Category Archives: Justification

“Believers can and will become holy because in Christ they are holy” by Herman Bavinck

“Naturally, God is the Almighty One, and He could, had He wanted to, have perfectly sanctified all His children in the moment of regeneration. But that apparently was not His will; in the recreation He does not deny Himself as Creator.

All the life of the creature is born, grows up, and only gradually reaches its maturity. Because the spiritual life is actually life it comes to be and it develops in this same way.

God does not inject the righteousness and holiness of Christ into us mechanically, or pour it out as one does water into a vessel, but He works it out in us in an organic way. Hence the one detail does not conflict with the other when the Scripture constantly presents the matter as though the believers must become that which they are.

The kingdom of heaven is a gift of God (Luke 12:32) and yet it is a treasure of great worth which must be sought after (Matt. 6:33 and 13:46). The believers are the branches of the vine, and they can, accordingly, do nothing without Christ, and yet they are told in His word to remain in Him, in His word, and in His love (John 15:1ff).

They were elected in Christ from before the foundation of the world, and yet they must be diligent to make their calling and their election sure (Eph. 1:4 and 2 Peter 1:10). They have been sanctified by the one sacrifice of Christ, and must nevertheless follow after sanctification, without which no man shall see the Lord (Heb. 10:10 and 12:14).

They are complete, and nevertheless require constant perfecting and establishment (Col. 2:10 and 1 Peter 5:10). They have put on the new man, and must nevertheless constantly put him on (Eph. 4:24 and Col. 3:10).

They have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts, and must nevertheless still mortify their members which are upon the earth (Gal. 5:24 and Col. 3:5). It is God who works in them both to will and to do according to His good pleasure, and yet they must work out their salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12–13).

These data do not conflict with each other. The one is simply the ground and guarantee of the other. Because sanctification, like the whole of salvation, is the work of God, we are admonished, obliged, to a new obedience, and we are also qualified for it.

He grants abundant grace not that we should instantly or suddenly be holy and continue to rest in this holiness, but that we should persevere in the struggle and remain standing.

He hears our prayers but does it in accordance with the law and order which He has fixed for the spiritual life. Hence we are always of good courage, for He who has begun a good work in us will finish it until the day of Jesus Christ.

The believers can and they will become holy because in Christ they are holy.”

–Herman Bavinck, The Wonderful Works of God (trans. Henry Zylstra; Glenside, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 1909/2019), 484-485.

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“The Christian ethic” by Herman Bavinck

“The Christian ethic is none other than the one briefly and pointedly comprised in the ten commandments and which, for the rest, is illuminated and interpreted throughout the whole of Scriptures.

In those commandments the love of God stands in the foreground, but the love of the neighbor is the second law, like unto the first.”

–Herman Bavinck, The Wonderful Works of God (trans. Henry Zylstra; Glenside, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 1909/2019), 479.

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“The chain of salvation cannot be broken” by Herman Bavinck

“After Paul in his letter to the Romans has first dealt with the subject of justification (Romans 5:1ff) he proceeds in chapter 6 to the subject of sanctification (Romans 6:1ff). Just as there were later on, so there were in the days of the apostles certain people who thought that the doctrine of free justification would affect the moral life unfavorably.

They feared that people, prompted by such a confession, would proceed to sin in order that good might issue from it and grace be made to abound (Rom. 3:8 and 6:1). Paul refutes this charge and says that it is impossible for those who have died to sin to live in it any longer (Rom. 6:2).

He proves this by pointing out that the believers who by their faith have received the forgiveness of sins and peace with God have also by witness of their baptism been buried with Christ in His death and been raised with Him to a new life (Rom. 6:3–11).

For Paul believers are always persons who have not only accepted the righteousness of God in Christ unto the forgiveness of their sins, but also have personally died and been raised in the communion with Christ, and therefore are dead to sin and alive in God (Gal. 2:20; 3:27; Col. 2:12). In other words, the death of Christ has justifying power not only but also sanctifying power (2 Cor. 5:13).

And the faith which has the true stamp upon it accepts Christ not only as a justification but also as a sanctification: in fact, the one is impossible without the other. For Christ is not to be divided and His benefits are inseparable from His person.

He is at the same time our wisdom and our righteousness, our sanctification and our redemption (1 Cor. 1:30). Such He became for us of God and as such He was given us by God.

The sanctification which we must share, therefore, lies perfectly achieved in Christ. There are many Christians who, at least in their practical life, think very differently about this.

They acknowledge that they are justified through the righteousness which Christ has accomplished, but they maintain or at least act as though they hold that they must be sanctified by a holiness that they must themselves achieve.

If this were true, then we, in flat contradiction of the apostolic testimony (Rom. 6:14; Gal. 4:31; 5:1 and 13), would not be living under grace in freedom but under the bondage of the law.

However, the evangelical sanctification is distinguished just as well from the legal one as the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel is distinguished, not in its content but in the mode of sharing it, from that which was demanded by the law.

It consists of this: that in Christ God gives us the perfect sanctification along with the justification, and that He gives us this as an internal possession through the regenerating and renewing operation of the Holy Spirit.

Sanctification is therefore God’s work, a work of His righteousness and of His grace at the same time. First He reckons Christ and all His benefits to our account, and thereupon He shares Him with us in all the fulness that is in Him.

For it is He who circumcises the hearts (Deut. 31:6), who takes away the heart of stone and supplants it with a heart of flesh (Ezek. 12:19), who pours out His Spirit upon them (Joel 2:28), who creates a new spirit within them (Ezek. 11:19 and 36:26), who writes His law in their hearts, causes them to walk in His ways and makes them His people. (Jer. 31:33; 32:38; Ezek. 36:27 and 28)

The matter is, if possible, put even more strongly in the New Testament where we read that the believers are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:10), a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17 and Gal. 6:15), and the work of God (Rom. 14:20).

There the believers are also called God’s husbandry and God’s building (1 Cor. 3:9; Eph. 2:20; Col. 2:7; 1 Peter 2:5), and there we are told that all things are of God (2 Cor. 5:18).

When they were buried with Christ and raised with Him, they were also washed and sanctified (1 Cor. 1:2; 6:11; Titus 3:5), and they continue to be sanctified in the future (John 17:17; 2 Cor. 3:18; 1 Thess. 5:23; Eph. 5:26; Titus 2:14; and Heb. 13:20–21) until they have been wholly conformed to the image of the Son. (Rom. 8:28; 1 Cor. 15:49; and Phil. 3:21)

The chain of salvation cannot be broken because from beginning to end it is the work of God. He whom He has known, called, and justified, him He has also glorified (Rom. 8:30).”

–Herman Bavinck, The Wonderful Works of God (trans. Henry Zylstra; Glenside, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 1909/2019), 457-459.

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“The LORD is our righteousness” by Thomas Brooks

“‘The LORD our righteousness.’ (Jer. 23:6)

A soul truly sensible of his own unrighteousness would not have this sentence, ‘The LORD our righteousness,’ blotted out of the Bible for ten thousand thousand worlds.”

–Thomas Brooks, “A Cabinet of Jewels,” The Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 1, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1866/2001), 3: 485.

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“Saving faith is not the enemy of good works” by Michael Horton

“Saving faith is not the enemy of good works, but their only possible source.

We never offer up our good works to God for salvation, but extend them to our neighbors for their good. As a result, everyone benefits.

God, who needs nothing from us, receives all of the glory; our neighbors receive gifts that God wants to give them through us; and we benefit both from the gifts of others and the joy that our own giving brings.

Reverse this flow, and nobody wins. God is not glorified, neighbors are not served, and we live frustrated, anxious, joyless lives awaiting the wrath of a holy God.

The gospel produces peace and empowers us to live by faith. We live no longer anxious, but secure and invigorated because we are crucified and raised with Christ.

We are no longer trying to live up to the starring role we’ve given ourselves, but are written into the story of Christ.

We have nothing to prove, just a lot of work to do.Good works are no longer seen as a condition of our union with Christ, but as its fruit.

We are no longer slaves, but the children of God– co-heirs with Christ, our elder brother.

The first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism summarizes this faith well:

Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?

A. That I am not my own,
but belong with body and soul,
both in life and in death, 
to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. 
He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood,
and has set me free from all the power of the devil.
He also preserves me in such a way
that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head;
indeed, all things must work together for my salvation.
Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life
and makes me heartily willing and ready
from now on to live for Him.

As God’s creatures, made in His image, we are ‘not our own’ already in creation. Yet our redemption doubles this truth.

Created by God and saved by His grace, I am truly ‘not my own, but belong– body and soul, in life and in death– to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.'”

–Michael Horton, Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), 41-42.

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“Christ is full of grace, life, and salvation” by Martin Luther

“The third incomparable benefit of faith is that it unites the soul with Christ as a bride is united with her bridegroom. By this mystery, as the Apostle teaches, Christ and the soul become one flesh (Eph. 5:31–32).

And if they are one flesh and there is between them a true marriage– indeed the most perfect of all marriages, since human marriages are but poor examples of this one true marriage– it follows that everything they have they hold in common, the good as well as the evil.

Accordingly the believing soul can boast of and glory in whatever Christ has as though it were its own, and whatever the soul has Christ claims as his own. Let us compare these and we shall see inestimable benefits.

Christ is full of grace, life, and salvation. The soul is full of sins, death, and damnation.

Now let faith come between them and sins, death, and damnation will be Christ’s, while grace, life, and salvation will be the soul’s; for if Christ is a bridegroom, He must take upon Himself the things which are His bride’s and bestow upon her the things that are His.

If he gives her His body and very self, how shall He not give her all that is His? And if He takes the body of the bride, how shall He not take all that is hers?”

–Martin Luther, The Freedom of the Christian (1520), in Luther’s Works, Vol. 31: Career of the Reformer I (ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann; vol. 31; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 31: 351.

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“His righteousness is greater than the sins of all men, His life stronger than death, His salvation more invincible than hell” by Martin Luther

“Christ is God and man in one person. He has neither sinned nor died, and is not condemned, and He cannot sin, die, or be condemned; His righteousness, life, and salvation are unconquerable, eternal, omnipotent.

By the wedding ring of faith He shares in the sins, death, and pains of hell which are His bride’s. As a matter of fact, He makes them His own and acts as if they were His own and as if He Himself had sinned; He suffered, died, and descended into hell that He might overcome them all.

Now since it was such a one who did all this, and death and hell could not swallow Him up, these were necessarily swallowed up by Him in a mighty duel; for His righteousness is greater than the sins of all men, His life stronger than death, His salvation more invincible than hell.

Thus the believing soul by means of the pledge of its faith is free in Christ, its bridegroom, free from all sins, secure against death and hell, and is endowed with the eternal righteousness, life, and salvation of Christ its bridegroom.

So He takes to himself a glorious bride, “without spot or wrinkle, cleansing her by the washing of water with the word” (Eph. 5:26–27) of life, that is, by faith in the Word of life, righteousness, and salvation. In this way He marries her in faith, steadfast love, and in mercies, righteousness, and justice, as Hos. 2:19–20 says.

Who then can fully appreciate what this royal marriage means? Who can understand the riches of the glory of this grace?

Here this rich and divine bridegroom Christ marries this poor, wicked harlot, redeems her from all her evil, and adorns her with all His goodness. Her sins cannot now destroy her, since they are laid upon Christ and swallowed up by Him.

And she has that righteousness in Christ, her husband, of which she may boast as of her own and which she can confidently display alongside her sins in the face of death and hell and say, “If I have sinned, yet my Christ, in whom I believe, has not sinned, and all His is mine and all mine is His,” as the bride in the Song of Solomon 2:16 says, “My beloved is mine and I am his.”

This is what Paul means when he says in 1 Cor. 15:57, “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ,” that is, the victory over sin and death, as he also says there, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law” (1 Cor. 15:56).”

–Martin Luther, The Freedom of the Christian (1520), in Luther’s Works, Vol. 31: Career of the Reformer I (ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann; vol. 31; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 31: 351–352.

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