“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.

“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]

“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.

“He is unchangeable in His grace” by Herman Bavinck

“He is who He is, the same yesterday, today, and forever. This meaning is further explained in Exodus 3:15: YHWH—the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—sends Moses, and that is His name forever.

God does not simply call Himself “the One who is” and offer no explanation of His aseity, but states expressly what and how He is.

Then how and what will He be? That is not something one can say in a word or describe in an additional phrase, but “He will be what He will be.”

That sums up everything. This addition is still general and indefinite, but for that reason also rich and full of deep meaning.

He will be what He was for the patriarchs, what He is now and will remain: He will be everything to and for His people.

It is not a new and strange God who comes to them by Moses, but the God of the fathers, the Unchangeable One, the Faithful One, the eternally Self-consistent One, who never leaves or forsakes His people but always again seeks out and saves His own.

He is unchangeable in His grace, in His love, in His assistance, who will be what He is because He is always Himself.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: God and Creation, Vol. 2 (Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 2: 143.

“He is unchangeably the same eternal God” by Herman Bavinck

“As living, thinking beings in time, we stand before the mystery of eternal uncreated being and marvel.

On the one hand, it is certain that God is the Eternal One: in Him there is neither past or future, neither becoming or change.

All that He is is eternal: His thought, His will, His decree.

Eternal in Him is the idea of the world that He thinks and utters in the Son; eternal in Him is also the decision to create the world; eternal in Him is the will that created the world in time; eternal is also the act of creating as an act of God, an action both internal and immanent.

For God did not become Creator, so that first for a long time He did not create and then afterward He did create.

Rather, He is the eternal Creator, and as Creator He was the Eternal One, and as the Eternal One He created. The creation therefore brought about no change in God; it did not emanate from Him and is no part of His being.

He is unchangeably the same eternal God.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: God and Creation, Vol. 2 (Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 429.

“He is an immeasurable and unbounded ocean of being” by Herman Bavinck

“God must always be God, distinct from and above all things, the Creator and Ruler of all that exists, on whom believers can rely in times of distress and death, or else God can no longer be God to them.

As such God is the strictly independent and only absolute being. This is what the concept of absoluteness meant in the past. ‘Absoluteness’ was not obtained by abstraction, deprived of all content, and the most general kind of being, but true, unique, infinitely full being, precisely because it was absolute, that is, independent being, belonging only to itself and self-existence. Absolute is that which is not dependent on anything else.

From ancient times Christian theology connected this view and description of God with the meaning of the name YHWH as that is given in Exodus 3:14. Now people can disagree on the question whether the concept of ‘absolute being’ is implied in the name YHWH, and we will expressly revisit it in the following section.

In any case it is certain that the unicity, His distinctness from, and His absolute superiority over, all creatures is highlighted throughout Scripture. However much He is able to descend to the level of creatures, specifically humans—represented as He is as walking in the garden, coming down to earth to see the city and tower of Babel (etc.)—nevertheless He is the Creator of heaven and earth.

He speaks and things come to be; He commands and they stand forth. From everlasting to everlasting He is God, the First and the Last, from whom, through whom, and to whom are all things (Gen. 1:1ff.; Ps. 33:6, 9; 90:2; Isa. 41:4; 43:10–13; 44:6; 48:12; John 5:26; Acts 17:24ff.; Rom. 11:36; Eph. 4:6; Heb. 2:10; Rev. 1:4, 8; 4:8, 11; 10:6; 11:17; etc.).

Stated or implied in this biblical teaching is all that Christian theology intended to say with its description of God’s essence as absolute being. God is the real, the true being, the fullness of being, the sum total of all reality and perfection, the totality of being, from which all other being owes its existence.

He is an immeasurable and unbounded ocean of being; the absolute being who alone has being in Himself. Now, this description of God’s being deserves preference over that of personality, love, fatherhood, and so forth, because it encompasses all God’s attributes in an absolute sense.

In other words, by this description God is recognized and confirmed as God in all His perfections. These attributes cannot, of course, be logically developed from the concept of absolute being, for what God is and what His attributes are can only be known by us from His revelation in nature and Scripture.

Yet all these attributes are only divine characteristics because they pertain to God in a unique and absolute sense. Hence, in that respect aseity may be called the primary attribute of God’s being.

We can even say—on the basis of God’s revelation, not by means of a priori reasoning—that along with His aseity all those attributes have to be present in God that nature and Scripture make known to us.

If God is God, the only, eternal, and absolute Being, this implies that He possesses all the perfections, a faint analogy of which can be discerned in His creatures. If God is the absolutely existing being, He is also absolute in wisdom and goodness, in righteousness and holiness, in power and blessedness.

As One who exists of and through and unto Himself, He is the fullness of being, the independent and supremely perfect Being.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: God and Creation (vol. 2; Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 2: 123–124.

“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.