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“History ends with a wedding” by Herman Bavinck

“All of the phenomena we have discussed prove that the family, despite being despised and opposed, is far from being registered as dead. Its forms may change, but its essence abides.

It is an institution of God, maintained after the entrance of sin not by the will of man but by God’s power. And it will continue to be preserved, as long as the divine purpose with the human race has not yet been attained.

That purpose is familiar to Christians from Scripture. For Christians, the future is portrayed entirely differently than for those without faith in any revelation.

For apart from revelation, the origin, essence, purpose, and destiny of the human race are entirely unknown to us. Because without this knowledge we cannot live and cannot die, cannot think and cannot labor, the Christian faith is replaced by arbitrary guesses and the Christian hope by vain expectations.

People then dream of a future state that will arise automatically through evolution, in which everyone will live happily and contentedly.

But in this case it’s like a hungry man dreaming that he is eating, but when he awakens, his soul is empty; or like a thirsty man dreaming that he is drinking, but when he awakens, he is still parched and his soul is thirsty.

Christians know about other and better things. They do not look back to the past with homesickness, for even then not everything that glittered was golden.

They do not surrender their hearts to the present, for their eyes see the suffering that belongs inseparably to the present time.

And they do not fantasize about a perfect society, because in this dispensation sin will continue to hold sway and will constantly corrupt all that is good.

But they are assured that God’s purpose with the human race will nevertheless be attained, despite all the conflict involved.

Humanity and the world exist, after all, for the sake of the church, and the church exists for the sake of Christ’s will, and Christ belongs to God.

In the city of God the creation reaches its final goal.

Into that city all the treasures will be brought together that have been acquired by humanity in the course of time through fearsome conflict; all the glory of the nations is gathered there; and in the spiritual association of Christ with his church, marriage will also reach its end.

Marriage was instituted so that the glory of the King would come to light in the multitude of his subjects. Once it has attained this goal, marriage itself will pass away.

The shadow will make way for the substance, the symbol for the reality.

The history of the human race began with a wedding; it also ends with a wedding, the wedding of Christ and his church, of the heavenly Lord with his earthly bride.”

–Herman Bavinck, The Christian Family, ed. Stephen J. Grabill, trans. Nelson D. Kloosterman (Grand Rapids, MI: Christian’s Library Press, 2012), 160–161.

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“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.

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“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.

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“The central fact of the entire history of the world” by Herman Bavinck

“The doctrine of Christ is the central point of the whole system of dogmatics.

Here, too, pulses the whole of the religious-ethical life of Christianity.

Christ, the incarnate Word, is thus the central fact of the entire history of the world.

The incarnation has its presupposition and foundation in the trinitarian being of God.

The Trinity makes possible the existence of a mediator who himself participates both in the divine and human nature and thus unites God and humanity.

The incarnation, however, is the work of the entire Trinity.

Christ was sent by the Father and conceived by the Holy Spirit. Incarnation is also related to creation.

The incarnation was not necessary, but the creation of human beings in God’s image is a supposition and preparation for the incarnation of God.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Sin and Salvation in Christ, vol. 3, Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 3: 235.

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“The Christian should be an inexhaustible source of forgiveness” by Herman Bavinck

“The metaphors of turning the other cheek, walking the extra mile, surrendering your coat, and adding the cloak are explained in Matthew 5:44: ‘But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.’

The idea is that evil must be repaid with good, curses with blessing, hatred with love, sin with forgiveness, misery with compassion.

God acts this way, too (Matt. 5:45-48).

Once more, that is not apathy, no Stoic passivity, no condoning the enemy’s behavior. On the contrary, Jesus rebukes His enemies and pronounces woe upon the Pharisees. But while He is reprimanding the sin, He is loving and blessing the enemy.

Indeed, He commands us to forgive those who wrong us as often as seventy times seven– that is to say, countless times, again and again (Matt. 18:21-34).

The Pharisees said that one must forgive three times. Peter boldly says: Isn’t seven times enough?

But Jesus will have nothing to do with numbers or calculations here. The Christian should be an inexhaustible source of forgiveness.

After all, Christians need forgiveness themselves (Matt. 18:33).

Certain evidence that we love our enemies is when we pray for them in all sincerity. Righteous anger is certainly permissible and obligatory, but it must be an anger without sin, not long-lasting, and not rising rashly (Eph. 4:26-27; Ps. 4:4; 37:8).

‘The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God’ (James 1:20; cf. Col. 3:8; Titus 1:7). And vengeance is never fitting; it belongs to God (Deut. 32:35).

Love thinks no evil (1 Cor. 13) and covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Ethics, Volume 2The Duties of the Christian Life, Ed. John Bolt (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2021), 2: 439-440.

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“The Christians changed a funeral into a feast” by Herman Bavinck

“Holy Scripture gives us no specific prescriptions with regard to burial. We have an example in the tender way Jesus was buried by his disciples; the same is true of Stephen (Acts 8:2).

We are allowed to mourn and to be sad as appears from both the Old Testament (Gen. 23:2; 37:34-35; 50:1-3; 1 Sam. 25:1) and the New Testament (Luke 7:12-13). Jesus himself (John 11:33-35), Mary (John 20:11), and the disciples (Mark 16:10; Luke 24:17; John 16:20) mourned, and the church at Ephesus mourned for Paul (Acts 20:37).

Death is an evil. Yet Christian mourning is different from pagan mourning. No sorrowing without hope (1 Thess. 4:13), no worldly sorrow (2 Cor. 7:10).

The Christians changed a funeral into a feast of celebration and triumph.

They buried their dead not at night but during daytime, in the full light of day, dressed in white robes, accompanied by retinues and spectators, without wailing women, without wreaths on the body or the coffin.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Ethics, Volume 2The Duties of the Christian Life, Ed. John Bolt (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2021), 2: 433.

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“Blood relatives” by Herman Bavinck

“All people are blood relatives (Acts 17:26).”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Ethics, Volume 2The Duties of the Christian Life, Ed. John Bolt (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2021), 2: 424.

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“All of us are murderers” by Herman Bavinck

“All of us are murderers– it was our sins that caused Jesus’s death.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Ethics, Volume 2The Duties of the Christian Life, Ed. John Bolt (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2021), 2: 454.

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“Not paying attention is a great sin” by Herman Bavinck

“We are to develop a Christian character with respect to the intellect. To that end we must first of all instill a love of truth– not just saving truth but also scientific truth and truth in everyday life.

This love of truth is not only of formal (logical) truth- that is, not just the freedom of our propositions from contradiction– but also the love of material, factual truth.

Christianity has given us knowledge of God as the Truth (John 17:3; 14:6) and given us proper love for the truth, not for its own sake (which is ultimately for our own sake, egotistically), but made possible for the sake of God.

The Word, a lamp unto our feet, the truth (John 17:17), enables us to pursue truth, to recognize it, to distinguish it from the lie (Acts 17:11; 1 Cor. 2:14-16; 1 John 4:1; 1 Thess. 5:21).

Indifferentism and skepticism are therefore not permitted for the Christian– they are a sickness of the soul that needs healing. And we are called to abound, to mature, to grow in knowledge (Rom. 12:4-8; 1 Cor. 12 and 13; Phil. 1:9; 4:8; 1 Thess. 5:21; Titus 3:8-9; 2 Pet. 3:18).

But the arena of the intellect contains other faculties, each of which also needs to be developed. These include the capacity to pay attention and to observe, for to observe is better than the fat of rams (cf. 1 Sam. 15:22).

Not paying attention is a great sin (2 Chron. 33:10; Prov. 1:24; Zech. 7:11).

In every field, attentiveness, both spiritual and natural, is so difficult. We must compel our senses to observe well, and we must practice this. To see, hear, touch, and read well is such an art.

Next, there is memory and the capacity of recollection: the cupbearer forgot Joseph (Gen. 40:23); Israel repeatedly forgot the covenant, forgot the Lord (Deut. 4:23; 6:12; 8:11-16; 32:18), forgot God’s works and wonders (Ps. 78:7, 11), forgot their Savior (Ps. 106:21); we are forgetful hearers (James 1:25).

The believer, however, is seized with a desire to remember it all-God’s acts of loving-kindness (Ps. 48:9), His works (Ps. 77:12)-in order to remember His word, law, and ordinances and not forget them (Ps. 119:16, 61, 83, 176).

The same is true in the natural arena: kindnesses should be inscribed in marble, but insults written in sand.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Ethics, Volume 2The Duties of the Christian Life, Ed. John Bolt (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2021), 2: 406.

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“Grateful enjoyment” by Herman Bavinck

“God wants all of His gifts to be enjoyed with thankful hearts (1 Tim 4:4-5).

Only through grateful enjoyment is creation’s goal fulfilled.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Ethics, Volume 2The Duties of the Christian Life, Ed. John Bolt (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2021), 2: 343.

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