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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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“Christ is the law and the gospel in His own person” by Herman Bavinck

“According to the New Testament, all the different testimonies of the Law and the Prophets culminate in Christ. The whole Old Testament is basically fulfilled in Him. In Him all the promises of God are yes and amen (Rom. 15:8; 2 Cor. 1:20).

He is the true Messiah, the king of David’s house (Matt. 2:2; 21:5; 27:11, 37; Luke 1:32); the prophet who proclaims good news to the poor (Luke 4:17); the priest who, according to the Letter to the Hebrews, in His person, office, appointment, sacrifice, and sanctuary far exceeds the priesthood of the Old Testament.

He is the Servant of the Lord who as a slave (δουλος, Phil. 2:7–8) came to serve (Mark 10:45), submitted to the law (Gal. 4:4), fulfilled all righteousness (Matt. 3:15), and was obedient to the death on the cross (Rom. 5:19; Phil. 2:8; Heb. 5:8).

As such Jesus made a distinction between the kingdom of God as it was now being founded by Him in a spiritual sense and as it would one day be revealed in glory; between His first and His second coming, events that in Old Testament prophecy still coincided; between His work in the state of humiliation and that in the state of exaltation. The Christ had to enter glory through suffering (Luke 24:26).

The work that Christ now accomplishes in the state of humiliation is described in the New Testament from many different angles. It is a work that the Father gave Him to do (John 4:34; 5:36; 17:4); generally speaking, it consisted in doing God’s will (Matt. 26:42; John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38) and specifically included the “exegesis” of God (John 1:18), the revelation and glorification of His name (17:4, 6, 26), the communication of God’s words (17:8, 14), and so on.

Christ is a prophet, mighty in words and deeds (Luke 24:19); He is not a new legislator but interprets the law (Matt. 5–7; 22:40; Luke 9:23; 10:28; John 13:34; 1 John 2:7–8), proclaims the gospel (Matt. 12:16–21; Luke 4:17–21), and in both preaches Himself as the fulfiller of the former and the content of the latter.

He is the law and the gospel in His own person. He is not a prophet only by the words He speaks but primarily by what He is. He is the Logos (John 1:1), full of grace and truth (John 1:17–18), anointed without measure with the Spirit (John 3:34), the revelation of the Father (John 14:9; Col. 2:9).

The source of His message is Himself, not inspiration but incarnation. God did not even speak with Him as He did with Moses, face to face, but was in Him and spoke through Him (Heb. 1:3). He is not one prophet among many, but the supreme, the only prophet.

He is the source and center of all prophecy; and all knowledge of God, both in the Old Testament before His incarnation and in the New Testament after His resurrection and ascension, is from Him (1 Pet. 1:11; 3:19; Matt. 11:27).

The will of God that Jesus came to do further included the miracles He performed. The one work (ἐργον) is differentiated in many works (ἐργα, John 5:36), which are the works of His Father (John 5:20; 9:3; 10:32, 37; 14:10).

They prove that the Father loves Him and dwells in Him (John 5:20; 10:38; 14:10), bear witness that the Father sent Him (John 5:36; 10:25), and manifest His divine glory (John 2:11; 11:4, 40). He not only performs miracles but in His person is Himself the absolute miracle.

As the incarnate Spirit-conceived, risen and glorified Son of God, He is Himself the greatest miracle, the center of all miracles, the author of the re-creation of all things, the firstborn of the dead, preeminent in everything (Col. 1:18).”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 3: Sin and Salvation in Christ, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 3: 337-338.

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“Christ is the sun; the individual words of God are His rays” by Herman Bavinck

“Finally the designation ‘word of God’ is used for Christ Himself. He is the Logos in an utterly unique sense: Revealer and revelation at the same time.

All the revelations and words of God, in nature and history, in creation and re-creation, both in the Old and the New Testament, have their ground, unity, and center in Him.

He is the sun; the individual words of God are His rays.

The word of God in nature, in Israel, in the NT, in Scripture may never even for a moment be separated and abstracted from him. God’s revelation exists only because He is the Logos.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Prolegomena (Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend; vol. 1; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 1: 402.

[HT: Nick Gardner]

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“In Christ the invisible God has become visible” by Herman Bavinck

“The figure we encounter in the person of Christ on the pages of Scripture is a unique figure. On the one hand, He is very man. He became flesh and came into the flesh (John 1:14 and 1 John 4:2–3). He bore the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom. 8:3).

He came of the fathers, according to the flesh (Rom. 9:5), of Abraham’s seed (Gal. 3:16), of Judah’s line (Heb. 7:14), and of David’s generation (Rom 1:3). He was born of a woman (Gal. 4:4), partook of our flesh and blood (Heb. 2:14), possessed a spirit (Matt. 27:50), a soul (Matt. 26:38), and a body (1 Peter 2:24), and was human in the full, true sense.

As a child He grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:40 and 52). He was hungry and thirsty, sorrowful and joyful, was moved by emotion and stirred to anger.

He placed Himself under the law and was obedient to it until death. He suffered, died on the cross, and was buried in a garden. He was without form or comeliness.

When we looked upon Him there was no beauty that we should desire Him. He was despised, and unworthy of esteem, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (Isa. 53:2–3).

Nevertheless this same man was distinguished from all men and raised high above them. Not only was He according to His human nature conceived by the Holy Spirit; not only was He throughout His life, despite all temptation, free from sin; and not only was He after His death raised up again and taken into heaven; but the same subject, the same person, the same I who humiliated Himself so deeply that He assumed the form of a servant and became obedient unto the death of the cross, already existed in a different form of existence long before His incarnation and humiliation.

He existed then in the form of God and thought it no robbery to be equal with God (Phil. 2:6). At His resurrection and ascension He simply received again the glory which He had with the Father before the world was (John 17:5).

He is eternal as God Himself, having been with Him already in the beginning (John 1:1 and 1 John 1:1). He is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end (Rev. 22:13); He is omnipresent, so that, though walking about on the face of the earth, He is simultaneously in the bosom of the Father in heaven (John 1:18 and 3:13); and after His glorification He remains with His church and fulfills all in all; He is unchangeable and faithful and is the same yesterday, and today, and forever (Heb. 13:8); He is omniscient, so that He hears prayers; He is the One who knows all men’s hearts (Acts 1:24; unless the reference here is to the Father); He is omnipotent so that all things are subjected unto Him and all power is given to Him in heaven and on earth, and is the chief of all kings.

While in possession of all these Divine attributes, He also shares in the Divine works. Together with the Father and the Spirit He is the creator of all things (John 1:3 and Col. 1:5). He is the firstborn, the beginning, and the Head of all creatures (Col. 1:15 and Rev. 3:14).

He upholds all things by the word of His might, so that they are not only of Him but also continuously in Him and through Him (Heb. 1:3 and Col. 1:17). And, above all, He preserves, reconciles, and restores all things and gathers them into one under Himself as Head. As such He bears especially the name of the Savior of the world.

In the Old Testament the name of Savior or Redeemer was given to God, but in the New Testament the Son as well as the Father bears this name. In some places this name is given to God, and in some places it is given to Christ. Sometimes it is not clear whether the name refers to God or to Christ (Tit. 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1). But it is Christ in whom and through whom the saving work of God is wholly effected.

All this points to a unity between Father and Son, between God and Christ, such as nowhere else exists between the Creator and His creature. Even though Christ has assumed a human nature which is finite and limited and which began to exist in time, as person, as Self, Christ does not in Scripture stand on the side of the creature but on the side of God.

He partakes of God’s virtues and of His works; He possesses the same Divine nature. This last point comes into particularly clear expression in the three names which are given Christ: that of the Image, the Word, and the Son of God.

Christ is the Image of God, the brightness of God’s glory, and the express image of His person. In Christ the invisible God has become visible. Whoever sees Him sees the Father (John 14:9). Whoever wants to know who God is and what He is must behold the Christ. As Christ is, such is the Father. Further, Christ is the Word of God (John 1:1 and Rev. 19:13).

In Him the Father has perfectly expressed Himself: His wisdom, His will, His excellences, His whole being. He has given Christ to have life in Himself (John 5:26). Whoever wants to learn to know God’s thought, God’s counsel, and God’s will for mankind and the world, let him listen to Christ, and hear Him (Matt. 17:5).

Finally, Christ is the Son of God, the Son, as John describes Him, often without any further qualification (1 John 2:22ff. and Heb. 1:1, 8), the one and only-begotten, the own and beloved Son, in whom the Father is well pleased. Whoever would be a child of God, let him accept Christ, for all who accept Him receive the right and the power to be called the children of God (John 1:12).”

–Herman Bavinck, The Wonderful Works of God (trans. Henry Zylstra; Glenside, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 1956/2019), 298-300.

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“What we sow on earth is harvested in eternity” by Herman Bavinck

“The final rest of God’s children is not to be conceived as inaction; His children remain His servants, who joyfully and in diverse ways serve Him night and day.

What we sow on earth is harvested in eternity; diversity is not destroyed in eternity but cleansed from sin and made serviceable to fellowship with God and others. Scripture even teaches degrees of glory in the future kingdom, commensurate with one’s works.

The blessedness of salvation is the same for all, but there are distinctions in glory. This distinction is not merited by good works but comes through a sovereign, free, and gracious covenantal disposition of God—a given right to believers merited by Christ.

God thus crowns His own work in order that in such active diversity the glory of His own attributes shines out. All creatures will then live and move and have their being in God, who is all in all, who reflects all of His attributes in the mirror of His works and glorifies Himself in them.”

–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: 715.

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“God is known in proportion to the extent that He is loved” by Herman Bavinck

“To know God does not consist of knowing a great deal about Him, but of this, rather, that we have seen Him in the person Christ, that we have encountered Him on our life’s way, and that in the experience of our soul we have come to know His virtues, His righteousness and holiness, His compassion and His grace.

That is why this knowledge, in distinction from all other knowledge, bears the name of the knowledge of faith. It is the product not of scientific study and reflection but of a childlike and simple faith.

This faith is not only a sure knowledge but also a firm confidence that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sins, everlasting righteousness and salvation are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.

Only those who become as little children shall enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 18:3).

Only the pure of heart shall see the face of God (Matt. 5:8).

Only those born of water and of the Spirit can enter the kingdom (John 3:5).

Those who know His name will put their trust in Him (Ps. 9:10).

God is known in proportion to the extent that He is loved.”

–Herman Bavinck, The Wonderful Works of God (trans. Henry Zylstra; Glenside, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 1909/2019), 13.

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“On the birthday of the church” by Herman Bavinck

“At the creation the morning stars sang together and all the children of God rejoiced.

At the birth of Christ the multitude of heavenly hosts raised the jubilee of God’s good will.

On the birthday of the church that church itself sings the wonderful works of God in myriad tones.”

–Herman Bavinck, The Wonderful Works of God (trans. Henry Zylstra; Glenside, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 1909/2019), 373.

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