I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. John 17:9 NKJV
Question 59 of the Larger Catechism, asks, “Who are made partakers of redemption through Christ?” It gives the answer, “Redemption is certainly applied, and effectually communicated, to all those for whom Christ hath purchased it; who are in time by the Holy Ghost enabled to believe in Christ according to the gospel.” Last week we examined how the benefits Christ obtained for His people are applied to them. This week we consider who those people are.
There are a lot of ways Question 59 could be correctly answered. Who are the partakers of God’s redemption? We could say, everyone who believes in Him (John 3:16), or everyone who receives the gift of salvation (Rom. 5:17), or even all those who repent unto life (Act. 11:18). All of these answers are true but they imperfectly place the emphasis on the action of man. Even the way I paraphrased the question emphasizes man’s action. On the contrary, the Catechism begins and ends this question and answer with the emphasis entirely on God. When it comes to partaking of the grace of salvation, we must remember that we have been made partakers. While we were spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1), we did not take it upon ourselves to come to Christ and choose Him over sin. He came to us, chose us, and delivered us from our sin, especially our sin of unbelief. Thus, the Catechism declares that we were “enabled to believe in Christ.”
The Holy Spirit enables us to believe in Christ. In John 3 Jesus taught that in order for any man to enter, or even see the Kingdom of God, he must be born of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8). Furthermore, those who are converted and trust in God were not born into that faith by their own wills, but by His (John 1:12-13). The mind and will of unconverted man is hostile to God (Col. 1:21). It does not submit to God’s law (particularly His command to repent and believe in Jesus), neither indeed can it do so (Rom. 8:7). But when God sends His Holy Spirit into the heart of a sinner, that man humbles himself and calls Jesus “Lord” (1 Cor. 12:3), he calls God “Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15), and he is adopted by God’s Spirit into the family of God (Gal. 4:6).
Accordingly, the Catechism speaks with absolute certainty about those who are made partakers of this redemption. Redemption is not just applied, but certainly applied. It is not merely communicated, but effectually communicated. Salvation is a work of God, not a work of man. It is not even a work of mostly God and a little bit of man. Thus, the Bible clearly teaches that Jesus came, not to try to save all but to definitely save some. God does not try and fail, not even a little bit, not ever. Jesus came to save a particular group of people. They are sometimes called God’s sheep, God’s bride, God’s church, God’s elect. The Father gave all these people to the Son to save them, and He will most certainly do it. Jesus declared that “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37), and “This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day” (John 6:39).
They will certainly come because Jesus died for them. He laid down His life for the sheep (John 10:15). He purchased the church with His own blood (Acts 20:28). Christ’s death ensures that their unbelief will be taken away in God’s time so that they will come. Thus, Jesus declared even of the non-Jewish sheep, “I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice” (John 10:16). “I must bring them” and “they will listen”: redemption “certainly applied” and “effectually communicated.” If you are a believer today it is not because you in your sinful, God-hating flesh mustered up the faith to believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior. You are a believer because Jesus purchased your faith, and in His own time He sent the Holy Spirit into your heart to make you able and willing to believe: “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Eph. 2:4-5). Amen!