Tag Archives: Reformed Dogmatics

“Sickbeds and deathbeds” by Herman Bavinck

“The satisfaction of the human heart and conscience are the seal and crown of religion. A religion that has no consolation to offer in time of mourning and sorrow, in life and in death, cannot be the true religion.

From other sciences, from logic, mathematics, physics, etc., we do not expect comfort for the guilty conscience and the saddened heart. But a religion that has nothing to say at sickbeds and deathbeds, that cannot fortify the doubting ones, nor raise up those who are bowed down, is not worthy of the name.

The contrast often made between truth and consolation does not belong in religion. A truth that contains no comfort, which does not connect with the religious-ethical life of human beings, ceases by that token to be a religious truth.

Just as medical science in all its specialties is oriented to the healing of the sick, so in religion people have a right to look for peace and salvation.”

–Herman Bavinck, Ed. John Bolt and Trans. John Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 1: Prolegomena (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 552.

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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 name ‘Father'” by Herman Bavinck

“The name ‘Father’ is now the common name of God in the New Testament. The name YHWH is inadequately conveyed by Lord (κυριος) and is, as it were, supplemented by the name ‘Father.’

This name is the supreme revelation of God. God is not only the Creator, the Almighty, the Faithful One, the King and Lord; He is also the Father of His people.

The theocratic kingdom known in Israel passes into a kingdom of the Father who is in heaven. Its subjects are at the same time children; its citizens are members of the family.

Both law and love, the state and the family, are completely realized in the New Testament relation of God to His people. Here we find perfect kingship, for here is a king who is simultaneously a Father who does not subdue His subjects by force but who Himself creates and preserves His subjects.

As children, they are born of Him; they bear His image; they are His family. According to the New Testament, this relation has been made possible by Christ, who is the true, only-begotten, and beloved Son of the Father.

And believers obtain adoption as children and also become conscious of it by the agency of the Holy Spirit (John 3:5, 8; Rom. 8:15f.). God has most abundantly revealed Himself in the name ‘Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.’

The fullness that from the beginning inhered in the name Elohim has gradually unfolded and become most fully and splendidly manifest in the trinitarian name of God.”

–Herman Bavinck, Ed. John Bolt and trans. John Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 2: God and Creation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 2: 147.

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“Cross and crown” by Herman Bavinck

“Cross and crown, death and resurrection, humiliation and exaltation lie on the same line. As Jesus Himself put it after His resurrection: It was necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and so enter His glory (Luke 24:26).

The sum and substance of the original gospel, therefore, was the Christ who died and rose again. The cross was an immense offense—also for the disciples (Matt. 26:31). But for them that offense was removed by the resurrection.

Then they perceived that Jesus had to die and did die in accordance with the counsel of the Father (Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:28), and that by His resurrection God had made Him a cornerstone (4:11; 1 Peter 2:6), Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36), a Leader and a Savior (5:31), the Lord of all (10:36), the Lord of glory (James 2:1), in order by Him to give repentance, forgiveness of sins, the Holy Spirit, and eternal life (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31; 10:43; 1 Peter 1:3ff., 21), outside of whom there is no salvation (Acts 4:12).

Now taken up into heaven, He remains there until He comes again for judgment (1:11; 3:21), for He is the one ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead (10:42; 17:31), and then all things will be restored of which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets of old (3:21).

Similarly Paul teaches that Christ, though He was the Son of God even before His incarnation (Gal. 4:4; Phil. 2:6; Col. 1:15), was designated Son of God in power by His resurrection from the dead (Rom. 1:4). Then He received a spiritual, glorified body (1 Cor. 15:45; Phil. 3:21), became a life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45; 2 Cor. 3:17), the firstborn of the dead (Col. 1:18), who from then on lives to God forever (Rom. 6:10).

Precisely because of His deep humiliation, God highly exalted Him, giving Him the name that is above every other name, that is, the name ‘Lord’ (1 Cor. 12:3; Phil. 2:11), granting Him dominion over the living and the dead (Rom. 14:9), and subjecting all things under His feet (1 Cor. 15:25, 27).

As such He is the Lord of glory (1 Cor. 2:8), seated at God’s right hand (Rom. 8:34; 1 Cor. 2:8), in whom the fullness of the deity dwells bodily (Col. 1:19; 2:9), who is the head of the church, prays for it, and fills it with all the fullness of God (Rom. 8:34; Eph. 1:23; 3:19; 4:16).

The Letter to the Hebrews further adds to this profile the unique idea that Christ, the Son, who with the Father was the Creator of all things, was also appointed ‘the heir of all things’ (Heb. 1:2; 2:8) by the Father and designated eternal high priest (5:6; 7:17).

But for a short time, in order to attain this destiny, He had to become lower than the angels (2:7, 9), assume our flesh and blood (2:14), become like us in all respects except sin (2:17; 4:15), and learn obedience from the things He suffered (5:8).

But thereby He also sanctified, that is, perfected Himself (2:10; 5:9; 7:28), and was designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek (5:10). This, accordingly, is the sum of the things of which the Letter to the Hebrews says that we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven (1:13; 8:1; 10:12).

He who is the liturgist of the heavenly sanctuary (8:2), a high priest, therefore, who is at the same time the king whose throne is established forever (1:8), who is crowned with honor and glory (2:9), subjects all things under Him (2:8), and is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through Him since He always lives to make intercession for them (5:9; 7:25; 10:14).

The Apocalypse, finally, loves to picture Christ as the Lamb who purchased us and washed us by his blood (5:9; 7:14) but also as the firstborn of the dead, the ruler of the kings of the earth (1:5), the King of kings and the Lord of lords, who with the Father sits on the throne, has power and honor and glory, even the keys of Hades and death (1:18; 3:21; 5:12–13; 19:16). Clothed with such power, He rules and protects His church (2:1, 18; etc.) and will one day triumph over all His enemies (19:12f.).”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 3: Sin and Salvation in Christ, Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 3: 423-424.

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“The gospel is the food of faith” by Herman Bavinck

“The new life in Christ, just like all natural life, must be nourished and strengthened. This is possible only in communion with Christ in the Holy Spirit and through the word of Scripture. Enlightened by the Spirit, believers gain a new knowledge of faith.

The gospel is the food of faith and must be known to be nourishment. Salvation that is not known and enjoyed is no salvation. God saves by causing Himself to be known and enjoyed in Christ.

Biblically speaking, faith is trust-filled surrender to God and His word of promise. In the New Testament, this trust involves acceptance of the apostolic witness concerning Christ and personal trust in Christ as Savior and risen, exalted Lord.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 4: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation, Ed. John Bolt and Trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 96.

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“The heartbeat of God’s entire revelation” by Herman Bavinck

“In the doctrine of the Trinity we feel the heartbeat of God’s entire revelation for the redemption of humanity. Though foreshadowed in the Old Testament, it only comes to light fully in Christ.

Religion can be satisfied with nothing less than God himself. Now in Christ God Himself comes out to us, and in the Holy Spirit He communicates Himself to us.

The work of re-creation is trinitarian through and through. From God, through God, and in God are all things.

Re-creation is one divine work from beginning to end, yet it can be described in terms of three agents: it is fully accomplished by the love of the Father, the grace of the Son, and the communion of the Holy Spirit.

A Christian’s faith life, accordingly, points back to three generative principles. ‘We know all these things,’ says article 9 of the Belgic Confession, ‘from the testimonies of holy Scripture, as well as from the operations of the persons, especially from those we feel within ourselves.’

We know ourselves to be children of the Father, redeemed by the Son, and in communion with both through the Holy Spirit. Every blessing, both spiritual and material, comes to us from the triune God.

In that name we are baptized; that name sums up our confession; that name is the source of all the blessings that come down to us; to that name we will forever bring thanksgiving and honor; in that name we find rest for our souls and peace for our conscience.

Christians have a God above them, before them, and within them. Our salvation, both in this life and in the life to come, is bound up with the doctrine of the Trinity.”

–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: 333–334.

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“Sitting down at one table” by Herman Bavinck

“The blessedness of communion with God is enjoyed in and heightened by the communion of saints. On earth already this communion is a wonderful benefit of faith.

Those who for Jesus’s sake have left behind house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields already in this life receive houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and fields—along with persecutions—(Mark 10:29–30), for all who do the will of the Father are Jesus’s brother and sister and mother (Matt. 12:50).

Through the mediator of the New Testament, believers enter into fellowship, not only with the militant church on earth, but also with the triumphant church in heaven, the assembly of the firstborn, the spirits of the righteous made perfect, even with innumerable angels (Heb. 12:22–24).

But this fellowship, though in principle it already exists on earth, will nevertheless be incomparably richer and more glorious when all dividing walls of descent and language, of time and space, have been leveled, all sin and error have been banished, and all the elect have been assembled in the new Jerusalem.

Then will be fully answered the prayer of Jesus that all His sheep may be one flock under one Shepherd (John 10:16; 17:21). All the saints together will then fully comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ (Eph. 3:18–19).

They will together be filled with all the fullness of God (Eph. 3:19; Col. 2:2, 10), inasmuch as Christ, Himself filled with the fullness of God (Col. 1:19), will in turn fill the believing community with Himself and make it His fullness (πληρωμα, plērōma; Eph. 1:23; 4:10).

And sitting down at one table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Matt. 8:11), they will unitedly lift up a song of praise to the glory of God and of the Lamb. (Rev. 4:11; 5:12)”

–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: 722–723.

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