Louis Berkhof, 1933

V. The Doctrine of the Application of the Work of Redemption

    A. The Common Operations of the Holy Spirit

    B. Calling and Regeneration

    C. Conversion

    D. Faith

    E. Justification

    F. Sanctification

    G. Perseverance of the Saints


A. The COMMON Operations of the Holy Spirit

The immediately preceding division of this work was devoted to a discussion of the person and the work of Christ, by which the way of salvation was opened for sinners and all the blessings of salvation and of eternal life in communion with God were merited for all those whom Christ represented in the counsel of peace. This is naturally followed by a discussion of the way in which the work of redemption wrought by Christ is applied in the hearts and lives of sinners by the special operation of the Holy Spirit. In order that this work may be seen against the proper background, we shall briefly consider in an opening chapter the general operations of the Holy Spirit.

A. The General Operations of the Holy Spirit in NATURE.

It is of the highest importance that the special operations of the Holy Spirit in the work of redemption should be seen against the background of His general operations in the sphere of nature and in the life of man. There is a certain similarity between the two, but also a very essential difference. In the sphere of nature it is the Holy Spirit that gives birth to all life, organic, intellectual, and moral, that maintains it amid all changes, and that leads it to its development and destiny. And this is exactly what He also does in the sphere of grace or of redemption. He originates the new life in Christ Jesus, guides it in its development, makes it fruitful in good works, and leads it to its destiny. But there is also an essential difference between the two. The general operations of the Holy Spirit pertain to the established order of nature and of the life of man, as it is rooted in creation, and guarantee its development and completion. His special operation, on the other hand, bears directly only on the elect and introduces a new order of things that does not find its explanation in the work of creation, but only in the grace of God, revealed in Jesus Christ. Without the general operations of the Holy Spirit, however, there would be no proper sphere for His special operations.

B. Common Grace.

Among the fruits of the general operations of the Holy Spirit common grace deserves special mention.

1. DESCRIPTION of Common Grace. The distinction between common and special grace does not apply to grace as an attribute of God, but only to the gracious operations of God and to the effects of these operations in nature and in the life of man. When we speak of common grace we have in mind either

(a) those general operations of the Holy Spirit whereby He, without renewing the heart, exercises such a moral influence on man that sin is restrained, order is maintained in social life, and civil righteousness is promoted; or

(b) those general blessings which God imparts to all men indiscriminately in whatever measure it seems good to Him. The Arminian believes that common grace enables man to perform a certain measure of spiritual good, and to turn to God with heartfelt repentance; and that it even incites man to accept Jesus Christ by faith, and will accomplish its end, unless man obstinately resists its operations. But this is an un-Scriptural view of the matter. Common grace does not enable the sinner to perform any spiritual good, nor to turn to God in faith and repentance. It is not sufficient to remove the total depravity of man, nor to lead him in the way of spiritual renewal.

The following points of distinction between common and special grace should be carefully noted:

(a) The former effects no spiritual change in the heart of man, while the latter does;

(b) the former works in a rational and moral way by making men receptive for the truth, presenting motives to the will, and appealing to the natural desires of man, while the latter works in a spiritual and creative way, renewing the whole nature of man and producing spiritual fruits; and

(c) the former is resistible and is always more or less resisted, while the latter is irresistible, changing man so that he willingly yields to its operations.

2. Common Grace and the ATONING WORK OF CHRIST.

By His atoning work Christ merited the blessings of special grace. Did He also by His sacrificial death merit the more common blessings of divine grace which are bestowed on all men, and therefore also on the impenitent and reprobate? If He did not merit them, then what is the legal basis on which God can extend grace and show favor to men who have forfeited everything and have no share in the righteousness of Christ? Now it is possible that no such basis is needed in view of the fact

(a) that common grace does not remove the guilt of sin and therefore does not carry pardon with it; and

(b) that it does not lift the sentence of condemnation, but only postpones its execution. Perhaps the divine good pleasure to stay the manifestation of the wrath of God against sin offers a sufficient explanation for the blessings of common grace. It is not unlikely, however, that even these blessings must be connected in some way with the death of Christ. This does not necessarily mean that Christ merited these blessings for the impenitent and reprobate, but simply that important benefits accrue to the whole human race from the death of Christ, and that in these benefits the unbelieving, the impenitent, and the reprobate share. These general blessings indirectly resulting from the atoning work of Christ were, of course, not only foreseen by God, but also designed by Him as blessings for all mankind.

3. The MEANS by Which Common Grace Operates.

There are several means by which common grace operates, such as:

a. The Light of God's Revelation. This is fundamental, for without it all other means would be impossible and ineffective. We have in mind primarily the light of God's general revelation in nature, which lightens every man and serves to guide the conscience of the natural man. In a more restricted sense common grace also operates in connection with the light of God's special revelation.

b. Governments. Our Belgic Confession teaches that God instituted governments, in order to curb the evil tendencies, "the dissoluteness of men," and to promote among them "good order and decency."

c. Public Opinion. The light of God that shines in nature, especially when reinforced by the light of special revelation, results in the formation of a public opinion that is in harmony with the law of God; and this has a tremendous influence on the conduct of men who are very sensitive to the judgment of public opinion.

d. Divine Punishment and Rewards. God visits the iniquity of men upon them even in this life, and rewards deeds that are in outward conformity with the law. The punishments have a deterring effect, and the rewards serve as incentives. Thus whatever there is of moral goodness in the world is greatly encouraged.

4. The EFFECTS of Common Grace.

a. Execution of the Sentence Stayed. It is due to common grace that God did not at once fully execute the sentence of death upon the sinner, and does not do so now, but maintains and prolongs the natural life of man and gives him time for repentance.

b. Restraint of Sin. Through the operation of common grace sin is restrained in the lives of individuals and society. The element of corruption that entered the life of the human race is not permitted, for the present, to accomplish its disintegrating work.

c. Sense of Truth, Morality, and Religion. In virtue of common grace man still has some sense of the true, the good, and the beautiful, appreciates these in a measure, and reveals a desire for truth, for external morality, and even for certain forms of religion.

d. Civil Righteousness. Common grace enables man to perform what is generally called civil righteousness or natural good, works that are outwardly in harmony with the law of God, though entirely destitute of any real spiritual quality.

e. Natural Blessings. To common grace man further owes all the natural blessings which he receives in the present life. Though he has forfeited all, he receives abundant tokens of the goodness of God from day to day.

5. SCRIPTURE PROOF for Common Grace.

Some passages of Scripture clearly intimate that there is a striving of the Spirit of God with men which does not lead to repentance and finally ceases, Gen. 6:3; Isa. 63:10; Acts 7:51; 1 Sam. 16:14; Heb. 6:4–6; Ps. 81:12; Rom. 1:24, 26, 28. Others point to the fact that God restrains sin in various ways, Gen. 20:6; 31:7; Job 1:12; 2:6; 2 Kings 19:27, 28; Rom. 13:1–4. Still others represent unregenerate men as doing things which are good and right, 2 Kings 10:29, 30; 12:2; 14:3; Luke 6:33; Rom. 2:14. And, finally, there are some which point to God as showering undeserved blessings upon all men indiscriminately, Gen. 17:20; 39:5; Ps. 145:9, 15, 16; Matt. 5:44, 45; Luke 6:35, 36; Acts 14:16, 17; 1 Tim. 4:10.


Questions for Review:

How does the present division link up with the preceding one?

What is the nature of the general operations of the Holy Spirit in nature?

How do His special operations compare with these?

What is common grace?

How does our view of it differ from that of the Arminian?

What is the difference between special and common grace?

Do the blessings of common grace in any sense result from the death of Christ?

If so, in what sense?

By what means does common grace work?

What are the effects of common grace?

What Scripture proof is there for common grace?



A. General Remarks on the ORDER OF SALVATION.

We begin the discussion of the order of salvation, that is, of the order in which the Holy Spirit applies the work of redemption to the hearts and lives of man, with the study of calling and regeneration. This means that we take our starting-point in those redemptive acts of God in which man does not co-operate, and in which redemption stands out most prominently as a work of God. By doing this we clearly recognize the fact that God and not man begins the redemptive process, and that salvation is altogether a work of divine grace, a work of which we become partakers only in union with Jesus Christ, with whom we are united by the work of regeneration. Many others, such as the Lutherans and Arminians, take their starting-point in man and begin their treatment of the order of salvation with a discussion of saving faith, considered more particularly as an act of man, by which he takes unto himself the blessings of salvation wrought by Christ. They do not speak of the application of the work of redemption by the Holy Spirit, but of its appropriation by man. And in this appropriation everything is made dependent on man's act of faith. It is even by faith that man is regenerated. This representation clearly fits in with their conception of the free will of man. While we honor God as the author of our salvation, and as the primary cause of every redemptive act, we do not lose sight of the fact that, after regeneration, man appropriates the blessings of salvation by faith, and co-operates with the Spirit of God in some of the redemptive acts, such as conversion and sanctification.



When we speak of calling in general, we have reference to that gracious act of God whereby He invites sinners to accept the salvation that is offered in Christ Jesus. It is a work of the triune God, and is therefore ascribed to the Father, 1 Cor. 1:9; 1 Thess. 2:12; 1 Pet. 5:10, to the Son, Matt. 11:28; Luke 5:32; John 7:37; Rom. 1:6 (Auth. Ver.), and to the Holy Spirit, Matt. 10:20; John 15:26; Acts 5:31, 32. This calling may be either external or internal. God is the author of both; the Holy Spirit operates in both; and in both the Word of God is employed as an instrument. Yet there are important differences: the external calling comes to all those who hear the Word, while the internal calling comes only to the elect; the external calling as such, that is, without the special operation of the Holy Spirit, affects only the natural life, while the internal calling affects the internal or spiritual life. It is the external calling made effective unto salvation.

1. EXTERNAL calling. The Bible speaks of external calling in the great commission, Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:15; in passages showing that some who were called did not come, Matt. 22:2–14; Luke 14:16–24; in references to a rejection of the gospel, John 3:36; Acts 13:46; 2 Thess. 1:8; and, finally, in statements concerning the terrible sin of unbelief, Matt. 10:15; 11:21–24; John 5:40; 16:8, 9; 1 John 5:10. It consists in the presentation and offering of salvation in Christ to sinners, together with an earnest exhortation to accept Christ by faith, in order to obtain the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

a. The ELEMENTS Comprised in the external call. From the definition given it follows that the external calling comprises three elements:

  (1) A presentation of the gospel facts and ideas. The way of redemption revealed in Jesus Christ must be set forth clearly in all its relations.

  (2) An invitation to accept Christ in faith and repentance. The representation of the way of salvation must be supplemented by an earnest invitation, and even a solemn command to repent and believe, John 6:28, 29; Acts 19:4; 2 Cor. 5:11, 20.

  (3) A promise of forgiveness and salvation. This promise, however, is never absolute but always conditional. No one can expect its fulfillment, except in the way of true faith and repentance.

b. The CHARACTERISTICS of the external call. This external call has two characteristics:

  (1) It is general or universal. This does not mean that it actually comes or in the past has come to all men, but that it comes to all men indiscriminately to whom the gospel is preached. It is not limited to any age or nation or class of men. It comes to both the just and the wicked, the elect and the reprobate. The general nature of this calling appears from the following passages, Joel 2:32; Ps. 86:5; Isa. 55:1; Matt. 11:28; Rev. 22:17. That it is not confined to the elect, is quite evident from Prov. 1:24–26; Ezek. 3:19; Matt. 22:2–8, 14; Luke 14:16–24.

  (2) It is seriously meant. When God calls the sinner through the gospel, He calls him in good faith, and earnestly desires that the latter accept the invitation to believe in Jesus Christ; and when He promises those who repent and believe eternal life, His promise is dependable. This follows from the very nature, from the truthfulness and faithfulness of God, and also from such passages of Scripture as Num. 23:19; Ps. 81:13–16; Prov. 1:24; Isa. 1:18–20; Ezek. 18:23, 32; 33:11; Matt. 21:37; 2 Tim. 2:13.

c. The SIGNIFICANCE of the external call. By means of this external calling God maintains His claim on the sinner. He is entitled to the service of man, retained this right in spite of man's fall, and asserts His right in both the law and the gospel. Man is in duty bound to accept the call of the gospel. If he does not, he slights the claim of God and thus increases his guilt. This call is also the appointed means by which God gathers the elect out of all the nations of the world, Rom. 10:14–17. Moreover, it is a revelation of God's holiness, goodness, and compassion. In virtue of His holiness God dissuades sinners everywhere from sin, and in virtue of His goodness and mercy He warns them against self-destruction, postpones the execution of the sentence of death, and blesses them with the offer of salvation. This gracious call is represented as a blessing for sinners, Ps. 81:13; Prov. 1:24; Ezek. 3:18, 19; 18:23, 32; 33:11; Amos 8:11; Matt. 11:20–24; 23:37. Finally, this external calling also serves to justify God in the condemnation of sinners. If sinners despise the forbearance of God and reject His gracious offer of salvation, the greatness of their corruption and guilt, and the justice of God in their condemnation, stands out in the clearest light.


2. INTERNAL or EFFECTUAL Calling. The calling which comes from God to the sinner is really one, though we speak of an external and an internal calling. Through the operation of the Holy Spirit the former issues in and is made effective in the latter. The fact that they are one does not mean, as the Lutherans maintain, that the inner call always accompanies the preaching of the Word. It does mean, however, that the inner call is always mediated by the word of preaching. The same word that is heard in the external call, is made effective in the heart of the sinner in the internal calling through the operation of the Holy Spirit. The internal call has certain distinctive marks:

(a) It is a calling by the Word of God, savingly applied by the operation of the Holy Spirit, 1 Cor. 1:23, 24.

(b) It is a powerful calling, that is, a calling that is effectual unto salvation, Acts 13:48; 1 Cor. 1:23, 24.

(c) It is a calling without repentance, one that is not subject to change and is never withdrawn, Rom. 11:29. The person who is called will surely be saved. With respect to this calling the following particulars should be noted:

  a. It Works by Means of Moral Persuasion. In the internal calling the Spirit of God does not work through the Word in a creative way but in a persuasive manner. God does sometimes work creatively through the word, Gen. 1:3; Ps. 33:6; Ps. 147:15, but in these cases the word referred to is the word of God's power, and not the word of preaching, which is instrumental in calling the sinner. The Spirit of God operates through the preaching of the Word by making its persuasions effective, so that man listens to the voice of his God.

  b. It Operates in the Conscious Life of Man. If the word of preaching does not operate creatively but only in a moral and persuasive way, then it follows that it can only work in the conscious life of man. It addresses the understanding enlightened by the Holy Spirit, and through the understanding influences the will effectively, so that the sinner turns to God.

  c. It is Always Directed to an End. Internal calling is always directed to a certain end, that is, to the salvation to which the Spirit of God is leading the elect, and consequently also to the intermediate stages on the way to this final destiny. It is a calling to the fellowship of Jesus Christ, 1 Cor. 1:9, to inherit blessing, 1 Pet. 3:9; to liberty, Gal. 5:13, to peace, 1 Cor. 7:15, to holiness, 1 Thess. 4:7, to one hope, Eph. 4:4, to eternal life, 1 Tim. 6:12, and to God's kingdom and glory, 1 Thess. 2:12.



The divine calling and regeneration stand in the closest possible relation to each other.

1. The MEANING of the Term "Regeneration."

The word "regeneration" is not always used in the same sense. Calvin employed it in a very comprehensive sense, to denote the whole process of man's renewal, including even conversion and sanctification. In our confessional standards it serves to designate the beginning of man's renewal in the new birth plus conversion. At the present time it is used in a far more restricted sense, to denote the divine act by which the sinner is endowed with new spiritual life, and by which the principle of that new life is first called into action. Sometimes it is employed in an even more limited sense, as a designation of the implanting of the new life in the soul, apart from the first manifestations of this life. In this sense of the word regeneration may be defined as that act of God by which the principle of the new life is implanted in man, and the governing disposition of the soul is made holy.

2. The ESSENTIAL NATURE of Regeneration.

The following particulars serve to indicate the essential nature of regeneration:

a. It is a FUNDAMENTAL Change. Regeneration consists in the implanting of the principle of the new spiritual life in man, in a radical change of the governing disposition of the soul. In principle it affects the whole man: the intellect, 1 Cor. 2:14, 15; 2 Cor. 4:6; Eph. 1:18; Col. 3:10,—the will, Phil. 2:13; 2 Thess. 3:5; Heb. 13:21;—and the emotions, Ps. 42:1, 2 Matt. 5:4; 1 Pet. 1:8.

b. It is an INSTANTANEOUS Change. The assertion that regeneration is an instantaneous change implies two things: (1) that it is not a work that is gradually prepared in the soul; there is no intermediate stage between life and death; and (2) that it is not a gradual process like sanctification, but is completed in a moment of time.

c. It is a Change in the SUB-CONSCIOUS Life. Regeneration is a secret and inscrutable work of God that is never directly perceived by man, but can be perceived only in its effects. Naturally, man may be directly conscious of a change in cases where regeneration and conversion coincide.

3. The Relative ORDER of Calling and Regeneration.

The order in which calling and regeneration stand to each other may best be indicated as follows: The external call in the preaching of the Word, except in the case of children, precedes or coincides with the operation of the Holy Spirit in the production of the new life. Then by a creative act God generates the new life, changing the inner disposition of the soul. This is regeneration in the restricted sense of the word. In it the spiritual ear is implanted which enables man to hear the call of God to the salvation of his soul. Having received the spiritual ear, the call of God is now brought home effectively to the heart, so that man hears and obeys. This effectual calling, finally, secures the first holy exercises of the new disposition that is born in the soul. The new life begins to manifest itself and issues in the new birth. This is regeneration in the broader sense and marks the point at which regeneration passes into conversion.

4. The NECESSITY of Regeneration.

Scripture does not leave us in doubt about the necessity of regeneration, but asserts this in the clearest terms, John 3:3, 5, 7; 1 Cor. 2:14; Gal. 6:15. Cf. also Jer. 13:23; Rom. 3:11; Eph. 2:3. This necessity also follows from the sinful condition of man. Holiness or conformity to the divine law is the indispensable condition of securing the divine favour, attaining peace of conscience, and enjoying fellowship with God, Heb. 12:14. Now the natural condition of man is exactly the opposite of that holiness which is so indispensable. Consequently, a radical internal change is necessary by which the whole dispensation of the soul is altered.

5. The Use of the Word of God as an INSTRUMENT in Regeneration.

The question is often raised, whether the Word, that is, the word of preaching, is instrumental in the implanting of the new life, in regeneration in the most restricted sense of the word. Since regeneration is a creative act of God, and the word of the gospel can only work in a moral and persuasive way, it would seem that this cannot very well be instrumental in implanting the new life in man. Such an instrument has no spiritual effect on those who are still dead in sin. To assert its use would seem to imply a denial of the spiritual death of man, though this is not intended by those who make the assertion. Moreover, regeneration takes place in the sphere of the sub-conscious life, while the truth addresses itself to the consciousness of man. And, finally, the Bible clearly intimates that man is enabled to understand the truth only by a special operation of the Holy Spirit, Acts 16:14; 1 Cor. 2:12–15; Eph. 1:17–20. It is often said that Jas. 1:18 and 1 Pet. 1:23 prove that the Word is used as an instrument in regeneration. But it is certain that James is speaking of regeneration in a broader sense, as including the new birth or the first manifestations of the new life, and in all probability this is also the case with Peter. And in that more inclusive sense regeneration is undoubtedly wrought through the instrumentality of the Word.

6. Regeneration Exclusively a WORK OF GOD.

God is the author of regeneration. It is represented in Scripture as the work of the Holy Spirit directly and exclusively, Ezek. 11:19; John 1:13; Acts 16:14; Rom. 9:16; Phil. 2:13. This means that in regeneration God only works, and there is no co-operation of the sinner in this work whatever. The Arminians do not agree with this view. They speak of a co-operation of God and man in the work of regeneration. In their estimation the spiritual renewal of man is really the fruit of man's choice to co-operate with the divine influences exerted by means of the truth. Strictly speaking, they regard the work of man as prior to that of God. Man can resist, but he can also yield to the influences of the Holy Spirit.

7. Baptismal Regeneration.

According to the Church of Rome regeneration includes not only spiritual renewal, but also justification or the forgiveness of sins, and is effected by means of baptism. An influential section of the Anglican Church is in agreement with the Church of Rome on this point. And even many Lutherans teach a certain kind of baptismal regeneration, though according to some this does not include spiritual renewal, but only serves to place the baptized person in a new relation to the Church. All these groups agree in teaching that the blessing of regeneration can again be lost.


Questions for Review:

How does the Reformed order of salvation differ from the Arminian and Lutheran?

What do we mean by calling?

How do external and internal calling differ?

What is external calling?

What elements does it include?

What are the two characteristics of the external call?

What purpose does it serve?

How is the internal calling related to the external?

What are its distinctive marks? How does it operate?

In what sphere does it operate?

To what end is it directed?

What different meanings has the word "regeneration"?

What is regeneration in the restricted sense?

What is the nature of the change wrought in regeneration?

What is the relative order of calling and regeneration?

How can we prove the absolute necessity of regeneration?

Why is it unlikely that the Word is used as an instrument in regeneration?

Do James 1:18 and 1 Pet. 1:23 teach the contrary?

Is regeneration a work of God only or of God and man together?

Who teach baptismal regeneration?



A. The Scriptural Terms for Conversion.

The Bible uses several terms to denote conversion.

1. In the Old Testament. The Old Testament employs two words, each one of which indicates a specific element of conversion. The one (nicham) means to repent with a repentance which is often accompanied with a change of plan and of action. And the other (shubh) signifies to turn about, and especially to return after a departure. In the prophets it usually refers to Israel's return to the Lord, after it has departed from Him. This is a very important aspect of conversion.

2. In the New Testament. The New Testament contains three important words for conversion. The word that occurs most frequently (metanoeo, metanoia) denotes primarily a change of mind. However, this change is not to be conceived exclusively as an intellectual, but also as a moral change. Both the mind and the conscience are defiled, Tit. 1:15, and when a person's mind is changed, he not only receives new knowledge, but the direction of his conscious life, its moral quality is also changed. The word that is next in importance (epistrepho, epistrophe) means to turn about, or to turn back. It really stresses the fact that the active life is made to move in another direction, and thus indicates the final act in conversion. While the first word stresses the element of repentance, though not always to the exclusion of the element of faith, the second always contains both elements. The third word (metamelomai) occurs only five times, and literally means to become a care to one afterwards. It stresses the element of repentance; but that this is not always true repentance is evident from the fact that it is also used of the repentance of Judas, Matt. 27:3. The emotional element is uppermost in this word.


B. The Biblical Idea for Conversion.

The Scriptural doctrine of conversion is based not merely on the passages in which the terms referred to are found, but also on many others in which conversion is described or concretely represented in living examples. The Bible does not always speak of conversion in the same sense.

1. NATIONAL Conversion. It makes mention repeatedly of national conversions, as, for instance, of Israel in the days of the judges, of Judah in the time of the kings, and of the Ninevites, Jonah 3:10.

2. TEMPORARY Conversion. It also speaks of conversions that represent no change of heart, and are of only passing significance, Matt. 13:20, 21; Acts 8:9 ff.; 1 Tim. 1:19, 20; 2 Tim. 2:18; 4:10; Heb. 6:4, 5. These may for a time have all the appearance of true conversion.

3. TRUE Conversion. The Bible contains several examples of true conversion, such as Naaman, 2 Kings 5:15; Manasseh, 2 Chron. 33:12, 13; Zaccheus, Luke 19:8, 9; the man born blind, John 9:38; the Samaritan woman, John 4:29, 39; the eunuch, Acts 8:30 ff.; Cornelius, Acts 10:44 ff., Paul Acts 9:5 ff.; Lydia, Acts 16:14, etc. This conversion is but the outward expression of the work of regeneration, or the accompanying change wrought in the conscious life of the sinner. There are two sides to this conversion, the one active and the other passive. In the former conversion is contemplated as the change wrought by God in which He changes the conscious course of man's life. And in the latter it is regarded as the result of this divine action as seen in man's changing his course of life and turning to God. From the former point of view it may be defined as that act of God whereby He causes the regenerated, in their conscious life, to turn to Him for faith and repentance.

4. REPEATED Conversion. Regeneration as the implanting of the new life cannot possibly be repeated. Neither can conversion in the strict sense of the word, for this is but the initial outward manifestation, in the conscious life of man, of the change wrought in regeneration. At the same time it is possible to speak of a repeated conversion. The activity of the new life may suffer eclipse through worldliness, carelessness, and indifference, and then may be called forth and renewed again and again. Scripture refers to such repeated conversion in Luke 22:32; Rev. 2:5, 16, 21, 22; 3:3, 19.


C. The ELEMENTS of Conversion.

From the preceding it already appears that conversion comprises two elements, namely, repentance and faith. Of these the former has reference to the past, and the latter to the future, the former is directly connected with sanctification, and the latter more particularly, though not exclusively, with justification. In view of the fact that faith will be discussed in a separate chapter, we limit ourselves to repentance here.

1. The elements of REPENTANCE. Repentance includes three elements:

(a) An intellectual element, namely, a change of view in which the past life is recognized as a life of sin, involving personal guilt, defilement, and helplessness. This is the knowledge of sin of which the Bible speaks, Rom. 3:20.

(b) An emotional element, which is really a change of feeling, a sense of sorrow for sin as committed against a holy and just God. If this issues in a real change of life, it is called a godly sorrow, 2 Cor. 7:9, 10.

(c) A volitional element, which consists in a change of purpose, an inward turning from sin, and a disposition to seek pardon and cleansing, Acts 2:38; Rom. 2:4. This is the crowning element of repentance.

2. The Roman Catholic Conception of Repentance. The Church of Rome has externalized the idea of repentance entirely in its sacrament of penance. This contains especially three elements (a) Contrition, that is, real sorrow for sin, not for inborn sin, but for personal transgressions. In lieu of this, however, attrition, may also suffice. This is really nothing more than fear for the punishment of sin. (b) Confession, which in the sacrament of penance is confession to the priest who, on a satisfactory confession, not merely declares that God forgives the sin of the penitent, but actually pardons it himself, (c) Satisfaction, consisting in the sinner's doing penance, that is, enduring something painful, or performing some difficult or distasteful task.

3. The Scriptural View of Repentance. The Scriptural view of repentance is quite different from the external view of the Roman Catholics. It views repentance wholly as an inward act, an act of contrition or sorrow on account of sin. It does not confound this with the change of life in which it results, but regards confession of sin and reparation of wrongs as fruits of repentance. Moreover, it conceives of real repentance as always accompanied with true faith. The two go hand in hand, and are but different aspects of the same change in man.


D. The CHARACTERISTICS of Conversion.

The following characteristics should be noted:

1. Conversion is not a legal act of God like justification, but a moral or re-creative act like regeneration. It does not alter the state but the condition of man.

2. Conversion does not, like regeneration, take place in the subconscious, but in the conscious life of man. It may be said to begin in regeneration, and therefore in the region below consciousness, but as a completed act it certainly falls within the range of the conscious life.

3. It includes in principle not only the putting away of the old man, but also the putting on of the new man. The sinner consciously forsakes the old sinful life and turns to a life in communion with and devoted to God.

4. If we take the word "conversion" in its specific sense, it denotes a momentary change and not a process like sanctification. It is a change that takes place but once and cannot be repeated. In a slightly different sense, however, it is possible to speak of repeated conversion.


E. The AUTHOR of Conversion.

God only can be called the author of conversion. This is the clear teaching of Scripture, Acts 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25. There is an immediate action of the Holy Spirit in conversion. The new life of the regenerate man does not issue in conscious action by its own inherent power, but only through the illuminating and fructifying influence of the Holy Spirit, John 6:44; Phil. 2:13. There is also a mediate operation through the Word of God, however. In general it may be said that God works repentance by means of the law, Ps. 19:7; Rom. 3:20, and faith by means of the gospel, Rom. 10:17; 2 Cor. 5:11. But while God works alone in regeneration and man is entirely passive, man co-operates with God in conversion. That man is active in conversion is quite evident from such passages as Isa. 55:7; Jer. 18:11; Ezek. 18:23, 32; 33:11; Acts 2:38; 17:30, and others. But this activity of man always results from a previous work of God in man. Man works only with the power which God imparts to him.


F. The NECESSITY of Conversion.

Scripture speaks in the most absolute terms of the necessity of regeneration, John 3:3, 5. No such absolute expression can be found respecting conversion. This may be due to the fact that in the case of children which die in infancy we cannot speak of conversion, but only of regeneration. The Bible does teach the necessity of conversion in the case of adults in such passages as Ezek. 33:11; Matt. 18:3, though it is true that these statements are not absolute but refer to specific groups. It may be said that in the case of all adults conversion is necessary. This does not mean, however, that conversion must appear in the life of each one as a strongly marked crisis. This can be expected, as a rule, only in the case of those who are regenerated after they have come to years of discretion. In them the life of conscious enmity to God is at once transformed into a life of friendship with God. It can hardly be expected as such, however, in the life of those who, like Jeremiah and John the Baptist, were regenerated from early youth. Yet the elements of conversion, that is, real repentance and true faith, must be present in the lives of all.


Questions for Review:

What do the Old Testament words for conversion mean?

What is the meaning of the New Testament words?

In how many different senses does the Bible speak of conversion?

What is temporary conversion?

What is true conversion?

What is repeated conversion, and where does Scripture speak of it?

What elements are included in conversion?

How do they differ?

What elements are included in repentance?

What elements are included in the Roman Catholic sacrament of penance?

What is the Scriptural view of repentance?

What are the characteristics of conversion?

Who is the author of conversion?

How can it be proved from Scripture that man is also active in conversion?

Is conversion necessary in all cases?

In what sense is it necessary?



A. The Scriptural Words for Faith.

The Old Testament really has no word for faith, though there are especially three words which denote various aspects of the activity of faith. The most common word for "to believe" (he' emin) stresses the intellectual element and signifies the acceptance of something as true on the testimony of another. The other two words (batach and chasah) emphasize rather the element of confident reliance on or of trust in someone else. The New Testament has one very important word for faith (pistis), which denotes

(1) general confidence in a person,

(2) the ready acceptance of his testimony on the basis of this confidence, and

(3) the trust reposed in him for the future. As a designation of saving faith it denotes a conviction respecting the veracity of God, a believing acceptance of His Word, and a heartfelt trust in Him for the salvation of the soul. The corresponding word for "to believe" is used with various shades of meaning, in some cases stressing the element of knowledge, and in others the element of trust.


B. Different Kinds of Faith Mentioned in the Bible.

Scripture does not always speak of faith in the same sense, and this has given occasion for the following distinctions:

1. HISTORICAL Faith. Historical faith is a purely intellectual acceptance of the truth of Scripture without any real moral or spiritual response. The name does not imply that it embraces only historical facts and events to the exclusion of moral and spiritual truths; nor that it is based only on the testimony of history, for it may have reference to present facts, John 3:2. It is rather expressive of the idea that this faith accepts the truths of Scripture as one might accept a history in which one is not personally interested. This means that, while the truth is accepted intellectually, it is not taken seriously and awakens no real interest. The Bible refers to it in Matt. 7:26; Acts 26:27, 28; Jas. 2:19.

2. Faith of MIRACLES. Faith of miracles consists in a person's conviction that a miracle will be wrought by him or in his behalf. If he is persuaded that he himself can or will work a miracle, he has this faith in the active sense, Matt. 17:20; Mark 16:17, 18, while he has it in the passive sense, if he is satisfied that a miracle will be performed on him or in his behalf, Matt. 8:11–13; John 11:22 (comp. 25–27), 40; Acts 14:9. This faith may or may not be accompanied with saving faith. Roman Catholics claim that we are still warranted in exercising this faith, while Protestants generally deny this, since there is no basis for it, though they do not deny that miracles may still occur.

3. TEMPORAL Faith. Temporal faith is a persuasion of the truths of religion which is accompanied with some promptings of conscience and a stirring of the affections, but is not rooted in a regenerated heart. The name is derived from Matt. 13:20, 21. It is called temporary faith, because it has no abiding character and fails to maintain itself in days of trial and persecution. It cannot be regarded as a hypocritical faith, for they who possess it really believe that they have true faith, but it may be called an imaginary faith, seemingly genuine but of an evanescent character. Great difficulty may be experienced in distinguishing it from true saving faith. Christ says of the one who so believes: "he hath no root in himself," Matt. 13:21. In general it may be said that temporal faith is grounded in the emotional life and seeks personal enjoyment rather than the glory of God.

4. True SAVING Faith. True saving faith is a faith that has its seat in the heart and is rooted in the regenerate life. The seed of the faith is implanted by God in the heart in regeneration, and it is only after God has implanted this seed in the heart that man can actively exercise faith. The conscious exercise of it gradually forms a habit, and this becomes a powerful aid in the further exercise of faith. When the Bible speaks of this faith it generally, though not always, refers to it as an activity of man. It may be defined as a certain conviction, wrought in the heart by the Holy Spirit, as to the truth of the gospel, and a hearty reliance on the promises of God in Christ.


C. The ELEMENTS of Saving Faith. Faith is an activity of man as a whole. As an activity of the soul it appears simple, and yet on closer scrutiny it is found to be rather intricate and complex. Several elements should be distinguished.

1. An Intellectual Element (Knowledge).

While saving faith does not consist in a mere intellectual acceptance of the truth, it does include a positive recognition of the truth revealed in the Word of God. This knowledge of faith should not be regarded as a complete comprehension of the truth; neither should it be considered as a mere taking notice of the things believed, without the conviction that they are true. It is a spiritual insight into the truths of the Christian religion, so that these find response in the heart of the sinner. It is an absolutely certain knowledge, based on the promises of God, and therefore having its divine warrant in God Himself. It need not be very comprehensive, though it should be sufficient to give the believer some idea of the fundamental truths of the gospel. In general it may be said that, if all other things are equal, one's faith will become richer and fuller in the measure in which one's knowledge increases in fullness and clarity.

2. An Emotional Element (Assent).

The Heidelberg Catechism does not mention this element of faith separately. This is due to the fact that what is called "assent" is really included in the knowledge of saving faith. It is characteristic of the knowledge included in saving faith that it carries with it a conviction of the great importance of its object, and this is assent. While the man who has a merely historical faith does not react on the truth, because it does not grip his soul, this is quite different with the person who possesses and exercises saving faith. He is conscious of a personal interest in the truth, and responds to it with a hearty assent.

3. A Volitional Element (Trust).

This is the crowning element of faith. Faith is not merely a matter of the intellect, nor of the intellect and the emotions combined; it is also a matter of the will which determines the direction of life, an act of the soul by which it goes out to its object and embraces this. This third element consists in a personal trust in Christ as Savior and Lord, which includes a surrender of the soul as guilty and defiled to Christ, and a reception and appropriation of Him as the source of pardon and spiritual life. It naturally carries with it a certain feeling of safety and security, of gratitude and joy. Faith, which is in itself certainty, tends to awaken a sense of security and a feeling of assurance in the soul.


D. The OBJECT of Saving Faith.

In connection with the object of faith it is necessary to distinguish between faith in a general and faith in a specific sense.

1. Saving Faith in GENERAL. The object of saving faith in the more general sense of the word is the whole of divine revelation as contained in the Word of God. Everything that is explicitly taught in Scripture or can be deduced from it by good and necessary inference, belongs to the object of faith in this general sense.

2. Saving Faith in the More SPECIFIC Sense. While it is necessary to accept the Bible as the Word of God, this is not the specific act of faith which justifies and therefore saves directly. It must, and as a matter of fact does, lead on to a more special faith. There are certain doctrines concerning Christ and His work, and certain promises made in Him to sinful men, which the believer accepts believingly and which induce him to put his trust in Jesus Christ. Briefly stated, the object of saving faith is Jesus Christ and the promise of salvation in Him. The special act of saving faith consists in receiving Christ and resting on Him as He is presented in the gospel, John 3:15, 16, 18; 6:40.


E. The ROMAN CATHOLIC View of Faith. The Roman Catholic Church conceives of faith as a mere assent to the truth, though it does not regard this as a full-fledged and therefore saving faith. It virtually denies the absolute necessity of the element of knowledge in faith. If one is only ready to assent to the teachings of the Church, without really knowing what these are, one can be considered as a true believer. Faith will be fuller and richer, however, if it includes the element of knowledge. But this assent to the truth, with or without knowledge, becomes real saving faith only when it becomes operative through love in the performance of good works.


F. Faith and Assurance. The question arises, whether faith always carries with it the assurance of salvation. Opinions differ very much as to the relation of assurance to faith. Roman Catholics and the Arminians of the seventeenth century teach that believers cannot, except in very rare cases, be sure of their salvation. Moreover, they hold that such assurance is on the whole undesirable. Wesleyan Arminians or Methodists maintain that conversion carries immediate certainty with it. He who believes is at once sure that he is redeemed. This does not mean, however, that he is also certain of ultimate salvation. This is a certainty to which the consistent Methodist cannot attain, since he is always liable to fall from grace. The correct view would seem to be that true faith, including, as it does, trust in God, naturally carries with it a sense of safety and security, though this may vary in degree. The assurance which is included in faith is not always a conscious possession, however, since the Christian does not always live the full-orbed life of faith and consequently is not at all times aware of the riches of the life of faith. He is often swayed by doubts and uncertainties, and is therefore urged to cultivate assurance, Eph. 3:12; 2 Tim. 1:12; Heb. 10:22;—Heb. 6:11; 2 Pet. 1:10; 1 John 2:9–11; 3:9, 10, 18, 19; 4:7, 20. Assurance can be cultivated by prayer, by meditating on the promises of God and by the development of a truly Christian life in which the fruits of the Spirit become evident.


Questions for Review:

What is the meaning of the Old Testament words for faith?

What is the meaning of the New Testament word?

Of how many different kinds of faith does the Bible speak?

What is characteristic of historical faith?

What is the faith of miracles?

Is there any warrant for it at the present time?

How does temporal faith differ from true saving faith?

What is the characteristic of true saving faith?

What elements are included in faith?

How much knowledge is needed in faith?

How is the assent of faith related to its knowledge?

What is the nature of the trust included in faith?

What is the object of saving faith?

What conception does the Roman Catholic Church have of faith?

What different views are there respecting the assurance of faith?

What is the true view?

How can assurance be cultivated?



A. The Scriptural TERMS for "to justify."

The Old Testament employs two different forms of the same word (hidsdik and tsiddek) to express this idea. These words do not, except in a couple of passages, denote a moral change wrought by God in man, but regularly designate a divine declaration respecting man. They convey the idea that God in the capacity of Judge declares man righteous. Hence the thought which they express is often placed in opposition to that of condemnation, Deut. 25:1; Prov. 17:15; Isa. 5:23, and is represented as the equivalent of not entering into judgment with the sinner, Ps. 143:2, and of forgiving his sins, Ps. 32:1. The New Testament word (dikaio-o) has the same meaning, namely, to declare righteous, as appears from the following facts: (1) In many instances it can bear no other sense, Rom. 3:20–28; 4:5–7; 5:1; Gal. 2:16; 3:11; 5:4. (2) It is placed in opposition to condemnation, Rom. 8:33, 34. (3) Other terms which are sometimes used instead of it also convey a legal idea, John 3:18; 5:24; Rom. 4:6, 7; 2 Cor. 5:19. From the study of these words it is quite evident that in Scripture "to justify" does not mean to make but to declare righteous.

B. The NATURE and CHARACTERISTICS of Justification.

Justification may be defined as that legal act of God by which He declares the sinner righteous on the basis of the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. It is not an act or process of renewal, such as regeneration, conversion, and sanctification, and does not affect the condition but the state of the sinner. The following points of difference between justification and sanctification should be noted particularly:

1. Justification removes the guilt of sin and restores the sinner to all the rights of a child of God, including an eternal inheritance. Sanctification removes the pollution of sin and renews the sinner in conformity with the image of God.

2. Justification takes place outside of the sinner in the tribunal of God, though it is appropriated by faith. Sanctification takes place in the inner life of man and gradually affects his whole being.

3. Justification takes place once for all: it is not repeated, nor is it a process; it is complete at once and for all time. Sanctification, on the other hand, is a continuous process which is not completed in the present life.

4. While both are fruits of the merits of Christ, the work of justification is ascribed more particularly to the Father, and that of sanctification to the Holy Spirit.


C. The ELEMENTS of Justification.

There are especially two elements in justification, of which the one is negative, and the other positive.

1. The NEGATIVE Element. The negative element of justification is the forgiveness of sins on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. The pardon granted in justification applies to all sins, past, present, and future, and therefore includes the removal of all guilt and of every penalty This follows from the fact that justification does not admit of repetition, and from such passages as Rom. 5:21; 8:1, 32–34; Heb. 10:14; Ps. 103:12; Isa. 44:22, and is also implied in the answer to the 60th question of the Heidelberg Catechism. It may seem to be contradicted by the fact that Christ taught His disciples to pray for the forgiveness of sins, and that Bible saints are often found pleading for pardon and obtaining it, Matt. 6:12; Ps. 32:5; 51:1–4; 130:3, 4. The explanation for this lies in the fact that the sins of believers in themselves still constitute guilt (though it is guilt already covered), and as such call for confession; that the consciousness of guilt still remains and naturally urges the believer to confess his sin and to seek the comforting assurance of forgiveness; and that the consciousness of pardon, which is repeatedly obscured by sin, is again quickened and strengthened by confession and prayer, and by a renewed exercise of faith.

2. The POSITIVE Element. There is also a positive element in justification, in which two parts may be distinguished:

a. The Adoption of Children. In justification God adopts the believer as His child, that is, places him in the position of a child and gives him all the rights of a child. This sonship by adoption must be distinguished from the moral sonship of believers, which results from regeneration and sanctification. Believers are not only children of God by adoption and therefore in a legal sense, but also by virtue of the new birth and therefore in a spiritual sense. This twofold sonship is mentioned together in John 1:12, 13; Rom. 8:15, 16; Gal. 4:5, 6.

b. The Title to Eternal Life. This privilege is virtually included in the preceding one. When sinners are adopted to be children of God, they are invested with all the legal rights of children, and become heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, Rom. 8:17. They are constituted heirs of all the blessings of salvation in the present life, and in addition to that receive a title to "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fades not away," reserved in heaven for them. 1 Pet. 1:4.


D. The SPHERE in Which Justification Takes Place.

In answering the question as to the sphere in which justification takes place, we must distinguish between active and passive justification.

1. ACTIVE Justification. Active justification takes place in the tribunal of God, Rom. 3:20; Gal. 3:11. In the sphere of heaven God, appearing as a righteous Judge, declares the sinner righteous, not in himself, but in view of the fact that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to him. The Judge is also the gracious Father freely forgiving and accepting the sinner.

2. PASSIVE Justification. Passive justification takes place in the heart or conscience of the sinner. A justification that is not brought home to the sinner would not answer the purpose. Pardon means nothing to a prisoner unless the glad tidings are communicated to him and the doors of the prison are opened. The sentence of acquittal, pronounced in the tribunal of God; is communicated to the sinner and accepted by faith. When the Bible speaks of justification by faith, it usually refers to this aspect of it.


E. The TIME of Justification.

Opinions differ somewhat as to the time of justification. In some cases, however, the differences are due to the fact that the term "justification" is not always used in the same sense. In such cases the different opinions are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but may exist alongside of each other.

1. Justification from ETERNITY. Many Antinomians confuse the divine decree respecting the redemption of men with the application of the work of redemption by the Holy Spirit. They believe that the grace of God to sinners in the eternal decree is all that is necessary for the redemption of man. There is no further need that Christ should merit this grace, nor that the Holy Spirit should apply it. Everything is accomplished in the decree; this means among other things that man is justified from eternity. But there are also others who believe in justification from eternity. Some Reformed theologians advocate this doctrine, though without subscribing to the peculiar tenets of the Antinomians. They are of the opinion that the elect were justified in the counsel of redemption, when the righteousness of Christ was imputed to them; but they believe at the same time that this justification from eternity is followed in time by another justification. Some even speak of a four-fold justification: a justification from eternity, a justification in the resurrection of Christ, a justification by faith, and a public justification in the final judgment. Now there is no doubt about it that there was a certain imputation of the righteousness of Christ to the elect in the counsel of redemption, but it may well be doubted that this is what the Bible means, when it speaks of the justification of the sinner. We must distinguish between what was merely ideal in the counsel of God, and what is realized in the course of history.

2. Justification in the RESURRECTION of Christ. Some Antinomians do not go to the extent of maintaining that everything was accomplished in the decree, and that even the work of Christ was, strictly speaking, unnecessary; but they do hold that, after Christ has accomplished His work, nothing further is required, and thus ignore the application of the work of redemption by the Holy Spirit. The elect were justified in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those Reformed scholars who also speak of a justification in the resurrection of Christ, naturally do not regard this as the whole of the justification of the sinner. They also believe in justification by faith. It may be said that, while we can speak of a justification of the body of Christ as a whole in the resurrection of Christ, this is something purely objective and should not be confused with the personal justification of the sinner.

3. Justification by FAITH. When the Bible speaks of the justification of the sinner, it usually refers to the subjective application and appropriation of the justifying grace of God. It speaks of this as justification by faith, because it is by faith that we appropriate the merits of Christ as the basis of our justification and thus come into possession of the justifying grace of God. The relation of faith to justification is not always represented in the same way. There are especially two significant representations of it.

(a) In the Protestant Confessions it is usually called the instrument or the instrumental cause of justification. Faith is on the one hand the gift of God wrought in the sinner unto justification, the means by which He carries the declaration of pardon into the heart. But it is also on the other hand the instrument by which man appropriates Christ and all His precious gifts, Rom. 4:5; Gal. 2:16.

(b) It is also frequently called the appropriating organ. This name expresses the idea that by faith the sinner appropriates the righteousness of Christ, on the basis of which he is justified before God. Faith justifies in so far as it takes possession of Christ.


F. The GROUND of Justification.

There was a very important difference of opinion between the Church of Rome and the Reformer's respecting the ground of justification. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the sinner is justified on the basis of his own inherent righteousness, which is infused into his heart in regeneration. But it is impossible that the intrinsic righteousness of the believer or his good works should ever constitute the ground of his justification, since it is itself the fruit of the renewing grace of God, and always remains imperfect in the present life. Moreover, Scripture teaches that man is justified freely by the grace of God, Rom. 3:24, and cannot possibly be justified by the works of the law, Rom. 3:28; Gal. 2:16; 3:11. The real ground of justification can be found only in the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ, which is imputed to the sinner in justification. This is plainly taught in several passages of Scripture, Rom. 3:24; 5:9, 19; 8:1; 10:4; 1 Cor. 1:30; 6:11; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9.


G. OBJECTIONS to the Doctrine of Justification.

Three objections are frequently raised against the doctrine of justification:

1. It is said that justification is a legal transaction, and therefore excludes grace, while Scripture teaches that the sinner is saved by grace. But justification, with all that it includes, is a gracious work of God. The gift of Christ, the imputation of His righteousness, and God's dealing with believers as righteous,—it is all grace from start to finish.

2. Some speak of justification as a procedure unworthy of God, because it declares sinners righteous, while as a matter of fact they are not righteous. The objection does not hold, however, because it does not declare that they are righteous in themselves, but that they are clothed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

3. It is often said that this doctrine leads to licentiousness, since they who are justified are apt to think that their personal piety is a matter of little importance. However, in justification the sure foundation is laid for that vital and spiritual union with Christ, which is the surest guarantee of a truly godly life.


Questions for Review:

What is the meaning of the Scriptural terms for "to justify"?

What is justification?

How does it differ from sanctification?

What elements are included in justification?

How far are sins forgiven in justification?

Why is it necessary to pray for the forgiveness of sins?

What is included in the adoption of children?

In what sphere does justification take place?

How do active and passive justification differ?

What is the Antinomian position respecting the time of justification?

Does Scripture teach justification from eternity?

In what sense can we speak of a justification in the resurrection of Christ?

How is faith related to justification?

What is the ground of justification?

What objections are raised to the doctrine of justification, and how can they be answered?



A. The Scriptural TERMS for Sanctification.

The Hebrew word for "to sanctify" (qadash) is in all probability derived from a root which means "to cut," and therefore emphasizes the idea of separation. This is also the primary idea of the New Testament word (hagiazo). In dealing with the subject of sanctification it is necessary to bear this point in mind. To the minds of the great majority of Christians it conveys first of all the idea of spiritual renewal, of the endowment of man with moral and spiritual qualities. And yet this is not the original idea. The Biblical words express the idea of a position or relationship between God and man rather than that of spiritual qualities wrought in the heart. The man who is sanctified is in principle lifted out of the sinful relations of life and placed in a new relation to God, in which he is consecrated to Him and to His service. The Old Testament speaks repeatedly of holy persons and holy things, referring to persons and things which are externally set aside or consecrated to the service of God. This external consecration to the service of God symbolized the deeper and inner devotion of the heart. But while the Scriptural words are first of all indicative of a relationship, they also denote that operation of God by which He, through the Holy Spirit, works in man the subjective quality of holiness, John 17:17; Acts 20:32; 26:18; 1 Cor. 1:2; 1 Thess. 5:23.


B. The Biblical IDEA of Holiness and Sanctification.

In Scripture the idea of holiness is applied first of all to God. It denotes primarily that God is absolutely distinct from the creature, is exalted far above it in heavenly majesty, and is therefore the unapproachable One. Out of this first idea a second gradually developed. Since sinful man is more keenly conscious of the majesty of God than a sinless being, he becomes aware of his impurity as over against the majestic purity of God, cf. Isa. 6. Thus the idea of God's separation from the creature passed into that of His separation from all impurity and particularly from sin. Only the clean in heart can stand in His presence, Ps. 24:3. But even this is not all. Positively, the idea of the divine holiness shades right into and becomes almost identical with that of the light of the divine glory.

In the second place the idea of holiness is also applied to persons and things that are placed in special relationship to God. Israel had its holy places, such as Jerusalem and the temple, its holy persons in the priests and Levites, and its holy rites in sacrifices and purifications. These persons and things were separated unto the service of God. But this external consecration of certain persons merely served to symbolize the inner consecration of the heart, and did not necessarily carry this with it. One might be a sacred person, and yet be entirely devoid of the grace of God in the heart. And yet only they who possessed the latter were truly holy unto the Lord. Through the influence of the Holy Spirit ethical qualities are wrought in their heart. This Old Testament idea of holiness passed right over into the New Testament. It is of great importance to observe that this Biblical idea of holiness is never that of mere moral goodness, considered in itself, but always that of ethical goodness seen in relation to God. A man may boast of great moral improvement, and yet be an utter stranger to the work of sanctification. The Bible does not urge moral improvement pure and simple, but moral improvement in relation to God, for God's sake, and with a view to the service of God.

Sanctification may be defined as that gracious and continuous operation of the Holy Spirit by which He purifies the sinner from the pollution of sin, renews his whole nature in the image of God, and enables him to perform good works.

C. The CHARACTERISTICS of Sanctification.

1. God and not man, is the author of sanctification. This does not mean, however, that man is entirely passive in the process. He can and should co-operate with God in the work of sanctification by a diligent use of the means which God has placed at his disposal, 2 Cor. 7:1; Col. 3:5–14; 1 Pet. 1:22.

2. Sanctification is not, like justification, a legal act of God, but a moral and re-creative activity, by which the sinner is renewed in his inner being and made to conform ever-increasingly to the image of God.

3. It is usually a lengthy process and never reaches perfection in this life. In cases in which regeneration and conversion are soon followed by death, the process may, of course, be very short.

4. The process of sanctification is either completed at death or immediately after it as far as the soul is concerned, and at the resurrection in so far as it pertains to the body, Phil. 3:21; Heb. 12:23; Rev. 14:5; 21:27.


D. The NATURE of Sanctification.

1. Sanctification Is a SUPERNATURAL Work of God. Some have the mistaken notion that sanctification consists merely in the drawing out of the new life which is implanted in regeneration by presenting motives to the will and thus persuading man to increase in holiness. In reality it is a divine operation in the soul whereby the holy disposition imparted in regeneration is strengthened and its holy exercises are increased. It is essentially a work of God, partly immediate and partly mediate In so far as God uses means man is expected to co-operate by the proper use of the means at his disposal, 1 Thess. 5:23; Heb. 13:20, 21; 2 Cor. 7:1; Heb. 12:14.

2. Sanctification Consists of TWO PARTS:

a. The Mortification of the Old Man. The negative side of sanctification consists in this that the pollution and corruption of human nature which results from sin is gradually removed. The old man, that is, human nature in so far as it is controlled by sin, is gradually crucified, Rom. 6:6 Gal. 5:24.

b. The Quickening of the New Man. The positive side of sanctification lies in this that the holy disposition of the soul is strengthened, its holy exercises are increased, and thus a new course of life is engendered, Rom. 6:4, 5; Col. 2:12; 3:1, 3. The new life to which it leads is called "a life unto God," Rom. 6:11; Gal. 2:19.

3. Sanctification Affects the WHOLE MAN. Since sanctification takes place in the heart, it naturally affects the whole organism. The change in the inner man is bound to carry with it a change in the outer life, Rom. 6:12; 1 Cor. 6:15, 20; 2 Cor. 5:17; 1 Thess 5:23. It is completed especially in the crisis of death and in the resurrection of the dead. Scripture teaches that it affects the understanding, Jer. 31:34; John 6:45, the will, Ezek. 36:25–27; Phil. 3:13; the passions, Gal. 5:24, and the conscience, Tit. 1:15; Heb. 9:14.

4. Sanctification Is a Work in Which Believers CO-OPERATE. That man must co-operate in the work of sanctification follows from the repeated warnings against evils and temptations, Rom. 12:9, 16, 17; 1 Cor. 6:9, 10; Gal. 5:16–23; and from the constant exhortations to holy living, Micah 6:8; John 15:2, 8, 16; Rom. 8:12, 13; 12:1, 2, 17; Gal. 6:7, 8, 15.


E. The IMPERFECT CHARACTER of Sanctification in This Life.

While sanctification affects every part of man, yet the spiritual development of believers in this life remains imperfect in degree. Believers must contend with sin as long as they live, 1 Kings 8:46; Prov. 20:9; Eccl. 7:20; Jas. 3:2; 1 John 1:8. According to Scripture there is a constant warfare between the flesh and the spirit in the lives of God's children, and even the best of them are still striving for perfection, Rom. 7:7–26; Gal. 2:20; 5:17; Phil. 3:12–14. Confession of sin and prayer for forgiveness are represented as a necessity, Job. 9:3, 20; Ps. 32:5; 130:3; Prov. 20:9; Isa. 64:6; Dan. 9:16; Rom. 7:14; Matt. 6:12, 13; 1 John 1:9. This truth is denied by the Perfectionists, who believe that man can attain to perfection in this life. They appeal to the fact that the Bible commands believers to be perfect, 1 Pet. 1:16; Matt. 5:48; Jas. 1:4; that holiness and perfection are often ascribed to believers, 1 Cor. 2:6; 2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 5:27; Heb. 5:14; Phil. 3:15; Col. 2:10; that some Biblical saints led perfect lives, as Noah, Gen. 6:9; Job, Job 1:8; and Asa, 1 Kings 15:14; and that John declares explicitly that they who are born of God do not sin, 1 John 3:6, 8, 9; 5:18. But all this does not prove the point. God demands holiness of the unregenerate as well as of the regenerate, but this certainly does not prove that the unregenerate can lead a holy life. If the Bible occasionally speaks of believers as perfect, this does not necessarily mean that they are without sin. They can be called perfect in Christ, or perfect in principle, or perfect in the sense of full-grown, 1 Cor. 2:6; 3:1, 2; Heb. 5:14; 2 Tim. 3:17.

The Bible contains no examples of believers who led sinless lives. Even the men mentioned as examples fell into grievous sins, Gen. 9:21; Job 3:1; 2 Chron. 16:7 ff. And the statement found in the Epistle of John that he who is born of God does not sin evidently means either that the new man as such does not sin, or that the believer does not live in sin. Moreover, this statement of John would prove too much for the Perfectionist, namely, that the believer actually never sins. Even the Perfectionist does not maintain that. Consequently it proves nothing to the point.


F. Sanctification and GOOD WORKS. Sanctification naturally issues in a life of good works. These may be called the fruits of sanctification, and as such come into consideration here.

1. The NATURE of Good Works. When we speak of good works, we do not mean perfect works, but works which, at least in principle, answer to the divine requirements and which are good in the spiritual sense of the word. Such good works spring from the principle of love to God and the desire to do His will, Deut. 6:2; 1 Sam. 15:22; Isa. 1:12; Matt. 7:17, 18; 12:33; they are not only in external conformity to the law of God, but are also done in conscious obedience to the revealed will of God; and whatever their proximate aim may be, their final aim is the glory of God, Rom. 12:1; 1 Cor. 10:31; Col. 3:17, 23. Only they who are regenerated by the Spirit of God can perform such good works. This does not mean, however, that the unregenerate cannot do good in any sense of the word. To say this would be to contradict the plain teachings of Scripture, 2 Kings 10:29, 30; 12:2; 14:3; Luke 6:33; Rom. 2:14. They can perform works that are in external conformity with the law, that spring from noble motives respecting their fellowmen, and that answer to a proximate aim which meets the approval of God. These works find their explanation only in the common grace of God. While they can be called good in a general sense, they are yet radically defective, because they are divorced from the spiritual root of love to God, represent no real inner obedience to the law of God, and do not aim at the glory of God.

2. The MERITORIOUS CHARACTER of Good Works. The good works of believers are not meritorious in the strict sense of the word, that is, they do not have the inherent value which naturally carries with it a just claim to a reward. If God does reward their good works, it is not because He is under obligation to them, but only because He has graciously promised to attach a reward to works that meet with His approval. It is a reward like parents occasionally bestow upon their children. Scripture clearly teaches that the good works of believers are not meritorious, Luke 17:9, 10; Rom. 5:15–18; 6:23; Eph. 2:8–10; 2 Tim. 1:9; Tit. 3:5. There are several reasons why they cannot be:

(a) Believers owe their whole life to God, and cannot merit anything by giving God simply what is His due, Luke 17:9, 10.

(b) They cannot perform good works except with the strength which God imparts to them from day to day, and therefore cannot claim credit for them, 1 Cor. 15:10; Phil. 2:13.

(c) Even their best works are imperfect, while God can be satisfied with nothing less than perfect obedience, Isa. 64:6; Jas. 3:2.

(d) Their good works are out of all proportion to the eternal reward of glory. The Roman Catholic Church holds that, after the sinner has received the grace of God in his heart, he can perform meritorious works, that is, works which give him a just claim to salvation and glory.

3. The NECESSITY of Good Works. There can be no doubt about the necessity of good works, but this necessity should be properly understood. They are not necessary to merit salvation, nor even as a necessary condition of salvation. Infants enter heaven without having done any good works. The Bible does not teach that no one can be saved apart from good works. Yet they are necessary in the lives of adult believers as required by God, Rom. 7:4; 8:12, 13; Gal. 6:2, as the fruits of faith, Jas. 2:14, 17, 20–22, as an expression of gratitude, 1 Cor. 6:20, unto the assurance of faith, 2 Pet. 1:5–10, and to the glory of God, John 15:8; 1 Cor. 10:31. Their necessity must be maintained over against the Antinomians, who assert that believers are free from the obligation to keep the law as a rule of life, since Christ did this for them. This is a thoroughly false position. Christ fulfilled the law as a covenant obligation and bore its penalty in behalf of His people, but He kept the law as a rule of life for Himself and for Himself only. By the operation of His Spirit He enables believers to keep the law in principle for themselves, and they, without any constraint, willingly obey it from the heart.


G. Perseverance of the Saints

A. NATURE of the Perseverance of the Saints.

The Reformed Churches stand practically alone in maintaining that a Christian cannot fall from the state of grace. Roman Catholics, Socinians, Arminians, and even Lutherans maintain that he can, and therefore do not believe in the perseverance of the saints. This doctrine can easily be misunderstood. The name naturally suggests a continuous activity of believers whereby they persevere in the way of salvation. As a matter of fact, however, this perseverance is not thought of primarily as an activity of believers, though it is certainly regarded as a work in which they co-operate. Believers would fall away, if they were left to themselves. Strictly speaking, it is not man but God that perseveres. Perseverance is that continuous operation of the Holy Spirit in the believer, by which the work of divine grace that is begun in the heart, is continued and brought to completion.


B. PROOF for the Doctrine of Perseverance.

The doctrine of perseverance may be proved by direct statements of Scripture, such as John 10:28, 29; Rom. 11:29; Phil. 1:6; 2 Thess. 3:3; 2 Tim. 1:12; 4:18. It follows also from the doctrine of election, which is never merely election to certain means of salvation or to a way in which man may be saved, but to the end of a perfect salvation. It may be inferred from the efficacy of the merits and the intercession of Christ. They for whom He has paid the price can never again fall under condemnation. Moreover, His constant intercession for them is always effective, John 11:42; Heb. 7:25. It is also a natural inference from the mystical union of believers with Christ. How can they who are once implanted in Christ and therefore in possession of eternal life again be severed from the body of Christ and lose this life? Can we proceed on the assumption that eternal life will not be everlasting? Finally, it follows from the fact that believers can in this life attain to the assurance of salvation, Heb. 3:14; 6:11; 10:22; 2 Pet. 1:10. This would be quite impossible, if believers could fall from grace at any moment.


C. OBJECTIONS to the Doctrine of Perseverance.

It is often said that the doctrine of perseverance leads to false security and to indolence, license, and immorality. But this is not true. While the Bible tells us that we are kept by the grace of God, it does not encourage the idea that God keeps us without constant watchfulness, diligence, and prayer on our part. Moreover, there are three classes of passages in Scripture which are declared to be contrary to this doctrine. These are:

(1) Passages containing warnings against apostasy which would be unnecessary, if the believer could not fall away, Matt. 24:12; Col. 1:23; Heb. 2:1; 3:14; 6:11; 1 John 2:6. But these only prove that the believer must co-operate in the work of perseverance. Compare Acts 27:22–25 with verse 31 for an illustration of this point.

(2) Passages in which believers are exhorted to continue in the way of sanctification. Such exhortations would seem unnecessary, if there is no doubt about their continuance. But these only go to show that God uses moral means to attain His end.

(3) Passages which record cases of actual apostasy, 1 Tim. 1:19, 20; 2 Tim. 2:17, 18; 4:10; 2 Pet. 2:1, 2. But there is no proof that the persons mentioned were true believers. The Bible itself teaches that there are persons who profess the faith and yet are not of the faith, Rom. 9:6; 1 John 2:9; Rev. 3:1. John says of some: "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us," 1 John 2:19.


Questions for Review:

What is the primary meaning of the Scriptural words for "to sanctify"?

What is the original idea of sanctification?

What are the different meanings of holiness as applied to God?

What does it mean, when it is applied to persons and things?

What is the difference between sanctification and moral improvement?

What are the characteristics of sanctification?

Is sanctification a work of God or of man?

What is the negative and the positive side of sanctification?

How far does sanctification extend?

What proof is there that it is incomplete in this life?

Who deny this and on what grounds?

How can their arguments be met?

What are good works in the strict sense of the word?

In how far can the unregenerate perform good works?

What is meant when it is said that good works are not meritorious?

How can we prove that they are not?

Why is it impossible that they should be meritorious?

Are they not represented as meritorious when we are taught that they are rewarded?

In what sense are good works not necessary, and in what sense are they necessary?

What is meant by the perseverance of the saints?

Who deny this doctrine?

How can this doctrine be proved?

What objections are there to it, and how can these be met?