|Sec16: The Means Of GracePDF Print VersionQ71. What are the outward and ordinary means whereby the Holy Spirit communicates to us the benefits of redemption?A71. The outward and ordinary means whereby the Holy Spirit communicates to us the benefits of Christ's redemption are the word1, 2, by which souls are saved and edified; together with baptism, the Lord's supper, and prayer, by which believers are further edified in their faith3.Notes: We have added “and ordinary” to the question for completeness. We have modelled the answer after Spurgeon’s, leaving out meditation since it is related to the use of the word, replacing “souls are begotten to spiritual life” with “souls are saved and edified”, and replacing “most holy faith” with “faith”, although the former expression is found in Jude 20.
1. James 1:18, Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.
2. Matt. 4:4, But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”
3. Acts 2:41-42, Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
Comments:1. When a person truly repents of his sin and believes in Jesus Christ, his salvation is complete and secure. His salvation is complete in the sense that he lacks nothing, in Christ (Col. 2:10), although his faith is imperfect and his spiritual life is growing and being sanctified. Furthermore, his salvation is as secure on earth as if he is already in heaven (Rom. 8:38-39). From another point of view, it can be said that his salvation is not yet complete, or fully accomplished. There is the past, present, and future aspects to his salvation. He has been saved through faith in Christ, he is being saved while in this life (Phil. 2:12-13), and he will be saved when Christ returns to judge the world (1 Pet. 1:5). God uses means to sustain the faith of His people so that they are preserved to the end. These are “the means of grace”. 2. We have learned in Q29 that the Holy Spirit applies to God’s elect the redemption purchased by Christ by working repentance and faith in them, and by uniting them to Christ in their effectual calling. The agent who applies the redemption to God’s elect is the Holy Spirit. The manner by which He applies the redemption is by working repentance and faith, and so uniting them to Christ. But what are the means used? The means used by the Holy Spirit are three: (i) the word; (ii) the special ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s supper; and (iii) prayer. These are all “ordinances”, or things which God has ordained. They are all outward means in that they are visible and involve the effort of believers. They are ordinary means, unlike tongue-speaking, healing and miracles, which are extraordinary workings of the Holy Spirit that have been withdrawn by God with the passing away of the apostles and the completion of Scripture.
Q72. How is the word made effectual to salvation?A72. The Spirit of God makes the reading1, 2, but especially the preaching of the word3,4, an effectual means of convicting and converting sinners5, 6, and of building them up in holiness and comfort7, 8, through faith to salvation9, 10.
Notes: We have followed Spurgeon in using the word “convicting” instead of “convincing”, in the answer. The Scripture references have been changed. We have left out the next question of the original catechism, “How is the word to be read and heard that it may become effectual to salvation?”.
1. Neh. 8:8, So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.
2. 1 Tim. 4:13, 16, Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.
3. 1 Cor. 1:21, For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.
4. Rom. 10:17, So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
5. Psalm 19:7, The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
6. 1 Cor. 14:24-25, But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you.
7. Acts 20:32, So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
8. Rom. 15:4, For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
9. Matt. 4:4, But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”
10. Eph. 5:26, That He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word.
Comments:1. The Spirit may use the reading the word of God alone to save, but His usual method is to use the hearing of the preached word (Rom. 10:17; Acts 8:30-35). Preachers must engage the hearers (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 17:16-17). The distribution of tracts, books, and even recorded messages are useful aids in outreach, but God desires to honour the meeting of souls (cf. Matt. 18:20).
2. Just as salvation comes mainly by hearing the preached word, so also the faith of saved souls need to be sustained and preserved by the hearing of the preached word (Matt. 4:4; Eph. 5:26). Believers should be integrated into the life of the local church, and meet regularly with other believers around God’s word (Acts 2:42, 46-47; Heb. 10:24-25). The word needs to be heard, understood, obeyed, and meditated upon to benefit the believer. Meditation is a neglected spiritual discipline among Christians (cf. Josh. 1:8; Psalms 1:2; 63:6; Phil. 4:8). The word of God is used by the Spirit to minister strength and comfort in times of trial and crisis (Acts 20:32; Rom. 15:4).
Q73. How do baptism and the Lord's supper become spiritually helpful?A73. Baptism and the Lord's supper become spiritually helpful, not from any virtue in them, or in him who administers them1, but only by the blessing of Christ2,3, and the working of the Spirit in those who by faith receive them4.
1. 1 Cor. 3:6-7, I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.
2. 1 Pet. 3:21, There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
3. 1 Cor. 11:29, For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
4. 1 Cor. 12:13, For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.
Comments:1. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that sacraments are “efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us” (RC Catechism). It is claimed that there are seven sacraments, viz. baptism, confirmation, penance, matrimony, the mass, ordination, and extreme unction. The churches of the Reformation claim only two, namely baptism and the Lord’s supper. Most Baptists have difficulty retaining the name of “sacraments” and prefer instead the word “ordinances”, i.e. those things ordained by God. To distinguish baptism and the Lord’s supper from other ordinances like the word of God and prayer, Keach’s Catechism called the them “holy ordinances”. For our purpose, we will refer to baptism and the Lord’s supper as “special ordinances”. They are special in that: (i) the Lord specifically commanded them; (ii) they are to be kept to the end of the age; (iii) they are signs of inward spiritual realities (Matt. 28:18-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-26; Rom. 6:3-6; 1 Cor. 10:17).
2. Baptism and the Lord’s supper are the special ordinances of the local church. Only a covenanted community of God’s people carry out these ordinances. Since they are enacted proclamations of the gospel, recognized preachers or those delegated by them may administer these ordinances (John 4:2). Since they are signs of spiritual realities, any deficiency in carrying out these signs will not affect the realities they represent (1 Cor. 1:14-17). Judas turned out to be an apostate, but that did not nullify the baptism he carried out on behalf of the Lord. However, believers would want to ensure that these ordinances are carried out scripturally. For baptism to be valid, it must have been carried out: (i) by a true church; (ii) by a person authorized by the church; (iii) on a person who is a believer; (iv) in the names of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; (iv) by complete immersion. For the Lord’s supper to be valid, (i) it must be carried out: (i) by a true church; (ii) by a person authorized by the church; (iii) for those who are believers; (iv) for those who are not under discipline in any church.Q74. How does prayer become spiritually helpful?A74. Prayer becomes spiritually helpful, not from any virtue in it, or in him who engages in it1, 2, but only by the blessing of Christ3, and the working of the Spirit in the one who prays4, 5.
Notes: This question has been added for completeness, the answer of which is couched in the same form as that of the previous question.
1. Matt. 6:5, 7, And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.
2. Dan. 9:18, O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name; for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies.
3. John 14:13-14, And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.
4. Acts 4:31; And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.
5. Acts 9:11, So the Lord said to him, “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying.
Comments:1. Prayer is an indication of spiritual life, just as breathing is an indication of physical life (Rom. 8:14-15). The Lord taught His disciples to pray. There are many examples of prayer in the Bible. It is taken for granted in the Bible that all believers will pray. The mere act of prayer does not impart spiritual good to the person. The Pharisees uttered prayers but were not approved by the Lord (Matt. 6:5). Daniel understood that it is not due to his own righteousness that God hears his prayer (Dan. 9:18). For there to be spiritual good, the Lord must bless, by the working of the Spirit, those who pray.
2. Prayer is to be carried out individually (Mark 1:35; 6:46) as well as corporately (Acts 4:31). When appropriate, it may be accompanied by fasting. Just as meditation is a neglected spiritual discipline, so also fasting among Christians. Fasting is to be done in conjunction with prayer, while prayer may be carried out without fasting. The Lord expects His disciples to engage in voluntary fasting (Matt. 6:16 cf. 5; Mark 9:29; Acts 10:4, 30; 9-10). The blessedness of walking in close communion with the Lord should be sought by all God’s people - in prayer, and in attending to the other means of grace.
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