Bavinck on Justification Part I

Of course I knew volume four would keep me up late at night! Here are a few excellent words from section 472 (Justification Forensic, not Ethical):

“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.” God “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.”

“This is why so much depends on the benefit of justification, and it is rightly denominated the article on which the church either stands or falls. For the fundamental question that arises in this connection is this: What is the way that leads to communion with God, to true religion, to salvation and eternal life: God’s grace or human merit, his forgiveness or our works, gospel or law, the covenant of grace or the covenant of works? If it is the latter, if our work, our virtue, our sanctification is primary, then the believers’ consolation ends, and they remain in doubt and uncertainty to their last breath. Then Christ is violated in his unique, all-encompassing, and all-sufficient mediatorial office, and he himself is put on a level with other humans, with ourselves. Then God is robbed of his honor, for if humans are justified on the basis of their works, they have reason to boast of themselves and are, partly or totally, the craftsman of their own salvation.”

Simply brilliant. Read that again. Bavinck is with Luther, Calvin, Turretin, and so forth: he understood that if you mess up justification, you mess up assurance, the person and work of Christ, and even theology proper. In sum, you mess up the Christian faith if you mess up justification!

Above quotes taken from Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics IV (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 204-5.

Stay tuned for more from Bavinck on justification.

shane lems

sunnyside wa

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