X. The Benefits Of Salvation In This Life: Q & A 32-36.
Q. 32 What benefits do they that are effectually called partake of in this life?
A. 32 They that are effectually called do in this life partake of justification, adoption, and sanctification, and the several benefits which, in this life, do either accompany or flow from them.
Q. 33 What is justification?
A. 33 Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein He pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, and received by faith alone.
Through the regeneration that is involved in being “effectually” called, one is brought into union with the Mediator, the Redeemer of God’s elect, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the Spirit who works faith in us. Faith is every bit as much a gift from God as all other aspects of our salvation (Cf. Eph. 2:8-9). It is now taught that there are further benefits which flow to those who are effectually called, and that these are experienced in the here and now of this present life. These forever are established in the heavenly courtroom, but we also experience them now. Q & A 33 also reminds us that there are many other benefits that flow to us, but these either accompany or flow from these three (Cf. Rom. 8:30; I Cor. 1:30; Eph. 1:5-7).
The first of these to consider is justification. It “is an act of God’s free grace” (Cf. Rom. 3:23-24). “Justification means pronouncing a person righteous; it is the opposite of condemnation. It is said to be an act because it is done at once, and an act of God’s free grace, because we can do nothing of ourselves to deserve it. It consists of two parts-pardon and acceptance; and we are taught also that the cause of it is not our own goodness, but Christ’s and that Christ’s righteousness becomes ours through faith” (Lawson, p. 26). Justification is based on nothing more nor less than the free grace of God. “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ” (Ga. 2:14).
Justification is a declarative act on God’s part, whereby He regards us as righteous because of the righteousness of Christ imputed to us via covenantal federal representation, and our sin, which would have justified a declaration of condemnation, is imputed to Christ (Rom. 5:19; II Cor. 5:21). Imputation is something which flows from the covenant relation. The guilt and condemnation of Adam’s sin was imputed to us. “However, in the case of Jesus Christ and His elect people, there is a double imputation. (1) There is, first, the imputation of our guilt and condemnation to the Lord Jesus Christ. (2) Then there is, secondly, the imputation of His righteousness to us (II Cor. 5:21)” (Williamson, p. 132).
Q. 34 What is adoption?
A. 34 Adoption is an act of God’s free grace, whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges of the sons of God.
Due to our sinful condition, because of our covenant relation with Adam, no one is born a child of God. God is indeed the creator of all humanity, but only by adoption is one made a child, and no longer a stranger to God’s family. Like justification, this is also an act of God’s free grace-no one can earn it, and it is a declarative act. From this position there flows all that which we thus inherit in our union with Christ, our elder brother (Jn. 1:12; Rom. 8:17; I Jn. 3:1). However, even though adoption is a declarative act, it is also something we are made conscious of. “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom. 8:16 Cf. Gal. 4:6). This is what the elect have been predestined to (Eph. 1:5). Adoption is also permanent (Jn. 10:29).
“Even now we are completely delivered from the bondage to fear, because we are accepted in Christ (Rom. 8:15). We are led by the Holy Spirit in pathways of truth and righteousness (8:14). We are enabled to come boldly to the throne of grace in prayer (Heb. 4:16) to find help in the time of need. We have God’s unfailing care in all that befalls us (Ps. 103:13; 125; Rom. 8:29-35). And even though we are subject to His corrective discipline, it is only in love that the Father chastens us (Heb. 12:6-11). And best of all, our Father promises that He will never leave or forsake us (Lam. 3:31-32), because He has sealed us unto the day of redemption by the Holy Spirit of Christ (Eph. 4:30). So it is not possible that those who have been adopted shall fail of the grace of God (I Pet. 1:3-4).” (Williamson, ‘The Shorter Catechism’ p. 138)
Q. 35 What is sanctification?
A. 35 Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die to sin, and live unto righteousness.
There are two aspects to sanctification which must be noted. First of all, there is that aspect of sanctification which is past tense. This is called ‘definitive’ sanctification. John Murray stated this clearly. “We properly think of calling, regeneration, justification, and adoption as acts of God effected once for all and not requiring or admitting of repetition. It is of their nature to be definitive. But a considerable part of New Testament teaching places sanctification in this category. When Paul, for example, addresses the believers at Corinth as the church of God “sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” (I Cor. 1:2) and later in the same epistle reminds them that they were washed, sanctified, and justified (I Cor. 6:11), it is apparent that he coordinated their sanctification with effectual calling, with their identity as saints, with regeneration, and with justification. Again, when in II Timothy 2:21 we read, “If a man purge himself from these, he will be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, meet for the master’s use, prepared unto every good work,” there need be no question but the term “sanctified” is used in the same sense.” (‘Definitive Sanctification’ Calvin theological Journal, 1967)
The second, more commonly understood aspect of sanctification is ongoing, or what may be called ‘progressive’ sanctification. It is often stated that progressive sanctification flows from justification, when in fact progressive sanctification flows from definitive sanctification. In Hebrews 10 we see the intersection of the death of Christ, the law, and both definitive and progressive sanctification. Previously there were sacrifices made for sin, for failure to keep God’s will. When Christ came, because He kept God’s will perfectly, he brought the sacrificial system to an end, because in His once and for all sacrifice for sin He makes it possible for the people of God to do God’s will. In Christ we have been sanctified (v. 10), and are being sanctified (v. 14). It is this being set apart in Christ, once for all, which is the basis for the gradual conformity into His image (Rom. 6:4-6; Eph. 4:23-24; Phil. 3:13; II Th. 2:13). “The path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day” (Pr. 4:18).
Q. 36 What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification?
A. 36 The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification are assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Spirit, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end.
Firstly, there is assurance of our salvation. “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom. 8:16 Cf. Gal. 4:6). “And we have known and believed the love that God has for us” (I Jn. 4:16 Cf. I Jn. 5:13). Secondly, we receive “peace of conscience.” “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). Thirdly, there is “joy in the Holy Spirit.” “I am exceedingly joyful” (II Cor. 7:4 Cf. Ps. 35:9; Is. 56:7). This is through the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 15:13). Fourthly, there is “an increase of grace.” “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace” (Jn. 1:16). “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (II Pet. 3:18). Finally, we receive the benefit of “perseverance therein to the end.” “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6 Cf. Pr. 4:18; II Pet. 1:10).