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Herman Bavinck – God: Knowable, Yet Incomprehensible

24 Apr
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1854-1921. Dutch Reformed Theologian and Churchman. Professor at Free University in Amsterdam.

God’s incomprehensibility, so far from canceling out God’s knowability, rather presupposes and affirms it. The riches of God’s being—riches that surpass all knowledge—are in fact a necessary and significant component of our knowledge of God. The fact remains that God makes himself known to us in the manner and measure in which he reveals himself in his creatures.

~Herman Bavinck~




Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 2: God and Creation John Bolt and John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI; Baker Academic; 2004) p. 56.

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John Owen: Merit and Grace

22 Apr

1616 -1683. Preeminent English Puritan theologian, pastor, and independent.

God requireth not any thing of us whereby we should purchase or merit for ourselves life and salvation: for “by grace are we saved through faith; not of works, lest any man should boast,” Eph. 2:8, 9. God doth save us neither by nor for the “works of righteousness which we have done,” but “according to his mercy,” Tit. 3:5: so that although, on the one side, the “wages of sin is death,” there being a proportion in justice between sin and punishment, yet there is none between our obedience and our salvation; and therefore “eternal life is the gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord,” Rom. 6:23. God, therefore, requires nothing at our hands under this notion or consideration, nor is it possible that in our condition any such thing should be required of us; for whatever we can do is due beforehand on other accounts, and so can have no prospect to merit what is to come. Who can merit by doing his duty? Our Saviour doth so plainly prove the contrary as none can farther doubt of it than of his truth and authority, Luke 17:10. Nor can we do any thing that is acceptable to him but what is wrought in us by his grace; and this overthrows the whole nature of merit, which requires that that be every way our own whereby we would deserve somewhat else at the hands of another, and not his more than ours.

~John Owen~





The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold, vol. 3: Pneumatologia: A Discourse Concerning the Holy Spirit (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, n.d.), 379.

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John Calvin – The God-Breathed Scripture

21 Apr

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Of human writings, however artfully polished, there is none capable of affecting us at all comparably [to Scripture]. Read Demosthenes or Cicero; read Plato, Aristotle, and others of that tribe. They will, I admit, allure you, delight you, move you, enrapture you in wonderful measure. But betake yourself from them to this sacred reading. Then, in spite of yourself, so deeply will it affect you, so penetrate your heart, so fix itself in your very marrow, that, compared with its deep impression, such vigor as the orators and philosophers have will nearly vanish. Consequently, it is easy to see that the Sacred Scriptures, which so far surpass all gifts and graces of human endeavor, breathe something divine.

~John Calvin~






Institutes of the Christian Religion, Volumes 1 & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011) Vol. 1.8.1. p. 82.

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Wilhelmus à Brakel – Seek Communion With Christ

19 Apr

Wilhelmus a Brakel 1Since believers are partakers of Christ and all His benefits, how heartily and continually they ought to be exercised concerning this union!

First, this is their portion and they have a right to it. Jesus Himself is their Jesus and all His benefits are theirs.

Secondly, since it grieves you, believers, to be so empty in yourself, and you desire neither not to be distracted by nor filled with anything but Jesus and His fullness, why do you remain so long in this empty frame? Arise, satisfy and fill yourself with Him; rejoice in Him and His benefits.

~Wilhelmus à Brakel~





The Christian’s Reasonable Service, ed. Joel R. Beeke, trans. Bartel Elshout, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 1993), 92–93.

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Wilhelmus à Brakel – Understanding How Christ Is Our Substitute

17 Apr

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In order to understand the nature of satisfaction correctly, we need to consider the nature of sin, the Judge, and the work of redemption.

(1) Sin brings upon man guilt, wrath, and punishment. If the sinner is to be delivered, he must be acquitted and be delivered from guilt. God must be appeased and the punishment must be borne.

(2) God is the Judge who appears here not so much as a creditor, nor as Lord and offended party, but as Judge. A creditor may forgive a debt if he so desires, and a lord and offended party may relinquish his rights; such freedom of action has been afforded to man by the supreme Judge. A judge, however, may neither relinquish justice nor the punishments due upon crime. However, the manner, time, place, and nature of the punishment, God has left to the discretion of the judge. Since God is the supreme Judge, His justice demands the punishment of the criminal.

(3) The work of satisfaction is contingent upon the diversity of the debt in question. In retiring monetary debts the debtor is not taken into consideration, but only the debt to be paid, which is satisfied with an amount equivalent to the debt. It is immaterial to the creditor whether this debt is paid by the principal debtor or by another who functions as surety. He will be paid with the identical sum of money, which is not a concession at all. With criminal guilt, however, the situation is different. Then the debt cannot be retired by something equivalent in value, but punishment is required for the satisfaction of justice as administered by the judge. Not only the debt or guilt is considered, but also the person who has rendered himself guilty, the criminal. If this satisfaction were to be accomplished by a surety, then, in addition to the surety making satisfaction by bearing the punishment, there must also follow the forgiveness of the criminal. Thus justice would be satisfied; the judge, however, must be willing to admit and accept the surety as well as to punish the incurred guilt in him. Viewing his rights in the absolute sense of the word, the judge would not have to do so. He must thus not impute the punishment to the criminal, but release him from guilt, wrath, and judgment, since all these have been imputed to the surety. Thus mercy and justice, satisfaction and forgiveness meet each other in the atonement, all of which is true in Christ.

~Wilhelmus à Brakel~





The Christian’s Reasonable Service, ed. Joel R. Beeke, trans. Bartel Elshout, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 1992), 465–466.

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John Calvin – The Medicine Doesn’t Feed The Disease

16 Apr

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What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? – Romans 6:1-2

Paul proceeds carefully to disprove the propounded slander. He, however, first rejects it by an indignant negative, in order to impress it on the minds of his readers, that nothing can be more inconsistent than that the grace of Christ, the repairer of our righteousness, should nourish our vices.

Who have died to sin, &c. An argument derived from what is of an opposite character. “He who sins certainly lives to sin; we have died to sin through the grace of Christ; then it is false, that what abolishes sin gives vigour to it.” The state of the case is really this,—that the faithful are never reconciled to God without the gift of regeneration; nay, we are for this end justified,—that we may afterwards serve God in holiness of life. Christ indeed does not cleanse us by his blood, nor render God propitious to us by his expiation, in any other way than by making us partakers of his Spirit, who renews us to a holy life. It would then be a most strange inversion of the work of God were sin to gather strength on account of the grace which is offered to us in Christ; for medicine is not a feeder of the disease, which it destroys.

~John Calvin~






Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 218–219.

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Geerhardus Vos – What Is God’s Self-Existence?

15 Apr

 

1014321817. What is God’s self-existence?

That attribute of God by which He is the self-sufficient ground of His own existence and being. Negatively expressed, independence says only what God is not. Self-existence is precisely the adequate affirmation here. Proof texts: Acts 17:25; John 5:26.

~Geerhardus Vos~






Reformed Dogmatics ed. Richard B. Gaffin and Richard de Witt, trans. Annemie Godbehere et al., vol. 1 (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2013), 13.

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Matthew Henry – Quick To Listen, Slow To Speak

12 Apr

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19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. – James 1:19-20

3. This may be understood as referring to the disputes and differences that Christians, in those times of trial, were running into among themselves: and so this part of the chapter may be considered without any connection with what goes before. Here we may observe that, whenever matters of difference arise among Christians, each side should be willing to hear the other. People are often stiff in their own opinions because they are not willing to hear what others have to offer against them: whereas we should be swift to hear reason and truth on all sides, and be slow to speak any thing that should prevent this: and, when we do speak, there should be nothing of wrath; for a soft answer turneth away wrath. As this epistle is designed to correct a variety of disorders that existed among Christians, these words, swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath, may be very well interpreted according to this last explication.

~Matthew Henry~


Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 2410.

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John Calvin – Receive The Word With Meekness

11 Apr

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21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. – James 1:21

He concludes by saying how the word of life is to be received. And first, indeed, he intimates that it cannot be rightly received except it be implanted, or strike roots in us. For the expression, to receive the implanted word, ought to be thus explained, “to receive it, that it may be really implanted.” For he alludes to seed often sown on arid ground, and not received into the moist bosom of the earth; or to plants, which being cast on the ground, or laid on dead wood, soon wither. He then requires that it should be a living implanting, by which the word becomes as it were united with our heart.

He at the same time shews the way and manner of this reception, even with meekness. By this word he means humility and the readiness of a mind disposed to learn, such as Isaiah describes when he says, “On whom does my Spirit rest, except on the humble and meek?” (Isa. 57:15.) Hence it is, that so few profit in the school of God, because hardly one in a hundred renounces the stubbornness of his own spirit, and gently submits to God; but almost all are conceited and refractory. But if we desire to be the living plantation of God, we must subdue our proud hearts and be humble, and labour to become like lambs, so as to suffer ourselves to be ruled and guided by our Shepherd.

~John Calvin~






Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles – James (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 294–295.

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Herman Bavinck – The Cosmological, Teleological, Ontological, and Moral Arguments

10 Apr
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1854-1921. Dutch Reformed Theologian and Churchman. Professor at Free University in Amsterdam.

The cosmological argument attempts to deduce the existence of a cause from the demonstrable existence of an effect. This argument has some validity but fails to tell us anything about the character and nature of the cosmic cause. All we have is a self-existent, first, and absolute World-cause. The teleological argument, proceeding from the world’s order and beauty, takes us one step further to an intelligent cause that must be conscious. However, we still do not know whether this means one intelligent Being or several working in harmony. We are still not nearly at a knowledge of the God of Scripture.

The ontological argument, in its various forms, attempts to infer existence from thought. Our common sense recognizes that this argument is not true when it comes to creatures. Nonexistent beings can be conceived. With God matters are slightly different. Though we cannot convincingly demonstrate the reality of God from our ideas about God, it is true that whenever we do think about God we necessarily think of God existing. The benefit of this argument is that human beings are confronted with the choice of either trusting this necessary witness of their consciousness or else despairing of their own consciousness.

The moral argument infers the existence of a supreme and sovereign Lawgiver from moral phenomena such as human conscience, fear of death and judgment, repentance, and reward and punishment. While these phenomena are powerful witness to the enduring moral nature of even fallen humanity, they are less than a proof for the existence of a righteous and holy God. The same is true for the argument that proceeds from the universal reality of religion. This fact bears powerful witness to the existence, revelation, and knowability of God but cannot as such disprove the claim that it reflects a universal pathology of the human mind, a passing fancy or delusion. Finally, arguments based on the purposefulness of history presuppose what they claim to demonstrate. History is susceptible to different interpretations that are, in the final analysis, a matter of faith, not proof. The heart rather than the intellect is the final arbiter.

That must also be our judgment concerning these “proofs” in general. Even the term “proofs” is infelicitous. The cosmological, teleological, and moral testimony to God is not a matter of logical, mathematical proof but belongs to the category of moral and religious truth.

The proofs may augment and strengthen our faith, but they do not serve as its grounds. They are, rather, the consequences, the products of faith’s observation of the world. The proofs do not induce faith, and objections against them do not wreck it. They are, instead, testimonies by which God is able to strengthen already-given faith.

~Herman Bavinck~




Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 2: God and Creation John Bolt and John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI; Baker Academic; 2004) p. 55-56.

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