Dear Church Family,
This past Sunday, we resumed our Sunday school lessons in the Westminster Larger Catechism (WLC). Picking up where we left off, we covered questions 57-59. Here is a brief review.
WLC 57 What benefits hath Christ procured by his mediation?
A. Christ, by his mediation, hath procured redemption, with all other benefits of the covenant of grace.
There are mainly two things to note in this question and answer. First, note the strong verb that the catechism employs in describing Christ’s work of mediation in redemption: procured! Unfortunately, I often hear people describe Christ’s work using less decisive or ambiguous terms. For instance, it is said that Christ “made the way” of salvation for His people. Or, from that once popular praise song, “Lord, I Lift Your Name on High,” we are taught to believe that the Son of God came from heaven to earth “to show the way.”
But the language of Scripture is much stronger. Through His sacrifice and the shedding of His own blood, Christ “obtained eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12). Christ has “purchased” the church of God, chosen from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, with His own blood (Acts 20:28; Revelation 5:9).
Second, the redemption (along with all other benefits of the covenant of grace) which Christ procured is the subject of the next thirty or so questions. Questions 58-90 describe what it means to be united to Christ, as well as many of the elements of the order of salvation: justification, adoption, sanctification, perseverance, assurance, and glorification. All of these things are aspects of the redemption which Christ procured and all other benefits of the covenant of grace.
WLC 58 How do we come to be made partakers of the benefits which Christ hath procured ?
A. We are made partakers of the benefits which Christ hath procured, by the application of them unto us, which is the work especially of God the Holy Ghost.
This question and answer emphasizes the active, powerful work of God in the application of the benefits of redemption to His people. Not only is it the work of God to procure redemption and the accompanying benefits, it is God’s work – particularly that of the Holy Spirit – to apply those benefits to us; we are completely passive. The active parties in our being made partakers of the benefits of redemption are Christ who procured them and the Holy Spirit who applies them to us.
In John 3, Jesus explains to the Pharisee, Nicodemus, that unless one is born again (regenerated), he cannot see or enter into the kingdom of God (John 3:1-5). And then Jesus goes on to explain that this regeneration is the powerful work of the Holy Spirit who moves and works as He pleases (John 3:6-10). Similarly, in Titus 3:4-7, the Apostle Paul describes how it is Christ who procures salvation for His people (“He saved us”) and how it is the Holy Spirit who applies the benefits of that salvation to us (“by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit”).
WLC 59 Who are made partakers of redemption through Christ?
A. Redemption is certainly applied, and effectually communicated, to all those for whom Christ hath purchased it; who are in time by the Holy Ghost enabled to believe in Christ according to the gospel.
Again, notice the certainty and unambiguity of the language in this answer: redemption is “certainly applied, and effectually communicated.” Christ came to His own; and these who were born of the will of God, who came to believe in His name, He gave the right to become the children of God (John 1:11-13).
Now, we’ve seen how the Scriptures speak of how it is Christ who procures redemption and the accompanying benefits of the covenant of grace; and we’ve seen how it is the Holy Spirit who applies them. But, according to the Scriptures, who are the recipients of this redemption and benefits? The simple answer to this question is “all those for whom Christ hath purchased it.”
In other words, Christ purchased redemption (and the Holy Spirit applies this redemption) not to all mankind, but to a particular people. In the Scriptures, Jesus describes this particular people as all those that the Father has given to Him (John 6:37-39). These particular people are His sheep; they know Him and He knows them (John 10:14-16). A previous catechism question and answer refers to this particular people as “the elect.” In executing the office of a king, Christ bestows “saving grace upon his elect” (WLC 45).
We should note one last thing in this question and answer. Those who believe in Christ according to the gospel are only able to do so because the Holy Spirit enabled them to believe. The things of God, particularly the gospel of Jesus Christ, cannot be known or understood in our natural or sinful state; they can only be spiritually discerned. The Spirit of God must first give us the mind of Christ and enable us to believe; only then may we know the things freely given us by God. (1 Corinthians 2:12-16)
One of the main take-aways from these three questions is that the obtainment and application of redemption and the benefits of the covenant of grace is all of God and none of us. Christ procured redemption for us (WLC 57). The Holy Spirit applies redemption and the accompanying benefits to us (WLC 58). And, the Holy Spirit enables the elect (those for whom Christ purchased redemption) to believe and certainly applies and effectually communicates redemption to them (WLC 59).
What a great assurance and comfort this is. Redemption and the benefits of the covenant of grace are not obtained or received by anything that we do. It is all, from start to finish, the work of God!
In the next question, we learn what the Bible teaches concering those who have never heard the gospel. Then, we begin several questions related to the visible and invisible church. I hope you’ll join us for our continuing study of the Westminster Larger Catechism this Sunday!
The Lord be with you!
– Pastor Peter M. Dietsch