The Shorter Catechism, 11
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Q32: What benefits do they that are effectually called partake of in this life?
A: 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.
God effectually calls His elect. The effectual calling, which comes to the elect only, differs from the general calling, that comes to all that hear the Gospel. Many that are called generally, donít obey. But the elect, when they are called effectually, are at the same moment made obedient, so that they hear the voice of God.
This effectual calling, what benefits does it give to them that are so called? What are the benefits that they partake of in this life on earth? They partake of 1) justification, 2) adoption, 3) sanctification, and 4) several accompanying or following benefits.
1. Justification is one benefit the effectually called partake of in this life. Justification, what is that? What justification is, will be explained in another question and answer. Let it suffice here to notice that Scripture connects the justification with the effectual calling. "Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified." Rom. 8:30.
2. Adoption is another benefit the effectually called partake of in this life. After that God has called His elect, He also adopts them as His children. This adoption will be explained in another question. For now, let we read Scripture, that without a shadow of doubt connects the adoption with the predestination. "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself." Eph. 1:5.
3. Sanctification is a third benefit the effectually called partake of in this life. After God has effectually called His children, He begins to sanctify them. This will be explained hereafter. For now it is enough to know that this sanctification is the purification from sin. Our entire person needs purification and sanctification, that we may be a holy people to God. Scripture speaks of this, and says that you are in Christ, Who is your sanctification. "But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." 1 Cor. 1:30.
4. The effectually called partake in this life of several other benefits that are connected with the former ones. Some of these benefits are the paternal favour of God, the safety we have and experience in Christ, being ruled by Him and protected against our enemies. Also He prays for the believers that their faith fail not. And many, many other benefits do the elected and called have in this life.
Q33: What is justification?
A: Justification is an act of Godís free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.
Justification. An act of God. What is that, justification? It is an act of Godís free grace. In the justification, God pardons all our sins. And our sins being pardoned, He accepts and sees us as righteous in His sight. Before the justification, we were sinners in His sight, but after the justification we are made righteous. God pardons, not because He overlooks our sins, but because He imputes the righteousness of Christ to us. This justification is, on our part, received by faith alone. So, justification is
1. When justifying the sinner, God is not under any obligation, but He acts freely, in His free grace. It was His will to show grace to us, and for that reason only He justified us. We read in Scripture that God has "predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace". Eph. 1:5-7. Note the words Paul uses. It was "according to the good pleasure of His will", and also "to the praise of the glory of His grace", and "according to the riches of His grace".
2. When God justifies a sinner, He pardons our sins. Our sins are then blotted out and thrown away. They are removed from Godís sight. Psalm 130:4, "But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared."
3 / 4. God is justifying us, not because we are righteous in ourselves, but because God sees us as though we were righteous, namely in Christ. When we were outside of Christ, before our conversion, when God looked at us, He saw but blackness and filth. But after our conversion, God sees us in Christ. Our own blackness is as it were hidden behind Christ. God, when looking at us, sees a perfect righteousness, namely the righteousness of Christ. It is that righteousness which is imputed to us. God ascribes the perfect obedience and righteousness of Christ to us. Then it is as if we ourselves are perfected. As long as we are in Christ, God sees no blame in us anymore. This is what Paul writes in 2 Cor. 5:21, "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." Our sins are ascribed to Christ, and Christís righteousness is ascribed to us. The guilt of us is imputed to Christ, and He has suffered for that, and died. The righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, that we, though sinners in ourselves, are yet counted righteous. This is the justification; a work of God. And this is the acceptance through God of us as righteous in His sight. This Paul at another place describes. Rom. 5:19 "For as by one manís disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous." Through the obedience of One, namely of Christ, many shall be made righteous.
5. The justification of God is, on our part, received by faith alone. Not the law does justify us, but God does, and we receive that benefit through faith. "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ." Gal. 2:16. Faith is like a hand wherewith we accept the free gift of God. When you are giving somewhat to your son, he holds our his hand, and takes hold of your gift. Likewise is it with faith. When God is giving us justification, we should hold out the hand of our faith, and take hold of that free gift. This does not mean that we are able, whenever we will, to hold our the hand of our faith, because also the faith is a gift of God. God makes dead sinners alive, and works the faith in them.
So, then, let us hold out the hand of our faith, that we may be justified in Godís sight, and that our sins may be blotted out, and that we may be adopted as Godís children.