The Spirit’s Means of Grace: Proclamation

by Herman Bavinck

From Reformed Dogmatics: Volume 4: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation

How does Christ communicate his benefits to his people, to the church? Does he use means? Mystics deny this; Rome insists that they are essential and tied to the sacramental power of the institutional church’s priesthood. The Reformation adopted a position in between this mystical undervaluation and magical overvaluation of the means of grace.

According to the Reformation, Christ is the complete Savior, the only mediator between God and humanity, but he also instituted an official body of ministers (not priests!) to proclaim the Word of God. The Reformation changed the medieval Roman understanding of grace from a sacerdotal power to a spiritual power of the Word. Not the church but Scripture was regarded as the means of grace. Yet against mysticism, which denied the necessity of the means of grace in Word and sacraments, the Reformation understood the Word and sacraments to be God’s ordinary means of imparting grace. The church is the mother of believers, and the offices are instituted for the administration of the Word and sacraments. Means of grace may never be detached from the person and work of Christ nor from the church he instituted on earth.

The most important means of grace is the word of God. Since the Word contains both the law and the gospel, the covenant of works and the covenant of grace, it has a universal significance even beyond its public proclamation in church as a means of grace. For this reason, we must distinguish between the “word of God” and Scripture. The “word of God” does not come only in the form of Scripture and its public proclamation; it also comes to us indirectly, secondarily, having been absorbed from Scripture into the consciousness of the church or a society of people. Above all, it is not merely a sound but also a power and the accomplishment of God’s will (Isa. 55:11).

The Word is differentiated into law and gospel. The law finds its end in Christ, who sets believers free from the curse of the law (Gal. 3:13; 4:5) so that they may walk according to the Spirit and delight in God’s law in their inner selves. Antinomianism exacerbates the antithesis between law and gospel, while nomism weakens or cancels the antithesis. Rome equated the old and new covenants with law and gospel respectively, and denied the presence of the gospel in the Old Testament and that of the law in the New Testament, but by accepting its laws and threats turned the gospel into a new law, thereby erasing the Pauline antithesis of law and gospel.

The Reformation, however, held to the unity of the covenant of grace in its two dispensations while at the same time sharply contrasting law and gospel. According to the Reformed tradition, law and gospel describe two revelations of the divine will. The law is God’s holy, wise, good, and spiritual will, which on account of sin has now been made powerless, fails to justify, and increases sin and condemnation. The gospel, as the fulfillment of the Old Testament promise, has Christ as its content and conveys grace, reconciliation, forgiveness, righteousness, peace, freedom, and life. The law proceeds from God’s holiness, is known from nature, addresses all people, demands perfect righteousness, gives eternal life by works, and condemns. By contrast, the gospel proceeds from God’s grace, is known only from special revelation, addresses only those who hear, grants perfect righteousness, produces good works in faith, and acquits. Faith and repentance are always components of gospel, not of law. The gospel, therefore, always presupposes the law and differs from it especially in content.

Since the law is an expression of God’s being, humans are naturally subject to it. The law is everlasting; it was inscribed on Adam’s heart, is again engraved on the heart of the believer by the Holy Spirit, and in heaven all believers will live according to it. While the law no longer makes demands upon the believer as a condition for salvation, it is still the believer’s object of delight and meditation. Accordingly, the law must always be proclaimed in the church alongside the gospel.

Besides the relationship between law and gospel, there is often disagreement over the power and efficacy of the Word, as well as the relationship between Word and Spirit. Nomism (Judaism, Pelagianism, rationalism, Romanism) considers the special supernatural power of the Holy Spirit superfluous, while antinomianism (Anabaptism, mysticism) expects everything from the inner light of the Holy Spirit and finds in the Word only a sign and shadow.

By contrast, both Lutherans and Reformed, against nomism and antinomianism alike, taught that though the Holy Spirit can work apart from the Word, ordinarily Word and Spirit go together. Lutherans, however, prefer to speak of the Spirit working per verbum (through the Word), while the Reformed prefer cum verbo (with the Word). We must never forget that the word of God, also through law, always comes with power. At the same time, it does not always produce the same effect, and the regenerating, renewing effect cannot be understood without acknowledging the work of the Holy Spirit as a distinct work. The Spirit who renews is always and only the Spirit of Christ, who works through the means appointed by Christ.

Beyond Mysticism and Sacramentalism

[519] All salvation and blessedness comes to fallen people via God’s gracious character.1 Objectively, that grace with all its benefits appeared in Christ, who acquired and distributes them in the way of the covenant. The fellowship of those who have received Christ with all his benefits is called “the church” or “the Christian community.”

The question we now face is whether or not, in the communication of these benefits of his, Christ uses means. All mystics are disposed to answer this question in the negative. Altogether in keeping with their dualistic starting point, they cannot conceive of grace as being dependent on or bound to external signs and actions. According to this view, it is God himself alone, or the Christ in us, the Spirit, or the inner word or light that works grace in humans, and the Word and sacrament can do no more than point to or depict that internal grace. The written word, it is said, expresses what is written in the heart of every believer, and the sacraments only make externally visible to our eyes what Christ has granted internally by his Spirit.2 Mysticism finally comes down to the same thing as rationalism, which, as interpreted by Socinians 3 and Remonstrants,4 sees in the sacraments only ceremonial precepts, memorial signs, and acts of confession.

Directly opposed to this view is that of Romanism, which conceives of grace as absolutely bound to means. According to Rome, after all, the church, the visible church sustained by the invisible Spirit, is the actual, authentic, perfect means of grace, the sacrament par excellence. In it Christ continues his divine human life on earth; fulfills his prophetic, royal, and above all his priestly office; and communicates the fullness of his grace and truth. The church is Christ on earth, Christ who, following his completed work of redemption, entered into the development—bound by space and time—of the human race.5 And the grace that Christ merited and communicated to his church serves above all to elevate humans from the natural to the supernatural order. It is elevating grace, a supernatural physical power that in the sacrament is infused ex opere operato 6 into “the natural man” by the priest.7 Just as in Christ the divine and the human natures are inseparably united, and as in the church the invisible spirit is similarly united with the visible institution, so in the sacrament the spiritual grace and the visible sign are inseparably bound up together. Apart from Christ, apart from the church, apart from the priest, and apart from the sacrament, accordingly, there is no salvation. One must know that in the church Christ not only continues his priestly office but also his prophetic and royal office. The doctrine of Christ proclaimed in the church, however, serves only to arouse faith, that is, assent, and the discipline maintained in the church serves only to foster obedience to the moral law. Faith and obedience are not of themselves grace itself but only its preparation and its fruit.8 The word of God, which according to Rome is contained in Scripture and tradition and viewed as law, therefore has only preparatory and pedagogical significance, and belief is only one of the seven preparations for grace.9 The sacrament administered by the priest is the real means of grace through which “all true justice either begins, or being begun is increased, or being lost is repaired.”10

The Reformation adopted a position in between this mystical undervaluation and magical overvaluation of the means of grace, introducing an immense change in the place and character of the church, the church’s offices, and the means of grace. According to the Reformation, Christ is the complete Savior, the only Mediator between God and humanity, and the church is first of all the communion of saints, not the mediatrix of salvation but the assembly of believers who live in communion with Christ. Christ indeed instituted offices in that believing community, but all these offices do not constitute a priesthood (sacerdotium) but a body of ministers (ministerium), bound absolutely to Christ’s word and having no other power than the power of that word.

Hence, the relationship between Scripture and the church is totally different in Protestantism than in Roman Catholicism.11 In Rome’s view the church is anterior to Scripture; the church is not built upon Scripture, but Scripture arose from the church; Scripture does indeed need the church, but the church does not need Scripture. The Reformation, however, again put the church on the foundation of Scripture and elevated Scripture high above the church. Not the church but Scripture, the Word of God, became the means of grace par excellence. Even the sacrament was subordinated to the Word and had neither meaning nor power apart from that Word. Now, in accordance with Christ’s ordinance, that Word was indeed administered in the midst of the congregation of believers by the minister, but this did not alter the fact that that Word was [also] put into everyone’s hands, that it was plain to everyone who studied it with a desire for salvation, that it exerted its power not only when it was proclaimed in public but also when it was studied and read at home. In that way Christians, who accepted that Word with a believing heart, were liberated from sacerdotalism. No longer did any person or thing stand between them and Christ. By faith they appropriated the whole of salvation, and in the sacrament they received the sign and seal of that reality. Thus the Reformation changed the Roman Catholic doctrine of the means of grace.

On the other hand, however, there was the threat of mysticism, which totally rejected the means of grace and could advance a list of reasons for that rejection. God’s omnipotence, after all, should not be bound by such external means. God, being sovereign and free, could, but did not have to, use such means to distribute the treasures of his grace. Neither was that grace something material or substantial, a physical force, a superadded gift, an elevation of human nature. It consisted primarily in being restored to God’s favor, in the forgiveness of sins, in the spiritual renewal after his image. For that reason it could not be locked into a sign perceptible to the senses as in a physical container, nor distributed by the minister. Christ was and remained the only one who, having acquired it, could also distribute it. He did not designate anyone to be his deputy on earth, nor did he appoint a priest; instead he himself continued to exercise his prophetic, priestly, and royal office. True, he might entrust the sign to his servant, yet he himself remained the only distributor of the thing signified. Furthermore, was this truth not clearly evident in the world around us? Every day thousands of people receive the sign of the Word and the sacrament without participating in grace. Conversely, one daily witnesses the death of many covenant infants, who, though they could not hear the word of the gospel, nor actually repent, yet concerning whose salvation believing parents were not—according to God’s Word—supposed to entertain any doubts.

Guided by these considerations and alarmed by the arguments of the Anabaptists, Lutherans partly retraced their steps and again bound grace entirely to the means, introduced lay baptism in case of emergencies, viewed baptism itself as the washing away of sins, and spoke of faith already [present] in the case of infants. And also in Reformed churches, specifically in the Anglican churches, this same Romanizing tendency has repeatedly surfaced and achieved dominance. But originally the Reformation adopted another position. One could not restrict the omnipotence and freedom of God. He could also glorify his grace in the hearts of sinners apart from external means. If in this connection he employed human agents and signs, that should be attributed only to his good pleasure, his great love and grace. Zwingli therefore said that God even elected, regenerated, and led to salvation in heaven pagans who had never heard of the gospel. And although the other Reformers did not go that far, they still had to admit, especially in the case of children of believers who died in infancy, that God could also regenerate and save people without the Word and the sacrament, that is, by the Holy Spirit alone.12

Ordinary and Extraordinary: Avoiding One-Sidedness

Nevertheless, they presented these cases as exceptions and maintained as the rule that for those who reached adulthood the Word and sacraments were the ordinary means by which God gave his Spirit and imparted his grace. The working of regeneration and faith by the preaching of the Word is “the only economy and system of dispensing the Lord is accustomed to apply among those he plans to call as his own.”13 “The Lord does not usually call human beings directly, that is, immediately.”14 This answer is not altogether satisfactory, since the number of children who are saved apart from the means of grace, at least apart from the means of the preached Word, is much higher than generally surmised and cannot be cited as an exception to the rule. In addition, in those who grow to adulthood, regeneration by the Holy Spirit certainly can precede, though it does not always precede, baptism, the hearing of the Word of God, and the exercise of faith. This is why among Lutherans grace was increasingly linked to the means, and specifically regeneration was linked to baptism, and why among the Reformed who viewed the sacraments as signs and seals of conferred grace, regeneration was conceived as preceding baptism, so that the means of grace did not serve to regenerate but to bring those regenerated to faith and repentance.

Still also this later development could not be exempted from the charge of one-sidedness. The Lutheran development led back to Rome, and the development among the Reformed ran the danger of leading people to regard the Word, the sacrament, church, and offices, indeed even the person and work of Christ, as superfluous for the acquisition and application of salvation and necessary only for the outward manifestation of life and truth in the world. In that manner, however, the significance of the means of grace was weakened and their comprehension all too much delimited. The means of grace, after all, do not stand by themselves but are closely connected with the church and the offices of the church, with Christ’s person and work. One might as well ask whether God could not regenerate and save [sinners] apart from Christ and forgive sins aside from satisfaction. But such questions lead nowhere: we have to rest in God’s good pleasure, which distributes salvation in no way other than in and through Christ. He is the Mediator between God and humanity, the only name given under heaven by which we must be saved [Acts 4:12]. Furthermore, it was equally God’s good pleasure to distribute salvation in no other way than through and in the church of Christ. Whether God, as Zwingli taught, also caused his electing grace to work among the pagans can be left undiscussed here, since in any case, according to the confession of all Christian churches, this refers to an exception. The rule is that God freely binds the distribution of his grace to the church of Christ.

The church is the communion, and hence also the mother, of believers. God establishes his covenant with the parents and in them with their children. He distributes his benefits in the way of the covenant. In that sense it is true that the church as the communion of saints is the great means of grace that Christ in his good pleasure uses to gather his elect from the beginning to the end of the world. In that sense the church definitely aims at the salvation of the elect. That is not the only reason for its existence; it also serves to perfect the saints, to build up the body of Christ, to preach the gospel to all creatures, and to glorify God. In any case, then, it also exists on earth to be the holy circle within which Christ communicates all his benefits, also the benefit of regeneration. In order that it would be equipped to do this, he gave the church his Spirit, poured out in it a wide assortment of gifts, instituted in it the church’s offices, and entrusted to it the administration of the Word and sacraments. And these, too, without exception, are the means that Christ employs to bring to the Father all those given him and to lead them to heavenly blessedness. Indeed, the comprehensive guidance of life with all its variations of prosperity and adversity in the hand of the Holy Spirit is very often a means to bring the elect to Christ or more closely into his fellowship. The term “means of grace” can even be stretched to include the things that are needed on our part to enjoy, for the first time or continually, the benefits of the covenant, such as faith, conversion, the struggle against sin, and prayer.15

Admittedly, it is not advisable to include all these things under the means of grace. For Christ is not a means but the mediator, acquisitor, and executor of salvation. The church is not a means of grace alongside of the Word and sacraments, for all the power entrusted to it consists in nothing other than the administration of these two. The church and its offices as such do not impart grace; this only occurs through the Word and the sacraments. Moreover, faith, conversion, and prayer are rather the fruits than the means of grace. They are not objective institutions but the subjective conditions for the possession and enjoyment of the remaining benefits of the covenant. Strictly speaking, the Word and the sacraments alone can be viewed as means of grace, that is, as external, humanly perceptible actions and signs that Christ has given his church and with which he has linked the communication of his grace. Still they may not even for a second be detached from the person and work of Christ, nor from the church as organism and as institution. Christ brings his own to their destiny in many and varied ways and can do this since he alone is and remains the acquisitor as well as the distributor of grace. Accordingly, he does this either apart from or through the Word and the sacraments, but always through the internal calling of the Spirit, whom he bestowed on the church, in the fellowship of the church, which he instructed to preach the gospel to all creatures; in the way of the covenant that received the gospel as its content and the sacraments as sign and seal.16

[520] The first and most important means of grace is the word of God. On this point the Lutherans and Reformed are agreed. The latter, however, do not discuss the word of God under the heading of the means of grace inasmuch as they have usually treated it earlier in dogmatics, either in a separate chapter,17 or on the law in connection with the covenant of works and on the gospel in connection with the covenant of grace.18 This unique method of treating the subject does not warrant the assertion that the Reformed did not recognize the word of God as a means of grace, for they repeatedly say the opposite.19 One may indeed properly infer from these statements that for the Reformed the word of God had a much richer meaning than one would gather from its use as a means of grace in the strict sense of the term. The word of God is also distinguished from the sacraments in that the latter only serve to strengthen faith and therefore only play a role in the midst of the believing community.

The Word as Law, Gospel, and Power

But the word of God, both as law and gospel, is the revelation of the will of God, the promulgation of the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. It concerns all human beings and all creatures and so has universal significance. The sacrament can only be administered by a lawfully called minister in the assembly of believers, but the word of God also has a place and life outside of it and also there exerts many and varied influences. As a means of grace in the true sense alongside the sacraments, the word of God only comes up for discussion insofar as it is publicly preached by the minister. The emphasis then falls on the Word as proclaimed in God’s name and by virtue of his mission.20 But as a rule the people have for a long time already come into contact with that word—in the family, at school, by hearing speeches, and in their reading—before they hear it publicly proclaimed in church. Accordingly, the public administration of the Word falls far short of encompassing all the power that proceeds from that Word; it also serves to work faith in those who do not have it, but much more to strengthen faith in the hearts and minds of believers assembled in public worship.

In a Christian society, the word of God comes to people in all sorts of ways, in all kinds of forms, from all directions, and it comes to them from their earliest childhood onward. Indeed, in the internal calling, God frequently introduces that word, even before the consciousness has awakened, to the hearts of children to regenerate and to sanctify them, just as in every person from one’s earliest existence God inscribes the work of the law in their hearts and plants in them the seed of religion.

For that reason, we must definitely distinguish between the word of God and Scripture. Not in the sense that the word of God could be found only in Scripture and was not Scripture itself; but in this other sense, that the word in most cases does not come to us at all as Scripture, that is, in the form of Scripture. In fact, it comes in such a way that, having been absorbed from Scripture into the consciousness of the church, it proceeds from there to the most diverse people in the form of admonition and speech, nurture and education, books, magazines, tracts, and speeches and exerts its effect. And always it is God who stands behind that word. It is he who causes that word to go forth to people in all those diverse forms and thereby calls them to repentance and life. In Scripture, accordingly, the expression “word of God” is never identical with Scripture, even though we may undoubtedly call Scripture “the Word of God.” There may be the odd instance where the expression “Word of God” refers to a part of Scripture, say to the written law. But for the rest, the word of God in Scripture is never the same as Scripture, if for no other reason than that at the time, Scripture was not yet complete. The expression “word of God” in Scripture has a variety of meanings and can refer to the power of God by which he creates and upholds the world, or his revelation to the prophets, or the content of revelation, or the gospel that was preached by the apostles.21 Yet it is always a word of God, that is, never just a sound but a power, not mere information but an accomplishment of his will (Isa. 55:11). By his word, God creates and maintains the world (Gen. 1:3; Pss. 33:6; 148:5; Isa. 48:13; Rom. 4:17; 2 Cor. 4:6; Heb. 1:3; 11:3), and Jesus stilled the sea (Mark 4:39), healed the sick (Matt. 8:16), cast out demons (9:6), and raised the dead (Luke 7:14; 8:54; John 5:25, 28; 11:43; etc.). By his word, he also works in the area of morality and spirituality.

God uses his word to make his will known in the area of morality and spirituality, and it must be differentiated as law and gospel. When Jesus appeared on earth to announce the coming of the kingdom promised in the Old Testament (Mark 1:15), to bring the gospel of forgiveness and salvation to publicans and sinners, the poor and the imprisoned (Matt. 5:1ff.; 11:5, 28–30; Luke 4:18–19; 19:10; and so forth), he automatically clashed with the Pharisaic and nomistic view of religion, which prevailed in his day. Still, though he rejected the human ordinances of past teachers of the law (Matt. 5:21ff.; 15:9), and though he has a different view of murder (5:21–22), adultery (5:27–28), oaths (5:33–37), fasting (6:16–18), divorce (19:9), and the Sabbath (Mark 2:27–28), he does uphold the whole law, also its ceremonial elements (Matt. 5:23–24; 17:24–27; 23:2–3, 23; Mark 1:44; 11:16). He also explains it in its spiritual sense (Matt. 5–7), stresses its ethical content, considers love to God and one’s neighbor its sum (7:12; 9:13; 12:7; Mark 7:15; 12:28–34), and desires a righteousness different from and more abundant than the righteousness of the Pharisees (Matt. 5:20). Accordingly, though he himself is greater than the temple (12:6), he positioned himself under the law (3:15) and came to fulfill the law and the prophets (5:17). He therefore knows that, though he never insists on the abolition of the law, his disciples are inwardly free from it (17:26); that his church is not founded on the law but on the confession of his messiahship (16:18); and that a new covenant has been established in his blood (26:28). In a word, the new wine calls for new wineskins (9:17), and the days of the temple and people and law have been numbered (Mark 13:2). Jesus’s agenda is not a revolutionary overthrow of the legalistic dispensation of the old covenant, but the reformation and renewal that is naturally born from its complete fulfillment.22

And so, in fact, it happened. In the early period the church at Jerusalem still stuck to the temple and the law (Acts 2:46; 3:1; 10:14; 21:26; 22:12). But a new outlook began to take shape. With the conversion of the Gentiles, the question arose about the meaning of the Mosaic law. And Paul was the first to understand fully that in the death of Christ the written code of the law had been canceled (Col. 2:14). By “law” (νομος, nomos) Paul always understands—unless a further stipulation indicates otherwise (e.g., Rom. 3:27; Gal. 6:2)—the Mosaic law, the entire Torah, including the ceremonial commandments (Rom. 9:4; Gal. 2:12; 4:10; 5:3; Phil. 3:5–6). And he does not, like the Letter to the Hebrews, view that law as the imperfect, preparatory, Old Testament dispensation of the covenant of grace, which vanishes after the high priest and mediator of a better covenant has come, but as the revelation of God’s will, as a religious/ethical requirement and demand, as the God-willed regulation of the revelation between him and human beings. And concerning this law, thus interpreted, Paul now teaches that, though it is indeed holy and good and God-given (Rom. 2:18; 7:22, 25; 9:4; 2 Cor. 3:3, 7), it cannot, as the Pharisees asserted, produce righteousness, but is made powerless by the flesh (Rom. 8:3); stimulates covetousness (7:7–8); increases trespasses (5:20; Gal. 3:19); produces wrath, a curse, and death (Rom. 4:15; 2 Cor. 3:6; Gal. 3:10); and intervened only for a time for pedagogical reasons (Rom. 5:20; Gal. 3:19, 24; 4:2–3). In Christ, the offspring of the promise, therefore, that law has attained its end [τέλος, telos] (Rom. 10:4): believers are free from the law (Gal. 4:26–5:1), inasmuch as they have been delivered by Christ from the curse of the law (3:13; 4:5) and have received the spirit of adoption, the spirit of freedom (Rom. 8:15; 2 Cor. 3:16–17; Gal. 5:18). This freedom of faith, however, does not cancel out the law but confirms it (Rom. 3:31) since its just requirement is fulfilled precisely in the lives of those who walk according to the Spirit (8:4). The Spirit, after all, renews believers so that they delight in God’s law in their inner selves and try to find out what God’s holy will is (Rom. 7:22; 12:2; Eph. 5:10; Phil. 1:10). At the same time they are urged onward to do the will of God for all sorts of pressing reasons—the great mercy of God, the example of Christ, the high price with which they were purchased, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, and so forth.23

Maintaining the Unity of the Covenant of Grace

[521] In the Christian church this antithesis between law and gospel was even exacerbated and made irreconcilable, on the one hand, by antinomianism in its various forms: Gnosticism, Manichaeism, Paulicianism, Anabaptism, Hattemism, and so forth. The whole Old Testament, it was said, was derived from an inferior God, a wrathful, jealous, avenging God, and had now been replaced by the very different revelation of the God of love, the Father of Christ. On the other hand, this antithesis between law and gospel was weakened and canceled out by nomism in its various forms: Pelagianism, semi-Pelagianism, Romanism, Socinianism, rationalism, and so forth. By the church fathers already and later by Scholastic and Roman Catholic theologians, law and gospel were equated with the Old and the New Testaments, and then not construed antithetically but viewed as a lower and a higher revelation of the will of God. Law and gospel do not differ in the sense that the former only demands and the latter only promises, for both contain commandments, threats, and promises; mysteries, promises, and precepts; things to be believed, things to be hoped for, and things to be done. Not just Moses but also Christ was a legislator.

But in all this the gospel of the New Testament, the new law, far surpasses the law of the Old Testament, the old law. The mysteries (Trinity, incarnation, atonement, and so forth) are much more clearly revealed in the New Testament; the promises are much richer in content and embrace especially spiritual and eternal goods; the laws are much more glorious and lighter since the ceremonial and civil laws have been abolished and replaced by only a handful of ceremonies. Furthermore, “the law … was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” [John 1:17]. The law was temporary and designed for one people; the gospel is eternal and has to be carried to all peoples. The law was imperfect, a shadow and an example; the gospel is perfect and the substance of the good things themselves. The law fostered fear and servitude; the gospel generates love and freedom. The law could not fully justify, it conferred no riches of grace, it gave no eternal salvation. The gospel embodied in the sacrament, however, confers the power of grace that enables its recipients to keep God’s commandments and to gain eternal life. In a word, the law is the incomplete gospel; the gospel the complete law. The gospel was contained in the law as a tree in a seed, a grain in an ear of corn.24

Now to the extent that the Old and the New Testament dispensations of the covenant of grace can be described—following Scripture and in terms of the most salient difference between them—with the terms “law” and “gospel,” the distinction that Rome makes between the two can for the most part, but not completely, be endorsed. Rome, however, totally equated the old and the new covenants with law and gospel [respectively], denied the presence of the gospel in the Old Testament and that of the law in the New Testament, viewed the entire doctrine promulgated by Christ and the apostles as gospel, accepted in it the presence not just of promises but also of laws and threats, and thus made the gospel into a second law. The Pauline antithesis of law and gospel was erased. For though it is true that Paul understood by “law” the entire Old Testament dispensation, in so doing he views it above all in terms of its law-centered form and so contrasts it directly with the gospel. And even when he does this, he acknowledges that the law-centered dispensation by no means snuffed out the promise already made to Abraham (Gal. 3:17, 21), that the gospel was also preached in the days of the old covenant (Gal. 3:8), and that in those days, too, righteousness was obtained from and by faith (Rom. 4:11–12; 11:32; Gal. 3:6–7). Concerning the law as law, apart from the promises, to which in the Old Testament the law was made subservient, Paul asserts that it cannot justify, that it increases sin, that it is a ministry of condemnation [2 Cor. 3:9], and precisely in that way prepares the fulfillment of the promise and necessitates another righteousness, that is, the righteousness of God in Christ by faith. And this antithesis between law and gospel was again understood by the Reformation. To be sure, some pronouncements made by the church fathers also testify to a better insight.25 But no clarity was achieved because they consistently confuse the difference between law and gospel with that between the old covenant and the new.

While, on the one hand, the Reformers held on to the unity of the covenant of grace in its two dispensations against the Anabaptists, on the other hand, they also perceived the sharp contrast between law and gospel and thereby again restored the peculiar character of the Christian religion as a religion of grace. Although in a broad sense the terms “law” and “gospel” can indeed be used to denote the old and the new dispensation of the covenant of grace, in their actual significance they definitely describe two essentially different revelations of divine will. Also the law is the will of God (Rom. 2:18, 20); holy, wise, good, and spiritual (7:12, 14; 12:10); giving life to those who maintain it (2:13; 3:2); but because of sin it has been made powerless, it fails to justify, it only stimulates covetousness, increases sin, arouses wrath, kills, curses, and condemns (Rom. 3:20; 4:15; 5:20; 7:5, 8–9, 13; 2 Cor. 3:6ff.; Gal. 3:10, 13, 19). Over against it stands the gospel of Christ, the εὐαγγελιον, which contains nothing less than the fulfillment of the Old Testament promise (Mark 1:15; Acts 13:32; Eph. 3:6), which comes to us from God (Rom. 1:1–2; 2 Cor. 11:7); has Christ as its content (Rom. 1:3; Eph. 3:6); and conveys nothing other than grace (Acts 20:24), reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18), forgiveness (Rom. 4:3–8), righteousness (3:21–22), peace (Eph. 6:15), freedom (Gal. 5:13), life (Rom. 1:17; Phil. 2:16), and so forth. In these texts law and gospel are contrasted as demand and gift, as command and promise, as sin and grace, as sickness and healing, as death and life.26 Although they agree in that both have God as author, both speak of one and the same perfect righteousness, and both are addressed to human beings to bring them to eternal life, they nevertheless differ in that the law proceeds from God’s holiness, the gospel from God’s grace; the law is known from nature, the gospel only from special revelation; the law demands perfect righteousness, but the gospel grants it; the law leads people to eternal life by works, and the gospel produces good works from the riches of the eternal life granted in faith; the law presently condemns people, and the gospel acquits them; the law addresses itself to all people, and the gospel only to those who live within its hearing; and so forth.

On account of this difference, there was even disagreement over whether the preaching of faith and repentance, which seemed after all to be a condition and a demand, really belonged to the gospel and should not rather (with Flacius, Gerhard, Quenstedt, Voetius, Witsius, Cocceius, de Moor, and others) be counted as law. And indeed, strictly speaking, there are no demands and conditions in the gospel but only promises and gifts. Faith and repentance are as much benefits of the covenant of grace as Justification (and so forth). But, concretely, the gospel never comes in that form. In practice it is always united with law and is therefore always interwoven with the law throughout Scripture. The gospel always presupposes the law and also needs it in its administration. It is brought, after all, to rational, moral human beings, who are responsible for themselves before God and therefore have to be called to faith and repentance. The demanding and summoning form in which the gospel is cast is derived from the law. Every person is obligated not first of all by the gospel but by nature, the law, to believe God at his word and by implication to accept the gospel in which he speaks to us humans. The gospel therefore immediately takes possession of all human beings, binds it on their consciences, for the God who speaks in the gospel is none other than he who has made himself known to them in his law. Faith and repentance are therefore demanded of people in the name of God’s law, by virtue of the relation in which humans stand to God as rational creatures; and that demand is addressed not only to the elect and regenerate but to all humans without distinction.

But faith and repentance themselves, nevertheless, are components of the gospel, not the workings or fruits of the law. For while the law demands faith in God in general, it does not demand the special faith that directs itself toward Christ, and while the law can produce penitence (μεταμελεια, metameleia), it cannot produce conversion (μετανοια, metanoia), which is rather the fruit of faith. And precisely because faith and repentance are components of the gospel—though humans are naturally obligated by law to display these attributes—one can speak of a law of faith, of a commandment of faith, of the obedience of faith (Rom. 1:5; 3:27; 1 John 3:23), of being disobedient to and judged according to the gospel (Rom. 2:16; 10:16; and so forth). Law and gospel, viewed concretely, do not so much differ in that the law always speaks with a commanding voice and the gospel with a promising voice, for also the law makes promises and the gospel utters admonitions and imposes obligations. But they differ especially in content: the law demands that humans work out their own righteousness, and the gospel invites them to renounce all self-righteousness and to accept the righteousness of Christ and even offers the gift of faith to that end. And law and gospel occur in that relation not only before and at the start of conversion, but also remain in it throughout the Christian life, right up until death. Lutherans almost exclusively have an eye for the accusing and condemning function of the law and therefore know no higher bliss than deliverance from the law. Law is necessary only because of sin. In the state of perfection, there is no law. God is free from the law; Christ was in no way subject to the law for himself; the believer is no longer subject to the law. Granted, Lutherans do speak of a threefold use of the law, not only of a political, that is, civil, use for the purpose of restraining sin, and of a pedagogical use to arouse the knowledge of sin, but also of a didactic use of the law to be a rule of life for believers. This last use, however, is solely necessary since and insofar as believers still continue to be sinners and have to be restrained by the law and led to a continuing knowledge of sin. By itself, when faith and grace come on the scene, the law expires and loses all its meaning.

The Spirit, the Word, and Power

The Reformed held a very different view. The political use and the pedagogical use of the law have only become “accidentally” necessary because of sin. Even when these earlier uses cease, the most important one, the didactic or normative use, remains. The law, after all, is an expression of God’s being. As a human being Christ was naturally subject to law for his own sake. Before the fall the law was inscribed on Adam’s heart. In the case of the believer, it is again engraved on the tables of his heart by the Holy Spirit; and in heaven all its inhabitants will conduct themselves in accordance with the law of the Lord. The gospel is temporary; the law is everlasting and precisely that which is restored by the gospel. Freedom from the law, therefore, does not mean that Christians no longer have anything to do with that law, but that the law can no longer demand anything from them as a condition for salvation and can no longer judge and condemn them. For the rest they delight in the law in their inmost being [Rom. 7:22] and meditate on it day and night [Ps. 1:2]. For that reason that law must always be proclaimed in the church in the context of the gospel. Both law and gospel, the whole Word, the full counsel of God, are the content of preaching. Accordingly, among the Reformed the law occupies a much larger place in the doctrine of gratitude than in that of misery.27

[522] In Christian theology, aside from the relationship between law and gospel, there is also an important disagreement over the power or efficacy of the word of God and, hence, over the relationship between word and Spirit. In this connection, too, the extremes are nomism, on the one hand, and antinomianism, on the other. The nomism that runs from Judaism through Pelagianism and as far as modern rationalism is content with an external call, an intellectual, moral, or aesthetic operation of the word, and in this connection considers a special supernatural power of the Holy Spirit to be superfluous.28 Rome shows itself to be clearly akin to this school of thought insofar as it weakens prevenient grace, ascribes to faith merely the preparatory function and meaning of a historical assent, tends increasingly to favor the direction of Monism and Congruism, and only has real supernatural grace, plus the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, communicated by the sacrament.29

The opposite position is taken by the antinomianism that initially opposes only the law and the Old Testament, but soon moves on to dissent from every external word and the entire objective historical mediation of salvation, and expects everything from the operation of the Holy Spirit, from the Christ in us, from the internal word and inner light. In the Anabaptism of Schwenckfeld, Franck, Denck, and others, this school of thought expressed itself most clearly on this point. The external and internal word are related as body and soul, death and life, earth and heaven, flesh and Spirit, shell and core, foam and silver, image and truth, the sheath and the sword, a lantern and its light, the cradle and Christ, nature and God, creature and Creator. Knowledge of the word as such, accordingly, affords us nothing and leaves us cold and dead. Even to understand it one needs the inner light as a condition. Just as words can teach us something only when we know the things to which they refer, so Scripture teaches us something only when Christ already dwells in our hearts. The word is no more than a sign, a shadow, an image, and a symbol. It expresses, points out, and reminds us only of what is already internally written on our hearts. The internal word, therefore, precedes and is superior to Scripture, which is only a paper word and, additionally, obscure and full of contradictions. And that internal word is nothing other than God or Christ or the Holy Spirit himself, who is one and the same in all people from the moment of their rebirth or sometimes also dwells in them by nature as internal light and is the fullness of truth in its entirety. Accordingly, to find God and know the truth, we need not go outside of ourselves to Scripture or the historical Christ; but going down into ourselves, withdrawing from the world, killing the intellect and the will, and passively awaiting an internal and immediate revelation, we find God, live in communion with him, and are saved in contemplating him.30 Actually this Anabaptism was a revival of the pantheistic mysticism that regards the finite as an eternally changing manifestation of the infinite and, hence, seeks communion with God in the intimate depths of feeling, where God and humans are one.

Over against both of these schools, nomism and antinomianism, the Reformers jointly maintained that the Word alone is insufficient to bring people to faith and repentance, that the Holy Spirit can but usually does not work without the Word, and that Word and Spirit, therefore, work in conjunction to apply the salvation of Christ to human beings. Initially there was little disagreement between the Lutherans and the Reformed on this point. Also the former taught that the Holy Spirit, though working through the Word and sacraments as his instruments, nevertheless effects and can effect faith only by a special power, and that he does this “where and when he pleases.”31 Yet from the very beginning there was already some difference as well. Whereas the Reformed usually say that the Holy Spirit unites with the Word (cum verbo), the Lutherans prefer to express themselves by saying and increasingly emphasizing that the Holy Spirit works through the Word (per verbum) as his instrument. And whereas the Reformed always made a distinction between the ordinary and the extraordinary manner in which God works his grace in the human heart, the Lutherans, out of fear of the Anabaptists, increasingly omitted the extraordinary manner and said, “God grants his Spirit or grace to no one except through or with the preceding outward word,”32 or as Luther kept saying, “God does not give internal things except through external things.” And when in 1621 the Danzig preacher Hermann Rahtmann (d. 1628) issued a work in which he taught that the Word alone did not possess the power to convert a person unless the Holy Spirit with his grace joined himself with it,33 almost all Lutheran theologians rose up against him and articulated as the true Lutheran doctrine that the word of God has within it the power of the Holy Spirit to convert people, that that power has been put in it by divine providence and is so inseparably bound up with it that it is still present in the Word even “before and apart from its legitimate use,” just as a human hand, even when it is not working, still retains the power to work.34

Now the word that proceeds from the mouth of God is indeed always a power accomplishing that for which God sends it forth. It is such a power in the natural domain in creation and providence; it is also such a power in the work of re-creation in the domain of morality and spirituality. And this is even true not just of the gospel but also of the law. Paul, admittedly, says of the Old Testament dispensation of law that “the letter kills” (2 Cor. 3:6), but in making that point he is saying as powerfully as he can possibly say it that it is not a dead letter. Instead, it is so powerful that it produces sin, wrath, a curse, and death. “The law brings about wrath” (Rom. 4:15); it is “the power of sin” (1 Cor. 15:56), the “ministry of death,” “the ministry of condemnation” (2 Cor. 3:7, 9). Over against it stands the gospel as the “power of God for salvation” (Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 1:18; 2:4–5; 15:2; Eph. 1:13). Since it is not a human word but God’s (Acts 4:29; 1 Thess. 2:13), it is living and lasting (1 Pet. 1:25), living and active (Heb. 4:12), spirit and life (John 6:63), a lamp shining in a dark place (2 Pet. 1:19); it is a seed sown in the human heart (Matt. 13:3), growing and multiplying (Acts 12:24), of great value even if those who planted and watered it are nothing (1 Cor. 3:7); a sharp two-edged sword piercing the innermost being of a person and judging all the thoughts and intentions of the human heart (Heb. 4:12). For that reason it is not void and futile but works (ἐνεργειται, energeitai) in those who believe (1 Thess. 2:13); and the works it brings about are regeneration (John 1:18; 1 Cor. 4:15; 1 Pet. 1:23), faith (Rom. 10:17), illumination (2 Cor. 4:4–6; Eph. 3:9; 5:14; 1 Tim. 1:20), teaching, correction, consolation, and so forth (1 Cor. 14:3; 2 Tim. 3:15). The gospel exerts its effect even in those who are lost; to them it is a reason for their falling, an offense and foolishness, a stone over which they stumble, a fragrance from death to death (Luke 2:34; Rom. 9:32; 1 Cor. 1:23; 2 Cor. 2:16; 1 Pet. 2:8).

Over against spiritualism, this power of the word of God and specifically of the gospel must, with the Lutherans, be maintained in all its fullness and richness of meaning. The dualisms between the internal and external, the spiritual and the material, eternity and time, essence and form (and so forth) are products of a false philosophy and contrary to Scripture. God is the creator of heaven, yes, but also of the earth; of the soul, yes, but also of the body; of spirit, yes, but also of matter. Similarly, therefore, the word is not an empty set of vibrations in the air, nor an empty sign, or a cold symbol, but every word, also every human word, is a power greater and more durable than the power of the sword. Encapsulated within it is thought, mind, soul, and life. If this applies to words in general, how much more is it true of the word that proceeds from the mouth of God and is spoken by him? That is a word that creates and maintains, judges and kills, re-creates and renews, and always accomplishes what it is meant to accomplish and never returns empty. In the case of human words it makes a great difference whether it is written or printed, read or heard; and in the case of the spoken word the form and manner of presentation is again of the greatest importance.

The power of the human word also depends on the extent to which a person puts one’s heart and soul into it, on the distance existing between the person and one’s speech. But in the case of God that is different. It is always his word; he is always present in it; he consistently sustains it by his almighty and omnipresent power. It is always God himself who, in whatever form and by whatever means, brings it to people and calls them by it. Therefore, even though the word of God that is freely proclaimed by ministers or conveyed to people by way of personal admonition, public address, a book or other writing, is indeed taken from Scripture but not identical with Scripture, it is still a word from God, a word that comes to human beings but is originally from God, is spoken in the power of the Holy Spirit and therefore always effective. The word of God is never separate from God, from Christ, from the Holy Spirit; it has no permanence or existence in itself. It cannot be deistically separated from its creator and author. Just as Scripture was not just inspired at one time by the Holy Spirit, but is continually sustained, preserved, and made powerful by that Spirit, so it is with the word of God that, taken from Scripture, is preached in some fashion to people. Jesus spoke through the Spirit (John 6:63); the apostles who received the Spirit (Matt. 10:20; Luke 12:12; 21:15; John 14:26; 15:26) proclaimed the gospel not only in words but also “in power and in the Holy Spirit” (1 Thess. 1:5–6), with a “demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Cor. 2:4), and handled it as “the sword of the Spirit” (Eph. 6:17). In that respect, the Lutherans are completely correct: always and everywhere the word of God is a power of God, a sword of the Spirit. “The Holy Spirit is always present with that word.”

At the same time both Scripture and experience teach that the word does not always have the same effect. In a sense it is always efficacious; it is never powerless. If it does not raise people up, it strikes them down. If it is not “for the rising of many,” it is for “the falling of many” [Luke 2:34]; if it is not “a fragrance from life to life,” it is “a fragrance from death to death” [2 Cor. 2:16]. The question, then, is when that word of God is efficacious in the sense that it leads to faith and repentance. Now to render human beings inexcusable, Lutherans lock this divine and supernatural efficacy up in the word, but do not secure any advantage by it and, to explain the variable outcome of the word in people, have to resort to free will. The Reformed, however, taking into account that double outcome, did not view the efficacy as an impersonal magical power that had been put into that word, but always associated that word with its author, with Christ, who administers it by the Holy Spirit. And that Holy Spirit is not an unconscious power but a person who is always present with that word, always sustains it and makes it active, though not always in the same manner. In accordance with the unsearchable good pleasure of God, he uses that word for bringing people to repentance but also for hardening; for the rising but also for the falling of many. He always works through the word but not always in the same way. And when he wants to work through it so that it leads to faith and repentance, he does not objectively have to add anything to the word. That word is good and wise and holy, a word of God, a word of Christ, and the Holy Spirit takes everything from Christ.

Nonetheless, for the seed of the word to bear good fruit, it has to fall in soil that has been well prepared. Also the field has to be made ready for the reception of the seed. Hence the subjective activity of the Holy Spirit has to be added to the objective word. In the nature of the case, it cannot be enclosed in the word; it is another activity, an additional activity, a subjective activity, not through but along with the word, an opening of the heart (Acts 16:14), an internal revelation (Matt. 11:25; 16:17; Gal. 1:16), an act of drawing a person to Christ (John 6:44), an enlightenment of the mind (Eph. 1:18; Col. 1:9–11), a working both to will and to do (Phil. 2:13), and so forth.35 In saying these things we are not detaching or separating the Spirit from the word, not even when, as in the case of infants, he effects regeneration without any means of grace. For the Spirit who regenerates is not the Spirit of God in general, but the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit acquired by Christ, through whom Christ governs, who takes all things only from Christ, and whom Christ has poured out in the church and is therefore the Spirit of the believing community. Aside from whether the Holy Spirit sometimes also works and can work in pagans, something that is in any case exceptional, as a rule he effects regeneration only in those who live under the administration of the covenant. Also the infants he regenerates are children of the covenant, of the covenant that has the word of God as its content and received the sacrament as its sign and seal. The Holy Spirit, accordingly, follows Christ in his journey through history. He binds himself to the word of Christ and works only in the name, and in accordance with the command, of Christ. Individually and subjectively, for example when a child is considered in isolation from one’s environment, the church in which the child was born, it may seem as if the Spirit worked without the word; objectively and materially the Holy Spirit only works in places where the covenant of grace, with the administration of Word and sacraments, has expanded itself. Therefore, in the case of infants, their regeneration is always known and proved to be genuine when they mature and it becomes manifest in acts of faith and repentance and links up with the word of God, which lies objectively before us in Scripture. The Holy Spirit, who in regeneration applies nothing other than the word, power, and merit of Christ, also automatically leads the conscious life of the person toward the word that he took from Christ and caused to be recorded by the prophets and apostles.

1 Ed. note: Bavinck speaks here of “grace as a virtue of God” (als deugd Gods). To translate this as “attribute” would be too strong and not consistent with Bavinck’s own usage of eigenschappen for “attributes” in volume 2. Hence the translation “God’s gracious character.”

2 B. de Moor, Commentarius … theologiae, 6 vols. (Leiden: J. Hasebroek, 1761–71), I, 359ff.; R. H. Grützmacher, Wort und Geist: Eine historische und dogmatische Untersuchung zum Gnadenmittel des Wortes (Leipzig: Deichert, 1902), 153ff.

3 O. Fock, Der Socinianismus (Kiel: C. Schröder, 1847), 559ff.

4 Apologia pro confessione Remonstrantium (1629); Apology of the Augsburg Confession, c. 23; P. van Limborch, Theologia christiana (Amsterdam: Arnhold, 1735), V, c. 66.

5 J. H. Oswald, Die dogmatische Lehre von den heiligen Sakramenten der katholischen Kirche, 2nd ed., 2 vols. (Münster: Aschendorff, 1864), 8.

6 Ed. note: Ex opera operato, “by the work performed”; this refers to “the assumption of medieval scholasticism and Roman Catholicism that the correct and churchly performance of the rite conveys grace to the recipient, unless the recipient places a spiritual impediment (obex) in the way. Sacraments themselves, therefore, have a virtus operativa, or operative power” (Richard A. Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1985], s.v. ex opera operato).

7 Cf. H. Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, III, 516–17 (#417).

8 J. H. Oswald, Die dogmatische Lehre, I, 10.

9 Cf. H. Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, III, 515 (#416); see above, 108–10 (#451), 188–89 (#469).

10 Council of Trent, sess. 7, “Foreword.”

11 Cf. H. Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, I, 452–59 (##118–19).

12 Luther, according to R. H. Grützmacher, Wort und Geist, 9ff.; J. Calvin, Institutes, IV.xvi.17–18.

13 J. Calvin, Institutes, IV.i.5, 16, 19; Belgic Confession, art. 24; Heidelberg Catechism, Q 64; Second Helvetic Confession, II, 18; Westminster Confession, ch. 10, 14; Formula of Concord, “Solid Declaration,” XI, §27.

14 J. Gerhard, Loci theologici, ed. E. Preuss, 9 vols. (Berlin: G. Schlawitz, 1863–75), XX, 121.

15 J. Calvin, Institutes, IV; Second Helvetic Confession, #16; Westminster Confession, ch. 14.1; F. Schleiermacher, The Christian Faith, ed. H. R. MacIntosh and J. S. Steward (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1928), §127; D. Hollaz (Examen theologicum acroamaticum [Rostock and Leipzig, 1718], 991), distinguishes the strict means of salvation (media salutis stricte) and words broadly (late dicta). The former (media) are, from God’s perspective, Word and sacrament, and from our perspective, faith. The latter are εἰσαγωγικα (introduced) and executed in the kingdom of glory and no doubt include death, resurrection of the dead, final judgment, and the consummation of the age. Ed. note: The terms stricte and late “are frequently used by Protestant scholastics as characterizations of definitions, stricte with reference to precise definition, late with reference to general or colloquial definition” (Richard A. Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1985], s.v. stricte).

16 Cf. Also, F. A. Philippi, Kirchliche Glaubenslehre, 3rd ed., 7 vols. (Gütersloh: Bertelsmann, 1883–1902), V, 2, 1ff.; F. H. R. Frank, System der christlichen Wahrheit, 3rd rev. ed., 2 vols. (Erlangen and Leipzig: Deichert, 1894), II, 298ff.; A. Kuyper, E voto Dordraceno: Toelichting op den Heidelbergschen Catechismus, 4 vols. (Amsterdam: Wormser, 1892–95), II, 400ff.

17 J. Calvin, Institutes, II.vii.7–9; W. Musculus, Loci communes theologiae sacrae (Basel: Heruagiana, 1567), §11.20; F. Junius, Theses theologicae, §§23–24; Synopsis purioris theologiae, disp. 18, 22–23.

18 J. Marck, Christianae theologiae medulla didactico-elenctica (Amsterdam: Wetstenios, 1716), ch. 11, 17.

19 Cf. Belgic Confession, art. 24; Heidelberg Catechism, Q 65.

20 Heidelberg Catechism, Q 65; cf. Luther, according to R. H. Grützmacher, Wort und Geist, 26: “For we are not so much harmed or advanced by a quantity of eloquent writings, but by a living voice.”

21 Cf. H. Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, I, 401–2 (#108).

22 Cf. ibid., III, 222 (#348).

23 Concerning the law in the New Testament, see among others, H. J. Holtzmann, Lehrbuch der neutestamentlichen Theologie (Freiburg i.B. and Leipzig: Mohr, 1897), I, 130ff., 22ff.; L. Jacob, Jesu Stellung zum mosaischen Gesetz (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1893); E. Grafe, Die paulinische Lehre vom Gesetz nach vier Hauptbriefen, 2nd ed. (Freiburg i.B.: Mohr, 1893; ed. note: Bavinck cites the publisher location as Leipzig); Rudolf Zehnpfund, “Das Gesetz in den paulinischen Briefen,” Neue kirchliche Zeitschrift 8 (1897): 384–419; H. Cremer, Biblico-Theological Lexicon of New Testament Greek, trans. D. W. Simon and W. Urwick (Edinburgh: T&T Clark; New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1895), s.v. νομος; S. R. Driver, “Law (in Old Testament),” in DB, III, 64–73; J. Denney, “Law (in New Testament),” in DB, III, 73–83; A. S. Peake, “Law,” in DC, II, 11–14; H. Currie, “Law of God,” in DC, II, 15–17. Christian freedom is closely connected to the position that the New Testament takes over against the law; cf. J. Calvin, Institutes, III.xix; A. Rivetus, in Synopsis purioris theologiae, disp. 35; B. de Moor, Comm. theol., V, 214–17; J. Weiss, Die christliche Freiheit nach der Verkündigung des Apostels Paulus (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1902); H. H. Kuyper, De christelijke vrijheid (Kampen: Bos, 1898).

24 Cf. H. Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, III, 206–12 (#345); J. C. Suicerus, Thesaurus ecclesiasticus (Amsterdam: J. H. Wetsten, 1682), s.v. νομος and εὐαγγελιον; Augustine, City of God VIII, 11; idem, Sermon 30 on the Gospel of John; idem, On the Spirit and the Letter, 19–20; P. Lombard, Sent., III, dist. 25, 40; T. Aquinas, Summa theol., III, qu. 106–8; Council of Trent, VI, can. 19–21; R. Bellarmine, “De justif.,” in Controversiis, IV, c. 2ff.

25 See the references in J. C. Suicerus, Thesaurus ecclesiasticus, s.v. νομος and εὐαγγελιον; J. Gerhard, Loci theol., XIV, 16.

26 The distinction between law and gospel was also weakened or eliminated by Protestants: for example, by C. Stange, Die Heilsbedeutung des Gesetzes (Leipzig: Dieterich, 1904); A. Bruining, “Godsdienst en verlossingsbehoefte,” Teylers Theologisch Tijdschrift 8 (1910): 399–419. Prior to that, even by Zwingli, according to F. A. Loofs, Leitfaden zum Studium der Dogmengeschichte, 4th ed. (Halle a.S.: M. Niemeyer, 1906), 799.

27 Cf. Luther according to J. Köstlin, The Theology of Luther in Its Historical Development and Inner Harmony, trans. Charles E. Hay, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: Lutheran Publication Society, 1897), I, 183ff.; II, 230ff.; 495ff.; F. A. Loofs, Dogmengeschichte, 774ff.; Joseph T. Müller, Die symbolischen Bücher der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche, 8th ed. (Gütersloh: Bertelsmann, 1898), 87, 181, 533, 633; ed. note: These specific references are to the following Lutheran documents: Apology of the Augsburg Confession, art. 4, par. 5, in The Book of Concord, ed. Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2000), 121; ibid., art. 12, par. 79 (Kolb and Wengert, 200); Formula of Concord, “Epitome,” art. 5 (Kolb and Wengert, 500ff.); ibid., “Solid Declaration,” art. 5 (Kolb and Wengert, 581ff.). J. Gerhard, Loci theol., IV, 1–72; D. Hollaz, Examen theologicum acroamaticum (Rostock and Leipzig: Russworm, 1718), 996–1043; U. Zwingli in H. Bavinck, De ethiek van Ulrich Zwingli (Kampen: Zalsman, 1880), 47ff., 76ff.; J. Calvin, Institutes, II.vii–ix; J. Zanchi, De operum theologicorum, 8 vols. (Geneva: Samuelis Crispini, 1617), VIII, 509; H. Witsius, Miscellaneorum sacrorum (Utrecht, 1692), II, 840–48; B. de Moor, Comm. theol., III, 377ff.; C. Vitringa, Doctrina christiana religionis, 8 vols. (Leiden: Joannis le Mair, 1761–86), VI, 253–92; M. Schneckenburger and Eduard Güder, Vergleichende Darstellung des lutherischen und reformirten Lehrbegriffs, 2 vols. (Stuttgart: J. B. Metzler, 1855), I, 127ff.; F. H. R. Frank, “Gesetz und Evangelium,” in Dogmatische Studien (Erlangen: Deichert, 1892), 104–35; J. Gottschick, “Gesetz und Evangelium,” in PRE3, VI, 632–41.

28 Cf. H. Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, III, 495–99 (#411), 508–9 (#414), 531–35 (#421).

29 Cf. ibid., III, 511–13 (#415).

30 J. Cloppenburg, Theol. op., II, 200; J. Hoornbeek, Summa contr., V; S. Episcopius, Opera theologica, 2 vols. (Amsterdam: Johan Blaeu, 1650–65), I, 527; J. Quenstedt, Theologia, I, 169; A. Hegler, Geist und Schrift bei Sebastian Franck (Freiburg i.B.: Mohr, 1892; ed. note: Bavinck erroneously cites this as Geist und Wort); J. H. Maronier, Het inwendig word (Amsterdam: Tj. van Holkema, 1890); R. H. Grützmacher, Wort und Geist.

31 Joseph T. Müller, Die symbolischen Bücher, 39, 455, 456, 471, 524, 601, 712, 720; ed. note: These specific references are to the following Lutheran documents: Augsburg Confession, art. 5 (Kolb and Wengert, 40); The Large Catechism, part II, art. 3 (Kolb and Wengert, 435ff.); ibid., part III, “Second Petition” (Kolb and Wengert, 446ff.); Formula of Concord, “Epitome,” art. 2 (Kolb and Wengert, 491ff.); ibid., “Solid Declaration,” art. 2, pars. 52–55 (Kolb and Wengert, 554); ibid., “Solid Declaration,” art. 11, pars. 36–40 (Kolb and Wengert, 646–47); ibid., “Solid Declaration,” art. 11, pars. 74–77 (Kolb and Wengert, 652). J. Köstlin, The Theology of Luther, II, 493; R. Otto, Geist und Wort nach Luther (Göttingen: E. A. Huth, 1898); R. H. Grützmacher, Wort und Geist; other Lutheran theologians, according to Julius Müller, Dogmatische Abhandlungen (Bremen: C. E. Müller, 1870), 155ff.

32 Smalcald Articles, part III, art. 8 (Kolb and Wengert, 321–23).

33 On Rahtmann, cf. R. H. Grützmacher, Wort und Geist, 220ff.

34 J. Quenstedt, Theologia, I, 169; D. Hollaz, Examen theologicum acroamaticum, 992; J. F. Buddeus, Institutiones theologiae dogmaticae (Frankfurt and Leipzig, 1741), 110; H. F. F. Schmid, The Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, trans. Charles A. Hay and Henry Jacobs, 5th ed. (Philadelphia: United Lutheran Publication House, 1899), §51; F. A. Philippi, Kirchliche Glaubenslehre, V, 2, 29ff.

35 Cf. above, 41ff. (#435); Belgic Confession, art. 24; Heidelberg Catechism, Q 65, 67; Second Helvetic Confession, II, 18; Canons of Dordt, III, 6; V, 7, 14; J. Calvin, Institutes, III.ii.33; IV.xiv.11; idem, Treatises against the Anabaptists and Libertines, trans. and ed. Benjamin W. Farley (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1982), ch. 9; F. Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. G. M. Giger, ed. J. T. Dennison (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1992), XV, 4, 24; C. Hodge, Systematic Theology, 3 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1888), III, 466–85.


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