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Geerhardus Vos’ Reformed Dogmatics represents the early theological thought of one of the premier Reformed thinkers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Originally self-published in five volumes in 1896 under the title Gereformeerde Dogmatiek (also known as Dogmatiek), this important piece of Reformed theology has never been available to an English audience.

Volume four covers Soteriology, continuing and building on Vos' examination of the work of Christ. He discusses the nature of salvation, evidence of salvation in the Holy Spirit and the Church, and the order of salvation (the Ordo Salutis).

Geerhardus Vos is perhaps best known to English speakers for his books Pauline Eschatology, published in 1930, and Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments, published in 1948. Vos’ strong grounding in biblical scholarship and biblical theology makes his Reformed Dogmatics unique, bringing a fresh biblical perspective. Though this five-volume set is systematic in nature, Geerhardus Vos brings the skills and acumen of a biblical theologian to the task.

Volume:
4
Year:
2015
Publisher:
Lexham Press
Language:
english
Pages:
272
ISBN 13:
9781577996675
Series:
Reformed Dogmatics
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PDF, 4.15 MB
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Copyright © 2015. Lexham Press. All rights reserved.
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Reformed Dogmatics
Geerhardus Vos, Ph.D., D.D.

VOLUME FOUR: SOTERIOLOGY
THE APPLICATION OF THE MERITS OF THE MEDIATOR BY THE HOLY SPIRIT

Translated and edited by
Richard B. Gaffin, Jr.
with

Copyright © 2015. Lexham Press. All rights reserved.

Kim Batteau
Harry Boonstra
Annemie Godbehere
Allan Janssen

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Volume 4: Soteriology
Reformed Dogmatics
Copyright 2015 Lexham Press
Transcribed from lectures delivered in Grand Rapids, Michigan
First publication hand-written in 1896
Originally printed in 1910
Lexham Press, 1313 Commercial St., Bellingham, WA 98225
LexhamPress.com
All rights reserved. You may use brief quotations from this resource in presentations, articles, and books. For all other uses,
please write Lexham Press for permission. Email us at permissions@lexhampress.com.
Hardcover ISBN 978-1-57-799667-5
Digital ISBN 978-1-57-799668-2

Copyright © 2015. Lexham Press. All rights reserved.

Cover Design: Christine Gerhart

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Copyright © 2015. Lexham Press. All rights reserved.

Vos during his professorship at the Theological School of the Christian Reformed Church,
circa 1888–1893.

Vos, Geerhardus J.. Reformed Dogmatics : Soteriology, Lexham Press, 2015. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/nottingham/detail.action?docID=5153200.
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Copyright © 2015. Lexham Press. All rights reserved.

Volume 4: Soteriology

Vos, Geerhardus J.. Reformed Dogmatics : Soteriology, Lexham Press, 2015. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/nottingham/detail.action?docID=5153200.
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Contents
Preface
Chapter One: The Ordo Salutis
Chapter Two: Regeneration and Calling
Chapter Three: Conversion
Chapter Four: Faith
Chapter Five: Justification
Chapter Six: Sanctification
Question Index
Subject and Author Index

Copyright © 2015. Lexham Press. All rights reserved.

Scripture Index

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Preface
Thanks are due for the indispensable help of those who provided base translations for the
various parts of this volume: Kim Batteau, Harry Boonstra, Annemie Godbehere, and Allan
Janssen. I take special note of Ms. Godbehere, who also worked on volume one and has now
passed away. Let this volume be in memory of her and of her contributions to this project, as
considerable as they were conscientious. As with the previous volumes, I have reviewed and
revised their work and given the translation its final form along with a few editorial footnotes.
Again, my thanks also go to Justin Marr, the project manager at Lexham Press, and to the copy
editors.
In the preface to volume one I asked, concerning the identity of theologians contemporary
to Vos or recently past, who may have had a direct influence on his thinking or perhaps shaped
his presentation of material.1 Volume four continues to leave this question unanswered.
Regardless, readers of this volume who have also read the previous three will hardly miss the
impressive coherence of its treatment of the application of salvation with the treatments of
Christology in volume three and the covenant of grace in the latter part of volume two.

Copyright © 2015. Lexham Press. All rights reserved.

R. Gaffin, Jr.
September 2015

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1. The Ordo Salutis
1. What is understood under the ordo salutis, the “order of
salvation”?
The series of acts and steps in which the salvation obtained by Christ is subjectively
appropriated by the elect. In Scripture sōtēria, salus, has a double meaning, one more
subjective and one more objective, according to whether it includes the act of saving or of
being saved. In the first sense it naturally extends much farther than in the subjective
appropriation of salvation. Christ is called sōtēria not merely because He applies His merits
but because He has likewise obtained them. His satisfaction was the principal act of salvation.
In the second sense it is narrower in scope and in fact covers what one understands under the
designation “soteriology.”

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2. What is further contained in the term ordo salutis, “order of
salvation”?
That the subjective application of the salvation obtained by Christ does not occur at once or
arbitrarily. In the abstract, it would be possible for God to take hold of and relocate each one
of the elect into the heaven of glory at a single point in time. He has His good reasons that He
did not do this. There are a multiplicity of relationships and conditions to which all the
operations of grace have a certain connection. If the change came about all at once, then not a
single one of these would enter into the consciousness of the believer, but everything would be
thrown together in a chaotic revolution. None of the acts or steps would throw light on the
others; the base could not be distinguished from the top or the top from the base. The fullness
of God’s works of grace and the rich variety of His acts of salvation would not be prized and
appreciated.
The opposite of all this is true. There is order and regularity in the application of salvation
as well as in every other area of creation. The acts and operations each have their own fixed
place, from which they cannot be uprooted. They are connected to each other from what
follows and from what precedes; they have their basis and their result. Consequently, the
Scripture gives us an ordered sequence (e.g., Rom 8:28–30). At the same time, this order
shows us that even in what is most subjective the purpose of God may not be limited to the
satisfaction of the creature’s longing for blessedness. If this were so, then the order that is slow
and in many respects tests the patience of the children of God would be lost. But here, too, God
works first of all to glorify Himself according to the principles of an eternal order and an
immanent propriety.

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3. Does unanimity rule among the theologians in the identification
of the different steps that belong to the order of salvation?
No, a great variety rules in sequence as well as in completeness. All do not enumerate the
same steps. When they all have the same things, they are given in a different sequence.
Different terms are used for one and the same thing.

Copyright © 2015. Lexham Press. All rights reserved.

4. Enumerate some points of difference that are important for
proper differentiation.
a) An important point is the varying and unclear definition of the concept of
regeneration. For many theologians the locus on regeneration is completely lacking,
although many federalists are an exception here. At the same time these theologians
do of course know of regeneration, and its specific character has not escaped them
entirely.
1. Some identify “regeneration” (regeneratio) with “conversion” (conversio). This
is quite customary with the dogmaticians of the 17th century. The Canons of Dort
teach in chapters 3 and 4, article 11: “Furthermore, when God accomplishes His
good pleasure in the elect or works true conversion in them … He not only
powerfully illumines their mind by the Holy Spirit … but by the effective power
of the same regenerating Spirit, He penetrates to the inmost parts of the man,
opens the closed heart … infuses new qualities into the will, and makes the dead
living … (article 12) and this is that—so often proclaimed in the Holy Scriptures
—regeneration, new creation, resurrection from the dead and making alive,
which God, without us, works in us.”1 Owen also expresses himself in a similar
way.
Some, however, sought to avoid the lack of clarity that may originate from
this usage by a more precise distinction between two kinds of conversion. So
Turretin makes mention of a double conversio. The first is habitual and passive.
It consists in producing a habit or disposition of the soul: “Habitual or passive
conversion occurs through the infusion of supernatural habits by the Holy Spirit.”
The second conversion is called active and effective conversion. It is the
exercising in faith and repentance of the already implanted habitus: “Active or
effective conversion occurs through the exercise of those good habits by which
the acts of faith and of repentance are both given by God and elicited in man.” He
then adds, however, that it is better to call the first kind of conversion
“regeneration,” because it refers to the new birth by which man is renewed
according to the image of his Maker, and to limit the term “conversion” to the
second kind, since in it the activity of man is not excluded.
2. The majority by far summarize regeneration and conversion under the concept of
internal calling. Wollebius says, “Particular calling is termed: (a) new creation,

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(b) regeneration, etc.” In the schools it is called (a) effectual election, (b)
effectual calling, (c) internal calling. Accordingly, some speak first about calling,
then about faith, then about conversion, so that calling apparently takes the place
of regeneration (e.g., the Leiden Synopsis). Calling is often enough described as
an implanting into Christ, a union with Christ, an indissoluble joining of the
person of the elect with the person of the Mediator, all of them concepts that
bring regeneration to mind clearly enough.
3. Others take the concept of regeneration in a very wide sense, as almost
completely synonymous with sanctificatio, “sanctification,” and under that
notion understand the entire process by which the old nature of man is
transformed into a new nature resembling the image of God. Calvin says
(Institutes, 3.3.9), “Therefore, in a word, I describe poenitentia [repentance] as
regeneration, of which the goal is none other than that the image of God, defiled
and nearly wiped out in us by the transgression of Adam, is restored in us.… And
this restoration is not completed in one moment or in one day or one year; but
with continual, yes, even slow steps God removes corruption from his elect.”
Later we will see why this wider use of the term has a certain right.
b) Another important point that lacks clarity lies in the concept of calling. While for this
concept some still have all the emphasis fall on the immediacy of the action and thus
identify internal calling with regeneration, others hold to the obvious thought that
calling already presupposes a life and the capacity to hear, and so must be
distinguished from the initial begetting of life.
c) Also, the concept of poenitentia, “repentance,” is not always clearly distinguished.
Sometimes this word is taken to mean long processes that accompany the whole of
life here on earth, sometimes for instantaneous actions at a critical moment.
As seen above, Calvin identifies poenitentia, regeneratio, sanctificatio.

5. Does one also find here and there an attempt to divide the
different stages of the way of salvation in an orderly manner?
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Yes, we can find an example of that in the classification of Voetius. He distinguishes three
kinds of acts of God as belonging to the application of salvation:
a) Acts that only effect a change in our state in relation to God. To these belong
reconciliatio, “reconciliation”; justificatio, “justification”; adoptio, “adoption as
children.”
b) Acts that are directed to the will of man with moral suasion but do not take hold or
transform inwardly and omnipotently, such as external calling and what belongs to it.
Voetius calls these “moral acts.”
c) Acts that bring about a real and inherent change in the subject. Regeneration,
glorification, etc., are counted among them.

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As we will see, the main features are drawn quite correctly here.

Copyright © 2015. Lexham Press. All rights reserved.

6. What distinctions must we make with a view to arriving at a
clear overview of these different acts in their mutual connection?
a) The first great distinction that needs to be kept in view is the one between judicial
acts, which change a judicial relationship of man, and re-creating acts (in the widest
sense of the word), which bring about a change in the actual condition of man. An act
of the first kind, for example, is justification; one of the second kind is sanctification.
The first kind changes the status; the second changes the condition of the one
regarding whom or in whom it takes place.
b) Another distinction of equally great importance teaches us to divide between what
occurs under, and in, or for the consciousness of the sinner. Some acts in the
application of salvation derive their meaning completely from the fact that they are
executed in the light of the consciousness, be it by God or by the man in whom God
works. Others, by their nature, can only affect the deeper essence of man that does not
appear in the light of the consciousness. Accordingly, they occur without man himself
being able to understand and observe them. An example of this latter kind is
regeneration. A sinner is as little conscious of his rebirth as a child is conscious of its
birth, apart from the consequences by which it makes itself known. An example of the
other kind is justification, consisting in a communication to the sinner’s consciousness
of acquittal and the merits of Christ.
c) Next, one can distinguish between the removal of the old and the establishment of the
new in man. Sin is not a mere lack. If it were this, it could suffice for the Holy Spirit
to make up what is lacking, and the distinction in view here would make no sense.
Sin, however, is more—a positive power that must be removed and destroyed—and
in its place must be introduced a positively operating principle of good.
Regeneration, preferably, is an act that belongs to the establishment of the new.
Repentance, by contrast, we can better reckon to the removal of the old, although
here, as in the two earlier cases, we cannot sharply separate the two. Rather, these
two—removing the old and establishing the new—accompany each other at every
point of their way.
d) Finally, one must carefully distinguish between the beginning, the sudden
breakthrough, of an act of grace and its further impact and development. The
beginning of God’s work of grace always has something distinctive by which it is
sharply delineated from the development that follows. Now, in a certain sense one
can maintain that regeneration and sanctification are parts of a great process of
renewal that begins where the Holy Spirit first lays a hand on someone and ends
where the heaven of glory is reached. Still, regeneration and sanctification are
essentially distinguished. No less different from each other are the initial crisis in the
conscious life of man that one is accustomed to call conversion and the further killing

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of the old man that continues throughout the whole of life.

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7. What may be established further concerning the relationship
between these different groups?
a) Our first principle is that the judicial relationships are the basis on which the moral
acts of re-creation rest in their entirety. However, one should be completely clear
what is intended here: it is not that justification as it takes place in the consciousness
of the sinner must precede his regeneration in time. This would presuppose an
impossibility. Justification surely occurs by faith, and faith as an expression of life in
no way tolerates separation from the principle of life that is imparted in the essence
of man. Believing without regeneration is no more conceivable than consciousness in
a child without natural birth. So, in relation to time, the change of the unconscious
condition certainly precedes the change in the conscious state. In contrast, it is
completely otherwise if we ask about the logical relationship and put the question as
follows: Is someone justified because he is regenerated, or is he regenerated because
he will be justified? The answer here according to all of Scripture and according to
the Protestant principle can only be the latter. For God, justification in His view is the
basis, regeneration the consequence. If wrath and a relationship of punishment
continued to exist, no new life would be able to germinate. God cannot communicate
subjective habitual grace unless objective satisfaction of His justice is offered with
specific application to the individual person. And not only does God, in infusing
habitual grace, have in view the judicial relationship, restored or to be restored, but
also in his conscious justification the sinner receives the insight that all that is
habitual, which is already or will be worked in him, has its basis and origin in
acquittal for the sake of Christ. And, accordingly, in the consciousness of God and in
the consciousness of the sinner what occurs outwardly in the sphere of justice
precedes what occurs inwardly in his moral condition.
b) It is equally necessary to hold firmly that for habitual grace, action on the unconscious
essence precedes action on the conscious life. This is but an application of the
general rule that what lies on the surface of life stems from the hidden impetus of the
depth of life. From the root comes the mysterious life that is at work in the stem and
the branches and causes fruit to ripen. So, if we place regeneration and conversion, or
regeneration and faith, next to each other, conversion and faith cannot be first in time;
on the contrary, regeneration precedes. If one sometimes hears the opposite sequence
defended, this rests on a misconception to which we will have to return later.
c) One certainly needs to pay attention to the fact that the two distinctions, of acts that
fall within the sphere of justice and acts that fall within the sphere of habitual grace,
on the one hand, and of acts of grace that affect the root and acts of grace that affect
the branches, on the other, do not run in parallel. Certainly, a saving act that falls in
the judicial sphere is always a conscious act, in the original sense for the

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consciousness of God, in a derivative sense for the consciousness of the sinner. An
act that produces habitual grace, however, is not always an act that works in the
unconscious life. It can do so, and does, for example, in regeneration, but it need not
do that and does not in sanctification and glorification. These two distinctions
intersect each other.

8. What questions need to be addressed regarding each step of the
order of salvation?
a)
b)
c)
d)

Is this particular act of God a judicial act or an act that effects subjective grace?
If the latter, is it an act that works beneath or in the consciousness?
Is its purpose the removing of the old man or the bringing to life of the new man?
Is it an act that stands at the beginning of a long development and produces a crisis, or
does it include a long series of similar acts?
e) Is it an act that is executed by God immediately or an act in which He works
mediately?

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9. Are the distinctions made here based on Scripture or are they
merely human attempts to bring about an order in the multiplicity
of phenomena of the work of grace?
They are based on Scripture and not only have practical significance but also reflect real
relationships that exist between the different virtues of God. Therefore, one cannot change them
without the greatest danger, for what one changes is not a subsidiary viewpoint, a perspective,
but the fundamental conception of religion. That can be shown in particular on each of the
points advanced above.
Concerning the first, the distinction between judicial actions and re-creating acts of grace,
on this point the Roman Catholic and the Protestant churches diverge. The former thinks that the
changed judicial relationship must have for its basis a change in the moral condition of the
sinner, and so with that reintroduces the principle of justification by works that the Apostle
Paul so powerfully combated. The latter maintains that all improvement and conversion must
have acquittal in God’s tribunal as its starting point, and so, on the contrary, makes works a
consequence of justification. In the first case, man gets part of the honor for himself; in the
second, God gets all the glory. But danger threatens here not only from the side of historic
Roman Catholicism. There is a neo-Romanism that unconsciously honors the same principle.
The endeavor is fairly common at present to deny the necessity of change in the judicial sphere
as a condition for moral improvement. Almost all the emphasis falls on the ethical, on the
reformation of man, as if there is no need to take account of God’s justice. This is the opposite
of antinomianism; it is a denial rather than a misuse of free grace. The character and capacities
of man are elevated as a measure of the favor of God, and moral perfection is insisted on with

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Copyright © 2015. Lexham Press. All rights reserved.

full force. One would characterize this direction as moral legalism and distinguish it, as such,
from the ceremonial legalism of the Jews and the Roman Catholic legalism that coincides with
it. Under the appearance of holding high the moral ideal, it is in fact active in attacking this
ideal at its heart, for only one who has a thorough sense of the guilt and inner accursedness of
evil can possess an unadulterated appreciation and admiration of the good, which is a normal
consequence of the former. Whoever preaches transformation without justification does not
have the right conception of sin and improvement. He reckons only with the external side of sin
under a utilitarian aspect; its deeper spiritual significance totally escapes him. By far the
greatest part of the ethics presently preached from pulpits is of this kind. It demands a
sanctification under which the indispensable foundation of justification is utterly lacking. From
this, in part, is to be explained the ease with which some, despite the clear witness of
Scripture, eliminate the doctrine of eternal punishment. The foundation of this doctrine is
lacking in the conscience—namely, a deep sense of the necessity that God’s justice be
maintained. And the end of all this will be the weakening and falsifying of all moral
distinctions.
It is almost superfluous to show that Scripture never loses sight of the order indicated
above against Roman Catholicism and neo-Romanism. Paul’s entire teaching rests on this
distinction between sanctification and justification. A Christian loves much after much has
been forgiven him, not the reverse: that much has been forgiven him because he loves much.
The lost son received forgiveness before anything else. And the same thought recurs
everywhere, so strongly in Paul that his opponents could take the occasion to hurl at him the
recrimination of antinomianism (cf. Rom 6:1ff.), and he was forced to show expressly how
moral transformation infallibly followed imputation—indeed, how in one and the same
baptism both were pictured and the images of both fused together.
Also on the second point, Scripture does not leave us in the dark. It always distinguishes
between what occurs beneath and in the consciousness. Romans 8:28–30 presents the chain of
salvation with its different links. The practical purpose that the apostle has with this is to
strengthen the believer in the consciousness that future glory cannot elude him. In line with that,
he now enumerates precisely the acts of salvation that fall within the light of the consciousness,
which enable looking forward and backward—namely, calling and justification as lying
between election and glorification. This is a proof, therefore, of the genuinely biblical
character of the distinction made, for what moves Paul here to limit himself to calling and
justification is nothing other than the principle of that distinction that while some operations of
grace are recognizable by the consciousness, others are not.
This principle, too, is of utmost weight. Whoever doubts that, along with the influence of
grace in the conscious life, God’s acts of grace intervene much more deeply and affect the
inner essence of man, can do so only on the basis of a superficial view of sin. To allow
everything to terminate in conscious life presupposes a Pelagian view of sin and all that is
connected with it. What occurs in the consciousness naturally works mediately, persuasively,
countering resistance. Only insofar as it surges from the inside out is grace entirely grace, a
supernatural operation of power, an exclusive work of God.

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The distinction between foundational acts of grace at the outset, which intervene in a
creative manner at critical moments, and the further ongoing uniform activity of grace is in no
need of demonstration as scriptural. It is necessary, however, to emphasize that distinction
because here, too, some seek to substitute slow development from natural causes for a sudden
change worked by God.

10. What points must be examined in general before we proceed to
discussing the particular acts of grace?
a) The relationship between these operations of grace and the work of the Holy Spirit in
the sphere of nature.
b) The relationship between the operations of special grace and common grace, gratia
communis.
c) The relationship between special grace and Holy Scripture.
d) The relationship between special grace and the person of the Mediator and the person
of the Holy Spirit.

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11. What is the nature of the relationship between the work of the
Holy Spirit in the sphere of nature and that of grace?
a) A relationship of analogy or correspondence. In the kingdom of nature the Holy
Spirit has His specific task, as well as the Father and the Son. He is the person who
by His working leads things to their destined goal and development—who creates and
maintains life in the realm of the organic, the rational, the reasonable. Likewise, in the
kingdom of grace the Holy Spirit is the one who leads the elect sinner to his destined
goal and development by creating and maintaining new life in him.
b) A relationship of subordination. What God does for someone through the Holy Spirit
in the sphere of nature is not unconnected with what He intends for him in the kingdom
of grace. The entire life of the elect, including that part that precedes their implanting
into Christ, is ordered by God with a view to its final destined end. It is not
immaterial how and where someone is born, which influences work on him, how he is
raised, which direction the development of his life takes. Since the place to be
occupied by someone in the kingdom of grace is determined by God and coheres
closely with all of his earlier development, the latter cannot be left out of
consideration in determining the former.
c) Notwithstanding this analogy and this subordination, there exists an essential
difference between the working of the Holy Spirit in the sphere of nature and in the
kingdom of grace. The latter is a new order of things that cannot be explained by the
former, but rests on an immediate intervention of God’s Spirit. Grace is not nature. It
is certainly true that one also calls grace the natural guiding actions of God, with

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which He deals with the elect before their regeneration (gratia praeparans). But
taking the word in this broad sense is not meant to deny the specific difference
between the operations of the Spirit in nature and in grace. The word “grace” still has
a twofold sense: (1) An attribute in God is called grace; (2) an influence on man that
transcends natural influence bears that name. If now something that falls within the
sphere of nature is called grace, then it is because the gracious purpose of God
adheres to it. One and the same act can occur with respect to two persons and be
grace in this sense for the one but not for the other. Still, the act remains specifically
the same, and by this purpose is not set outside the sphere of nature. It is absolutely
necessary to maintain the sharpest contrast between nature and grace.

12. What is the relationship between the operations of common
grace and the special grace of the Holy Spirit?

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To understand correctly the difference between these two in connection with the preceding
distinction, we must move out of the sphere of nature into the sphere of revelation. This
revelation is itself the product of a wholly supernatural act of grace. The announcement of the
truth of God and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit lie both beyond and above nature. At the
same time, however, that truth is given in natural forms. It is expressed in words written with
letters, words that can be heard by the natural ear and read by the natural eye. As we hope to
see, it is not the most proper and highest end of the truth to accomplish its work outwardly in
this way; rather, it reaches its proper goal only when an entirely supernatural work of the Holy
Spirit accompanies it. That it works in this way as well, however, no one can doubt. The only
question, though, is how? If it were simply directed to man and nothing more, this encounter
would only result in opposition and reaction from a soul that is sinful and hostile to God. That
this nevertheless does not occur, but that even in those who are not regenerate the moral power
of the truth is manifested, shows that there is an accompanying working of God’s Spirit. That
working of the Spirit is given to all in greater or lesser degree. It comes down, then, to
separating it sharply from special grace, in which only the elect share. So that the distinction
would already appear in the term, it has been called common grace, and what contrasts with it,
special or particular grace. One further needs to give attention to making distinctions on the
following points:
a) Common grace brings about no change in the nature of man as special grace does.
Whatever may also be its external manifestations, it does not regenerate man.
b) A second distinction is connected with this. Common grace is also limited to making
man receptive to the influence of the truth that works on him from his consciousness. It
works persuasively, by offering motives to the will and by making use of inclinations
that are already present, not by creating new habits in man. It can certainly bring the
external good still present in man to development, but it cannot produce what is
spiritually good from that. It can cause a seed of external righteousness to germinate,
but it is not capable of implanting the seed of regeneration.

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c) All that works in this manner can also be resisted. Since it is directed toward
individual motives from outside, the possibility always exists that the unrenewed
nature will overrule all these motives and render common grace powerless. It is
otherwise with efficacious grace. It does not offer motives for doing good to a will
that in its nature is evil, but transforms the will itself from the innermost recesses of
its nature, not by countering it but by re-creating it. Hence, common grace is termed
resistible; efficacious grace, with a somewhat oblique label, irresistible.

13. Does one sometimes also speak of “common grace” in a still
broader sense?
Yes, one sometimes also applies the word to the restraining action of the Holy Spirit that,
where revelation is not known, is joined with the natural knowledge of God and hinders the
breaking out of sin in its most dreadful extremes.

14. From what may we discern in some measure what should be
ascribed to the operation of this common grace?
We have seen in the doctrine of election that God’s Word rightly ascribes the hardening of
sinners to the withdrawal of common grace. It calls this being given over to a perverse mind
and shows from experience what dreadful dimensions sin assumes where this hardening sets
in. On the other hand, it also describes for us the fate of the lost who are devoid of common
grace. Consequently, everything that hinders the process of death that sin brings in producing
the complete dissolution of moral and social life for the individual and for society is to be
ascribed to gratia communis in the broadest sense of the word.

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15. Can you show that Scripture teaches such an operation of the
Holy Spirit?
Yes, it is said of the generation that lived before the flood that God’s Spirit contended with
them and contended in vain, that the patience of God at the time of this contending held back
His punishment, but that finally this operation of grace ceased since it was resisted and
scorned (Gen 6:3; cf. 1 Pet 3:19–20; 4:6). Stephen cried out to the Jews, “You always resist
the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you” (Acts 7:51). Also, Isaiah 63:10 mentions a
grieving of the Holy Spirit.

16. How far can this common operation of the Holy Spirit go?
We must assume that it always remains distinguished specifically from regenerating grace. So,
concerning the operation itself, one really cannot speak of it approaching the grace of
regeneration. What lies between these two is not a gradual but a principial difference.
Whatever else one may do to a dead person, one cannot say that actions are performed on him
that bring him close to life. Since, however, the infusion of life eludes our sight and we can

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judge it only by its outward manifestation, so the possibility always continues to exist that
common grace reveals itself in forms that are hardly to be distinguished from the actions of the
regenerate. Temporary faith, of which Scripture speaks in very strong terms, must be counted
among these cases. And often the sole criterion for recognition lies in the passing of time itself.

17. Are the effects of common grace divorced from any connection
with regenerating grace, which works only in the elect?
No; if by common grace someone has received a certain measure of insight into the truth prior
to his regeneration, be it then also in a nonsaving way, its fruits are not lost. When saving grace
comes upon us, it imparts new worth to all the old that was already present with us earlier. It
only must be maintained that it never is the old as such that continues to work after
regeneration, but the old is placed in a new light and with completely new qualities. The
knowledge of saving faith is very much connected with historical knowledge that someone
gained prior to his regeneration, but it would still certainly be wrong to maintain that a
regenerate person does not know, in his faith, in an essentially different way than the
unregenerate person.

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18. Has the doctrine of common grace also been misused?
Yes, some have wished to find in it a solution to the question why saving grace befalls only
some and not all—in other words, an explanation of God’s sovereign election. Shedd says the
following: “The nonelect receives common grace, and common grace would incline human
will if it were not defeated by the human will. If the sinner should make no hostile opposition,
common grace would be equivalent to saving grace. To say that common grace if not resisted
by the sinner would be equivalent to regenerating grace is not the same as to say that common
grace if assisted by the sinner would be equivalent to regenerating grace. In the first instance,
God would be the sole author of regeneration; in the second He would not be.” Yet in another
place he maintains, “Regeneration rests upon God’s election … upon special grace and not
upon common grace.” Thus it is not very clear what he intends. If, of themselves, all sinners
already resist common grace, then it makes no sense to say that it would regenerate them if they
did not resist it, for nonresisting means the same as being no longer sinful. If, on the other hand,
a sinner is able to resist and not resist common grace, and some are really in the latter
category, then for them, according to this conception, regenerating grace becomes completely
superfluous. Common grace should work on them and regenerate them. This idea is completely
false. God’s election lies above every consideration of the use of common grace. One can only
go this far: Those who resist common grace such that God withdraws it do not belong to the
elect. They are then abandoned to the hardening from which salvation is no longer possible. On
the other hand, it cannot be maintained that a good use of common grace always leads to
receiving saving grace or is even a characteristic of election. Certainly in a negative sense, if
someone resists common grace, then this is a bad sign. But we may not go further.

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19. What is the connection of special grace to Holy Scripture?
A very close connection. It is not the destiny of man to be re-created in his nature without there
being knowledge of God and his relationship to God in his consciousness. Man is a rational
being, and there must be for him an objective knowledge of the truth, besides the operation of
grace that affects him below his consciousness. The rule, then, is that the saving grace of God
works only where Holy Scripture, the Word of God, is present. Here it is like natural birth.
God does not allow children to be conceived and born into a world without light, air, or food.
Neither does He regenerate His children without a divine Word that can supply them with the
content requisite for consciousness.
This, however, does not imply at all that regenerating grace only occurs mediately through
the Word. To maintain this would evidently lead again to confusing saving with common grace.
Regeneration does not occur without the Word—that is, where the Word is not present—but
just as little by the Word as a causa efficiens [efficient cause]. Air, light, and food are
necessary conditions for the birth of a child, but no one will maintain that they are sufficient
active causes for birth. Again, a child is not born without the involvement of father and mother,
but a creationist does not therefore believe that father and mother as secondary causes can give
rise to the soul of the child. Creating the soul is the prerogative of God’s omnipotence in the
kingdom of nature; re-creating the soul is the exclusive work of His sovereign omnipotence in
the kingdom of grace. And that He is independent of the Word can best be seen when one
considers the regeneration of children. Those who die at a young age and enter heaven have
most certainly experienced the saving grace of God, and for them there surely cannot be talk of
a mediate working by God’s Word. Since their consciousness is still dormant for the most part,
regeneration need not be preceded and accompanied by the preaching of the Word.

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20. Does the rule strictly apply for adults that there is only
regeneration where the external Word of God is preached?
We do not have the slightest reason to depart from this rule. It conflicts with every analogy that
God would engender life where all further conditions for the feeding and development of life
are entirely lacking. One could only ask: Is it absolutely necessary for God to fulfill those
conditions by means of Holy Scripture? Can He not set the necessary truth directly before the
consciousness outside the sphere of the dissemination of Scripture and outside the bounds of
the church or of its influence, and then bring about regeneration in connection with that? There
have been some Reformed theologians, specifically Zwingli, who have been willing to leave
open the possibility of something like that in order not to judge the pagan world too harshly.
If, however, we read Scripture in an unprejudiced way, then we will have to agree that the
basis for such a view is lacking. Paganism is always presented as a state of absolute darkness,
into which no ray of light penetrates. Those who do not have the gospel are without hope and
without God in the world, without a share in the citizenship of Israel and strangers from the
covenant of promise [cf. Eph 2:12]. Naturally, we must let God be free and can arrogate for

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ourselves no judgment on what He could do. At issue here is only the question what He, as far
as we know, actually does. Also, all Christian zeal for missions presupposes that grace closely
follows God’s Word and cannot be detached from the ministry of the Word. With election itself
God has established the means of election, and even what happens with someone in the
kingdom of nature is regulated with that in view. So, if He had willed to elect pagans, He
certainly could have had them born under the light of the gospel.
Some have pointed to the conversion of Paul and to similar facts. Paul, too, was not
acquainted with the gospel through the ministry of the Word that already existed in the church
but received an immediate revelation accompanied with internal renewal (Gal 1:12). So, it is
thought, God can also do that with a Socrates, a Plato, or with other pagans, and we are
advised not to be too narrow in our thinking about them. Especially the broad outlook of our
century, which spans worlds, can no longer be satisfied with the old, narrow particularism of
national election.
There is only one answer to all that: God’s Word does not teach us otherwise. The case of
Paul is not at all suited to derive something from it. That he received an immediate revelation
was not, in the first place, necessary for his personal renewal but primarily for his official
calling as apostle, and only in connection with that for the work of grace. At that time, too, Paul
was in no way outside the sphere of revelation but was a Jew of the Jews [cf. Phil 3:5], a
member of the covenant nation, one of the great branches from the stem of Israel that was not
cut off when the rest fell and into which the pagans were grafted.

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21. Between what extremes does this legitimate Reformed
conception of the connection between Scripture and the operation
of grace lie?
Between, on the one hand, the mystical conception that, without prior contact with objective
truth, has manifestations of grace emerging everywhere—manifestations that themselves create
conscious content in a capricious way. The truth, then, emerges from the subjective working of
grace, and no means remain to test the latter. We, on the contrary, hold that Scripture is not only
a necessary condition for the growth of spiritual life, and to that extent also for its creation, but
moreover that the experiences of this life can be gauged as legitimate only by Scripture. What
does not accord with the objective Word and in its general features is not approved by it and is
false experience.
The opposite extreme is that of rationalism, which ascribes everything to the common
operation of the Word. This is deism applied to the personal relationship between God and
man. As God works in nature from without through second causes and not immanently, so too
He works in man through moral and religious truths and not from within, in the heart. In this
deistic standpoint one cannot even grant the operation of common grace, for this already lies on
the line of immanence; much less, then, regenerating grace.
We say: not without the Word, but also not exclusively through the Word.

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22. How do Lutherans think about the connection between the
Word and saving grace?
They, too, reject all mysticism that detaches grace from the ordained means of grace. At the
same time, however, they fall into the error that God works instrumentally through the Word at
every point, both in regeneration and otherwise. Now, to avoid all misconception in a
rationalistic sense, they teach that there is latent in God’s Word a power higher than moral
power—a supernatural power. A human word works by generating certain thoughts and setting
in motion a certain series of ideas, but it is not therefore able to create something new in the
soul. With God’s Word it is otherwise, according to the Lutherans. It works through a vis
inhaerens, “an inherent power,” operative on all who come in contact with it. Lutherans
certainly do not maintain that this supernatural power of grace is resident in the written letters
or the audible sounds of the Word, but in the ideas that are expressed and represented thereby.
Between the latter and grace there exists a unio mystica. This, then, is also transmitted from
the Word, and by means of the Word to the sacraments.

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23. How do the Roman Catholics think of the connection between
the external means of grace and the internal operation of grace?
They, too, accept an instrumental and not only an accompanying connection. Power is latent in
the sacraments as such and is not to be obtained apart from them—and then in the sacraments
as res, “things,” not in the Word that accompanies them, as the Lutherans intend. The gratia
praeveniens, “antecedent grace,” in which adults share without any merits, works
persuasively. It teaches an adult to know his sinful condition and the righteousness of God,
consider the mercy of God, and be confident that God will be gracious to him for Christ’s sake.
Accordingly, he is enabled to cooperate with this grace, which disposes him to love God and
brings him to the hatred of sin and the contrition that must precede baptism. Finally, this
antecedent grace also moves him to desire baptism and to receive it for himself, and in baptism
the actual re-creating power of grace appears.
One sees from this that Rome rejects semi-Pelagianism, at least in theory. Antecedent grace
is necessary. Man cannot begin by himself. But this antecedent grace is still not re-creating in
nature but is more of a persuasive kind. From that it is sufficiently clear that no account is taken
of the impotence of man. Man cannot learn to abhor sin, practice true repentance, etc., by
persuasive grace. These are always acts that cannot arise from the dead and unregenerate heart.
For children, there is naturally no need for these prior actions. They receive baptism
without preparation.

24. Do all God’s operations of grace have the same relationship to
the Word of Scripture?
No, there is a difference here between one operation of grace and another. Concerning the

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begetting of life in the soul, regeneration, the external Word has only an accompanying
connection with internal grace. It is impossible that the light and the things that appear in it
would beget the capacity for sight or would be useful as means to that end.
It is otherwise once the principle of life is infused and manifests itself in the
consciousness. Then it immediately comes into contact with the Word of God. Just as with a
child the capacity for sight is developed and reaches its completion only by repeated seeing, so
too the spiritual sight of the regenerate is sharpened by this contact with the truth. In fact, the
latter here works instrumentally. God makes use of it to nurture life. And for all acts of grace
that occur in the consciousness, it is the case that they are connected with Scripture.
Justification and calling, for instance, occur in the consciousness. In both, God comes and
speaks to man. In both, the content of the truth is introduced into his consciousness. The correct
conception is that this truth is not the product of a new, completely self-standing revelation.
God does not call with an audible voice and does not express His judicial sentence through a
special revelation, but in both cases He makes use of the once-for-all revealed Word of Holy
Scripture, and surely He does this by a particular application of it to the consciousness,
effected by the Holy Spirit.
Here, too, we must sail between the reefs of deism and mysticism. Calling and justification
are more than the deducing of a consequence from a few general lines of Scripture. For God’s
work of grace, reasoning and reckoning in this way do not suffice. Neither, however, is it a
mystical inspiration flowing from feeling or the will, detached from the objective truth of
Scripture. They both rest on the truth of Scripture, made personal by the Holy Spirit. Grace in
the consciousness is not independent of the Word. But the Word, in turn, is not detached from
the Holy Spirit.

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25. What kind of connection is there between the operation of
God’s grace in the special sense and the Mediator?
In this connection lies the most characteristic distinction between the operations of particular,
saving grace and all that lies outside. Regarding God’s purpose, saving operations and other
operations of grace can sometimes coincide. Also, there can sometimes be agreement
concerning their miraculous and immediate character. One thinks, for example, of the miracles,
all of which occur immediately, of supernatural revelation, of the inspiration of Scripture.
But all this is different from saving grace at one point: Saving grace effects at its onset a
personal bond with the Mediator, Christ, and in its further realization rests on the continuation
of that bond. The one in whom no saving grace has worked is apart from Christ; the one in
whom this grace has in fact worked, or even begins to work, is joined to Christ. The bond with
Christ brings saving grace with it, and where the latter is found the first must also be found.
Consequently, we have here something objective by which particular grace can be delimited
from all the rest. It is grace from Christ and to Christ.

26. What is the name that is given to this bond between persons in

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whom special grace works and Christ?
This bond is called the mystical union, unio mystica. It bears this name because it lies beneath
the consciousness. It does not consist in a fellowship or exchange of thoughts, but in a real
though incomprehensible fellowship of life. Mystical stands here in contradistinction to the
rationally transparent. In a certain sense, all the deeper actions of life are mystical, mysterious,
but this union is so in double measure.

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27. What in general is the significance of this union with Christ?
It serves to form a glorious body for the Mediator, of which He Himself is the head. For the
Savior it is an honor as mediator to be so joined personally with those for whom He has
become their surety and to live with them in a fellowship of destiny never to be dissolved.
Coming into consideration here, however, is not so much the significance that this unio has for
Christ as its meaning for the work of grace that takes place in the believer. Put more precisely,
the question is this: Why does grace work from now on in the sinner from Christ and only in
union with Christ?
In answering this question, one will need to guard against a great misconception. Many
continue to propose that the bond with the Mediator is the legal basis on which God permits
His merits to benefit the individual sinner. The reasoning goes as follows: Christ has certainly
satisfied for sin and earned eternal life, but all this does not help me and is not valid for me as
long as Christ is a stranger who is outside me. God cannot declare me just on the basis of what
the Mediator did as long as the Mediator remains a stranger to me. Such a declaration of
justice would be unjust. Thus God ensures that a real fellowship between Christ and my soul is
brought about. He implants Christ in me, and now declares in agreement with my actual
condition that I am just. Indeed, by this implanting I have truly become a member of Christ’s
body, so that it is now the righteousness of the body, whose organic member I am, that is
imputed to me. Union with Christ is, so it is thought, therefore the indispensable juridical basis
for the justification of sinners.
This reasoning sounds fine, and has misled many by its attractiveness. Despite its fine
appearance, it falsifies the fundamental element of the Christian doctrine of salvation: the
element of justification by free imputation. Justification is always and everywhere in Scripture
a declaration of God, not on the basis of an actually existing condition of our being righteous,
but on the basis of a gracious imputation of God that is contradicted by our condition. While
we in ourselves are unrighteous, God’s judgment acquits us. Justification is a paradox. The old
theologians, therefore, always rightly stood for the proposition that the sinner is justified qua
talis—that is, qua impius, as sinner, as godless. His justification is an act of grace insofar as
it concerns himself, not an act of justice. If, then, we must assume that it occurs on the basis of
his actual being in Christ through mystical union, then it could only be a declaration of what
really is, a taking note of the actual condition, and the element of grace would be lost.
The intended proposal must accordingly be rejected, and one must endeavor to be

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completely clear where the error in it is. It reverses the relationship between grace in the
justice of God and grace in the life of the sinner; it makes the former rest on the latter. This
cannot be. Concerning the legal relationship, being reckoned in Christ precedes, and only from
that does being in the Mediator follow. The mystical union is not the basis on which I appear
just before God but a gift that is extended to me from God’s justification. When one reasons
otherwise, one constantly reasons secretly in a circle. If all the actions of grace following upon
the mystical union become mine on the basis of this union, the question must still always be
asked: On what basis do I share in the unio mystica with Christ Himself? If it is true that no
grace can come to me on the basis of Christ’s merits as long as I am not in Christ, how is it
ever possible that I would be implanted in Him? This implanting cannot occur on the basis of
being in Christ, for it is precisely the implanting that effects being in Christ. One will thus be
compelled to say that implanting occurs by way of anticipation in view of impending
justification. A clear circle, for now we have justification on the basis of being in Christ and
being in Christ on the basis of justification.
It rests on this misconception when some maintain that regeneration can only follow faith,
for first faith unites to Christ and the gifts of grace only come from Christ, regeneration not
excluded. One need only ask where faith comes from. If from Christ, then one has in principle
abandoned the thesis that all subjective grace rests on being in Him.
The correct conception of matters is as follows: The legal basis for all grace lies in being
reckoned in Christ by the judgment of God. This actual relationship in the justice of God is
reflected in the consciousness of the sinner when he believes, for by faith he acknowledges that
there is no righteousness in himself, and that the righteousness by which he stands righteous
before God is transmitted to him by imputation. Now as far as what is judicial is concerned, it
could have remained at this. Without effecting a life-union between Christ and believers, God
still could have transmitted His righteousness to them. Then, however, imputation would only
appear in the consciousness. Grace would have only been revealed as grace to the
consciousness, without its imprint having been stamped deeper into the life of the believer.
Now, however, God acts otherwise. He does not stop with this acknowledgment in the
consciousness that righteousness is transmitted and that, consequently, each gift of grace is
given for Christ’s sake. To strengthen this impression, He also has all grace actually come from
Christ and establishes a life-bond between the Mediator and believers. The legal fellowship
reflects itself in a fellowship of destiny. All that the sinner receives flows from the living
Christ. The result is that the sinner not only knows as an idea that he will receive everything
for Christ’s sake but also experiences in life how everything comes from Christ. He is
regenerated, justified, sanctified, glorified, but all this is in the closest bond with the Mediator.
However, far from leaving him with the illusion that as a member of a great body he has a
right to these things, this arrangement of God serves as a constant reminder of the fact that he
personally had no right to them, that this right is earned by Christ, and that the right has been
passed on to him in the judgment of God, just as the gifts have been passed on to him, both from
Christ. We therefore reach exactly the opposite result. The mystical union is not ordained in
order to eliminate the idea of free imputation but to keep the memory of this idea rightly alive.

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If the gifts of grace were distributed directly, the consciousness of their real origin would all
too easily be lost. Now that possibility is cut off. The receiving of life from Christ reminds at
every moment that that life is earned by Christ.
For Christians the doctrine of the unio mystica, correctly understood, is the best means of
protection against salvation by works. It shows how foolish and unnecessary it is to bring the
covenant of works back into the covenant of grace and to again allow the sinner to merit
something for himself. All self-meriting assumes the idea that a separate fountain of life exists
in the meriting self. If Adam had merited eternal life, he would have had the fountain of life in
himself. Now that, on the contrary, the fountain is in Christ, no one can doubt that the merits
reside in Him as well. The Roman Catholics with their system of salvation by works have no
place for the unio mystica.

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28. What can we establish further concerning this union with
Christ?
a) It is not a unity that resides in the ordinary concursus of God. God is present in every
creature by His co-action. And insofar as Christ as Logos sustains all things, He also
has a certain immanent association with all created spirits. This, however, is a union
of the Logos-God with the creature as creature. The mystical union is a union of the
person of the Mediator with the regenerate person as such.
b) Neither is it a unity that rests on an agreement of consciousness by which the doctrine
of Christ is accepted in faith. Faith as an act of consciousness is only the surface
manifestation of the unity of life that lies much deeper. Socinians and Arminians have
such a concept of the union with Christ as is rejected here. The former think of a unity
of doctrine, the latter of a unity in love.
c) It is also not a merging of being such that the separate existence of either Christ or the
believer would come to an end. This was the error of the mystics. Some of them went
so far as to teach the identification of Christ and the believer, and led the latter to say
the words, “I am Christ Jesus the living Word of God; I have saved you through
sinless suffering.” On the contrary, we believe that personal identity is not in the least
impaired by mystical union, but first comes to its full right. Every believer is joined
by a particular and distinctive bond to Christ, and only by that bond becomes what he
should be and what God has destined him for. So little does the fellowship of life
with the Mediator negate this distinctiveness that the apostle can say instead, “To a
perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:13). “But to
each of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ” (Eph 4:7).
d) It is not a union that can be wrought or brought about by any external means.
Sacramentarians—that is, those who tie the essence of Christianity to the use of
external, physical means—maintain such a view. This is the grossest misconception
of all. The unio mystica lies far beyond the scope of any material substance.

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e) Concerning the essence of this union in a positive sense, we can say that it is:
1. An organic unity. Accordingly, Scripture compares it with the connection there is
between the vine and the branches, the head and the body (John 15:1–6; 1 Cor
6:15, 19; 12:12; Eph 1:22–23; 4:15–16; 5:29–30). The essence of the organic
consists in the fact that there is a reciprocal connection of goal and means
between the differing parts of a thing that nonetheless has an abiding significance
in itself. So it is with Christ and believers. He is there for them, yet they also are
given to Him as instruments for His honor. And the body that they form with Him
is not a creation of temporary duration by which a passing goal is to be reached;
it will remain eternally in its organic connection. Also, it cannot be dissolved; no
member having once been engrafted can fall from it (Rom 8:35, 39). Even those
who die still die in Christ, and even their bodies that are entrusted to the earth
are not torn away from the organic connection with the unio mystica of the Lord,
for they are sown (cf. 1 Thess 4:14, 17; with Rom 8:11; 1 Cor 15).
2. A unity of life. The power of the new life that is in believers comes from Christ.
Christ lives in them. Someone must show that he is a Christian by whether Christ
is in him (Gal 2:20; 2 Cor 13:5). When the life of the Christian develops fully,
then Christ is formed in him [Gal 4:19]. And it is said directly that Christ is in
the believer (Rom 8:10). All these expressions can only have a single
significance: The life of Christ exercises a secret action on the life of the
regenerate sinner, in consequence of which the latter receives its direction
toward God—that is, becomes spiritual life.
3. A spiritual unity. The unio mystica is wrought by the Holy Spirit: “For we are
all baptized with one Spirit into one body” (1 Cor 12:13). The Spirit is called
“the Spirit of the Lord” in 2 Corinthians 3:18. Indeed, verse 17 says directly,
“Now the Lord is the Spirit.” In Romans 8:9–10, “to have the Spirit of Christ,”
“to be in the Spirit,” and “Christ is in you” are parallel. Therefore Christ is in
someone by the Spirit: “The one who is joined to the Lord is one Spirit with
Him” (1 Cor 6:17). Consequently, it is not subject to any doubt that the bond
between Christ and the members of His body is the Holy Spirit. Still, it must
surely be observed that the Holy Spirit is present here, strictly speaking, as He is
given to Christ at His exaltation and after that is poured out on the Church. It is
the Holy Spirit as gift that we are to think of here. Before the Holy Spirit was
poured out, He had already worked subjective grace in believers throughout the
entire old dispensation. But still, the result of that work was not what could
properly be called a mystical union. When Christ became the glorified Head, He
took this gift and imparted it to all who are members of His body. Just because
the indwelling of the Spirit is in Christ—what is referred to here—this mediate
unity must at the same time hold true for the closest bond. The Holy Spirit is in
the human nature of Christ and works from there out on believers to dwell in
them. By placing the emphasis on this, we also avoid imagining that there is an

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identification of being between Christ and believers. The unity between the
divine person and human nature in the Mediator is a personal unity and therefore
also immediate, not first wrought by the Holy Spirit. It is otherwise with the unity
established between Christ and believers. This is not a personal unity in the
sense that a unity of person would flow from it. Christ and those who are of
Christ remain different persons, so that for that reason, too, the mystical union
can never be the legal basis of their justification before God. Rather, it is a unity
of life that neither removes nor makes impossible the distinction of persons. And
therefore it is wrought and maintained by the source of all spiritual and eternal
life by God the Holy Spirit.
4. A reciprocal unity. Establishing this unity is of course a work of Christ. Man
does not take the initiative here by taking hold of Christ and drawing Him to
himself or bringing himself to Him. The impossibility and inconceivability of that
follows from what has already been said. How by any act from his side would
man ever be able to make himself master of the Holy Spirit? It is entirely the
reverse: Christ sends His Spirit, who, in the first grace that befalls man in the
grace of regeneration, establishes the mystical bond. After this has happened and
has also penetrated into the consciousness, one can certainly say that faith
reaches out reciprocally to Christ, and the activity of faith and the nurturing of the
spiritual life resident in union with Christ keep pace. But faith in itself, as
subjective habit or subjective act, is not able to effect unity with Christ. It is one
of the manifestations of the life of the Savior in us rather than the source of this
life itself. When Scripture speaks of a union with Christ by faith, then this always
applies to unity in the consciousness or the consciousness of unity: “so that Christ
may dwell in your hearts by faith” (Eph 3:17), where, however, precedes, “so
that He might grant you though the riches of His glory to be strengthened with
power by His Spirit in the inner man.” The Spirit’s activity, therefore, is
antecedent, and only as a result of it does Christ dwell in the heart by faith. It is
the drawing power of Christ Himself that in our faith draws us to His life. In this
sense, then, Scripture clearly teaches that a reception of life from Christ by faith
is possible for us—indeed, is necessary (John 6:47, 51). There is not merely a
life of Christ in us but also a life of ours for God in union with Christ. According
to Romans 7:4, the believer knows himself to be as closely united to the
Mediator as husband to wife, and according to 2 Corinthians 11:2, the church is
viewed as a bride presenting herself to her bridegroom, Christ. “The Spirit and
the bride say, ‘Come!’ ” (Rev 22:17).
5. A personal and thereby corporate union with Christ, the Head for all believers.
Because they all are united with the exalted Mediator and engrafted into the same
branch, in Him they also have a bond with each other. Still, this may not be
understood in the modern pantheistic sense, as if life resides in the church and is
transmitted from the church to the individual. Everyone who is regenerated

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receives his life directly from Christ. A communication of life from one man to
another is unthinkable. It is only the second Adam who has become a life-giving
Spirit [1 Cor 15:45], so that He can cause power to issue from Himself in order
to beget life in others. The communion of the saints is a fruit of grace, not a
means of grace.
6. Union with Christ is a transforming and conforming union. Here, too, it appears
how close the connection is with the person of the Mediator according to His
humanity, for there can be no thought of conformity to the divine nature of Christ.
What Christ effects in the members of His body is a likeness of what has taken
place in Himself. They are buried with Him, rise with Him [Rom 6:5], are
oppressed with Him and glorified with Him [Rom 8:17], are ordained to be
conformed to His image and, as subsequently born brothers, to follow Him, the
firstborn [Rom 8:29]. But all this is not a mere similarity, for the apostle teaches
in Romans 6:5 that one becomes one plant with Christ in the likeness of His death
and in the likeness of His resurrection. That is, because it is one Spirit of life
who works in Christ and us, so the likeness of His resurrection must also follow
the likeness of His death: “That I know Him and the power of His resurrection
and the fellowship of His suffering, being conformed to His death” (Phil 3:10);
“And in my flesh I fill up the remnants of the afflictions of Christ for His body,
which is the church” (Col 1:24); “But as you have fellowship in the sufferings of
Christ, rejoice” (1 Pet 4:13).

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2. Regeneration and Calling
1. What is regeneration?
Regeneration is an immediate re-creation of the sinful nature by God the Holy Spirit and an
implanting into the body of Christ.

2. Is it a judicial or a re-creating act?
The latter. In regeneration the condition and not the state of man is changed.

3. Does regeneration occur in the consciousness or below the
consciousness?
Below the consciousness. It is totally independent from what occurs in the consciousness. It
can therefore be effected where the consciousness slumbers.

4. Is regeneration a slow process or an instantaneous action?
It is an instantaneous action that is the basis for a long development in grace.

5. Is regeneration concerned with the removal of the old or the
enlivening of the new?
Regeneration includes both. However, one can rightly maintain that the latter has prominence.

6. Is regeneration a mediate or an immediate act of God?
It is immediate in the strict sense. No instrument is employed for it.

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7. Which words in Scripture designate regeneration?
a) The first term is gennēthēnai anōthen, which appears in John 3:3, 7;
gennēthēnai ex hydatos kai pneumatos (John 3:5); palinngenesia (Titus 3:5);
anagennēthēnai (1 Pet 1:3, 23); ek theou gennēthēnai (1 John 2:29; 3:9; 4:7;
5:1, 4, 18).
1. Concerning the places where gennēthēnai appears, the passive meaning of this
term must be noted first. It literally means “to be generated.” By this is expressed
as strongly as possible that regeneration is an act of God, in which man remains
passive. When one considers the birth of a child it could perhaps still be

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2.

3.

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4.

5.

maintained that it is accompanied by some movement of the child itself. But “to
be regenerated” excludes any such movement in principle and fixes us on the
activity of the one who regenerates.
Anōthen gennēthēnai does not mean, as Meyer and others assert, “being born
from above.” It is certainly true that anōthen can have this local meaning, but
the context shows that this is not the case here. After all, in John 3:4 anōthen is
replaced by deuteron, “for the second time.” And Nicodemus is not surprised
by the fact that this birth must come from above, but by the fact that it must take
place a second time. If he had thought “from above,” he could not have posed the
question, “Can someone enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be
born?” “Again,” however, has the deeper meaning “anew” here, so what is
required is an absolute beginning. Not that half of what is connected with
generation or birth must be repeated, but man must again undergo being born
anew. Compare Galatians 4:9: “which you want to serve again [palin] anew
[anōthen].”
Thus, something occurs that is a repetition of the first birth. The point of
similarity is this: In natural birth man has received from his father and mother a
carnal, corrupt nature: “What is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:6); “… are
born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man” (John
1:13). In regeneration he receives a spiritual nature. The similarity does not go
further. It is by no means being denied that the first birth is connected with the
genesis of the substance of the soul and the formation of the person, while by
regeneration the substance is not removed and replaced by another, but, like the
person, it remains the same as it was before.
It is a birth ex hydatos kai pneumatos, “of water and Spirit.” This refers to
baptism, and, according to a sacramental manner of speaking, what is attributed
to the sign belongs to the thing signified. Baptism portrays two things: the
washing away and cleansing of what is sinful, and the imparting of what is pure
and new. “Water” and “Spirit” thus stand for the two sides of God’s re-creative
work: “the removal of the old” and “the imparting of the new.” Compare Ezekiel
36:25–27, where they are likewise placed side by side: “I will sprinkle clean
water on you, and you shall be clean.… And I will give you a new heart, and a
new spirit I will put within you.… And I will give you my Spirit.” One should
note that “water” and “Spirit” occur here without an article, because baptism
does not so much have in view a specific application of water and a specific
activity of the Spirit as the character of water and Spirit in general. The water is
the cleansing element; the Spirit is the generator of life. Thus, all told: “For
someone a renewal of nature must take place, in which he is cleansed of sin and
receives new life within himself.”1
The same sense is present in Titus 3:5. Baptism is a bath from which one emerges

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washed and renewed. Thus, the work of regeneration has two sides: cleansing
and renewal. The Holy Spirit is the one who effects this, and He is richly poured
out by Jesus Christ the Savior (Titus 3:6). The palingenesia spoken of here puts
the emphasis more on what occurs in man; it is literally “regeneration.”
We believe, accordingly, that by regeneration is to be understood: (1) an act done
exclusively by God; (2) a renewal of nature; (3) an act that has two sides—the
removal of the old life and an imparting of a new life; (4) an act in which the Holy
Spirit appears as the one who produces this new life; (5) an act in which the Holy
Spirit works out of Christ and jointly with Christ.
b) In Paul we have a series of terms that clearly express the same matter: “For neither is
circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation [kainē ktisis]” (Gal
6:15). “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Cor 5:17). “For we
are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Eph 2:10). “Even
when we were dead in trespasses, He made us alive with Christ” (Eph 2:5). “From
Him you are in Christ Jesus, who has become to us wisdom from God and
righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor 1:30). “For the law of the
Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom
8:2). “We then were buried with Him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was
raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too should walk in newness of
life” (Rom 6:4).
Here, too, we reach the same result: (1) Regeneration is an immediate work of
God by which man is totally passive, a new creation; (2) it effects a renewal of
nature; (3) it has two sides, a burial of the old man and an enlivening of the new; (4)
the Holy Spirit is the one who produces this new life; (5) the Holy Spirit does this
jointly with Christ; it is the law of the Spirit of the life in Christ that frees from the
law of sin and of death.
c) Particular mention is due those scriptural passages that speak of regeneration as a
renewal of the heart. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit
deep within me” (Psa 51:10). “I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and
give them a heart of flesh” (Ezek 11:19). It is necessary at this point to keep in view
accurately the biblical concept of “heart,” levav, lev, kardia, in contrast to psychē
and pneuma, nephesh, and ruach, which were already discussed earlier.2 The
heart is the seat of the potency that determines our nature, the center of our being that
indicates the direction and predisposition of all that occurs in our spiritual life. It is
therefore something that lies still more deeply than personal self-consciousness, for
the latter is merely the reflection in the conscious life of the unity and uniformity of
the soul, as we saw earlier in the scriptural terms psychē, nephesh. What is meant
by “heart” can become clear from Proverbs 4:23, “Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for out of it flow the issues of life.” The heart is therefore also the place where the
Holy Spirit, who renews the nature and governs the new life, makes His abode. “The

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love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been
given to us” (Rom 5:5). “God has sent the Spirit of His Son into your hearts” (Gal
4:6). To the heart is ascribed the predisposition and basic inclinations in which the
personality and nature manifest themselves: “according to your hardness and your
impenitent heart” (Rom 2:5); “an honest and good heart” (Luke 8:15); “love from a
pure heart” (1 Tim 1:5); “an evil, unbelieving heart” (Heb 3:12); “a true heart” (Heb
10:22); “the pure in heart” (Matt 5:8). In all these cases, psychē could not be used.
The “heart,” therefore, is something that man cannot judge, that evades our
observation, and that only God in His omniscience knows and searches (Matt 15:8;
Luke 16:15). All that is good wells up from the heart, and all that is evil arises from
the heart. “The good man brings forth good out of the good treasure of his heart”
(Luke 6:45). “For from within, out of the heart of man, arise evil thoughts, sexual
immorality, etc.” (Mark 7:21).
It is now of the greatest importance for the doctrine of regeneration that it is
presented as a renewal of the heart. Over the heart lies the veil, and in the heart
shines the light (2 Cor 3:15; 4:6; 2 Pet 1:19); with the heart one believes (Rom
10:10); the heart is directed to the love of God (2 Thess 3:5). Therefore, by this,
every conception that in the renewal of man God works from the circumference to the
center is excluded. On the contrary, He works from the center to the periphery,
regenerates the heart, and by this in principle the nature is reversed in all its
expressions, or at least given a formative capacity that works against the old nature.

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8. How is the usage of scriptural language regarding “calling”
connected with the doctrine of regeneration?
As we know, many older theologians treat regeneration under “calling.” They speak of a
twofold calling: an external calling (vocatio externa) that occurs through the preaching of the
Word, and an internal or effectual calling (vocatio interna, vocatio efficax) that occurs
through the operation of the Holy Spirit in the heart. These terms are not chosen arbitrarily.
They occupy a rather large place in scriptural usage, and since theological terminology ought
to keep as closely as possible to God’s Word, we may not push them aside. However, the
question arises whether in Scripture “calling” is in fact understood as the same thing that we
have come to know as “regeneration.” The answer to this must be twofold: yes, concerning the
essence of the thing; no, concerning the viewpoint from which the same thing is considered.
The difference is in the following two points:
a) Regeneration occurs below the consciousness; it cannot be observed by man himself
and is altogether independent of every relationship that he could adopt toward it. To
speak with complete precision, one cannot assume a stance toward his regeneration,
since it is not placed objectively before his consciousness. It is otherwise with
calling. This occurs in the consciousness, is directed to the consciousness, and
demands a certain relationship to the consciousness. This is already contained in the

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term “calling.” A calling comes from outside; a rebirth works from the inside out.
b) Connected with this, regeneration is a physical act. Calling is a teleological act,
directed to a certain end. One is regenerated from one condition into another; one is
called to something. With calling a certain endpoint is brought into view, with the
prospect that one would reach this endpoint, or also a certain rule prescribed that one
should follow. One would now be able to say that if this representation is correct (as
will presently be shown in detail), then it is a contradiction in adjecto [in terms] to
speak of an “internal calling.” If “calling” is always something that comes from
outside and presupposes a hearing, then calling cannot be internal, and it is a misuse
of the word to indicate regeneration by it.
It cannot be doubted that by the use of “calling” in the sense described above, the older
theology has obscured the two points of difference mentioned. Still, in this use it was led by a
correct consideration. What drove it was the conviction that the working of God’s grace may
not be detached from the Word of God. If one speaks solely of regeneration, that still does not
include anything that recalls that the Word is a necessary concomitant element of re-creating
grace. If, on the other hand, one speaks of calling, everyone immediately senses that saving
grace closely follows the proclamation of objective truth and does not go beyond the limits
drawn by this proclamation, even though it is not coextensive with the external hearing of the
gospel. Hence some have spoken of an “external calling.” To that is then tied the internal
calling, in order by the similarity of the name to be reminded anew what connection God had
laid between His Word and grace.
With that, however, the use of the term “internal calling” for “regeneration” is not yet fully
justified. While a thing may be always accompanied by another thing, I still have no right to
designate it by the name of the other, especially if the specific essence of the thing is thereby
overlooked. Thus, there must be another ground for the designation “internal calling.” That
ground is as follows: One can present God’s work of grace under two viewpoints—as it
occurs below the consciousness, and as it is reflected in the consciousness. The former is a
more complete and theological view, the latter a more partial and practical view.
Now, the fact that the first Christian congregations were mostly gathered by the sudden
conscious addition of believers led inadvertently to the last, more practical view. The
implanting of life in the heart and the hearing of that newly awakened life at the calling of the
gospel occurred practically in the same moment. There were no reasons to presuppose a
passing of time between the two. Because it coincided in this way with calling, regeneration
could appropriately be termed “calling.” Or, expressed more precisely, regeneration, as the
invisible background, could for the moment be left out of consideration. The first thing one
noted about it was calling. And now it needs to be granted that calling did not enter the
consciousness as an external, general conception and offer of the gospel. It entered the
consciousness of those who were being added as it was applied (made personal and
compelling by the Holy Spirit), so that they immediately realized that an internal change had
taken place that had been accomplished by an act of God’s power. When a sinner hears this

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calling of God, he does not deliberate or reason, but is drawn and irresistibly compelled to
follow. Thus a certain reflex of the nature of regeneration appears in his consciousness, and
that is calling. One will therefore easily perceive what ground there is for continuing to speak
of an internal calling and to place it next to external calling as distinguished from it and yet
closely connected with it by name. When regeneration has worked on the consciousness, it
immediately manifests itself as a totally new perception of the omnipotent might of the Word of
God, to which one must submit, a Word that speaks as a word of power and, as it were, creates
the obedience of faith. Thus, as one is called with power in his conscious life and comes, so at
the center of his being one is called out with creating omnipotence from death and brought over
into life as by a powerful creating word of God. And both lie so closely to one another that one
may designate them with one name.
By this, however, is indicated the particular limitation of the concept of “calling.” It cannot
be applied everywhere. Only in a place where, without remaining hidden for a long time,
internal re-creation immediately manifests itself in the consciousness can one rightly speak of
regeneration as “internal calling.” [It is] not with the same right, on the other hand, when one
has to do with children. For them, regeneration does not as yet take the form of a calling—that
is, it does not manifest itself in their consciousness as an act of God by which, also for their
own awareness, they are called out from the one condition into the other. Of a child one says
that it is regenerated and not that it is called.
The question now is only whether one has grounds to assume for adults that regeneration
and calling are separated by a considerable period of time. A further distinction must be made
here. For those who do not yet live under the administration of the covenant of grace, there is
no ground to suppose such an interval. There the seed of regeneration is implanted and usually
sprouts immediately. With the children of the covenant, the possibility always exists that they
were born again long before their consciousness is awakened. If such is the case with those
who die before they are able to comprehend, it is difficult to see why this could not also be the
case with many who later give evidence of true godliness and yet who are unable to point to a
specific time in their conscious life at which they were effectually called. Conversely,
however, there is no evidence that such early regeneration is the rule for children of the
covenant. We cannot bind God here. In particular, the idea that someone would be regenerated,
and yet in his own consciousness would remain uncalled for years on end, seems unacceptable,
for it presupposes an illusory connection between what is internal and what is external.

9. Show from Scripture that calling is viewed in this way.
a) First, concerning the use of the term for external calling, that is, the proclamation of
the gospel, we have the use of the word as of an invitation to a wedding (Matt 22:3,
9; Luke 14:8; cf. John 2:2, “and Jesus was also called,” that is, invited; 1 Cor 10:27).
In Matthew 20:16 [Textus Receptus] we have a contrast between the many “called,”
klētoi, and the few “chosen,” eklektoi. Here, external calling is not only
distinguished from internal calling but even separated from it. What is spoken of is a

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calling of sinners to conversion (Luke 5:32).
b) That calling is a work of grace taking place in the consciousness is established from
Romans 8:30, as developed above. Besides, it follows from the imagery of 1 Peter
2:9: “So that you may proclaim the excellencies of the one who called you out of
darkness into His marvelous light.” Clearly, light nowhere stands for life as
something unconscious, but always for life as it manifests itself in the consciousness.
To be brought out of darkness into the light thus means to be brought from the
alienation of the consciousness from God into clarity in the awareness of being allied
with God, and to a clear knowledge of the truth.
c) Next, as we have said, calling is an act directed to a certain goal and revealing that
goal to the consciousness of the one called. Also, where the word of internal
efficacious calling is present, it clearly never loses this character of a concept of
purpose, as already appears from the fact that it can be connected with the preposition
“to,” eis, or “in,” en. God calls believers “to” eternal life (1 Tim 6:12); “into the
fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor 1:9); “to freedom” (Gal 5:13);
“not to impurity but to sanctification” (1 Thess 4:7); “to peace” (1 Cor 7:15); “to one
hope of calling” (Eph 4:4); “in one body” (Col 3:15); “so that you may inherit
blessing” (1 Pet 3:9).
Calling, then, is also always presented by Paul as a ground of comfort for the
believer that enables him to look beyond his own shortcomings and instances of
unfaithfulness and to the unfaltering faithfulness of the God who calls. In calling, God,
as it were, has bound Himself to the believer and established the covenant bond, so
that from now on there is no longer any doubt whether he will reach the goal. “The
gifts and calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom 11:29). “He who calls you is faithful,
who will also do it” (1 Thess 5:24). The idea of calling deserves more attention than
it has so far had. The fact that it has become the general name for regeneration has
caused its specific meaning to be lost from sight. And yet in its distinctiveness it is a
rich concept that in the letters of Paul, for example, occupies a prominent place.
d) Naturally, all this does not detract from calling as an act of power. This is already
included in the word. “Calling” is not persuading or discussing, but bringing about an
instantaneous effect by a word or the naming of a name, so that the one who is called
comes. In this sense calling—as internal, efficacious calling—extends just as far as
election. “Those He foreordained, these He also called, and those He called, these
He also justified” [Rom 8:30]. The called are the same as the elect. They are “called
according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28); named “called saints” (1 Cor 1:2; Rom 1:7; 1
Thess 2:12; 4:7). It is expressly said, then, that calling is an act of omnipotence: “God
calls the things that are not as though they were” (Rom 4:17, where the reference is to
the extraordinary birth of Isaac). And in Romans 9:11, it is said “that the purpose of
God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls.” Here
calling stands as God’s work par excellence over against man’s work, and it is

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testified of God’s election that it is intended to reveal how salvation is entirely of the
God who calls.

10. How then can you define external calling?
As the presentation of the gospel to sinners in general by the preaching of the Word.

11. How, on the other hand, can internal or effectual calling be
defined?
As the transferring of the elect sinner in his own consciousness from the state of alienation
from God into the state of fellowship with God (the covenant of grace), and that certainly by
means of the external word, applied internally by the Holy Spirit.

12. How can one relate internal calling and regeneration to each
other?
By saying that:
a) If we consider the one who calls, God, regeneration is an effect of calling. “Calling”
then means the act of calling, as it is in God and as it embraces the sinner.
b) If we consider being called as what occurs in the one who is called, then calling is
the effect of regeneration, for the ear is first opened by the latter so that it can
recognize the voice of the God who calls. “Calling” then means being called and
knowing oneself to be called.
c) If we take the matter in its full scope, we must say that calling, as it were,
encompasses regeneration from beginning to end. It precedes and follows it,
according to whether one draws attention to the consciousness of God or to the
consciousness of the sinner who is called. It hardly needs to be mentioned that this
preceding and following is not to be taken in a strictly temporal sense.

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13. Is it necessary to say that the sequence of the acts of grace is:
(1) calling, (2) regeneration?
Some have proposed that in order to, in this way, arrive at a clear distinction. Although one
can now readily say, in the sense just described, that regeneration follows calling, there are
still objections to this manner of representation.
a) In doing this one runs the danger of losing sight of the fact that calling has an essential
significance for the consciousness of the sinner. In fact, one then restricts the name to
the action of God in order to call the other, the effect of the action as that which
causes change, regeneration.
b) On the other hand, it is wrong to so restrict regeneration that it becomes only the

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product, the outcome, the transition, while the activity of God is omitted. Scripture
emphasizes that we are regenerated, that God regenerates us according to His will,
etc. (Jas 1:18).

14. What ground does one have to understand the concept of
regeneration in the wider sense, which, for example, Calvin
ascribes to it?
This is based on some scriptural passages that do not speak directly of regeneration but of “a
putting off of the old man” and “a putting on of the new man” and “a being renewed in the spirit
of the mind” (Eph 4:22–24). Romans 12:2 speaks of the same thing. Second Corinthians 4:16
speaks of a renewal in the inner man that takes place day by day.
All these expressions, however, have in view more the transformation of something old
than the creation of something new. And it is just the new principle of life poured into the
sinner that in its outworking brings about this transformation of the old. Renewal is not
regeneration, but presupposes regeneration. Thus the command can come to man that he must
make for himself “a new heart and a new spirit.” However, nowhere in Scripture is the
command directed to someone that he must regenerate himself. That command always comes in
the form of “arise from the dead.”

Copyright © 2015. Lexham Press. All rights reserved.

15. Who is the author of regeneration?
a) It is God the Father by way of eminence. Since regeneration appears as something
completely new, it fits with the economy of the Father that regeneration is ascribed to
Him. “According to his great mercy, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has
begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the
dead” (1 Pet 1:3; cf. also Jas 1:18; Eph 2:5; and the expression “born of God,” 1 John
5:1, 4, 18).
b) The Son is related to regeneration in more than one way.
1. He is the meriting cause. He has obtained the Holy Spirit, who works all
subjective grace, and so has also obtained regeneration (Rom 5:18).
2. He is the head to whom believers are joined as members by regeneration, and
who thus lives in them and expresses His life in them (Gal 2:20).
3. He is the image into which the believers are transformed in regeneration and to
which continually they are also being increasingly conformed (1 Cor 15:49; Gal
4:19).
c) The Holy Spirit is the one who effects regeneration for the sake of the Father and the
Son in the heart of the sinner, as He in general organizes the mystical body of Christ.

16. Is regeneration a mediate or immediate act of God? Is it or is

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it not brought about by any instrument?
God does not use any kind of i