“The believer is never alone” by Herman Bavinck

“All the rich benefits which Christ gives to His believers on earth receive their fulfillment and their crown in the glorification which accrues to them in part upon death but only in its fulness after the day of judgment.

But this benefit of glorification is one which we cannot yet discuss, because we have first to pay some attention to the way in which, or the route along which, Christ brings the benefits of calling and regeneration, faith and repentance, justification and adoption as children, renewal and sanctification, into being in His believers on earth, and sustains and reinforces them.

We have already noted that He grants all those benefits by means of His Word and His Spirit, but have still to see that He also grants them also only in the fellowship which binds all the believers together.

He does not distribute them to single individuals, nor to a small group of persons, but He gives them out to a great multitude, to the whole of the new humanity, which was chosen in Him by the Father from before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4).

The believer, therefore, never stands apart by himself; he is never alone. In the natural world every human being is born in the fellowship of his parents, and he is therefore without any effort on his own part a member of a family, of a people, and also of the whole of mankind.

So it is also in the spiritual sphere. The believer is born from above, out of God, but he receives the new life only in the fellowship of the covenant of grace of which Christ is the Head and at the same time the content.

If by virtue of this regeneration God is his Father, the church may in a good sense be called his mother. In the world of heathendom also there is no believer or no gathering of believers except by way of the mission which the church of Christ sends them.

From the first moment of his regeneration, therefore, the believer is, apart from his will and apart from his own doing, incorporated in a great whole, taken up into a rich fellowship; he is member of a new nation and citizen of a spiritual kingdom whose king is glorious in the multitude of his subjects (Prov. 14:28).”

–Herman Bavinck, The Wonderful Works of God (trans. Henry Zylstra; Glenside, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 1909/2019), 495–496.

“Believers can and will become holy because in Christ they are holy” by Herman Bavinck

“Naturally, God is the Almighty One, and He could, had He wanted to, have perfectly sanctified all His children in the moment of regeneration. But that apparently was not His will; in the recreation He does not deny Himself as Creator.

All the life of the creature is born, grows up, and only gradually reaches its maturity. Because the spiritual life is actually life it comes to be and it develops in this same way.

God does not inject the righteousness and holiness of Christ into us mechanically, or pour it out as one does water into a vessel, but He works it out in us in an organic way. Hence the one detail does not conflict with the other when the Scripture constantly presents the matter as though the believers must become that which they are.

The kingdom of heaven is a gift of God (Luke 12:32) and yet it is a treasure of great worth which must be sought after (Matt. 6:33 and 13:46). The believers are the branches of the vine, and they can, accordingly, do nothing without Christ, and yet they are told in His word to remain in Him, in His word, and in His love (John 15:1ff).

They were elected in Christ from before the foundation of the world, and yet they must be diligent to make their calling and their election sure (Eph. 1:4 and 2 Peter 1:10). They have been sanctified by the one sacrifice of Christ, and must nevertheless follow after sanctification, without which no man shall see the Lord (Heb. 10:10 and 12:14).

They are complete, and nevertheless require constant perfecting and establishment (Col. 2:10 and 1 Peter 5:10). They have put on the new man, and must nevertheless constantly put him on (Eph. 4:24 and Col. 3:10).

They have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts, and must nevertheless still mortify their members which are upon the earth (Gal. 5:24 and Col. 3:5). It is God who works in them both to will and to do according to His good pleasure, and yet they must work out their salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12–13).

These data do not conflict with each other. The one is simply the ground and guarantee of the other. Because sanctification, like the whole of salvation, is the work of God, we are admonished, obliged, to a new obedience, and we are also qualified for it.

He grants abundant grace not that we should instantly or suddenly be holy and continue to rest in this holiness, but that we should persevere in the struggle and remain standing.

He hears our prayers but does it in accordance with the law and order which He has fixed for the spiritual life. Hence we are always of good courage, for He who has begun a good work in us will finish it until the day of Jesus Christ.

The believers can and they will become holy because in Christ they are holy.”

–Herman Bavinck, The Wonderful Works of God (trans. Henry Zylstra; Glenside, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 1909/2019), 484-485.

“The Christian ethic” by Herman Bavinck

“The Christian ethic is none other than the one briefly and pointedly comprised in the ten commandments and which, for the rest, is illuminated and interpreted throughout the whole of Scriptures.

In those commandments the love of God stands in the foreground, but the love of the neighbor is the second law, like unto the first.”

–Herman Bavinck, The Wonderful Works of God (trans. Henry Zylstra; Glenside, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 1909/2019), 479.

“The chain of salvation cannot be broken” by Herman Bavinck

“After Paul in his letter to the Romans has first dealt with the subject of justification (Romans 5:1ff) he proceeds in chapter 6 to the subject of sanctification (Romans 6:1ff). Just as there were later on, so there were in the days of the apostles certain people who thought that the doctrine of free justification would affect the moral life unfavorably.

They feared that people, prompted by such a confession, would proceed to sin in order that good might issue from it and grace be made to abound (Rom. 3:8 and 6:1). Paul refutes this charge and says that it is impossible for those who have died to sin to live in it any longer (Rom. 6:2).

He proves this by pointing out that the believers who by their faith have received the forgiveness of sins and peace with God have also by witness of their baptism been buried with Christ in His death and been raised with Him to a new life (Rom. 6:3–11).

For Paul believers are always persons who have not only accepted the righteousness of God in Christ unto the forgiveness of their sins, but also have personally died and been raised in the communion with Christ, and therefore are dead to sin and alive in God (Gal. 2:20; 3:27; Col. 2:12). In other words, the death of Christ has justifying power not only but also sanctifying power (2 Cor. 5:13).

And the faith which has the true stamp upon it accepts Christ not only as a justification but also as a sanctification: in fact, the one is impossible without the other. For Christ is not to be divided and His benefits are inseparable from His person.

He is at the same time our wisdom and our righteousness, our sanctification and our redemption (1 Cor. 1:30). Such He became for us of God and as such He was given us by God.

The sanctification which we must share, therefore, lies perfectly achieved in Christ. There are many Christians who, at least in their practical life, think very differently about this.

They acknowledge that they are justified through the righteousness which Christ has accomplished, but they maintain or at least act as though they hold that they must be sanctified by a holiness that they must themselves achieve.

If this were true, then we, in flat contradiction of the apostolic testimony (Rom. 6:14; Gal. 4:31; 5:1 and 13), would not be living under grace in freedom but under the bondage of the law.

However, the evangelical sanctification is distinguished just as well from the legal one as the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel is distinguished, not in its content but in the mode of sharing it, from that which was demanded by the law.

It consists of this: that in Christ God gives us the perfect sanctification along with the justification, and that He gives us this as an internal possession through the regenerating and renewing operation of the Holy Spirit.

Sanctification is therefore God’s work, a work of His righteousness and of His grace at the same time. First He reckons Christ and all His benefits to our account, and thereupon He shares Him with us in all the fulness that is in Him.

For it is He who circumcises the hearts (Deut. 31:6), who takes away the heart of stone and supplants it with a heart of flesh (Ezek. 12:19), who pours out His Spirit upon them (Joel 2:28), who creates a new spirit within them (Ezek. 11:19 and 36:26), who writes His law in their hearts, causes them to walk in His ways and makes them His people. (Jer. 31:33; 32:38; Ezek. 36:27 and 28)

The matter is, if possible, put even more strongly in the New Testament where we read that the believers are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:10), a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17 and Gal. 6:15), and the work of God (Rom. 14:20).

There the believers are also called God’s husbandry and God’s building (1 Cor. 3:9; Eph. 2:20; Col. 2:7; 1 Peter 2:5), and there we are told that all things are of God (2 Cor. 5:18).

When they were buried with Christ and raised with Him, they were also washed and sanctified (1 Cor. 1:2; 6:11; Titus 3:5), and they continue to be sanctified in the future (John 17:17; 2 Cor. 3:18; 1 Thess. 5:23; Eph. 5:26; Titus 2:14; and Heb. 13:20–21) until they have been wholly conformed to the image of the Son. (Rom. 8:28; 1 Cor. 15:49; and Phil. 3:21)

The chain of salvation cannot be broken because from beginning to end it is the work of God. He whom He has known, called, and justified, him He has also glorified (Rom. 8:30).”

–Herman Bavinck, The Wonderful Works of God (trans. Henry Zylstra; Glenside, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 1909/2019), 457-459.

“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.

“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.

“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.