The angel decreed that Christ’s work of redemption was a sure thing, not a probability; Jesus would not only be able to accomplish salvation for the elect, but it is certain that He would. This can be said because redemption was predestined by God’s eternal decree.
“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21, ESV).
Alright. I know my Arminian readers (if I have very many) will be crying a foul with the title of this post. No, I don’t believe the angels are divided on issues of soteriology between Calvinists and Arminians. So of course, the title is somewhat tongue-in-cheek.
On the other hand, there are some serious theological implications to the angel’s proclamation about our Lord and His work. Let’s look at this brief, angelic decree about baby Jesus.
He Will Save
This is a statement of certainty, not possibility. Calvinism holds that the only Savior of God’s elect is our Lord Jesus Christ. This was God’s plan from all eternity. It is not ‘Plan B,’ in any sense. It can be Jesus and only Him who saves. We confess the Reformed doctrine of Solus Christus, meaning that salvation is entirely the work of Jesus and none other.
Neither the decision of a man, nor his freewill (actually, we believe the will is bound, not free) is able to accomplish redemption (John 1:13; Romans 9:16). The angel decreed that Christ’s work of redemption was a sure thing, not a probability; Jesus would not only be able to accomplish salvation for the elect, but it is certain that He would. This can be said because redemption was predestined by God’s eternal decree (Ephesians 1:4-5, 11).
Calvinism also holds that Jesus came to redeem a particular people, the elect. In one sense, the blood of Jesus is sufficient to atone for the sins of this whole world–and every other world besides. We grant that the sufficiency of His blood is unlimited in that sense. On the other hand, however, Christ came to shed His blood for a particular people particularly. He came with names and faces in mind, inscribed in the Book of Life.
His atonement was not just a generic offer, like a coupon in the newspaper; it was a specific plan to save particular men, women, and children whom He foreknew from all eternity. John 17 is perhaps where we see this implication spelled out most clearly in Jesus’ own High Priestly prayer to the Father (see especially verses 2, 6, and 9).
From Their Sins
Calvinism holds that the condition of man is so severe, that man is not able to help himself, or even prepare himself for salvation, in the slightest degree. Salvation must come from the outside. Unlike other systems (i.e., Arminianism) which see the crucial factor in salvation as the sinner’s own decision, Calvinism understands that the depravity of man was so severe that we could not lift ourselves up from our bootstraps and merely will to believe. Sin affects; body, mind, will, affections, and heart.
Praise God that the angel was right! He will (predestination) save His people (particular atonement) from their sins (total depravity).
Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida. Follow him on Twitter at @matt_everhard.