IX. The Spirit’s Work In Salvation: Q & A 29-31.
Q. 29 How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ?
A. 29 We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by His Holy Spirit.
Here we learn that the redemption which Christ purchased for us is effectually applied by His Holy Spirit. That is, one of the activities of the Holy Spirit is to effectually apply our redemption. Only those thus led by the Spirit are true sons of God (Jn. 1:12-13; Rom. 8:14). It is important to note that this work of the Spirit only occurred in its fullness when Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father in the reign of His Messianic kingdom. The coming and activity of the Spirit in this fashion, was a sign of Christ’s heavenly reign, and it also speaks to the nature and power of that reign. Furthermore, the Spirit accomplishes this work through guiding us into all truth (Jn. 16:13). It is a work which is inseparable from the word Cf. I Pet. 1:22-23).
This inseparable activity of the Spirit and the word stems from Christ’s office as Prophet, as was seen in Q & A 24. Through regeneration and renewal this work is made effectual (Titus 3:5). We should also note that with this question and answer, we are reminded that just as the work of the original creation involved all three persons of the Trinity (Gen. 1-2), even so the work of redemption, the new creation, involves all three persons. “We must understand that the doctrine of the Trinity is basic to an understanding of the doctrine of salvation. God the Father has given His Son to be the redeemer of His elect. Christ the Son has purchased redemption by His active and passive obedience. The Holy Spirit applies redemption in the experience of the elect” (G. I. Williamson, ‘The Shorter Catechism’ p. 115).
Q. 30 How does the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?
A. 30 The Spirit applies to us the redemption purchased in Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling.
Q. 31 What is effectual calling?
A. 31 Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby,-convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills,-He doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.
It is no coincidence that the catechism places regeneration as the first in order of priority in the ordo salutis or order of salvation. Fallen humanity can do absolutely nothing with regard to being saved unless the Spirit first works in us the new birth (I Cor. 2:14). “No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (I Cor. 12:3b). We must be born again to enter the kingdom (Jn. 3:4-7; Eph. 2:5-6, 10). Our stony hearts must be replaced with hearts of flesh (Ez. 11:19; 36:26). Faith must be worked in us, for as Paul made clear, it is by grace we “have been saved through faith, and not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9 Cf. 3:17). Faith is a gift, it is not work. “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing” (Jn. 6:63).
It is because of this necessity of regeneration that our calling is called “effectual” (Cf. I Th. 2:13). A general call, freely offered, goes out to all, but it is effectual only for those who are regenerated by the Spirit (I Cor. 1:9). It is thus a “holy calling” (II Tim. 1:8-9). Necessary to this calling is , first of all, a conscious awareness and convincing of our sinful condition (Acts 2:37). Secondly, our minds must also be enlightened “in the knowledge of Christ” (Cf. Acts 26:18; Eph. 1:17). Thirdly, our wills are not exempt from our dead sinful condition. Our wills must be renewed (Jn. 6:44-45). Only then are we able to “embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered us in the gospel” (Cf. Rom. 10:13). All of this may be summarized in the two acts of repentance and faith.