Justification, Sanctification and the various benefits of salvation
Q56: What believest thou concerning "the forgiveness of sins"?
A: That God, for the sake of Christ's satisfaction, will no more remember my sins, neither my corrupt nature, against which I have to struggle all my life long; but will graciously impute to me the righteousness of Christ, that I may never be condemned before the tribunal of God.
Q60: How are thou righteous before God?
A: Only by a true faith in Jesus Christ; so that, though my conscience accuse me, that I have grossly transgressed all the commandments of God, and kept none of them, and am still inclined to all evil; notwithstanding, God, without any merit of mine, but only of mere grace, grants and imputes to me, the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ; even so, as if I never had had, nor committed any sin: yea, as if I had fully accomplished all that obedience which Christ has accomplished for me; inasmuch as I embrace such benefit with a believing heart.
Q61: Why sayest thou, that thou art righteous by faith only?
A: Not that I am acceptable to God, on account of the worthiness of my faith; but because only the satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, is my righteousness before God; and that I cannot receive and apply the same to myself any other way than by faith only.
Q62: But why cannot our good works be the whole, or part of our righteousness before God?
A: Because, that the righteousness, which can be approved of before the tribunal of God, must be absolutely perfect, and in all respects conformable to the divine law; and also, that our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin.
Q63: What! do not our good works merit, which yet God will reward in this and in a future life?
A: This reward is not of merit, but of grace.
Q64: But does not this doctrine make men careless and profane?
A: By no means: for it is impossible that those, who are implanted into Christ by a true faith, should not bring forth fruits of thankfulness.
Q65: Since then we are made partakers of Christ and all his benefits by faith only, whence does this faith proceed?
A: From the Holy Ghost, who works faith in our hearts by the preaching of the gospel, and confirms it by the use of the sacraments.
Q86: Since then we are delivered from our misery, merely of grace, through Christ, without any merit of ours, why must we still do good works?
A: Because Christ, having redeemed and delivered us by his blood, also renews us by his Holy Spirit, after his own image; that so we may testify, by the whole of our conduct, our gratitude to God for his blessings, and that he may be praised by us; also, that every one may be assured in himself of his faith, by the fruits thereof; and that, by our godly conversation others may be gained to Christ.
Q87: Cannot they then be saved, who, continuing in their wicked and ungrateful lives, are not converted to God?
A: By no means; for the holy scripture declares that no unchaste person, idolater, adulterer, thief, covetous man, drunkard, slanderer, robber, or any such like, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
Q88: Of how many parts does the true conversion of man consist?
A: Of two parts; of the mortification of the old, and the quickening of the new man.
Q89: What is the mortification of the old man?
A: It is a sincere sorrow of heart, that we have provoked God by our sins; and more and more to hate and flee from them.
Q90: What is the quickening of the new man?
A: It is a sincere joy of heart in God, through Christ, and with love and delight to live according to the will of God in all good works.
Q91: But what are good works?
A: Only those which proceed from a true faith, are performed according to the law of God, and to his glory; and not such as are founded on our imaginations, or the institutions of men.
Westminster Shorter Catechism:
Q29: 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.
Q30: How doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?
A: The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling.
Q31: What is effectual calling?
A: Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.
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.
Q33: What is justification?
A: Justification is an act of God’s 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.
Q34: What is adoption?
A: Adoption is an act of God’s free grace,a whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges, of the sons of God.
Q35: What is sanctification?
A: 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 unto sin, and live unto righteousness.
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 God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end.
Q39: What is the duty which God requireth of man?
A: The duty which God requireth of man, is obedience to his revealed will.
Q40: What did God at first reveal to man for the rule of his obedience?
A: The rule which God at first revealed to man for his obedience, was the moral law.
Q41: Wherein is the moral law summarily comprehended?
A: The moral law is summarily comprehended in the ten commandments.
Q42: What is the sum of the ten commandments?
A: The sum of the ten commandments is, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind; and our neighbor as ourselves.
New City Catechism:
Q32: What do justification and sanctification mean?
A: Justification means our declared righteousness before God, made possible by Christ’s death and resurrection for us. Sanctification means our gradual, growing righteousness, made possible by the Spirit’s work in us.
Q33: Should those who have faith in Christ seek their salvation through their own works, or anywhere else?
A: No, they should not, as everything necessary to salvation is found in Christ. To seek salvation through good works is a denial that Christ is the only Redeemer and Savior.
Q34: Since we are redeemed by grace alone, through Christ alone, must we still do good works and obey God’s Word?
A: Yes, because Christ, having redeemed us by his blood, also renews us by his Spirit; so that our lives may show love and gratitude to God; so that we may be assured of our faith by the fruits; and so that by our godly behavior others may be won to Christ.
Q35: Since we are redeemed by grace alone, through faith alone, where does this faith come from?
A: All the gifts we receive from Christ we receive through the Holy Spirit, including faith itself.
As we progress into soteriology proper, we deal with the issues of how exactly a person is made right with God. The focus deals with the relation of faith and good works to salvation, of justification and sanctification. How exactly does the New City Catechism fare here?
It can be seen that the NCC here is orthodox, and its questions and answers are true. It correctly distinguishes justification and sanctification, and speaks of good works as a necessary fruit of our salvation. However, there are a few points of concern with the NCC.
The first concern is that the NCC does not properly define what good works are. As mentioned earlier, by placing the Ten Commandments at the beginning, the NCC seems to focus predominantly on the first use of the Law. Therefore, when the idea of good works comes up, the NCC deals with the why but not the what, reducing good works to 'godly behavior' which is done out of love and gratitude towards God. While all that is true, that does not tell us what good works actually are. The Reformed catechisms on the other hand direct us to the Law of God as the summary of the good we ought to do, and thus there is an emphasis on the third use of the Law as well as the first use in the Reformed catechisms.
The second point of concern has to deal with the atomistic manner that the NCC deals with the topics. The questions become almost academic, as they give textbook-correct answers of what justification and what sanctification are. The NCC however fails to explain how the various applications of redemption (and they did not even use that language) relate to each other. What is the pastoral import of justification, and of sanctification? The NCC does not say. Why do we need to know the difference between justification and sanctification? Compare the short answer in the NCC with the sentences in the Reformed catechisms, where there is shown what justification and sanctification mean specifically for believers. Along these lines of course we could mention the omission of effectual calling as the logical link between Christ's work accomplished and redemption applied to believers. In fact, there is a lack of the mention of Christ's work in the questions of the NCC, which is a real problem. With the doctrines disconnected from each other, why is justification as a one-time act important? One cannot see why knowing the distinction between justification and sanctification is necessary from the NCC as it is.
The third point of concern, which has been mentioned in the previous analysis section, is that there seems to be a divorce of salvation from the means of grace. HC 65 speaks about the confirmation of faith by the use of the sacraments, while we have seen earlier WSC85 connects salvation with the use of the means of grace. Salvation it seems become exclusively internal without any link to the church, which is regrettable.