Sermon 1. The general Nature of effectual Application stated 1 Cor. 1: 30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
(The NASB 1995 translates it: But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us bwisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption ….)
John Flavel begins his discourse by drawing out the Calvin’s proposition that nothing of Christ can benefit us unless and until the Holy Spirit makes an effective application of Christ to us:
And the first thing to be attended to is, that so long as we are without Christ and separated from him, nothing which he suffered and did for the salvation of the human race is of the least benefit to us. To communicate to us the blessings which he received from the Father, he must become ours and dwell in us.
Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 3, chapter 1. Flavel makes the same point, albeit in the language of a preacher rather than a systematic theologian (yes, Calvin was a great preacher; but, the Insitutes are not a sermon):
For never was any wound healed by a prepared,
but unapplied plaister.
Never any body warmed by the most costly garment made,
but not put on:
Never any heart refreshed and comforted by the richest cordial compounded,
but not received:
Nor from the beginning of the world was it ever known, that a poor deceived, condemned, polluted, miserable sinner, was actually delivered out of that woeful state,
until of God,
Christ was made unto him,
and redemption. (2 Flavel 15).
Observe the doctrine: We must realize that of Christ can save us, unless and until the Holy Spirit apply Christ to us. In fact, if Christ is merely outside of us, his life, death, resurrection and ascension not only do not save us, but actually testify against us and become the basis for judgment. John 3:
18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.
Therefore, Christ must be applied to us or we will not share in his glory and resurrection. To merely know about Jesus but not to know Jesus will be of no good (Matthew 7:21-23).
Christ’s life is like a medicine which will surely cure all disease — and, like a medicine, it can do no good unless and until it is made part of of one’s life. Such knowledge should provoke us to gain an interest in the life of Christ.
While Flavel takes his point from Calvin, the point is well grounded in Scripture. We see this doctrine underlie the argument of 1 Peter 1. Peter begins by setting forth all the beauty and benefit of Christ granted by the Father. He then stops to explain such benefit has been obtained by the work of the Spirit using the Scripture preached (1 Peter 1:10-12).
Thus, the salvation of human beings takes place by manifest operation of the Trinity, working in love to rescue sinners for the glory of God.