Dear Church Family,
This past Sunday, we continued our Sunday school lessons in the Westminster Larger Catechism (WLC) in questions 76-77. Here is a brief review.
WLC 76 What is repentance unto life?
A. Repentance unto life is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and word of God, whereby out of the sight and sense, not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, and upon the apprehension of God’s mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, he so grieves for and hates his sins, as that he turns from them all to God, purposing and endeavouring constantly to walk with him in all the ways of new obedience.
Just as justifying faith is wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and word of God (WLC 72), repentance unto life is also wrought in the heart of a sinner in the same way: by the Spirit and word of God (WLC 76). Because this is a recurring theme that we find in Scripture, we find this theme emphasized throughout the Westminster Standards as well. In the application of the benefits of redemption, the Spirit of God works together with the word of God.
If the Spirit were to work apart from the word, that would be mysticism, something which we do not find in Scripture. If the word were to work apart from the Spirit, that would be Gnosticism – also something which we do not find taught in Scripture. No, in the effectual application of the benefits of redemption, it is always the Spirit working together with the word of God. In this case, we find that repentance unto life is a gift that God grants to sinners by His Spirit and word (Acts 11:17-18; 2 Timothy 2:24-26).
The Scriptures teach us that there is a godly sorrow over one’s sins that produces repentance without regret, while there is also the danger of worldly sorrow that produces death (2 Corinthians 7:10). So, the WLC points out that there are three essential elements or aspects of true repentance unto life: the sight and sense of danger and odiousness of one’s sins (Hosea 2:6-7; Luke 15:17-18), the sight and sense of the filthiness and odiousness of one’s sins (Isaiah 30:22; Philippians 3:7-8), and the apprehension of God’s mercy in Christ to such as are penitent (Joel 2:12-13; Acts 2:37).
Likewise, there are also three essential elements or aspects of the result of true repentance unto life. That is to say, true repentance is comprised of these three results in the sinner: he grieves for and hates his sins (Psalm 32:5; 2 Corinthians 7:11), turns from his sin to God (Acts 26:18), and purposes and endeavors constantly to walk with God in all the ways of new obedience (2 Chronicles 7:14; Matthew 3:8).
WLC 77 Wherein do justification and sanctification differ?
A. Although sanctification be inseparably joined with justification, yet they differ, in that God in justification imputeth the righteousness of Christ, in sanctification his Spirit infuseth grace, and enableth to the exercise thereof; in the former, sin is pardoned; in the other, it is subdued: the one doth equally free all believers from the revenging wrath of God, and that perfectly in this life, that they never fall into condemnation; the other is neither equal in all, nor in this life perfect in any, but growing up to perfection.
The Roman Catholic Church (RCC) teaches that a sinner is justified by faith in Jesus Christ together with their own good works. By including good works in a sinner’s justification, the RCC contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture (Galatians 2:16) and blends sanctification into the doctrine of justification. So, it is important to recognize that while justification and sanctification are inseparably joined together (you cannot have one with out the other) and gifts from God, there are different.
Having already defined justification (WLC 70) and sanctification (WLC 75), the catechism now explains how they are different. And there are basically three ways in which justification and sanctification differ (in the person, with regard to sin, and in degree). The first difference is with regard to what God does in the person: in justification, God imputes the righteousness of Christ (Romans 4:6-8); in sanctification, God’s Spirit infuses grace and enables the person to do good works (Hebrews 9:13-14). The second difference is with regard to sin: in justification, sin is pardoned (Romans 3:24-25); in sanctification, sin is subdued (Romans 6:14). The third and final difference is with regard to degree: justification is equally perfect in every believer (Romans 8:33-34); sanctification is imperfect and unequal in every believer (Hebrews 5:12-14).
We have the promise of God’s word that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). All those who trust in Christ are equally and justified in the sight of the Lord. And, we also have the promise of God’s word that because God is the one who began a good work in us, He will be faithful to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).
Join us on Sunday mornings at 9:15 am as we continue our study of the Westminster Larger Catechism!
The Lord be with you!
– Pastor Peter M. Dietsch