Who’s Tampering with the Trinity? (Part 12) The Biblical Support for Eternal Generation: Election the Work of the Father
Another telling rebuttal of the notion that the peculiar roles of the Trinity in redemption are not eternal is that the New Testament makes clear that redemption itself arises from the electing love of the Father. Notice three passages as specimens of this teaching.
Ephesians 1:4-6 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
Romans 8:37-39 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:29-30 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
In each of these passages election is the work of the Father. It is the Father who in love predestined us to the adoption as sons. This makes it very likely that the great Trinitarian benediction of 2 Corinthians 13:14 in mentioning the love of “the God,” a standard description of the Father in the New Testament is referring to the love by which He elected us: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.”
The peculiar roles of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit did not begin with history. They are present in eternity past—embedded in the eternal Trinity itself.
Some theologians attempt to evade this biblical teaching by reference to an eternal covenant in which there was an agreement among the persons of the Trinity to assume certain roles in redemption. They say: The modes of operation in the economic Trinity are determined not by the eternal roles fulfilled by the various persons in the Trinity, but by a pre-mundane covenant of redemption.
This argument assumes that a covenant is a pactum or contract with the connotation of bilateral discussion between equal parties. It is now commonly recognized that this is not the biblical meaning of (especially divine) covenants. Berith and diatheke rather speak of a unilateral arrangement like a last will and testament (Heb. 9:15-17) or an imposition of a treaty on a conquered people by a conquering king. This is the teaching of John Murray, The Covenant of Grace (N. P.: Tyndale Press, 1977) 5f; Meredith G. Kline, the Structure of Biblical Authority (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963) 27. Indeed, the Greek word for a contract is suntheke, but the New Testament (and Septuagint) word for covenant is diatheke, a word with a clearly more unilateral flavor. This climate of thought is not hospitable to the use being made of covenant by those who deny eternal generation in favor of explaining the economy of redemption by the covenant of redemption.
Also telling against this use of the covenant of redemption are the two major biblical descriptions of it. Titus 1:2 speaks of this covenant as follows: “in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began.” (This is the ESV translation and is much more literal than that of the NASB.) Again the article precedes God in the Greek. Thus, the verse speaks of the Father making a promise to the Son before the world began. 2 Timothy 1:9 also speaks of this covenant: “who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.” In no biblical description of the covenant of redemption is there any mention of the persons of the Trinity arbitrarily choosing roles for themselves in redemption. There is only the mention of the promise of the Father to the Son and the purpose of the Father in the Son. There is, of course, agreement of a kind, but it is the joyful agreement of a submissive Son to a Father’s glorious plans.