You Can't Get to Heaven Yourself
How "Try-Harder" is the Devil's Message
Welcome to another installment of our weekly look at the Westminster Larger Catechism. It’s a blessing to get into more and more about what our Savior has accomplished for us and given to us in His grace. Today’s Q/A’s will be Q.’s 57-59. Whenever we talk about something like “mediation” it’s helpful to remember the roles each of us play in the drama of salvation. We sin, alienate ourselves from the Lord of glory, He in His sovereign decree from before the foundation of the world, and before our fall in history, has made a pact within the Godhead that the Second Person should be born of a virgin, lay down His life, be raised up on the third day, and ascend to the Heavenly places in all magnificence. The Trinitarian nature of all this is especially seen in the application of the righteousness purchased by Christ through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in effectual calling and all the benefits which proceed from it. This next section of the catechism will begin to explain what this means for our advantage. Here’s the questions:
Q. 57: What benefits has Christ procured by his mediation?
A. Christ, by his mediation, has procured redemption, with all other benefits of the covenant of grace.
Q. 58: How do we come to be made partakers of the benefits which Christ hath procured?
A. We are made partakers of the benefits which Christ hath procured, by the application of them unto us, which is the work especially of God the Holy Ghost.
Q. 59: Who are made partakers of redemption through Christ?
A. Redemption is certainly applied, and effectually communicated, to all those for whom Christ has purchased it; who are in time by the Holy Ghost enabled to believe in Christ according to the gospel.
The Book of Hebrews in chapters 4-10 is largely concerned with explaining the priesthood of Jesus and why it is superior to the old covenant mediation of Aaron and his descendants. In the midst of that we hear also why the new temple made without hands is to be preferred to the physical house situated in Jerusalem. It’s not that the pre-Bethlehem way was wrong, or bad in any way, it’s just that it’s not needed anymore that the great high priest of the order of Melchizedek has arrived. That being the case when we as believers consider Christ’s mediation we must do so with the understanding that this has been enabled because of the covenant promise given first in the divine counsel, and then presented to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and ultimately the world. It’s of the future blessing that the prophet Isaiah speaks when he says:
In an acceptable time I have heard You, and in the day of salvation I have helped You; I will preserve You and give You as a covenant to the people, to restore the earth, to cause them to inherit the desolate heritages; That You may say to the prisoners, ‘Go forth,’ To those who are in darkness, ‘Show yourselves.’ “They shall feed along the roads, and their pastures shall be on all desolate heights. They shall neither hunger nor thirst, neither heat nor sun shall strike them; for He who has mercy on them will lead them, even by the springs of water He will guide them.
The words here testify to the work the Messiah will do for His people. He is our covenant. The Apostle Paul picks up on this when he quotes a portion of these verses in 2 Corinthians 6:2, which reads, “For He says: ‘In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
So when we ponder the catechism questions for today we do so in the context of who we are by virtue of our spiritual union with the risen Christ. All that we have, all that we experience in the Christian life is based not upon a future reality, but a now existence in the realm of the holiness and mercy of God founded in Jesus. That is one of the reasons why when we are encouraged to stand strong in the face of the sinfulness of the world around us, even that which we bring upon ourselves in light of our own weakness, the solution is always to look back and be reminded of why we are not crushed, despite being hard-pressed on every side. It is in the perfect work of Christ imputed to us by faith alone, gifted and granted to us in the gospel labors of our Savior and made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ through the Holy Spirit’s inward activity in the soul of man.
As the last question makes clear, the mission of the Church is to proclaim the truth of the good news to all creatures under Heaven, as Mark 16:15 reveals. The goal of God’s people is to share, not hide under a bushel, the great mercies of the Lord won by the sacrifice of the Lamb. We have the assurance of the covenant promise, as we read above in Isaiah, that the prisoners to sin and misery, the blind and dumb, all under the darkness of bondage are brought into sight, because of the love of Jesus Christ for sinners, of all tribes, tongues, and nations. Man’s problem is that he is dead, not broken, not missing the mark, but wholly without hope in himself. He doesn’t need to “do better” or “work harder”, he needs to stop and throw down his life at the foot of the cross of the Lord and plead forgiveness and mercy to only one able to provide it. That’s the comfort brought forward by the catechism questions today. They are a wonderful blessed expression of why believers are content, ready and able, to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
It is because of Christ. He is our bulwark that never fails. Rest in Him. Find peace in Him.
Here’s a word of testimony:
Blessings in Grace,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church
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