Advice from Herman Bavinck on Living in the Light of Christ


Bavinck reminds us about the two spiritual states we can be in.  Either living in the sinful nature or in the state of grace.  Grace is about the fact that everything we have is dependent on God’s love in Christ by the Holy Spirit. 


I was creating some mats for coffee cups

As Bavinck reminds us, Jesus proclaimed liberty to the ‘captives’:

and “creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21 NIV(Reformed Ethics; page 242)).

He goes on to say that we have ‘Freedom’ in the Holy Spirit.  Before we go on, it is important to realize that Paul uses flesh a lot in his writings.  Paul is not saying that the human body is evil (This would be gnostic).  Flesh for him in certain passages means to live in an unholy way.  Paul sometimes gives us lists of these things:

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21 NASB”

This way of living is slavery to sin.  He can also speak about living in the Spirit.  This is the opposite to the above list:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.Galatians 5:22-23 NASB”

We have a choice then we either live in the grace of Christ by the Holy Spirit or we ‘please our own desires’.  Bavinck quotes Paul again and shows us how we ought to live:

“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore, keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 NASB”

Bavinck goes deep into Scripture showing us what life in the Spirit is so he quotes from: (John 8:34; Rom. 6:7); (Gal. 4); (John 3:6); (Gal. 5: 17); (John 6:63); (Romans 8:21—4); (2 Cor. 3:6); (Rom. 8:15) (Reformed Ethics; From page 244).

From What has been said there are two paths open.  One that leads to communion with God and the other to separation from God.  Bavinck explains that:

Most frequently, however, this state is called a state of life as opposed to the former state of death in sin.  See, for example, Ephesians 2:1—3: And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (page 244)

Bavinck then goes into a stream of Old Testament and New Testament verses about choosing ‘life’. So, then I give two examples from the Old and two from the New Testament:

“God in Scripture calls us again and again: “Listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live” (Deut. 4:1; cf. 30:6). It is the prayer and vow of the psalmist: “Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight” (Ps. 119:277)

In the New Testament he quotes:

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment but has passed from death to life. (John 5:24) We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Rom. 6:4) (From page 244)


What I like about Herman Bavinck’s writings is that he can break down the basics of Scripture and explain to us how the Christian life ought to be.  It is fairly simple.  We live by faith trusting Christ on a day-to-day basis.  The ‘I’ has been replaced by a new centre, namely Christ by the Holy Spirit.  It is only by God’s grace we stand even the gift of faith is a gift from God.  How ethics has been done has also changed.  The natural fruit of the Spirit is good works.  The love of God sets us free from the negative selfish ways of living.  Even from a natural point of view love builds up.  How much more when we live in Christ.

Living in the flesh can also have unbeneficial effects.  Let us look at some of them:







Failed liver, brain shrinkage

Sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies

Criminal activity because you don’t have enough.


What about the causes and effects of Living in the Spirit?





Healthy (not eating too much).

Better relationship in the family and outside the family.


Living in the Spirit then does pay off in the long run.  By living in the Spirit, we are living the life of the Kingdom of God.  Not only do we have eternal life, but life can under certain circumstances be better for us in the West.

Living the life in the Spirit also means looking out for the needs of our neighbours.   If we only think about ourselves then we are not living the life of love.  Perhaps there is some one who is suffering somewhere.  There are many homeless people, sick people, elderly and so on.  God’s love that has been poured out in our lives should also pour out to the rest of the world somehow.  I don’t have all the answers, but Bavinck has explained what state the Christian ought to be in.

I can also understand why people choose to live in the sinful nature with no care for the neighbour and to be completely selfish.  Materialism in the West has created many grotesque ‘fat cats’ who have most of the wealth and what is worse they do not want to share it with their fellow man.  They have ‘made it’.  They might have a good life according to them but if they haven’t shared love then they won’t be remembered and if they are remembered for all the wrong reasons.  Eventually death comes and either his/ her wealth is claimed by the family, or the taxman swallows the wealth in whole which can be used for the benefit of all.

Let us with Bavinck choose to live life to the full.  In Christ we have a relationship with God, and everything comes from Him in the first place.  We were created to love God freely in the first place thus our complete happiness in furnished in Christ.   If God was willing to become a man and die in place of me I ought to be filled with real gratitude.



Reformed Ethics; by Herman Bavinck; edited By John Bolt; pages 242-244

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