“Atonement is at the top” by Herman Bavinck

“The benefits Christ obtained for us through His perfect obedience are so rich that they seem almost impossible to enumerate and are never fully appreciated.

They include no less than the whole and complete work of salvation; they consist in redemption from the greatest evil– sin– with all its consequences of misery and death, and include the gift of the highest good– communion with God and all His blessings.

Among all these benefits, atonement is at the top. This is expressed in the New Testament by two words, which unfortunately have been translated as the same word in our translation.

The one word (or rather different words but from the same stem) appears in Romans 3:25, Hebrews 2:17, 1 John 2:2 and 4:10: it is the (147] translation of a Hebrew word that originally means “to cover” and then indicates the propitiation (verzoening) brought about by the sacrifice to God.

Just like now, in the Old Testament worship the sacrificial blood was an actual means for atoning for (Lev. 11:17; Heb. 9:12) the sin (guilt, impurity) of the sacrificer before God, and so deprived sin of its power to provoke God to anger.

Likewise in the New Testament, Christ is the high priest who through His sacrificial blood, through His perfect obedience unto death, covers our sins before God, turns away His wrath, and makes us partakers of His grace and favor.

He is the means of propitiation (Rom. 3:25), the atonement (de verzoening) (1 John 2:2; 4:10), the high priest, who is working with God to atone for the sins of the people.

Distinct from this objective atonement (verzoening), which Christ has brought about on our behalf before God, is now another kind [of atonement], which in the New Testament is indicated by a second, specific word.

This word appears in Romans 5:10-11 and 2 Corinthians 5:18-20; it originally has the meaning of reversal, exchanging, reckoning, settling, and denoting– in the places where it occurs– that new, gracious disposition God has toward the world on the basis of the sacrifice made by Christ.

As Christ covers our sin by His death and has averted God’s wrath, God sets Himself in another reconciled relationship to the world and says this to us in his gospel, which is thus called the word of reconciliation (verzoening).

This reconciliation (verzoening) is also an object; it is not something that comes about first through our faith and our conversion, but it rests on the atonement (satisfaction) that Christ has already made, consists of the reconciled, merciful relationship of God to us, and is received and accepted by us in faith (Rom. 5:11).

Since God has cast off His hostile [148] disposition on the basis of the death of Christ, we are exhorted to also put off our enmity and to be reconciled to God and to enter into the new, reconciled relationship God Himself sets before us.

Everything is finished; there is nothing left for us to do.

We may rest with all our soul and for all of time in the perfect work of redemption that Christ has accomplished; we may accept by faith that God has renounced His wrath and we have been reconciled (verzoend) in Christ to God, and that He is God and Father to guilty and unholy sinners.

Whoever wholeheartedly believes this gospel of reconciliation immediately receives all the other benefits acquired by Christ. For in the relationship of peace in which God places Himself to the world in Christ, all other goods of the covenant of grace are contained.

Christ is one and cannot be divided nor accepted in part; the chain of salvation is unbreakable.

‘Those whom God has predestined, these He has called, and those whom He called, these He has also justified, and those whom He has justified, these He has also glorified (Rom. 8:30).

Thus all who are reconciled to God through the death of His Son receive the forgiveness of sins, adoption as His children, peace with God, the right to eternal life, and the heavenly inheritance (Rom. 5:1; 8:17; Gal. 4:5).

They are in union with Christ, having been crucified with Him, buried, and raised, seated in heaven, and are increasingly conformed to His image (Rom. 6:3; 8:29; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 4:22-24).

They receive the Holy Spirit who renews them, guides them into the truth, testifies of their sonship, and seals them until the day of redemption (John 3:6; 16:13; Rom. 8:15; 1 Cor. 6:11; Eph. 4:30).

In this fellowship of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, believers are free from the [149] law (Rom. 7:1; Gal. 2:19; 3:13, 25; 4:5; 5:1), and they are exalted above all power of the world and death, hell and Satan (John 16:33; Rom. 8:38; 1 Cor. 15:55; 1 John 3:8; Rev. 12:10).

God is for them, so who then will be against them (Rom. 8:31)?”

–Herman Bavinck, Guidebook for Instruction in the Christian Religion, translated and edited by Gregory Parker Jr. and Cameron Clausing (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Academic, 2022), 123-124.

“Ravished with wonder” by John Calvin

“David shows how it is that the heavens proclaim to us the glory of God, namely, by openly bearing testimony that they have not been put together by chance, but were wonderfully created by the supreme Architect.

When we behold the heavens, we cannot but be elevated, by the contemplation of them, to Him who is their great Creator; and the beautiful arrangement and wonderful variety which distinguish the courses and station of the heavenly bodies, together with the beauty and splendour which are manifest in them, cannot but furnish us with an evident proof of His providence.

Scripture, indeed, makes known to us the time and manner of the creation; but the heavens themselves, although God should say nothing on the subject, proclaim loudly and distinctly enough that they have been fashioned by His hands: and this of itself abundantly suffices to bear testimony to men of His glory.

As soon as we acknowledge God to be the supreme Architect, who has erected the beauteous fabric of the universe, our minds must necessarily be ravished with wonder at His infinite goodness, wisdom, and power.”

–John Calvin, Commentary on the Book of Psalms, trans. James Anderson (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1845; repr. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 1: 309. Calvin is commenting on Psalm 19:1.

“Having this gift we have God the Father’s boundless love” by J.C. Ryle

If ye being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him.” (Luke 11:13)

There are few promises in the Bible so broad and unqualified as those contained in this wonderful passage. The last in particular deserves especial notice.

The Holy Spirit is beyond doubt the greatest gift which God can bestow upon man.

Having this gift, we have all things, life, light, hope and heaven.

Having this gift we have God the Father’s boundless love, God the Son’s atoning blood, and full communion with all three Persons of the blessed Trinity.

Having this gift, we have grace and peace in the world that now is, glory and honor in the world to come.

And yet this mighty gift is held out by our Lord Jesus Christ as a gift to be obtained by prayer!

“Your heavenly Father shall give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him.”

There are few passages in the Bible which so completely strip the unconverted man of his common excuses as this passage.

He says he is “weak and helpless.” But does he ask to be made strong?

—He says he is “wicked and corrupt.” But does he seek to be made better?

—He says he “can do nothing of himself.” But does he knock at the door of mercy, and pray for the grace of the Holy Spirit?

—These are questions to which many, it may be feared, can make no answer. They are what they are, because they have no real desire to be changed.

They have not, because they ask not. They will not come to Christ, that they may have life; and therefore they remain dead in trespasses and sins.

And now, as we leave the passage, let us ask ourselves whether we know anything of real prayer?

Do we pray at all?

—Do we pray in the name of Jesus, and as needy sinners?

—Do we know what it is to “ask,” and “seek,” and “knock,” and wrestle in prayer, like men who feel that it is a matter of life or death, and that they must have an answer?

—Or are we content with saying over some old form of words, while our thoughts are wandering, and our hearts far away?

Truly we have learned a great lesson when we have learned that “saying prayers” is not praying!

If we do pray, let it be a settled rule with us, never to leave off the habit of praying, and never to shorten our prayers. A man’s state before God may always be measured by his prayers.

Whenever we begin to feel careless about our private prayers, we may depend upon it, there is something very wrong in the condition of our souls.

There are breakers ahead. We are in imminent danger of a shipwreck.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke, Vol. 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 2: 9-10. Ryle is commenting on Luke 11:5-13.

“Pure good” by Thomas Brooks

Remedy (7). The seventh remedy against this device of Satan is, wisely to consider, That as there is nothing in Christ to discourage the greatest sinners from believing in Him, so there is everything in Christ that may encourage the greatest sinners to believe on Him, to rest and lean upon Him for all happiness and blessedness, (Cant. 1:3).

If you look upon His nature, His disposition, His names, His titles, His offices as king, priest, and prophet, you will find nothing to discourage the greatest sinners from believing in Him, but many things to encourage the greatest sinners to receive Him, to believe on Him.

Christ is the greatest good, the choicest good, the chiefest good, the most suitable good, the most necessary good. He is a pure good, a real good, a total good, an eternal good, and a soul-satisfying good, (Rev. 3:17-18).

Sinners, are you poor? Christ hath gold to enrich you.

Are you naked? Christ hath royal robes, He hath white raiment to clothe you.

Are you blind? Christ hath eye-salve to enlighten you.

Are you hungry? Christ will be manna to feed you.

Are you thirsty? He will be a well of living water to refresh you.

Are you wounded? He hath a balm under His wings to heal you.

Are you sick? He is a physician to cure you.

Are you prisoners? He hath laid down a ransom for you.

Ah, sinners! Tell me, tell me, is there anything in Christ to keep you off from believing? No.

Is there not everything in Christ that may encourage you to believe in Him? Yes.

Oh, then, believe in Him, and then, ‘Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool,’ (Isa. 1:18).

Nay, then, your iniquities shall be forgotten as well as forgiven, they shall be remembered no more. God will cast them behind His back, He will throw them into the bottom of the sea, (Isa. 43:25, 38:17, Micah 7:19).”

–Thomas Brooks, “Precious Remedies,” in The Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 1, Ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1666/2001), 1: 143-144.

“This is the mystery of the Divine love” by Herman Bavinck

“The sacrifice of Christ is related to our sins.

Already in the Old Testament we read that Abraham offered a burnt offering in the place of his son (Gen. 22:13), that by the laying on of hands the Israelite caused a sacrificial animal to take his place (Lev. 16:1), and that the servant of the Lord was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities (Isa. 53:5).

In the same way the New Testament establishes a very close connection between the sacrifice of Christ and our sins. The Son of man came into the world to give His life a ransom for many (Matt. 20:27 and 1 Tim. 2:6).

He was delivered up for, or for the sake of, our sins (Rom. 4:25), He died in relationship to our sins, or, as it is usually put, on behalf of our sins.

The communion into which Christ, according to the Scriptures, has entered with us is so intimate and deep that we cannot form an idea or picture of it. The term substitutionary suffering expresses in only a weak and defective way what it means.

The whole reality far transcends our imagination and our thought. A few analogies can be drawn of this communion, it is true, which can convince us of its possibility.

We know of parents who suffer in and with their children, of heroes who give themselves up for their country, of noble men and women who sow what others after them will reap.

Everywhere we see the law in operation that a few work, struggle, and fight in order that others get the fruit of their labor and enjoy its benefits.

The death of one man is another man’s livelihood. The kernel of grain must die if it is to bear fruit. In pain the mother gives birth to her child.

But all of these are but so many comparisons, and they cannot be equated with the fellowship into which Christ entered with us.

For scarcely for a righteous man will one die, though one might conceivably die for a good man. But God commends His love towards us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:7-8).

There really was no fellowship between us and Christ, but only separation and opposition. For He was the only-begotten and beloved Son of the Father, and we were all like the lost son.

He was just and holy and without any sin, and we were sinners, guilty before the face of God, and unclean from head to foot.

Nevertheless, Christ put Himself into fellowship with us, not merely in a physical (natural) sense, by putting on our nature, our flesh and blood, but also in a juridical (legal) sense, and in an ethical (moral) sense, by entering into the fellowship with our sin and death.

He stands in our place; He puts Himself into that relationship to the law of God in which we stood; He takes our guilt, our sickness, our grief, our punishment upon Himself; He who knew no sin was made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21).

He becomes a curse for us in order that He should redeem us from the curse of the law (Gal. 3:13).

He died for all in order that they who live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again (2 Cor. 5:15).

This is the mystery of salvation, the mystery of the Divine love.

We do not understand the substitutionary suffering of Christ, because we, being haters of God and of each other, cannot come anywhere near calculating what love enables one to do, and what eternal, infinite, Divine love can achieve.

But we do not have to understand this mystery either. We need only believe it gratefully, rest in it, and glory and rejoice in it.

He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep had gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way. And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isa. 53:5-6).

What shall we say of these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

He spared not His own Son hut delivered Him up for us all. How shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifies.

Who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died, yes, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God and who also makes intercession for us (Rom. 8:31–34).”

–Herman Bavinck, The Wonderful Works of God (trans. Henry Zylstra; Glenside, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 1956/2019), 336-337.

“Everyone is a legalist at heart” by Sinclair Ferguson

“It cannot be too strongly emphasized that everyone is a legalist at heart.

Indeed, if anything, that is the more evident in antinomians.”

–Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 86.

“There’s cleansing in His blood” by John Calvin

“When we see salvation whole— its every single part
is found in Christ,
we must beware lest we derive the smallest drop
from somewhere else.

If we seek salvation,
the very name of Jesus
teaches us
that He possesses it.

If other Spirit-given gifts are sought— in His anointing they are found;
strength— in His reign; and purity— in His conception;
tenderness— expressed in His nativity,
in which He was made like us in all respects, that He might feel our pain:

Redemption when we seek it, is in His passion found;
acquittal— in His condemnation lies;
and freedom from the curse— in His cross is known.
If satisfaction for our sins we seek— we’ll find it in His sacrifice.

There’s cleansing in His blood.
And if it’s reconciliation that we need, for it He entered Hades;
if mortification of our flesh— then in His tomb it’s laid.
And newness of our life— His resurrection brings and immortality as well come also with that gift.

And if we long to find that heaven’s kingdom’s our inheritance,
His entry there secures it now
with our protection, safety too, and blessings that abound
—all flowing from His kingly reign.

The sum of all for those who seek such treasure-trove of blessings,
These blessings of all kinds, is this:
from nowhere else than him can they be drawn;
For they are ours in Christ alone.”

–John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.16.19, 1559 Latin ed., translation and versification by Sinclair B. Ferguson, as quoted in The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 55-56.

“Practical Christianity” by J.C. Ryle

“The world would be a happier world if there was more practical Christianity.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 1: 289. Ryle is commenting on Luke 10:29-37.

“The gospel affects all of life” by Sam Storms

“The gospel influences virtually all our relationships and responsibilities in life and ministry. Let’s slow down a bit and unpack these in more detail.

Our approach to suffering—that is, how to suffer unjustly without growing bitter and resentful—is tied directly to the way Christ suffered for us and did so without reviling those who reviled Him: “when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Pet. 2:23; cf. 2:18–25; 3:17–18).

Or take humility as another example. The basis for Paul’s appeal that we “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than” ourselves is the self-sacrifice of God the Son in becoming a human and submitting to death, even death on a cross (Phil. 2:1–5 in relation to Phil. 2:6–11). And as husbands, we are to love our wives “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25, 26–33).

Why should we be generous and sacrificial with our money? Because, says Paul, “you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9; cf. 9:13).

Likewise, we are to forgive one another “as God in Christ forgave” us (Eph. 4:32; cf. Col. 3:13). We are to “walk in love” toward each other, says Paul, “as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Eph. 5:1–2). We are to serve one another in humility as Christ served his disciples by washing their feet and eventually suffering in their stead (John 13:1–20).

The freedom we have in Christ, says Paul in Romans 14, is to be controlled in its exercise by the recognition that the weaker brother who might be damaged by our behavior is one for whom Christ died. Paul encourages us to pray for all based on the fact that Christ “gave Himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:1–7).

If that were not enough, countless passages in the New Testament direct us back to the reality of the gospel and what Christ has done for us through it as the primary way to combat those false beliefs and feelings that hinder our spiritual growth.

So, for example,

When you don’t feel loved by others, meditate on Romans 5:5–11 and 8:35–39.
When you don’t have a sense of any personal value, read Matthew 10:29–31 and 1 John 3:1–3.
When you struggle to find meaning in life, study Ephesians 1:4–14 and Romans 11:33–36.
When you don’t feel useful, consider 1 Corinthians 12:7–27 and 15:58.
When you feel unjustly criticized, rest in the truth of Romans 8:33–34.
When you feel excluded by others, rejoice in Hebrews 13:5–6.
When you feel you have no good works, let Ephesians 2:8–10 have its effect.
When you are constantly asking, “Who am I?” take courage in 1 Peter 2:9–10.
When you live in fear that other people have the power to destroy or undermine who you are, be strengthened by Romans 8:31–34 and Hebrews 13:5–6.
When you don’t feel like you belong anywhere, take comfort from 1 Corinthians 12:13 and Ephesians 4:1–16.
When Satan accuses you of being a constant failure, remind him and yourself of 1 Corinthians 1:30–31.
When Satan tells you that you are an embarrassment to the church, quote Ephesians 3:10.
When you find yourself bitter towards the church and indifferent regarding its ministries, reflect on Acts 20:28.
When you find yourself shamed into silence when confronted by non-Christians, be encouraged with 2 Timothy 1:8–12.
When you find yourself experiencing prejudice against those of another race or culture, memorize and act upon the truth of Romans 1:16; 2 Corinthians 5:14–16; Ephesians 2:11–22; and Revelation 5.
When you struggle with pride and boasting in your own achievements, be humbled by Romans 3:27–28 and 1 Corinthians 1:18–31.
When you feel despair and hopelessness, let Romans 5:1–10 restore your confidence.
When you feel defeated by sin and hopeless ever to change, delight yourself in Romans 7:24–25.
When you feel condemned by God for your multiple, repeated failures, speak aloud the words of Romans 8:1.
When you lack power to resist conforming to the world, consider Romans 12:1–2 and Galatians 6:14.
When you feel weak and powerless, be energized by Romans 16:25.
When you are tempted sexually, never forget 1 Corinthians 6:18–20.

And again, when you find yourself saying,

“I’m not having any impact in life or on others,” be uplifted by 2 Corinthians 12:9–10.
“I feel guilty and filled with shame all the time for my sins,” be reminded of Ephesians 1:7.
“I live in constant fear,” be encouraged by Luke 12:32 and Revelation 2:9–11.
“I struggle with anxiety and worry about everything,” don’t neglect the truth of Matthew 6:25–34; Philippians 4:6–7; and 1 Peter 5:6–7.
“I am defined and controlled by my past,” look to 2 Corinthians 5:17.
“I live in fear that God will abandon me,” consider his promise in Romans 8:35–38.
“I can’t break free of my sins and bad habits,” linger long with Romans 6:6, 14.
“I’m afraid to pray and fear that God will mock my petitions,” take heart from Hebrews 4:14–16.
“I carry grudges against those who’ve wronged me and live in bitterness towards them,” reflect and meditate on Colossians 3:12–13.
“I can’t find strength to serve others, fearing that I’ll be taken advantage of by them,” let Mark 10:45 and Philippians 2:5–11 have their way in your life.
“I’m a spiritual orphan and belong to no one,” rejoice in Galatians 4:4–7.

Each of these texts refers to the gospel of what God has done for us in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and each text applies that gospel truth to the particular problem noted.

These, then, are just a handful of the ways that the gospel affects all of life, all of ministry, and everything we seek to be and do and accomplish as Christians and as local churches.”

–Sam Storms, A Dozen Things God Did with Your Sin (And Three Things He’ll Never Do) (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2022), 184-188.

“Our need of Christ’s blood and righteousness” by J.C. Ryle

“Let us not forget, in leaving this passage, to apply the high standard of duty which it contains, to our own hearts, and to prove our own selves.

Do we love God with all our heart, and soul, and strength, and mind?

Do we love our neighbor as ourselves?

Where is the person that could say with perfect truth, “I do?”

Where is the man that ought not to lay his hand on his mouth, when he hears these questions?

Verily we are all guilty in this matter!

The best of us, however holy we may be, come far short of perfection.

Passages like this should teach us our need of Christ’s blood and righteousness.

To Him we must go, if we would ever stand with boldness at the bar of God.

From Him we must seek grace.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 1: 284. Ryle is commenting on Luke 10:29-37.