Kuyper on Sanctification and the Covenant of Works


“The demand of sanctification belongs to the covenant of works; sanctification itself to the covenant of grace.  This makes the difference very obvious.  Not as tho the covenant of works commanded man to sanctify himself; given to holy men, it excluded sanctification (pre-fall – my note).  But God gave the covenant of grace to unholy men (post-fall – my note).  And the only connection between the demand for sanctification and the covenant of works is, that the latter ever pursues fallen man with this demand, and with the terror of Horeb.  Unholiness destroys the foundation of the covenant of works and renders compliance with its condition impossible.  Hence the absolute contradiction between it and the sinner’s personal life.  The one must make room for the other; they cannot stand together.”

“In this painful conflict we are often tempted to ask whether God is not unjust in his law to demand of us the impossible, and to lay the blame on him; for did he not make us so?  And from this difficulty the Arminian in our own heart seeks to escape, either by denying that there ever was a covenant of works, or by substituting the fulfilment of the law for sanctification.”

“Wherefore it is our aim, especially regarding this doctrine, to escape from this harmful confusion of ideas, and to arrive at a correct understanding and purity of expression.  The preaching must not add to the chaos, but lead us to clear insight and understanding.”

“…In city and country church the word must be preached persistently, and with ever-increasing purity, until, convicted of personal unholiness, men begin to see that by absolute sanctification, not mere self-betterment, they must restore unto God his right; until, feeling their inability, with broken hearts they turn to God to receive the mystery of sanctification from the treasures of the covenant of grace.”

In other words, to have a biblical understanding of God’s holiness and our sanctification, we have to maintain the difference between 1) the covenant of works and the covenant of grace, 2) the law and the gospel, and 3) justification and sanctification (which Kuyper says in the chapters before and after this one [3.1]).

Above quotes taken from Abraham Kuyper’s The Work of the Holy Spirit, chapter 3.1.

shane lems

sunnyside wa