In these articles, we’ve been going through an old list of questions and answers contained in the Westminster Larger Catechism, published in the 17th Century. Recently, we’ve been looking at the mediation Christ makes for his church and what that entails. We saw that part of Christ’s mediation involves the justification and adoption of God’s people. Last time, we saw that Christ’s mediation also brings sanctification, which is an act of God’s grace by the Holy Spirit to make us holy.
But what does the Spirit do to make us holy? One act of the Holy Spirit is to apply the death of Christ to God’s people.
Why does the Christian not live in sin any longer? Why does the Christian seek to be holy to the Lord instead? Because he is now dead to sin.
Paul in his letter to the church in Rome says: ’What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin–because anyone who has died has been freed from sin’ (Romans 6:1-7).
Paul teaches us that the Christian has been set free from sin – he is now holy to the Lord. And it is all because of the death of Christ. When Jesus died on the cross, Christians died too. By an act of God’s free grace, the Holy Spirit applied Christ’s death to all Christians so that they are washed from sin.
Paul uses an illustration in the next chapter of Romans to make the point clear: ‘Do you not know, brothers–for I am speaking to men who know the law–that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives? For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man. So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God’ (Romans 7:1-4).
The law of God demands that sinners be punished with death: ‘For the wages of sin is death’ (Romans 6:23). But if the death that the law demands has taken place, then the person is free to go. The person is now sanctified – pure in the eyes of God. And that is what the Spirit has brought about using the death of Christ.
So how can you make sure you are sanctified? Trust that Jesus died for you and that you died with him. If you do that, it demonstrates that you have been sanctified by the Holy Spirit.