Q: How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ?
A: We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit.
Titus 3:4-7 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
I apologize for not offering up a blog post last week (which means you'll get two throughout this week, the second to come probably on Thursday or Friday). I set aside time each week to work on this blog, but sometimes writer's block hits me hard, even when the subject of the weekly blog is already provided to me by the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Last week was one of those weeks where I just stared at the confession, and couldn't come up with anything to write.
This summer I have the privilege of leading our youth at Proclamation in a study through the book of Galatians. Galatians is a wonderful book that really helps us put the law and the gospel into perspective. Today I was preparing a lesson on chapter 3, which begins by Paul famously writing, "You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?" And why would Paul write this? It comes down to the very issue which the catechism addresses this week. Paul writes this because the Galatians were looking to the flesh, to their own righteousness by following ceremonial elements of the law, for their justification. They were being deceived by a false gospel of works righteousness, and Paul was dumfounded by how easily they were swayed. See, when Paul was among the Galatians, he had preached the gospel of grace-that justification comes by faith in Christ's righteousness. But now, false teachers had come in and deceived the Galatians, teaching them that in order to truly become Christians, they must first convert to Judaism and follow the ceremonial law, particularly, that they must be circumcised. They were, in essence, saying that the redemption that Christ purchased was applied by works of the flesh, by man's righteousness. And Paul, in his response to all this in chapter 3, asks a series of questions. These questions climax with Paul asking, "Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and work miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith...?" Paul's point, of course, is that Christ's redemption is applied by the Holy Spirit. It is by a work of the Holy Spirit that men come to faith in Christ.
And this is the greatest of all miracles that the Holy Spirit does. He revives the dead man, resurrects him, opens his eyes and ears, and brings him to saving faith in Jesus Christ. It is the Holy Spirit who applies the redemption purchased by Christ to us, by faith (more on how it is applied by faith in the next blog post). And it is not by our own righteousness, it's not our ability to keep the law, it's not by anything that we do, have done, or ever could do, that applies the redemption of Christ to our lives. It is purely a work of the Holy Spirit. As Paul would prove through his questioning, it is a work that is begun by the Spirit, not by works of the flesh.
Paul is, in Galatians, addressing the bigger issue of how we're justified. But what is interesting about the Judaizer heresy is not that they were denying the person and work of Christ, it is that they were trying to add to it. And in doing so, they were denying that redemption is applied to someone by the work of the Spirit. This is the trap we can fall into as well. We can easily forget that Christ's redemption applied is a supernatural work. It is a work that no human can accomplish. We can't accomplish it for ourselves, and we can't accomplish it for anyone else. We must trust in the work of the Holy Spirit.
Notice this too. The Catechism has just given us, through the last dozen or so questions, a wonderful doctrine of the Trinity as God works in salvation. The Father has chosen the Elect. The Son is the Redeemer of the Elect. And as we see now, it is the Holy Spirit who applies the redemption of the Son to the Elect. Salvation truly belongs to God! He is personally and fully invested in all the steps of bringing a depraved, dead sinner to new life. He is fully involved in restoring our communion to him. The great, holy, Triune God not only begins the work of salvation, but carries out the means to accomplish it. It truly is a redemption, as John Murray said, "accomplished and applied".