Tag Archives: Evangelical sanctification

“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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“Christ has accomplished everything” by Herman Bavinck

“To understand the benefit of sanctification correctly, we must proceed from the idea that Christ is our holiness in the same sense in which He is our righteousness. He is a complete and all-sufficient Savior.

He does not accomplish His work halfway but saves us really and completely. He does not rest until, after pronouncing His acquittal in our conscience, He has also imparted full holiness and glory to us.

By His righteousness, accordingly, He does not just restore us to the state of the just who will go scot-free in the judgment of God, in order then to leave us to ourselves to reform ourselves after God’s image and to merit eternal life.

But Christ has accomplished everything. He bore for us the guilt and punishment of sin, placed Himself under the law to secure eternal life for us, and then arose from the grave to communicate Himself to us in all his fullness for both our righteousness and sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30).

The holiness that must completely become ours therefore fully awaits us in Christ.

Many people still acknowledge that we must be justified by the righteousness that Christ has acquired but believe or at least act in practice as if we must be sanctified by a holiness we bring about ourselves. If that were the case, we would not—contrary to the apostolic witness (Rom. 6:14; Gal. 4:31; 5:1, 13)—live under grace and stand in freedom but continue always to be under the law.

Evangelical sanctification, however, is just as distinct from legalistic sanctification as the righteousness that is of faith differs from that which is obtained by works. For it consists in the reality that in Christ God grants us, along with righteousness, also complete holiness, and does not just impute it but also inwardly imparts it by the regenerating and renewing working of the Holy Spirit until we have been fully conformed to the image of His Son.

Justification and sanctification, accordingly, while distinct from each other, are not for a moment separated. They are distinct; those who mix them undermine the religious life, take away the comfort of believers, and subordinate God to humanity.

The distinction between the two consists in the fact that in Justification the religious relationship of human beings with God is restored, and in sanctification their nature is renewed and cleansed of the impurity of sin. At bottom the distinction rests on the fact that God is both righteous and holy.

As the Righteous One, He wants all his creatures to stand in the relation to Him in which he put them originally—free from guilt and punishment. As the Holy One, He demands that they will all appear before Him pure and unpolluted by sin.

The first person, therefore, was created after God’s image in righteousness and holiness and needed neither justification nor sanctification, though he had to be obedient to the law to be justified by the works of the law and to receive eternal life (legal justification).

But sin has loaded us down with guilt and rendered us impure before God’s face. In order, therefore, to be completely freed from sin, we must be freed from guilt and cleansed of its stains. And that is what happens in justification and sanctification.

Hence, the two are equally necessary and are proclaimed in Scripture with equal emphasis. Logically justification comes first in this connection (Rom. 8:30; 1 Cor. 1:30), for it is an evangelical kind of justification, an acquittal on the basis of the righteousness of God granted in faith and not on the basis of the works of the law.

It is a juridical act, completed in an instant. But sanctification is ethical: it is continued throughout the whole of life and, by the renewing activity of the Holy Spirit, gradually makes the righteousness of Christ our personal ethical possession.

Rome’s doctrine of grace or ‘infused righteousness’ is not incorrect as such; wrong, only, is that it makes infused righteousness the ground for forgiveness and thus builds religion on the basis of morality. But believers do indeed obtain the righteousness of Christ by infusion.

Justification and sanctification, accordingly, grant the same benefits, rather, the entire Christ; they only differ in the manner in which they grant Him.

In justification Christ is granted to us juridically, in sanctification, ethically; by the former we become the righteousness of God in Him; by the latter He Himself comes to dwell in us by His Spirit and renews us after His image.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation, Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend (vol. 4; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 4: 248-249.

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