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You Didn't Realize

26 September 2012 by Tom Chantry

Q. 69. What is the communion in grace which the members of the invisible church have with Christ?
A. The communion in grace which the members of the invisible church have with Christ, is their partaking of the virtue of his mediation, in their justification, adoption, sanctification, and whatever else, in this life, manifests their union with him.

“Love,” I once argued in all of my Reformed wisdom pomposity, “has nothing to do with emotion; it is entirely a matter of action.” We exist in a vapid culture in which love is imagined to be nothing but emotion. We toil to overcome that prejudice, but in so doing we can lose something valuable. Is Christian love really so cold?

We can only answer by considering the love of God for us, for “this is love…” What is His love for us? Or, to ask a few other ways, what “communion of grace” does Christ have with His church? What is the “virtue of His mediation” for them? What “manifests their union with Him”?

Imagine a friendless, orphaned juvenile offender standing before a judge. At the pleading of his advocate, the judge communicates to him three decisions. First, he declares him innocent, and more than that, declares him good in the eyes of the court. Further, he assigns him a mentor who will ensure that he becomes a law-abiding citizen in fact, and not only in the eyes of the law. At this point the young criminal ought to be very grateful to both the judge and his lawyer, because two great things have been done for him. But it all might be very clinical - merely the mechanical workings of the justice system.

On the other hand, imagine that the judge also says the following: “Young man, you didn’t realize, but your lawyer is also my son. At home he petitioned me even further on your behalf and - in addition to clearing your record and assigning you the mentor, I’m also filing a petition of adoption in family court. I’m going to be your father, your advocate is going to be your older brother, and the first job your mentor is going to do will be to teach you to think of us that way.

Different picture, isn’t it? Now the heart of the young man may soar; he is not merely left on his own with a clear record and a chance to be a better person - rather he is already embraced into a family such as he could never have hoped for. And this is exactly what Christ’s mediation has done for you, Christian. “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.” (Romans 8:16-17)

We would never make light of justification and sanctification; they are blessings of infinite value. But do not ignore the forgotten grace - adoption - which the Westminster Divines always sandwiched between the other two. It is the Spirit of Adoption who adds warmth to your fellowship with God, teaching you to cry out, “Abba! Father!”