referenced God’s plan to redeem man before time as the “Eternal Counsel of Redemption”. “Eternal” because it was planned “before the foundation of the world”, and counsel because it was God’s eternal purpose, plan, and sovereign decree. They describe the counsel as a pact amongst the members of the Trinity whereby the Father promised a people to the Son for whom the Son pledged to be a surety (Heb 7:22) and “became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil 2:8). In this arrangement the Holy Spirit agreed to apply the benefits of redemption to those that have been given to the Son and to dwell in and with them (John 14).
Those who object to the the idea of an eternal counsel do so on two basic grounds: 1) they refuse to accept what the Scriptures teach regarding predestination, and/or 2) they claim Scripture makes no explicit reference to any inter-trinitarian pact or agreement.
The short answer to objection #2 is to consider what the Apostle says in Ephesians 1:11 – all things are worked according to the counsel (βουλή) of his will. We know that our Triune God planned our redemption to be purchased by the blood of Christ and applied by the Spirit because that is the way He has worked it out in time.
An Inter-Trinitarian Pact
The Scriptures also present several strong evidences for understanding there to be an inter-trinitarian pact before time. Consider, for example, the many times in the Gospel of John in which Jesus declares that he came into the world to do God’s will. Consider, for example, John 17 which has many strong affirmations of this eternal pact:
- (verse 2) As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. – The Father has given a people to the Son
- (verse 3) And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. – The Son was sent by the Father to accomplish the Father’s mission
- (verse 4) …I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. – The Father gave the Son a work to accomplish in time
- (verse 6) I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me – the Father gave a people to the Son
- (verse 8) I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me – the Father gave the Son His gospel message
- (verse 8) and they have believed that thou didst send me. – the Father sent the Son
- (verse 9) I pray for them …which thou hast given me; for they are thine. – the elect were given to Christ before time
- (verse 11) Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me – the Father has given an elect people to the Son
- (verse 21) …that the world may believe that thou hast sent me – the Father sent the Son
- (verse 23) …and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. – The Father sent the Son
- (verse 24) Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. – The Father loved the Son and gave Him a people before the foundation of the world
This passage doesn’t prove the entirety of our thesis, but can anyone doubt that it proves that:
- The Father gave the Son an elect people before time
- The Father sent the Son into the world to redeem this elect people
Q.25 What is meant by a covenant of grace?
ANSWER. The covenant engagement entered into, in the counsels of eternity, by the Triune God in behalf of the elect; in which covenant the elect were given to the Person of the Son, and made His care and charge, and all spiritual blessings were treasured up and secured in Him, and so made sure to all the seed of promise.
For more on the Eternal Covenant (Plan/Counsel) of Redemption, see:
- Charles Spurgeon’s Sermon: The Blood of the Everlasting Covenant
- Marrow of Modern Divinity – Purpose of Grace:Counsel of Redemption