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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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“In the cross on Golgotha righteousness and grace were joined together” by Herman Bavinck

“The righteousness which God gives us in Christ and with which alone we can stand in His presence is, accordingly, in no sense the fruit of our labor, but is in an absolute sense a gift of God, a gift of His grace. We are justified freely through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 3:24).

The grace of God is the deepest ground and final cause of our justification. But this grace is not to be regarded as a contrast to the righteousness of God but as something inter-related with it.

After all, Paul says again and again that in the gospel the righteousness of God has become manifest, and just so John in his first letter (1 John 1:9) writes that God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, if we confess them, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

And Peter in his second letter (2 Peter 1:1) says that we have obtained the faith through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ.

In this the idea is contained that God, the God of justice, has in the gospel created another order of justice than that which obtained under the law. This old order, too, reveals the righteousness of God but in such a way that He gives His law to men, binds men to obedience to this law, and in the end punishes men or rewards them according to His judgment of their conduct.

Inasmuch, however, as that law has become of no effect because of sin, God has in the gospel set up another order of justice. To it men must also subject themselves (Rom. 10:3) but this order in itself by way of faith grants that righteousness which they require in order to stand before the throne of God.

The gospel is, accordingly, at one and the same time an order of justice and an order of grace. The grace consists of this that God who could hold us to the terms of the law and condemn us by it, opened up another way of righteousness and life in Christ.

And the justice consists of this that God does not lead us into His kingdom without righteousness and sanctification, but instead has a perfect righteousness accomplished in the sacrifice of Christ and in grace gives it to us and counts it to our credit.

Christ is a gift of God’s love (John 3:16 and Rom. 5:8). And He is at the same time a manifestation of God’s righteousness (Rom. 3:25).

In the cross on Golgotha righteousness and grace were joined together.

Justification is both a judicial and a gracious deed of God. We have to thank Christ and all His benefits for this oneness of justice and grace. To Him we owe also the benefit of righteousness which we need in order to stand in the judgment of God.

This righteousness which is given us in faith, is however to be carefully distinguished from the righteousness which is an attribute of God’s being, and from that of the divine and human natures of Christ.

For if the righteousness which is the attribute of God’s or Christ’s being were the ground of our justification, not only would the whole passion and death of Christ lose its value but the boundary line between the Creator and the creature would be erased and the natures of these two would be intermingled in pantheistic fashion.

The righteousness which becomes ours through faith and which justifies us before God has, however, been achieved by the passion and death of Christ. God has set forth Christ to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, that is, to be a means of reconciliation effecting the remission of sins through the power of the poured out blood and by means of faith (Rom. 3:25).

He was made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (2 Cor. 5:3 and Gal. 3:13). An exchange takes place between Christ and His own; Christ takes upon Himself their sin and curse and gives them His righteousness instead.

He has of God been made wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption unto them (1 Cor. 1:30).

This righteousness of Christ is so perfect and adequate that it requires no completion or supplementation of our own. As a matter of fact it can in no way be increased or amplified by us, for it is an organic whole.

Just as the law is a whole, so that whoever would keep it entirely but should stumble on one commandment would become guilty of all (James 2:10), so too the righteousness which satisfies the demands of the law is a perfect whole and unity like the seamless robe of Jesus, woven from the top throughout (John 19:23).

This righteousness has not been put together from pieces or fragments. You either have all of it or none of it. We cannot get a part of it and fill in the rest ourselves. And, anyhow, what have we to give that would serve to fill out such righteousness?

Certainly not the good works done before the faith. The Scriptures say most unequivocally that the imagination of the thoughts of men’s hearts is evil from youth on, that what is born of the flesh is flesh, that the thought of the flesh is enmity against God and cannot submit itself to His law and that all of its righteousnesses are as filthy rags.

If good works had to amplify and fill out the righteousness which Christ has achieved, the only works that could be considered as qualifying at all would be the works which regenerate man does out of faith. For it is altogether true that the believers can do good works; just as a good tree brings forth good fruits, so a good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things (Matt. 12:35).

Renewed by the Spirit of God the believer delights in the law of God after the inward man (Rom. 7:22). Nevertheless, all these works which come up out of faith are nevertheless still very imperfect and are tainted with sin; when the believer wants to do the good he finds constantly that evil is present with him (Rom. 7:21).

Moreover, all of these good works already assume the righteousness granted by Christ and accepted by faith. The believer simply walks in the good works which God has before ordained and to which, as God’s creation, he has been made in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:10).

Our comfort in this matter of justification therefore is that the whole righteousness which we require comes from outside ourselves in Christ Jesus. We are not the ones who must bring it into being.

But in this God reveals His righteousness in the gospel that He Himself provides a righteousness through the sacrifice of Christ. The righteousness which justifies us is a righteousness of God through faith in Christ; neither in whole nor in part is it dependent upon our works but is in its entirety perfect and adequate, a gift of God, the free gift of grace.

And if it be by grace then it is no more of works, otherwise grace is no more grace (Rom. 11:6). In short, Christ Himself is the righteousness with which alone we can stand before His face (1 Cor. 1:30).

Through His passion and death He earned the right for Himself and His own to enter into eternal life, free from all guilt and punishment, and to take a place at the right hand of God.”

–Herman Bavinck, The Wonderful Works of God (trans. Henry Zylstra; Glenside, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 1956/2019), 433–436.

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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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“Our blessed Saviour’s unwearied kindness” by J.C. Ryle

“Let us learn a lesson from the centurion’s example.

Let us, like him, show kindness to every one with whom we have to do.

Let us strive to have an eye ready to see, and a hand ready to help, and a heart ready to feel, and a will ready to do good to all.

Let us be ready to weep with them that weep, and rejoice with them that rejoice.

This is one way to recommend our religion, and make it beautiful before men.

Kindness is a grace that all can understand.

This is one way to be like our blessed Saviour. If there is one feature in His character more notable than another, it is His unwearied kindness and love.

This is one way to be happy in the world, and see good days. Kindness always brings its own reward.

The kind person will seldom be without friends.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 1: 155. Ryle is commenting on Luke 7:1-10.

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“You have never to drag mercy out of Christ” by Charles Spurgeon

“Jesus deserves to be trusted, and trust Him we will– for He is full of power to save, for He is now upon the throne, and all power is given Him in heaven and in earth.

He is full of power to save we know, because He is saving souls every day.

Some of us are the living witnesses that He can forgive sin, for we are pardoned, accepted, and renewed in heart; and the only way in which we obtained those boons was this—we trusted Him, we did nothing else but trust Him.

If any soul here that believes in Jesus should perish, I must perish with him. I sail in that boat, and if it sinks I have no other to fly to, I avow before you all that I have no other confidence.

I have not so much as the shred of a reliance in any sacrament I have undergone or enjoyed, in any sermon I have ever preached, in any prayer I have ever prayed, in any communion with God I have ever known.

My hope lies in the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ.

And I shake off as though it were a viper, into the fire, as a deadly thing only fit to be burned, all pretense of relying on anything I may be, or can be, or ever shall be, or do.

‘None but Jesus,’—this is the settled pillar upon which we must build. It will bear us up, but nothing else can.

Moreover, remember also that Jesus Christ this morning is by no means unwilling to save sinners, but on the contrary, He delights to do it.

You have never to drag mercy out of Christ, as money from a miser, but it flows freely from him, like the stream from the fountain, or the sunlight from the sun.

If He can be happier, He is made happier by giving of His mercy to the undeserving.

When a poor wretch who only deserves hell, comes to Him, and he says, ‘I have blotted out thy sins,’ it is joy to Christ’s heart to do it.

When a poor blasphemer bows his knee, and says, ‘Lord, be merciful to me a sinner,’ it makes Christ’s heart glad to say, ‘Thy blasphemies are forgiven: I suffered for them on the tree.’

When a poor little child, by her bedside, cries, ‘Gentle Jesus, teach a little child to pray, and forgive the sins which I have done;’ the Saviour loves to say, ‘Suffer these little children to come to Me, for this also is a part of My recompense for the wounds I endured in My hands, My feet, and My side.’

When any of you come to Him and confess your transgressions and trust yourselves in His hands, it will be a new heaven to Him.

It will put new stars into His ever bright and lustrous crown.

It will make Him see of the travail of His soul and give Him satisfaction.

Have we not here arguments to prove that Jesus is worthy to be trusted?”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “The Essence of Simplicity,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 18 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1872), 18: 728–729.

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“With Christ nothing is impossible” by J.C. Ryle

“Let us see, furthermore, in this mighty miracle, a lively emblem of Christ’s power to quicken the dead in sins. In Him is life.

He quickeneth whom He will. (John 5:21.) He can raise to a new life souls that now seem dead in worldliness and sin.

He can say to hearts that now appear corrupt and lifeless, “Arise to repentance, and live in the service of God.”

Let us never despair of any soul. Let us pray for our children, and faint not.

Our young men and our young women may long seem travelling on the way to ruin. But let us pray on.

Who can tell but He that met the funeral at the gates of Nain may yet meet our unconverted children, and say with almighty power, “Young man, arise.”

With Christ nothing is impossible.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 1: 162-163. Ryle is commenting on Luke 7:11-17.

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“We must read our Bibles like men digging for hidden treasure” by J.C. Ryle

“What our Lord did mean to rebuke was that excessive attention to labour for the body, while the soul is neglected, which prevails everywhere in the world (John 6:26). What He reproved was, the common habit of labouring only for the things of time, and letting alone the things of eternity—of minding only the life that now is, and disregarding the life to come. Against this habit He delivers a solemn warning.

Surely, we must all feel our Lord did not say the words before us without good cause. They are a startling caution which should ring in the ears of many in these latter days.

How many in every rank of life are doing the very thing against which Jesus warns us! They are labouring night and day for ‘the meat that perisheth,’ and doing nothing for their immortal souls.

Happy are those who learn betimes the respective value of soul and body, and give the first and best place in their thoughts to salvation. One thing is needful. He that seeks first the kingdom of God, will never fail to find ‘all other things added to him.’ (Matt. 6:33)

We should mark, thirdly, in this passage, what Christ advises. He tells us to ‘labour for the meat that endureth to everlasting life.’ (John 6:27) He would have us take pains to find food and satisfaction for our souls. That food is provided in rich abundance in Him. But he that would have it must diligently seek it.

How are we to labour? There is but one answer. We must labour in the use of all appointed means.

We must read our Bibles like men digging for hidden treasure.

We must wrestle earnestly in prayer like men contending with a deadly enemy for life.

We must take our whole heart to the house of God and worship and hear like those who listen to the reading of a will.

We must fight daily against sin, the world, and the devil, like those who fight for liberty, and must conquer, or be slaves.

These are the ways we must walk in if we would find Christ, and be found of Him. This is ‘labouring.’ This is the secret of getting on about our souls.

Labour like this no doubt is very uncommon. In carrying it on we shall have little encouragement from man, and shall often be told that we are “extreme,” and go too far.

Strange and absurd as it is, the natural man is always fancying that we may take too much thought about religion, and refusing to see that we are far more likely to take too much thought about the world.

But whatever man may say, the soul will never get spiritual food without labour. We must ‘strive,’ we must ‘run,’ we must ‘fight,’ we must throw our whole heart into our soul’s affairs. It is ‘the violent’ who take the kingdom. (Matt. 11:12)

We should mark, lastly, in this passage, what a promise Christ holds out. He tells us that He himself will give eternal food to all who seek it: ‘The Son of man shall give you the meat that endureth unto everlasting life.’

How gracious and encouraging these words are! Whatever we need for the relief of our hungering souls, Christ is ready and willing to bestow. Whatever mercy, grace, peace, strength we require, the Son of man will give freely, immediately, abundantly, and eternally.

He is ‘sealed,’ and appointed, and commissioned by God the Father for this very purpose. Like Joseph in the Egyptian famine, it is His office to be the Friend, and Almoner, and Reliever of a sinful world. He is far more willing to give than man is to receive. The more sinners apply to Him, the better He is pleased.

And now, as we leave this rich passage, let us ask ourselves, what use we make of it? For what are we labouring ourselves? What do we know of lasting food and satisfaction for our inward man?

Never let us rest till we have eaten of the meat which Christ alone can give. They that are content with any other spiritual food will sooner or later ‘lie down in sorrow.’ (Isa. 50:11)”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John, Volume 1 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1869/2012), 1: 243-245. Ryle is commenting on John 6:22-27.

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