Category Archives: Jesus Christ

“An ever-continuing battle” by Herman Bavinck

“All believers have the experience that in the best moments of their life they are also most firm in their belief in Scripture. The believer’s confidence in Christ increases along with their confidence in Scripture and, conversely, ignorance of the Scriptures is automatically and proportionately ignorance of Christ.

The connection between sin and error often lies hidden deep below the surface of the conscious life. One can almost never demonstrate this link in others, but it is sometimes revealed to our own inner eye with respect to ourselves.

The battle against the Bible is, in the first place, a revelation of the hostility of the human heart. But that hostility may express itself in various ways. It absolutely does not come to expression only—and perhaps not even most forcefully—in the criticism to which Scripture has been subjected in our time.

Scripture as the word of God encounters opposition and unbelief in every ‘unspiritual’ person. In the days of dead orthodoxy, an unbelieving attitude toward Scripture was in principle as powerful as in our historically-oriented and critical century. The forms change, but the essence remains the same.

Whether hostility against Scripture is expressed in criticism like that of Celsus and Porphyry or whether it is manifest in a dead faith, that hostility in principle is the same. For not the hearers but the doers of the word (James 1:22) are pronounced blessed. ‘The servant who knew his master’s will but did not make ready or act according to his will will receive a severe beating’ (Luke 12:47).

It remains the duty of every person, therefore, first of all to put aside his or her hostility against the word of God and ‘to take every thought captive to obey Christ’ (2 Cor. 10:5). Scripture itself everywhere presses this demand.

Only the pure of heart will see God. Rebirth will see the kingdom of God. Self-denial is the condition for being a disciple of Jesus. The wisdom of the world is folly to God. Over against all human beings, Scripture occupies a position so high that, instead of subjecting itself to their criticism, it judges them in all their thoughts and desires.

And this has been the Christian church’s position toward Scripture at all times. According to Chrysostom, humility is the foundation of philosophy. Augustine once said: ‘When a certain rhetorician was asked what was the chief rule in eloquence, he replied, ‘Delivery’; what was the second rule, ‘Delivery’; what was the third rule, ‘Delivery’; so if you ask me concerning the precepts of the Christian religion, first, second, third, and always I would answer, ‘Humility.’ ” Calvin cites this statement with approval. And Pascal cries out to humanity: ‘Humble yourself, powerless reason! Be silent, stupid nature!… Listen to God!’

This has been the attitude of the church toward Scripture down the centuries. And the Christian dogmatician may take no other position. For a dogma is not based on the results of any historical-critical research but only on the witness of God, on the self-testimony of Holy Scripture.

A Christian believes, not because everything in life reveals the love of God, but rather despite everything that raises doubt. In Scripture too there is much that raises doubt. All believers know from experience that this is true. Those who engage in biblical criticism frequently talk as if simple church people know nothing about the objections that are advanced against Scripture and are insensitive to the difficulty of continuing to believe in Scripture. But that is a false picture.

Certainly, simple Christians do not know all the obstacles that science raises to belief in Scripture. But they do to a greater or lesser degree know the hard struggle fought both in head and heart against Scripture.

There is not a single Christian who has not in his or her own way learned to know the antithesis between the ‘wisdom of the world’ and ‘the foolishness of God.’ It is one and the same battle, an ever-continuing battle, which has to be waged by all Christians, learned or unlearned, to ‘take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ’ (2 Cor. 10:5).

Here on earth no one ever rises above that battle. Throughout the whole domain of faith, there remain ‘crosses’ that have to be overcome. There is no faith without struggle. To believe is to struggle, to struggle against the appearance of things.

As long as people still believe in anything, their belief is challenged from all directions. No modern believer is spared from this either. Concessions weaken believers but do not liberate them. Thus for those who in childlike faith subject themselves to Scripture, there still remain more than enough objections. These need not be disguised. There are intellectual problems in Scripture that cannot be ignored and that will probably never be resolved.

But these difficulties, which Scripture itself presents against its own inspiration, are in large part not recent discoveries of our century. They have been known at all times.

Nevertheless, Jesus and the apostles, Athanasius and Augustine, Thomas and Bonaventure, Luther and Calvin, and Christians of all churches have down the centuries confessed and recognized Scripture as the Word of God. Those who want to delay belief in Scripture till all the objections have been cleared up and all the contradictions have been resolved will never arrive at faith. ‘For who hopes for what he sees?’ (Rom. 8:24).

Jesus calls blessed those who have not seen and yet believe (John 20:29).”

–Herman Bavinck, Eds. John Bolt and John Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 1: Prolegomena (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 440-442.

 

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“He must open the way to His fatherly heart” by Herman Bavinck

“To correctly assess the benefit of Justification, people must lift up their minds to the judgment seat of God and put themselves in His presence.

When they compare themselves with others or measure themselves by the standard that they apply to themselves or among each other, they have some reason perhaps to pride themselves in something and to put their trust in it.

But when they put themselves before the face of God and examine themselves in the mirror of His holy law, all their conceit collapses, all self-confidence melts, and there is room left only for the prayer: ‘Enter not into judgment with Your servant, for no one living is righteous before You’ (Job 4:17–19; 9:2; 15:14–16; Ps. 143:2; cf. 130:3), and their only comfort is that ‘there is forgiveness before You, so that You may be revered’ (Ps. 130:4).

If for insignificant, guilty, and impure persons there is to be a possibility of true religion, that is, of genuine fellowship with God, of salvation and eternal life, then God on His part must reestablish the broken bond, again take them into fellowship with Him and share His grace with them, regardless of their guilt and corruption.

He, then, must descend from the height of His majesty, seek us out and come to us, take away our guilt and again open the way to His fatherly heart.

If God were to wait until we—by our faith, our virtues, and good works of congruity or condignity—had made ourselves worthy, in part or in whole, to receive His favor, the restoration of communion between Him and ourselves would never happen, and salvation would forever be out of reach for us.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 4, Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), 204-205.

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“The righteousness of Christ” by Thomas Brooks

“Though men may accuse you, judge and condemn you, yet know for your support, that you are acquitted before the throne of God. However you may stand in the eyes of men, as full of nothing but faults, persons made up of nothing but sin, yet are you clear in the eyes of God.

God looks upon weak saints in the Son of His love, and sees them all lovely. They are as the tree of Paradise, ‘fair to his eye, and pleasant to his taste,’ (Gen. 3:6).

Ah, poor souls! You are apt to look upon your spots and blots, and to cry out with the leper not only ‘Unclean, unclean!’ but ‘Undone, undone!’

Well, forever remember this, that your persons stand before God in the righteousness of Christ, upon which account you always appear, before the throne of God, without fault. You are all fair, and there is no spot in you.”

–Thomas Brooks, “The Unsearchable Riches of Christ,” The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 3, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1866/2001), 70.

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“The work of redemption is the face of His wisdom” by Stephen Charnock

“The wisdom of God doth wonderfully appear in redemption. His wisdom in creature ravisheth the eye and understanding. His wisdom in government doth no less affect a curious observer of the links and concatenation of the means.

But His wisdom in redemption mounts the mind to a greater astonishment. The works of creation are the footsteps of His wisdom; the work of redemption is the face of His wisdom.

In Christ, in the dispensation by Him, as well as His person, were ‘hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ (Col. 2:3). Some doles of wisdom were given out in creation, but the treasures of it opened in redemption, the highest degrees of it that ever God did exert in the world.

Christ is therefore called the ‘wisdom of God,’ as well as the ‘power of God’ (1 Cor. 1:24); and the gospel is called the ‘wisdom of God.’

Christ is the wisdom of God principally, and the gospel instrumentally, as it is the power of God instrumentally to subdue the heart to Himself. This is wrapped up in the appointing Christ as Redeemer, and opened to us in the revelation of it by the gospel.”

–Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God, vol. 1, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1682/2000), 552-553.

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“There will be a great change soon” by J.C. Ryle

“A desire of salvation shall come to many too late. They shall long after pardon, and peace, and the favour of God, when they can no more be had. They will wish they might have one more Sunday over again, have one more offer of forgiveness, have one more call to prayer.

But it will matter nothing what they think, or feel, or desire then: the day of grace will be over; the gate of salvation will be bolted and barred. It will be too late!

I often think what a change there will be one day in the price and estimation at which things are valued. I look round this world in which my lot is cast; I mark the current price of everything this world contains; I look forward to the coming of Christ, and the great day of God.

I think of the new order of things, which that day will bring in; I read the words of the Lord Jesus, when He describes the master of the house rising up and shutting the door; and as I read, I say to myself, ‘There will be a great change soon.’

What are the dear things now? Gold, silver, precious stones, bank notes, mines, ships, lands, houses, horses, carriages, furniture, meat, drink, clothes, and the like. These are the things that are thought valuable; these are the things that command a ready market; these are the things which you can never get below a certain price, He that has much of these things is counted a wealthy man. Such is the world!

And what are the cheap things now? The knowledge of God, the free salvation of the Gospel, the favour of Christ, the grace of the Holy Ghost, the privilege of being God’s son, the title to eternal life, the right to the tree of life, the reversion of a mansion in heaven, the promises of an incorruptible inheritance, the offer of a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

These are the things that no man hardly cares for. They are offered to the sons of men without money and without price: they may be had for nothing,—freely and gratuitously. Whosoever will may take his portion. But, alas, there is no demand for these things! They go a begging. They are scarcely looked at. They are offered in vain. Such is the world!

But a day is coming upon us all when the value of everything shall be altered.

A day is coming when banknotes shall be as useless as rags, and gold shall be as worthless as the dust of the earth.

A day is coming when thousands shall care nothing for the things for which they once lived, and shall desire nothing so much as the things which they once despised. The halls and palaces will be forgotten in the desire of a ‘house not made with hands.’

The favour of the rich and great will be no more remembered, in the longing for the favour of the King of kings. The silks, and satins, and velvets, and laces, will be lost sight of in the anxious want of the robe of Christ’s righteousness.

All shall be altered, all shall be changed in the great day of the Lord’s return. ‘Many will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.'”

–J.C. Ryle, Practical Religion: Being Plain Papers on the Daily Duties, Experience, Dangers, and Privileges of Professing Christians (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1878/2013), 35-37.

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“Meditating day and night” by William Plumer

“Another positive sign of a renewed man is that he meditates in the law of the LORD day and night. ‘As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.’

Vain thoughts lodge in all ungodly men. But the righteous hate sinful imaginings. What the wicked would be ashamed to act or speak out, the righteous is ashamed to think or desire.

Yet the mind of the righteous is full of activity. He meditates. The power of reflection chiefly distinguishes a man from a brute.

The habit of reflection chiefly distinguishes a wise man from a fool. Pious reflection on God’s word greatly distinguishes a saint from a sinner.

Without meditation grace never thrives, prayer is languid, praise dull, and religious duties unprofitable.

Yet to flesh and blood without divine grace this is an impossible duty.

It is easier to take a journey of a thousand miles than to spend an hour in close, devout, profitable thought on divine things.

Like prayer (Luke 18:7), meditation is to be pursued day and night, not reluctantly, but joyously, not merely in God’s house, or on the Lord’s day, but whenever other duties do not forbid.

Nor does the true child of God slight part of divine truth. He loves it all.

A saint is therefore described by his ‘meditating in the law of God day and night,’ which is the natural and necessary effect of his delight in it.”

–William Plumer, Psalms: A Critical and Expository Commentary with Doctrinal and Practical Remarks (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, originally published in 1867; reprinted 2016), 28.

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“Christ gives more than sin stole” by Herman Bavinck

“When the kingdom has fully come, Christ will hand it over to God the Father. The original order will be restored.

But not naturally, as if nothing had ever happened, as if sin had never existed and the revelation of God’s grace in Christ had never occurred. Christ gives more than sin stole; grace was made much more to abound.

He does not simply restore us to the status integritatis [state of righteousness] of Adam; he makes us, by faith, participants of the non posse peccare [being unable to sin] (1 John 3:9) and of the non posse mori [being unable to die] (John 11:25).

Adam does not again receive the place which he lost by sin. The first man was of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven. Just as we have born the image of the earthy, so too after the resurrection shall we bear the image of the heavenly man (1 Cor. 15:45-49).

A new song will be sung in heaven (Rev. 5:9, 10), but the original order of creation will remain, at least to the extent that all distinctions of nature and grace will once and for all be done away with.

Dualism will cease. Grace does not remain outside or above or beside nature but rather permeates and wholly renews it. And thus nature, reborn by grace, will be brought to its highest revelation.

That situation will again return in which we serve God freely and happily, without compulsion or fear, simply out of love.”

–Herman Bavinck, “Common Grace,” trans. Ray VanLeeuwen, Calvin Theological Journal 24 (1988): 59-60.

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