The Shorter Catechism, 12
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Last week we have discussed the effectual calling, wherewith God calls sinner out of misery, and brings them to the embracing of Christ. Benefits flowing from that effectual calling are, as we have seen, justification, adoption, sanctification, and several other benefits in this life. We have also spoken of the first benefit, of justification. This weekís issue deals with the other ones.
Q34: What is adoption?
A: Adoption is an act of Godís free grace, whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges of the sons of God.
Among the people we find the practice adoption. Children are adopted by parents. The adopted children are accepted as natural children. They have all the rights and benefits, as every other child has. God also adopts the believers as His children. In His free grace, He accepts us into the number of the sons of God. When we are among the other sons of God, we have the same rights and privileges as they have. That there is an adoption is clear enough from the words of John. He says, "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!" 1 John 3:1. When he says, "behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed", he describes the free grace, and the love of the Father. It is free grace of God that He adopts us as His sons. And again, the apostle says: "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." (John 1:12) We see that the believers can, through Godís power, become Godís sons. And Paul writes that we are the children of God: "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God", Rom. 8:16.
Q35: What is sanctification?
A: Sanctification is the work of Godís free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.
In sanctification, the believers become holier. They sin lesser, and live more righteously. Sanctification is a work that God performs in us, out of His free grace. It is His will that His children be holy. Leviticus 11:45 "For I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy." Through the work of God in us, we more and more become holy. God is holy, and in the sanctification we are renewed after that holy image of God. Through sin one loses Godís image, but through righteousness he gets it back. The old man, defiled by sin, is put off, and the new man, renewed after Godís holiness, is put on more and more. We begin to die unto sin, and begin to live unto righteousness.
The sanctification is a work of God, as is written: "God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit." 2 Thess. 2:13. The Spirit of God works in us, and sanctifies us. "And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel." Ezek. 37:28.
Through Godís work in us, also we ourselves become more and more holy. Paul admonishes us, saying that we are taught by Christ, that we "put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness", Eph. 4:24. So, there is work for a believer. He has to sanctify himself, forsake sin, deny own desires, and become a new man, a righteous man, a holy man. And this all through Godís grace.
Q36: What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification?
A: The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are, assurance of Godís love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end.
The justification, and the adoption, and the sanctification give benefits, as is well known, in the life after this life. But there are also benefits, flowing from justification, adoption and sanctification, which we receive in this life. Also in this life, the righteous believer receives many benefits. They are: the assurance of Godís love, the peace of our conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance in grace to the end.
A benefit is assurance of Godís love. When we were strangers of God, we did not know whether God loved us. One thing was there, that we could know, namely that God hates sin. We, being sinful, were objects of Godís hate. But after we were accepted as His sons, we were assured of His love and favour towards us.
A benefit is peace of our conscience. "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Rom. 5:1. Having peace with God is such a great benefit, that it cannot be written down. It must be experienced. Peace fills your inward parts. All former fear, enmity and rebellion have disappeared. Instead of that, the peace of God fills us through and through. "The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus", Philip. 4:7.
Another benefit is joy in the Holy Ghost. We "rejoice in hope of the glory of God", Rom. 5:2. Our greatest enjoyment lies in God. The world no longer can make us happy. Only God can. Whenever we hear of God, or see our brothers in faith, or hear of one converted to God, great joy fills us.
A fourth benefit is increase of grace. God, having once begun His work in us, gives us more and more grace. "The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." Prov. 4:18.
Yet another benefit is perseverance in grace to the end of our life. If we have received all these benefits, and if there is a possibility to lose all again, what will it avail us? When we have lost all, what avails us our former grace? But, through Godís grace, we are kept in the faith. One of the benefit is also the perseverance in grace unto the end of our life. God keeps us. Though we may for a time stray off, yet God will bring us again into the right path. Jesus said: "I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not", Luke 22:32. God will never lose anyone of His sheep, but He will bring them all to their final destination.
Q37: What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?
A: The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves till the resurrection.
The believers receive benefits from Christ, both during their life on earth, and at their death.
During their life, they were sanctified. The sanctification is a process, and is never perfect in this life. At death, however, their souls are made perfect at once. At death, their souls are made perfect in holiness. It is written that "ye are come unto ... the heavenly Jerusalem, ... and to the spirits of just men made perfect", Hebrews 12:22,23. So you see that the spirits of the deceased believers, or the just men as they are called in the text, are made perfect in heaven, while the living believers still are on earth.
Another benefit believers receive at their death is, that they immediately pass into glory with Christ. As Paul wrote in Philip. 1:23, "For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better". He says then that he, when he departs, will be with Christ. And since Christ is in heaven, also Paul and all believers, when they depart, will be there.
A third benefit believers receive at their death is, that their bodies are not lost, but are kept by God. Their bodies are, also in the grave, still united to Christ. Their bodies do rest in their graves, till the moment of the resurrection. It may be that their bodies will go into a state of decomposition, but that doesnít hinder that they are still united with Christ. As Job said, in faith, "And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God." Job 19:26. This man knew that, even when the worms had destroyed his body, he yet in his own flesh should see God. That was the hope which he had on God. The bodies of the dead believers are united with Christ, because it is written that they, when in the grave, sleep in Jesus. And if one sleeps in Jesus, that means that he is in Him, or in other words, he is united with Christ. "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." 1 Thess. 4:14. The wicked have no rest in their grave, but it is far different with the just. Of the just man, the prophet said: "The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come. He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness." Isaiah 57:1,2. Speaking of the departure of the righteous and the merciful men, he said that they rest in their beds, that is, in their graves. They rest, being united to Christ, till the day of the resurrection is there.
Q38: What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection?
A: At the resurrection, believers being raised up in glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgement, and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God to all eternity.
We read that the body is sown in dishonour, and is raised in glory. "So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body", 1 Cor. 15:42-44. At the resurrection then, the believers will be raised up, and set in glory with Christ.
When the day of judgement is there, they will be openly acknowledged and acquitted. As Jesus said, "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven." Matt. 10:32. Jesus will acknowledge him before His Father. Openly will be declared that this man is of Christ, and then he will be acquitted through God the Judge. "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words." 1 Thess. 4:16-18.