Tag Archives: Knowing God

“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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“The babyhood of the Son of God” by J.I. Packer

“The supreme mystery with which the gospel confronts us, lies not in the Good Friday message of atonement, nor in the Easter message of resurrection, but in the Christmas message of Incarnation.

The really staggering Christian claim is that Jesus of Nazareth was God made man– that the second person of the Godhead became the ‘second man’ (1 Corinthians 15:47), determining human destiny, the second representative head of the race, and that He took humanity without loss of deity, so that Jesus of Nazareth was as truly and fully divine as He was human.

Here are two mysteries for the price of one—the plurality of persons within the unity of God, and the union of Godhead and manhood in the person of Jesus.

It is here, in the thing that happened at the first Christmas, that the profoundest and most unfathomable depths of the Christian revelation lie.

‘The Word became flesh’ (John 1:14); God became man; the divine Son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child.

And there was no illusion or deception in this: the babyhood of the Son of God was a reality. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets.

Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the Incarnation.”

–J.I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1973), 45-46.

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“The Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity” by J.I. Packer

“The Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity— hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory— because at the Father’s will Jesus Christ became poor and was born in a stable so that thirty years later He might hang on a cross. It is the most wonderful message that the world has ever heard, or will hear.

We talk glibly of the ‘Christmas spirit,’ rarely meaning more by this than sentimental jollity on a family basis. But what we have said makes it clear that the phrase should in fact carry a tremendous weight of meaning.

It ought to mean the reproducing in human lives of the temper of Him who for our sakes became poor at the first Christmas. And the Christmas spirit itself ought to be the mark of every Christian all the year round.

It is our shame and disgrace today that so many Christians— I will be more specific: so many of the soundest and most orthodox Christians— go through this world in the spirit of the priest and the Levite in our Lord’s parable, seeing human needs all around them, but (after a pious wish, and perhaps a prayer, that God might meet those needs) averting their eyes and passing by on the other side.

That is not the Christmas spirit.

Nor is it the spirit of those Christians— alas, they are many— whose ambition in life seems limited to building a nice middle-class Christian home, and making nice middle-class Christian friends, and bringing up their children in nice middle-class Christian ways, and who leave the sub-middle-class sections of the community, Christian and non-Christian, to get on by themselves.

The Christmas spirit does not shine out in the Christian snob.

For the Christmas spirit is the spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor— spending and being spent— to enrich their fellow humans, giving time, trouble, care and concern, to do good to others— and not just their own friends— in whatever way there seems need.

There are not as many who show this spirit as there should be. If God in mercy revives us, one of the things He will do will be to work more of this spirit in our hearts and lives. If we desire spiritual quickening for ourselves individually, one step we should take is to seek to cultivate this spirit.

‘You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich’ (2 Corinthians 8:9).

‘Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 2:5).

‘I will run the way of Thy commandments, when Thou shalt enlarge my heart’ (Psalm 119:32 KJV).”

–J.I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1973), 55-56.

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“Christ is full of both” by Herman Bavinck

“Truth and grace go together because Christ is full of both (John 1:14).”

–Herman Bavinck, The Wonderful Works of God (trans. Henry Zylstra; Glenside, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 1909/2019), 394.

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“He is a blessed and glorious God” by Herman Bavinck

“The Lord will perfect that which concerns His people, for His mercy endures forever (Ps. 138:8). The Lord is merciful and gracious, long-suffering and abundant in goodness and truth.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will remember the name of the Lord our God. For this God is our God forever and ever; He will be our guide even unto death (Ps. 48:14).

He is a blessed and glorious God (1 Tim. 6:15 and Eph. 1:17). And blessed is the people whose God is the Lord (Ps. 33:12).”

–Herman Bavinck, The Wonderful Works of God (trans. Henry Zylstra; Glenside, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 1956/2019), 124-125.

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“God is the Sun of being and all creatures are His fleeting rays” by Herman Bavinck

“All that can be found in the whole world in the way of support and shelter and aid is originally and perfectly to be found in overflowing abundance in God. Of Him the whole family in heaven and earth is named (Eph. 3:15). He is the Sun of being and all creatures are His fleeting rays.

It is important, therefore, in this matter of the knowledge of God, for us to keep a firm hold on both of these groups of statements concerning the Divine being and to do justice to each of them. For if we sacrifice the absolute transcendence of God above all of His creatures, we fall into polytheism (the pagan religion of many gods) or pantheism (the religion in which everything is God), two false religions which, according to the lesson of history, are closely related to each other and easily pass from the one into the other.

And if we sacrifice the close relationship of God to His creatures, we go aground on the reef of deism (belief in God without benefit of revelation) or of atheism (the denial of the existence of God), two religions which like those others have numerous characteristics in common with each other. Scripture clings to both groups of characteristics, and Christian theology has followed in its wake.

God actually does not have a name according to which we can truly name Him, and He names Himself and lets us name Him with many many names. He is the infinitely Exalted One, and at the same time the One who lives along with all His creatures.

In a certain sense all of His attributes are such as cannot be shared, and in another sense they are such as can all be shared. We cannot fathom this with our mind. There is no such thing as an adequate concept of God.

There is no one who can give a definition, a delimitation, of God that is adequate to His being. The name which fully expresses what He is cannot be found. But the one group of characteristics outlined above does not conflict with the other.

Precisely because God is the High and Exalted One, and lives in eternity, He also dwells with those who are of a contrite and humble Spirit (Isa. 57:15). We know that God did not reveal Himself in order that we should draw up a philosophical concept of God from His revelation, but in order that we should accept Him, the true, living God, as our God, and should acknowledge and confess Him. These things are hidden from the wise and prudent, but they have been revealed to babes (Matt. 11:25).

The knowledge which we get of God by way of His revelation is therefore a knowledge of faith. It is not adequate, in the sense that it is not equivalent to the being of God, for God is infinitely exalted above all His creatures.

Such knowledge is not purely symbolical either—that is to say, couched in expressions which we have arbitrarily formed and which do not correspond to any reality; instead this knowledge is ectypal (ectype: an impression as in printing) or analogical (analogy: correspondence or similarity in form) because it is based on the likeness and relationship which, notwithstanding God’s absolute majesty, nevertheless exists between God and all the works of His hand.

The knowledge which God grants us of Himself in nature and in Scripture is limited, finite, fragmentary, but it is nevertheless true and pure. Such is God as He has revealed Himself in His Word and specifically in and through Christ; and He alone is such as our hearts require.”

–Herman Bavinck, The Wonderful Works of God (trans. Henry Zylstra; Glenside, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 1956/2019), 116-117.

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“Every attribute is His being” by Herman Bavinck

“We as human beings can make a distinction between the being and the attributes of people. A human being can lose his arm or his leg, or, in a state of sleep or illness, lose consciousness without ceasing to be human.

But in God this is impossible. His attributes coincide with His being. Every attribute is His being. He is wise and true, not merely, good and holy, just and merciful, but He is also wisdom, truth, goodness, holiness, justice, and mercy.

Hence He is also the source and fount of all the attributes of man. He is everything that He possesses and is the source of everything that creatures possess. He is the abundant source of all goods…

The name of God originally and essentially belongs to God alone. It is with that name that we always associate an idea of a being who is personal, indeed, but who is also a power raised high above all creatures and eternal in kind.

It is as such that He possesses the incommunicable attributes. They are peculiar and proper to Him alone, are not found in creatures, and cannot even be shared with creatures. For all creatures are dependent, changeable, composite, and subject to time and space.

But God is independent in the sense that He is determined by nothing and everything else is determined by Him (Acts 17:25 and Rom. 11:36).

He is unchangeable so that He eternally remains the same, and all variableness and turning are owing to the creature and the relationship in which the creature places himself over against God (James 1:17).

He is simple, not composite, wholly free of all compounding of spirit and matter, thought and extent, being and properties, reason and will, and like components, and all that He has also is pure truth and life and light.

He is eternal in that He transcends time and yet penetrates every moment of time with His eternity (Ps. 90:2).

And He is omnipresent in that He transcends all space and yet bears up every point of space by His almighty and ever-present strength.”

–Herman Bavinck, The Wonderful Works of God (trans. Henry Zylstra; Glenside, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 1956/2019), 118, 119.

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