Category Archives: Justification

“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.

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“At least, so it ought to be” by Herman Bavinck

“When we are reconciled to God we are reconciled to all things.

When we stand in a right relationship to God we also come to stand in a right relationship over against the world.

The redemption in Christ is a redemption from the guilt and punishment of sin, but it is a redemption also from the world which can so confine and oppress us.

We know that the Father loved the world, and that Christ gained the victory over the world. The world can therefore still oppress us, but it cannot rob us of our good courage (John 16:33).

As children of the Heavenly Father, the believers are not anxious about what they shall eat, and what they shall drink, and with what they shall be clothed, for He knows that they have need of all these things (Matt. 6:25ff.).

They do not gather treasures upon earth, but have their treasure in Heaven where neither moth nor rust corrupts, and where thieves do not break through nor steal (Matt. 6:19–20).

As unknown they are nevertheless known; as dying they live; as chastened they are not killed; as sorrowful yet always rejoicing; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things (2 Cor. 6:9–10).

They do not torment themselves with the ‘Taste not, touch not’ attitude, but regard every creature of God as good and accept it with gratitude (Col. 2:20 and 1 Tim. 4:4).

They remain and they work in the same calling in which they are called and are not bondservants of men but of Christ alone (1 Cor. 7:20–24).

They see in the trials which fall to them not a punishment but a chastisement and a token of God’s love (Heb. 12:5–8).

They are free over against all creatures because nothing can separate them from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus their Lord (Rom. 8:35 and 39).

Indeed, all things are theirs because they are Christ’s (1 Cor. 3:21–23), and all things must work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28).

The believer who is justified in Christ is the freest creature in the world.

At least, so it ought to be.”

–Herman Bavinck, The Wonderful Works of God (trans. Henry Zylstra; Glenside, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 1956/2019), 449-450.

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“The resurrection of Christ is the ‘Amen’ of the Father upon the ‘Finished’ of the Son” by Herman Bavinck

“The resurrection is the day of Christ’s crowning. He was Son and Messiah already before His incarnation. He was that also in His humiliation. But then His inner being was hidden under the form of a servant.

Now, however, God openly cries out and declares Him to be Lord and Christ, Prince and Savior. Now Christ takes up again that glory which He had before with the Father (John 17:5).

After this He takes on ‘another form,’ another figure, a different form of existence. He who was dead has become alive, and lives in all eternity, and He has the keys of heaven and of hell (Rev. 1:18).

He is the Prince of life, the source of salvation, and the one appointed by God to be the Judge of the living and the dead.

Further, the resurrection of Christ is a fountain of good for His church and for the whole world. It is the ‘Amen‘ of the Father upon the ‘Finished‘ of the Son.

Christ was delivered up for our sins and raised for our justification (Rom. 4:25).”

–Herman Bavinck, Our Reasonable Faith or The Wonderful Works of God (trans. Henry Zylstra; Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2016), 350-351.

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“Solus Christus” by Michael Horton

“It is solus Christus that measures the gulf between Paul and every other system.”

–Michael Horton, Justification, Volume 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018), 2: 124.

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“Grace does not exist on a spectrum” by Michael Horton

“The slightest nomism vitiates the gospel. For Paul, grace does not exist on a spectrum. Unlike a dimmer switch, it is binary: ‘grace would no longer be grace’ if works played any role as the ground or instrument of justification (Rom. 11:6).”

–Michael Horton, Justification, Volume 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018), 2: 124.

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“The merciful One” by Martin Luther

“Christ came into the world so that He might take hold of us and so that we, by gazing upon Christ, might be drawn and carried directly to the Father.

As we have warned you before, there is no hope that any saving knowledge of God can come by speculating about the majesty of God; this can come only by taking hold of Christ, who, by the will of the Father, has given Himself into death for our sins.

When you have grasped this, then all wrath stops, and fear and trembling disappear; and God appears as nothing but the merciful One who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all (Rom. 8:32).”

–Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 26: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 1-4 (ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann; vol. 26; Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 26: 42.

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“It cannot be grasped or held enough or too much” by Martin Luther

“It should not bore you if we repeat here what we teach, preach, sing, and write at other times and places. For if we lose the doctrine of justification, we lose simply everything.

Hence the most necessary and important thing is that we teach and repeat this doctrine daily, as Moses says about his Law (Deut. 6:7). For it cannot be grasped or held enough or too much. In fact, though we may urge and inculcate it vigorously, no one grasps it perfectly or believes it with all his heart.

So frail is our flesh and so disobedient to the Spirit!”

–Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 26: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 1-4 (ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann; vol. 26; Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 26: 26.

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