The Elect and the Reprobate Within the Covenant

I am not here addressing the issue of whether the covenant should be defined as being made with the elect only, or whether it is broader. My question here is this: how should we describe those members of the covenant administration who are not decretally elect?

What I really wish to do is to expound one of the few places in the WCF that deals with this question. WCF 10.4 in full says this: “Others, not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet they never truly come unto Christ, and therefore cannot be saved: much less can men, not professing the Christian religion, be saved in any other way whatsoever, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, and the law of that religion they do profess. And, to assert and maintain that they may, is very pernicious, and to be detested.”

The relevant portion of this section stops after the words “cannot be saved,” since the portion after that refers not to non-elect covenant members, but to people outside the visible church altogether.

I merely wish here to emphasize what the Confession says here: the common operations of the Spirit do not involve true union with Christ, and do not involve salvation. How simple can it get here? They never truly come to Christ, and therefore they cannot be saved. This runs directly counter to FV interpretations of John 15, for instance, which claim that the non-elect covenant member is truly united to Christ by baptism. Barach uses the rhetorical flourish “not joined to the vine by Scotch tape” or words very much like it. See this post for an exposition. It is important to realize the group of people that the WCF is talking about in the first part of this section: it is the people who may receive common operations of the Spirit, but who are not eternally elect. We are not talking about pagans in this section, but members of the covenant community, the very people about whom the FV is concerned.

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