Category Archives: Justification

“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 one undivided and indivisible Christ” by Herman Bavinck

“The Reformation attacked this entire nomistic system at the roots when it took its position in the confession that sinners are justified by faith alone. By this act, after all, it all at once reversed the entire order of things.

Communion with God came about not by human exertion, but solely on the part of God, by a gift of His grace, so that religion was again given its place before morality.

If human beings received the forgiveness of sins, righteousness, adoption as children, and eternal life through faith alone, by grace, on account of the merits of Christ, then they did not need to exert themselves to earn all these benefits by good works.

They already possessed them in advance as a gift they had accepted by faith. The gratitude and joy that filled their hearts upon receiving all these benefits drove them to do good works before the thought that they had to do them even crossed their mind.

For the faith by which they accepted these benefits was a living faith, not a dead one, not a bare agreement with a historical truth, but a personal heartfelt trust in the grace of God in Christ Jesus.

In Justification that faith of course manifested itself only from its receptive side because in this connection everything depended on the acceptance of the righteousness offered and bestowed in Christ.

Yet, from its very inception, and at the same time as it justified, it was also a living, active, and forceful faith that renewed people and poured joy into their hearts.

Actually, therefore, it was not faith that justified and sanctified, but it was the one undivided and indivisible Christ who through faith gave Himself to believers for righteousness and sanctification, who was imputed and imparted to us on the part of God, and whom we therefore from the beginning possess in that faith as Christ for us and in us.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation, Vol. 4, Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 4: 242–243.

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“He atoned for all our sins” by J. Gresham Machen

“This business of letting by-gones be by-gones has a pleasant sound. But in reality it is the most heartless thing in the world.

It will not do at all even in the case of sins committed against our fellow-men. To say nothing of sin against God, what shall be done about the harm that we have wrought to our neighbor?

Sometimes, no doubt, the harm can be repaired. If we have defrauded our neighbor of a sum of money, we can pay the sum back with interest. But in the case of the more serious wrongs such repayment is usually quite impossible.

The more serious wrongs are those that are done, not to the bodies, but to the souls of men. And who can think with complacency of wrongs of that kind which he has committed?

Who can bear to think, for example, of the harm that he has done to those younger than himself by a bad example? And what of those sad words, spoken to those we love, that have left scars never to be obliterated by the hand of time?

In the presence of such memories, we are told by the modern preacher simply to repent and to let by-gones be by-gones. But what a heartless thing is such repentance!

We escape into some higher, happier, respectable life. But what of those whom we by our example and by our words have helped to drag down to the brink of hell? We forget them and let by-gones be by-gones!

Such repentance will never wipe out the guilt of sin— not even sin committed against our fellow-men, to say nothing of sin against our God.

The truly penitent man longs to wipe out the effects of sin, not merely to forget sin. But who can wipe out the effects of sin? Others are suffering because of our past sins; and we can attain no real peace until we suffer in their stead.

We long to go back into the tangle of our life, and make right the things that are wrong—at least to suffer where we have caused others to suffer.

And something like that Christ did for us when He died instead of us on the cross; He atoned for all our sins.

The sorrow for sins committed against one’s fellowmen does indeed remain in the Christian’s heart. And he will seek by every means that is within his power to repair the damage that he has done.

But atonement at least has been made—made as truly as if the sinner himself had suffered with and for those whom he has wronged. And the sinner himself, by a mystery of grace, becomes right with God.

All sin at bottom is a sin against God. ‘Against thee, thee only have I sinned’ is the cry of a true penitent.

How terrible is the sin against God! Who can recall the wasted moments and years? Gone they are, never to return; gone the little allotted span of life; gone the little day in which a man must work. Who can measure the irrevocable guilt of a wasted life?

Yet even for such guilt God has provided a fountain of cleansing in the precious blood of Christ. God has clothed us with Christ’s righteousness as with a garment; in Christ we stand spotless before the judgment throne.”

–J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (New Edition.; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009), 109–110.

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“Grace is glory begun and glory is grace consummated” by Francis Turretin

“Works can be considered in three ways: either with reference to justification or sanctification or glorification.

They are related to justification not antecedently, efficiently and meritoriously, but consequently and declaratively.

They are related to sanctification constitutively because they constitute and promote it.

They are related to glorification antecedently and ordinatively because they are related to it as the means to the end; yea, as the beginning to the complement because grace is glory begun, as glory is grace consummated.”

–Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, (17.3.15). Ed. James Dennison (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1692/1996), 2:705.

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“A garment without spot” by Richard Sibbes

“What beauty have we in justification, to be clothed with the righteousness of Christ, that perfect righteousness, that can answer the justice of God much more Satan’s cavils and the troubles of our own consciences.

That righteousness that satisfieth the justice of God, being the righteousness of God-Man, it will satisfy conscience, and Satan’s temptations.

It is a garment without spot. Satan can pick no hole in that glorious garment, the righteousness of Christ.

If we have the wardrobe of Christ, we shall be beautiful in that we have from Christ, we shall shine in His beams.”

–Richard Sibbes, “A Breathing After God,” in The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes (ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart; vol. 2; Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet And Co.; W. Robertson, 1862), 234.

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“The message of the cross is a living, busy, active, mighty thing” by Stephen Westerholm

“Admittedly, Luther is prone to seeing his own circumstances reflected in biblical texts (if this is a fault); and (herein lies a very great fault), when he writes polemically, his terms and tone are often monumentally lamentable.

Still, one has only to read a few pages of his writings (most any will do) to realize that, in crucial respects, he inhabits the same world, and breathes the same air, as the apostle. Both are driven by a massive, unremitting sense of answerability to their Maker.

For both, the message of God’s grace in Christ is a source of palpable liberty and joy, and of prodigious παρρησία. For both, the faith in God awakened by the message of the cross is a living, busy, active, mighty thing; for both, works without faith are dead.

Neither makes the slightest gesture toward cloaking his horror and indignation at any perceived tampering with the divine kerygma or infringement of divine prerogatives. Such kindredness of spirit gives Luther an inestimable advantage over many readers of Paul in ‘capturing’ the essence of the apostle’s writings.

On numerous points of detail, Luther may be the last to illumine. For those, however, who would see forest as well as trees, I am still inclined to propose a trip to the dustbins of recent Pauline scholarship—to retrieve and try out, on a reading of the epistles, the discarded spectacles of the Reformer.”

–Stephen Westerholm, “The ‘New Perspective’ at Twenty-Five,” in Justification and Variegated Nomism: The Paradoxes of Paul (eds. D.A. Carson, Peter T. O’Brien, and Mark A. Seifrid, vol. 2, 181st ed.; Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament; Grand Rapids, MI; Tübingen: Baker Academic; Mohr Siebeck, 2004), 38.

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