How sinners are saved

Below are questions from the Westminster Shorter Catechism with answers and supporting Scripture proofs. Explanatory notes follow.

Q: 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 us1, by his Holy Spirit2.

1 John 1:12John 1:12
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

12 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: power: or, the right, or, privilege  

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— As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name

2 Titus 3:5, 6Titus 3:5, 6
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; abundantly: Gr. richly  

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— Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; (v6) Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Q: 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 us1, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling2.

1 Ephesians 2:8Ephesians 2:8
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  

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— By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

2 Ephesians 3:17Ephesians 3:17
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,  

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— That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith, &c.

1Corinthians 1:9 — God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.


Having dealt with the issues of sin, the necessity of a Redeemer and Christ’s qualifications for that office, the next section of the catechism deals with the vital subject of the application of what Christ has done to individual sinners and the benefits that they receive by that application.

These two questions teach the following:

I  OUR REDEMPTION WAS PURCHASED BY CHRIST.

Christ was not only qualified to be the Redeemer of His people but He undertook that work under the terms of the covenant of mercy and completely discharged His covenant obligations. The Scripture presents us with an accomplished redemption, a work that is finished and done. The subject before us is the application of that already-finished work — not its completion of perfection.

Our redemption was purchased at the cost of His blood. Cp Hebrews 9:12Hebrews 9:12
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.  

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II  REDEMPTION IS APPLIED TO SINNERS BY THE HOLY SPIRIT.

The work of Christ is not benefited fRomans by means of self-application. In the whole scheme of redemption it is God that is at work, not man. When man becomes active it is only because of the work of God that has made him able to act and stirred him to do so.

In order to be saving the redemption purchased by Christ has to be applied to the sinner in such a way as to make it effectual — or to have it accomplish exactly what it was designed to do, i.e. save the sinner. None but God can work so as to effect all that is necessary for salvation. Cp John 1:12John 1:12
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

12 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: power: or, the right, or, privilege  

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Specifically, it is the Holy Spirit, the third Trinitarian Person, Who engages in this work. Cp Titus 3:5-6Titus 3:5-6
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; abundantly: Gr. richly  

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, 1 Corinthians 6:11, 11 Corinthians 6:11, 1
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. 6 1 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?  

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Peter 1:2, 22.

It is for this reason that those who sin against the Holy Ghost are utterly without hope of salvation, Matt 12:31-32Matt 12:31-32
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

31 Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. 32 And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.  

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III  THE APPLICATION OF REDEMPTION INVOLVES UNION WITH CHRIST.

Sinners only come to have a personal interest in the redemption that Christ has purchased through their union with Christ in their effectual calling. Cp I Cor 1:30, Romans 8:30Romans 8:30
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.  

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. By this call we are put into Christ and all that He is as the Redeemer is  made over to us. This union with Christ is such that we are made one with Him. Cp I Cor 6:17.

This union involves two things:

1. The direct work of the Spirit on the part of God by which He draws us to Himself and joins us to the Saviour. Cp John 6:44John 6:44
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.  

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2. The exercise of faith on our part. Cp John 6:35John 6:35
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.  

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, Ephesians 3:17Ephesians 3:17
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,  

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. While saving faith is exercised by us yet it is the gift of God and originates in Him. Cp Ephesians 2:8Ephesians 2:8
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  

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, Colossians 2:12Colossians 2:12
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.  

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Next topic: Effectual calling

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