Tag Archives: Revelation

“Regeneration enables the act of reading as covenant friendship” by Scott Swain

“Just as the Spirit laid the foundation for the church in the writings of prophets and apostles, so He builds upon that foundation through, among other things, the reading of the saints.

The same Spirit who publishes God’s Word through inspiration and writing creates an understanding of God’s Word through illumination and interpretation (1 Cor. 2:14–16). The reading of Holy Scripture is a creaturely activity that corresponds to, and is also sustained and governed by, the Spirit’s work of regeneration and renewal.

The Christian life begins with regeneration (John 3:3, 5; Eph. 2:5; James 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:3, 23–25). When the Spirit brings the gospel effectually to bear upon the sinner’s heart, He breaks our relation to the Old Man and creates a relation to the New Man (Rom. 6:1–7; Gal. 5:24).

In so doing, He also implants a new principle of life (1 John 3:9). This new principle of life enables a new vision. Apart from this new vision, the gospel of Jesus Christ—and therefore the ultimate meaning of Scripture—remains hidden from us (2 Cor. 3:14–18).

However, being born again, we are enabled to “see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). This new principle of life not only enables new vision, it also issues forth in new desires, new thirsts, and new hungers.

Chief among these is a longing for the word of truth (see 1 Pet. 1:22–2:3). God’s word is “sweeter than honey” to the regenerate taste (Ps. 19:10; 119:103).

The awakening of spiritual organs of perception and taste is essential to a profitable reading of Scripture.

“He who is deaf must first be healed from his deafness in order to be placed in true touch with the world of sounds. When this contact has been restored, the study of music can again be begun by him.” (Kuyper, Principles of Sacred Theology, 580).

This goes for biblical interpretation as well. The point is not that the “natural man” is unable to understand anything that Scripture says.

The point instead is that a profitable reading of Holy Scripture, one that receives Scripture’s words as the words of God, that ponders Scripture’s words as a way of pondering God, and that reveres Scripture’s words as a way of revering God, this sort of reading is only possible where the Spirit has caused the eyes of our hearts to be enlightened (Eph. 1:18; 1 Cor. 2:14).

Regeneration enables the act of reading as covenant friendship.

The Christian life begins with regeneration and continues along the path of renewal (Rom. 12:1–2; Eph. 4:21–24; Col. 3:10; 2 Pet. 3:18).

Because the regenerate life begins as the Spirit breaks our natural bond to the Old Man and forms a spiritual bond to the New Man, the growth and renewal of this life unfolds as a battle between the remaining impulses of our fallen human nature and the new reign of Christ through the Spirit.

“The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh” (Gal. 5:17). In this battle, we are summoned to put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit’s power and to put on the New Man, Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:13; Eph. 4:22–24).

In this battle, we are commanded not to be conformed to the pattern of this world but to be transformed, and this by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2).

God renews and restores the whole man in sanctification, including the mind (cf. Rom. 12:2). The mind darkened by sin (Eph. 4:17–18) is made alive with Christ (Eph. 4:20–24).

The Spirit who searches the depths of God, and who sheds abroad the knowledge of God, gives us “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16).

By the “unified saving action and presence of Word and Spirit, reason’s vocation is retrieved from the ruins: its sterile attempt at self-destruction is set aside; its dynamism is annexed to God’s self-manifesting presence; it regains its function in the ordered friendship between God and human creatures.” (Webster, “Biblical Reasoning,” 742–43)

Within the context of this “ordered friendship between God and human creatures,” reason plays what is first and foremost a receptive role. Reason is not the fountain of saving wisdom.

As Benedict Pictet states: “reason cannot and ought not to bring forth any mysteries, as it were, out of its own storehouse; for this is the prerogative of scripture only.” Instead, reason is an organ for receiving saving wisdom.

Reason, regenerated and renewed, understands “the things freely given us by God” (1 Cor. 2:12). However, in this receptive activity, reason is not wholly passive.

God’s word “evokes the works of reason”: “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything” (2 Tim. 2:7). God’s living Word animates and answers the humble, suppliant work of reason.

Because God’s word unfolds itself in writing, one of the principal ways in which renewed reason fulfills its calling is through reading.”

–Scott R. Swain, Trinity, Revelation, and Reading: A Theological Introduction to the Bible and Its Interpretation (London; New York: T&T Clark, 2011), 96–98.

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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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“The Lamb has won” by Patrick Schreiner

“The goal of the kingdom achieved in Revelation is described as a city, a people, and a conquering King. From the throne of this King comes a river with water (Rev. 22:1-2; think Gen. 2:10 and Ezek. 47:1-12), and on either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit for the healing of nations.

As Genesis began with the garden and the tree of life, now Revelation closes with a garden city and a tree that heals all the nations. Genesis began with a marriage; so also Revelation finishes with the wedding feast of the Lamb.

The twelve kinds of fruit harken us back to the promise made to Abrahams offspring, that they would bring blessings to the whole world. They are the chosen people through whom God established His kingdom.

The Messiah has come to fulfill the destiny of Israel’s seed in feeding all the nations. Israels hopes were too small. The tree that bore their king transformed into a source of life for the entire world.

Streaming into the city are the kings of the earth who come to give their glory to the King of kings, who reigns over all people. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil seemed to send the kingdom plan on a downward spiral, but it was through the tree of the cross that the kingdom was fulfilled.

Now the tree of life consummates the kingdom story started so long ago. The dragon is slain; the Lamb has won; the people are free; they are home.”

–Patrick Schreiner, The Kingdom of God and the Glory of the Cross (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018), 130-131.

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“By indefatigable labor” by Francis Turretin

“We unhesitatingly confess that the Scriptures have their heights and depths which we cannot enter or sound and which God so ordered on purpose to excite the study of believers and increase their diligence, to humble the pride of man and to remove from them the contempt which might arise from too great plainness…

For as in nature so also in the Scriptures, it pleased God to present everywhere and make easy of comprehension all necessary things.

But those less necessary are so closely concealed as to require great exertion to extricate them. Thus besides bread and sustenance, she has her luxuries, gems and gold deep under the surface and obtainable only by indefatigable labor.

And as heaven is sprinkled with greater and lesser stars, so the Scriptures are not everywhere equally resplendent, but are distinguished by clearer and obscurer places, as by stars of a greater or lesser magnitude.”

–Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, (2.17.4). Ed. James Dennison (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1692/1996), 1:143-144.

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“The ever-living, eternally youthful Word” by Herman Bavinck

“Holy Scripture is not an arid story or ancient chronicle but the ever-living, eternally youthful Word, which God, now and always, issues to His people. It is the eternally ongoing speech of God to us.

It does not just serve to give us historical information; it does not even have the intent to furnish us a historical story by the standard of reliability demanded in other realms of knowledge.

Holy Scripture is tendentious: whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope [Rom. 15:4].

Scripture was written by the Holy Spirit that it might serve Him in guiding the church, in the perfecting of the saints, in building up the body of Christ.

In it God daily comes to His people.

In it He speaks to His people, not from afar but from nearby.

In it He reveals himself, from day to day, to believers in the fullness of His truth and grace.

Through it He works His miracles of compassion and faithfulness. Scripture is the ongoing rapport between heaven and earth, between Christ and His church, between God and His children.

It does not just tie us to the past; it binds us to the living Lord in the heavens.

It is the living voice of God, the letter of the omnipotent God to His creature.

God once created the world by the word, and by that word He also upholds it [Heb. 1:2, 3].

But He also re-creates it by the word and prepares it to be His dwelling. Divine inspiration, accordingly, is a permanent attribute of Holy Scripture.

It was not only ‘God-breathed’ at the time it was written; it is ‘God-breathing.’

‘It was divinely inspired, not merely while it was written, God breathing through the writers; but also, whilst it is being read, God breathing through the Scripture, and the Scripture breathing Him [He being their very breath].’ (Bengel)

Having come forth from revelation, it is kept alive by divine inspiration and made efficacious.

It is the Holy Spirit who maintains both prophecy and miracle, Scripture and church, joining them together, thus preparing the parousia.

Some day when being and consciousness are completely renewed, revelation will end and Scripture will no longer be necessary.

Divine inspiration (θεοπνευστια) will then be the portion of all God’s children. They will all be taught by the Lord and serve Him in His temple. Prophecy and miracle have then become ‘nature,’ for God dwells among His people.”

–Herman Bavinck, Ed. John Bolt and trans. John Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics: Prolegomena, Vol. 1  (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 384-385.

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“The link between God and His name” by Herman Bavinck

“All we can learn about God from His revelation is designated His Name in Scripture… There is an intimate link between God and His name. According to Scripture, this link too is not accidental or arbitrary but forged by God Himself.

We do not name God; He names Himself. In the foreground here is the name as a revelation on the part of God, in an active and objective sense, as revealed name.

In this case God’s name is identical with the attributes or perfections that He exhibits in and to the world: His glory (Ps. 8:1; 72:19), honor (Lev. 18:21; Ps. 86:10–11; 102:16), His redeeming power (Exod. 15:3; Isa. 47:4); His service (Isa. 56:6; Jer. 23:27); His holiness (1 Chron. 16:10; Ps. 105:3).

The name is God Himself as He reveals Himself in one relationship or another (Lev. 24:11, 16; Deut. 28:58). That name, being a revelation of God, is great (Ezek. 36:23), holy (Ezek. 36:20), awesome (Ps. 111:9), a high refuge (Ps. 20:1), a strong tower (Prov. 18:10).

By proper names, particularly by the name YHWH, God made Himself known to Israel. He revealed Himself to Israel by the angel in whom the Lord’s name was present (Exod. 23:20).

And He put His name on the children of Israel (Num. 6:27), caused His name to be remembered (Exod. 20:24), put His name among them and made it to dwell there (Deut. 12:5; 14:23), especially in the temple that was built for His name (2 Sam. 7:13). Now His name lives in that temple (2 Chron. 20:9; 33:4).

By that name He saves (Ps. 54:1), and on account of that name He cannot abandon Israel (1 Sam. 12:22; Isa. 48:9, 11; Ps. 23:3; 31:3; 143:11–12). Israel, accordingly, may not blaspheme and desecrate that name, or use it in vain (Exod. 20:7; Lev. 18:21; 19:12; 24:11).

On the contrary: that name must be invoked, passed on in story, magnified, known, feared, exalted, expected, sought out, sanctified (Gen. 4:26; 12:8; Exod. 9:16; Deut. 28:58; 1 Kings 8:33; Ps. 5:12; 34:3; 52:9; 83:17; 122:4; Isa. 26:8; Matt. 6:9; John 12:28; etc.).

In the New Testament God’s name acquires an even richer and deeper meaning. For the Logos, who was in the beginning with God and is in the bosom of the Father, has made Him known (John 1:18) and revealed His name (John 17:6, 26).

Since no one knows the Father except the Son, only those to whom the Son reveals the Father gain knowledge of God (Matt. 11:27). Those who confess the Son have the Father also (1 John 2:23). Those who have seen Him have seen the Father (John 14:9).

The name of Jesus Christ, accordingly, guarantees the truth of our knowledge of God and all the associated benefits. He is called Jesus because He saves His people (Matt. 1:21) and is the only name given under heaven by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

By His name miracles are performed (Acts 4:7); by it we receive forgiveness (Acts 2:38), the right to become God’s children (John 1:12), and eternal life (1 John 5:13). Where two or three people are gathered in His name, He is in their midst (Matt. 18:20).

Those who pray in His name are heard (John 14:13), and those who call on the name of the Lord are saved (Acts 2:21). All salvation for humanity is comprehended within the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Being baptized in that name is a sign and seal of fellowship with God. And an even richer revelation awaits believers in the new Jerusalem (Rev. 3:12), when His name will be inscribed upon everyone’s forehead (Rev. 22:4).

The name of God in Scripture does not describe God as He exists within Himself but God in His revelation and multiple relations to His creatures. This name, however, is not arbitrary: God reveals Himself in the way He does because He is who He is.

Summed up in His name, therefore, is His honor, His fame, His excellencies, His entire revelation, His very being.”

–Herman Bavinck, Eds. John Bolt and John Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 2: God and Creation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 97, 98-99.

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