The Dogmatician: Salvation Is No Mindless Nirvana

Knowledge, therefore, is not an accidental and externally added component of salvation but integral to it. Salvation that is not known and enjoyed is no salvation. Of what benefit would the forgiveness of sins, regeneration, and complete renewal by the Holy Spirit, the glories of heaven, be to us if we did not know about them? They could not exist. They presuppose and require consciousness, knowledge, enjoyment, and in these confer salvation. God saves by causing himself to be known and enjoyed in Christ. But since on earth the benefits of the covenant of grace are only granted to us in part; since communion with God, regeneration, and sanctification are still incomplete; and since our knowledge is imperfect, has invisible things for its object, and is bound to Scripture, our knowledge of God on earth is ‘a knowledge of faith.’ Faith is the only way it can be appropriated, the only form in which it can take shape. Indeed, all benefits (forgiveness, regeneration, sanctification, perseverance, the blessedness ofheaven) exist for us only by faith. We enjoy them only by faith. We are saved only through hope (cf. Rom. 8:24). —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics

The Dogmatician: The Rich Resurrection

According to Scripture, therefore, the significance of the physical resurrection of Christ is inexhaustibly rich. Briefly summarized, that resurrection is (1) proof of Jesus’ messiahship, the coronation of the Servant of the Lord to be Christ and Lord, the Prince of life and Judge (Acts 2:36; 3:13–15; 5:31; 10:42; etc.); (2) a seal of his eternal divine sonship (Acts 13:33; Rom. 1:3): (3) a divine endorsement of his mediatorial work, a declaration of the power and value of his death, the “Amen!” of the Father upon the “It is finished!” of the Son (Acts 2:23–24; 4:11; 5:31; Rom. 6:4, 10; etc.); (4) the inauguration of the exaltation he accomplished by his suffering (Luke 24:26; Acts 2:33; Rom. 6:4; Phil. 2:9; etc); (5) the guarantee of our forgiveness and justification (Acts 5:31; Rum. 4:25): (6) the fountain of numerous spiritual blessings: the gift of the Spirit (Acts 2:33), repentance (Acts 5:31), spiritual eternal life (Rom. 6:4f.), salvation in its totality (Acts 4:12); (7) the principle and pledge of our blessed and glorious resurrection (Acts 4:2; Rom. 8:11; 1 Cor. 6:14; etc); (8) the foundation of apostolic Christianity (1 Cor 15:12ff.). —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics

The Dogmatician: The Redemption Accomplished

What Christ acquired by this sacrifice is beyond description. For himself he acquired by it his entire exaltation, his resurrection (Eph. 1:20), his ascension to heaven (1 Pet 3:22), his seating at the right hand of God (Eph. 1:20; Heb. 12:2), his elevation as head of the church (Eph. 1:22), the name that is above every name (Phil. 2:9-11), the glory of the mediator (John 17:5: Heb. 2:9), power over all things in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:22; 1 Cor. 15:24f.), the final judgment (John 5:22, 27). In addition he acquired for his own, for humanity, for the world, an interminable series of blessings. In his person he is himself the sum of all those blessings: the light of the world (John 8:12), the true bread (6:35), the true vine (15:1), the way, the truth, the resurrection, and the life (11:25; 14:6), our wisdom, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30), our peace (Eph. 2:14). the firstborn and the firstfruits who is followed by many others (Rom. 8:29; 1 Cor. 15:23), the second and last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45), the head of the church (Eph. 1:22), the cornerstone of the temple of God (Eph. 2:20); and for that reason there is no participation in his benefits except by communion with his person.

Yet from him flow all the benefits, the whole of salvation (Matt. 1:21; Luke 2:11; John 3:17; 12:47), and more specifically the forgiveness of sins (Math 26:28; Eph. 1:7); the removal of our sins (John 1:29; 1 John 3:5): the cleansing or deliverance of a bad conscience (Heb. 10:22); justification (Rom. 4:25); righteousness (1 Cor. I:30); sonship (Gal.3:26; 4:5–6; Eph. 1:5); confident access to God (Eph. 2:18; 3:12); God’s laying aside his wrath in virtue of Christ’s sacrifice, that is, the sacrifice of atonement (Rom. 3:25; 1 John 2.2; 4:10; Heb. 2:17); the disposition in God that replaced it, the new reconciled—no longer hostile but favorable—disposition of peace toward the world (Rom, 5:1of.; 2 Cor. 5:18–20); the disposition of people vis-à-vis God (Rom. 5:1); further, the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 15:26; Acts 2; Gal. 4:6); the second birth and the power to become children of God (John 1:12–13); sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30); participation in Christ’s death (Rom. 6:3f.); the dying to sin (Rom. 6:6f.; Ga1.2:20): the being crucified to the world (Gal. 6:14); the cleansing (Eph. 5:26; 1 John 1:7,9) and the washing away of sins (1 Cor. 6:11; Rev. 1:5:7,14) by being sprinkled with the blood of Christ (Heb. 9:22; 12:24; 1 Pet 1:2); walking in the Spirit and in the newness of life (Rom. 6:4); participation in the resurrection and ascension of Christ (Rom. 6:5; Eph. 2:6; Phil. 3:20): the imitation of Christ (Matt. 10:38; 1 Pet 2:21f.); increased freedom from the curse of the law (Rom. 6:14; 7:1–6; Gal. 3:13; Col. 2:14); the fulfillment of the old and the inauguration of a new covenant (Mark 14:24; Heb. 7:22; 9:15; 12:24); redemption from the power of Satan (Luke 11:22; John 14:30; Col. 1:13; 2:15; 1 John 3:8); victory over the world (John 16:33: 1 John 4:4; 5:4); deliverance from death and from the fear of death (Rom. 5:12f.; 1 Cor. 15:55f.; Heb. 2:15); escape from judgment (Heb. 10:27–28); and, finally the resurrection of the last day (John 11:25; 1 Cor.15:21); ascension (Eph. 2:6); glorification (John 17:24); the heavenly inheritance (John 14:2; 1 Pet. 1:4); eternal life already beginning here with the inception of faith (John 3:15, 30) and one day fully manifesting itself in glory (Mark 10:30: Rom. 6:22); the new heaven and new earth (2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1, 5); and the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21; 1 Cor. 15:24-28). —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics

The Dogmatician: The Messenger is the Message

The source of his message is himself, not inspiration but incarnation. God did not even speak with him as he did with Moses, face to face, but was in him and spoke through him (Heb. 1:3). He is not one prophet among many, but the supreme, the only prophet. He is the source and center of all prophecy; and all knowledge of God, both in the Old Testament before his incarnation and in the New Testament after his resurrection and ascension, is from him (1 Pet. 1:11, 3:19: Matt. 11:27). The will of God that Jesus came to do further included the miracles he performed. The one work is differentiated in many works (5:36), which are the works of his Father (5:20; 9:3: 10:32, 37, 14:10). They prove that the Father loves him and dwells in him (5:20; 10:38; 14:10), bear witness that the Father sent him (5:36; 10:25), and manifest his divine glory (2:11; 11:4, 40). He not only performs miracles but in his person is himself the absolute miracle. As the incarnate Spirit-conceived, risen and glorified Son of God, he is himself the greatest miracle, the center of all miracles, the author of the re-creation of all things, the firstborn of the dead, preeminent in everything (Col. 1:18). —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics

The Dogmatician: God Out-Exists Sin

The good, by a free choice, was the cause of evil and remains its substratum. Fallen angels and humans as creatures are and remain good [not ethically, but in their existence] and exist from moment to moment only by, and in, and for God. And just as sin is dependent on the good in its origin and existence, so it is in its operation and struggle. It has power to do anything only with and by means of the powers and gifts that are God-given. Satan has therefore correctly been called the ape of God. When God builds a church, Satan adds a chapel; over against the true prophet, he raises up a false prophet; over against the Christ, he poses the Antichrist. Even a band of robbers can only exist if within its own organization it respects the rules. A liar always garbs himself or herself in the guise of truth. A sinner pursues evil under pretense of the good. Satan himself appears as an angel of light. In its operation and appearance, sin is always doomed to borrow, despite itself, from the treasury of virtue. It is subject to the unalterable fate—while striving for the destruction of all good—of working simultaneously on its own demise. It is a parasite of the good. —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics

The Dogamtician: None Do Good

Finally, one must bear in mind that Scripture and the church, in teaching the total depravity of humanity, apply the highest standard, namely, the law of God. The doctrine of the incapacity for good is a religious confession. In light of the standard people usually follow in their daily life or in philosophical ethics, one can wholeheartedly admit that much of what people do is good and beautiful. The follower of Augustine, using this standard in the assessment of human virtues, can be even more generous and broad-minded than the most confirmed Pelagian. But there is still another, higher, ideal for us humans. There is a divine law with which we must comply. Virtues and good works are distinct. Good, true good good in the eyes of a holy God is only what is done out of faith, according to God’s law, and to God’s glory. And measured by this standard, who would dare to say that any work performed by humans is completely pure and does not need forgiveness and renewal? To divide persons in two—like Rome and in part like the Lutherans—and to say that in the realm of the supernatural and spiritual they are incapable of any good but in the natural realm they can do things that are totally good is contrary to the unity of human nature, to the unity of the moral law, and to the teaching of Scriptures that humans must always be images of God, do everything they do to the glory of God, and always and everywhere love God with all their heart, mind, and strength. Now if that is true, if the human essence consists in being the image and likeness of God, then nothing in them, as they now live and work, can stand before the face of God. Weighed in the scales of God’s sanctuary, all their works are found to be wanting. —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics

The Dogmatician: Federal Headship in a Paragraph

When a father plunges his family into misery along with himself, or a king his people, or a philosopher his followers, or a boss his workers, we can go back behind these persons and to some extent find some explanation and satisfaction in the solidarity that prevails in humankind as a whole and in its various circles. But in the case of Adam and Christ, we cannot do this. They have the human race not behind them but before them; they do not spring from it but give rise to it; they are not sustained by it but themselves sustain it; they are not the product of humankind, but are, each in his own way, the beginning and root of it, the heads of all humanity. They are not explained by the law of solidarity but explain this law by their own existence. —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics

The Dogmatician: The Second Adam Is More Intense

The way things go in the case of the sin and death that accrue to us from Adam is identical with the way the righteousness and life that Christ acquired accrue to us. There’s a difference in intensity: Grace is more abundant and life is more powerful, but the manner in which both are imparted to us is just the same. —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics

The Dogmatician: The Inferiority of Sin (Continued)

Precisely because God is the absolutely Holy and Almighty One, he can use sin as a means in his hand. Creatures cannot do that; with the least contact, they themselves become polluted and impure. But God is so infinitely far removed from wickedness that he can make sin, as an unresisting instrument, subservient to his glorification. …For even when he wants there to be evil, he only wants it in a way that is holy: though using it, he never commits it. And for that reason, he has also allowed sin in his creation. He would not have tolerated it had he not been able to govern it in an absolute holy and sovereign manner. He would not have put up with it if he were not God, the Holy and Omnipotent One. But being God, he did not fear its existence and its power. He willed it so that in it and against it he might bring to light his divine attributes. If he had not allowed it to exist, there would always have been a rationale for the idea that he was not in all his attributes superior to a power whose possibility was inherent in creation itself. For all rational creatures as creatures, as finite, limited, changeable beings, have the possibility of apostatizing. But God, because he is God, never feared the way of freedom, the reality of sin, the eruption of wickedness, or the power of Satan. So, both in its origin and its development, God always exercises his rule over sin. He does not force it, nor does he block it with violence but rather allows it to reach its full dynamic potential. He remains king yet still gives it free rein in his kingdom. He allows it to have everything—his world, his creatures, even his Anointed—for evils cannot exist without goods. He allows it to use all that is his; he gives it opportunity to show what it can do in order, in the end, as King of kings, to leave the theater of battle. For sin is of such a nature that it destroys itself by the very freedom granted it; it dies of its own diseases; it dooms itself to death. At the apex of its power, it is, by the cross alone, publicly shown up in its powerlessness (Col. 2:15). —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics

The Dogmatician: The Inferiority of Sin

Sin may be whatever it is, but one thing is certain: God is the Righteous and Holy One who prohibits it in his law, witnesses against it in the human conscience, and visits it with punishments and judgments. Sin is not rational, nor is it lawful; it is lawlessness; it is not necessary to the existence of creatures, much less to the existence of God. The good is necessary even for evil to exist, but the good does not need evil, nor does holiness need sin, nor truth falsehood, nor God Satan. If sin, nevertheless, frequently serves to bring the good to fuller disclosure and to glorify God’s attributes, this occurs—against sin’s intent, not with its consent and cooperation—by the wisdom and omnipotence of God. Against its own genius, sin is forced to serve the honor of God and the coming of his kingdom. Thus evil frequently pays tribute to the good, the lie is overtaken by the truth, and Satan, to accomplish his deceptions, often has to appear as an angel of light. But all this is attributable, not to sin, but to the almighty power of God, who is able to bring good out of evil, light out of darkness, and life out of death. —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics