The Foundations for the Spiritual Life

 


Bavinck reminds us that the foundational principle of the spiritual life flows from God.  (End of page 246)

I took this photo recently.  I liked the golden glow

 Let us look at a paragraph of Bavincks:

“There is only One whose life absolutely arises from himself, who has life in himself, who is absolutely the beginning, a beginning not provided by anything outside himself, who is the life-force itself, absolutely free and conscious, life and source of life at the same time. This is the Triune God.  All creaturely life is derived, not original; only God has life in the full sense of the word. “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light” (Ps. 36:9). The life of creation comes from God and is mediated by the Logos (“In him was life, and the life was the light of men,” John 1:4), who has life in himself: “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself” (John 5:26).” (From page 247)

It is interesting that Bavinck quotes John 1.4.  In Christ is the light and the life was the light of all men.  Bavinck is right to see Our Lord as the mediator of this life.  Christ being the High Priest of Heaven Itself.  Let us turn to John chapter 1.1:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. John 1:1-3

It is no mistake for John the Apostle to use ‘In the beginning’.  This is a direct reference taken from Genesis chapter 1.  God is the Creator, and the two hands of God being the Son and the Holy Spirit.  (see Irenaeus on: Against Heresies 4.20.4 ) There is no pantheism here.  God and the created material can never be one though some religions and philosophies argue for it.

As Bavinck says we have some type of independence in this life, but we always remain creatures and God always remains eternal.  We can live for ourselves but independence from God means separation from God living for our own wisdom which is a fallen wisdom. 

The principle of this spiritual life then is opposite to living for self:

“The spiritual life is altogether different. Its fundamental principle is not found within the natural life but first arises through denial, self—crucifixion, renunciation, and loss of our soul. It is, therefore, not selfish either, always thinking of self—preservation; it is not preoccupied with this life.”  

(From: Reformed Ethics; Herman Bavinck; edited by John Bolt; Book 2, chapter 7, page 247)

This spiritual life then, although it happens internally within oneself, it looks out of itself ‘beyond time itself’.  This is something ‘supernatural’. Let us look at some of the references that Bavinck gives us:

15 But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. 1 Corinthians 2:15

 

1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:1

1 Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Galatians 6:1

A spiritual life and natural life are not the same thing.  They are diametrically opposed to each other.  Someone who is spiritual is one that is led by the Holy Spirit.  However somewhere else Bavinck did remind us that in a sense for the Christian he cannot be completely spiritual because this life we actually live is a natural gift of God.  There is a war that goes on within us who to please.  The natural or the spiritual.  Do we serve the first Adam or the second Adam, Christ? In this explanation we see this here:

14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 1 Corinthians 2:14

And again here:

1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:1

Where do we go from here?

“For the foundational principle of the spiritual life is the love of God in Christ poured out upon us through the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). The “love of God” here is an objective genitive (love with God as its object), paralleling passages such as Deuteronomy 6:5; 11:1, 13, 22; Matthew 22:37: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,” etc. Love here is a spiritual principle, not only poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit and fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22), but itself also spiritual by nature.” (From: Reformed Ethics; Herman Bavinck; edited by John Bolt; Book 2, chapter 7, page 248)

So, then the foundation of the spiritual life is based on God’s love:

“… and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:5

The principle of the spiritual life then is a gift.  The natural life was also a gift and human beings ruined the gift at the fall because they wanted to be God.  Let us look at these references Bavinck gives us:

5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Deuteronomy 6:5

1 “You shall therefore love the LORD your God, and always keep His charge, His statutes, His ordinances, and His commandments. Deuteronomy 11:1

37 And He said to him, “ ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ Matthew 22:37

Bavinck finishes this section off by saying:

“The love of God is therefore stripped of all that is sensuous, earthly, and impure and is now pure and holy.  And this principle now flows into all of life, into all the thoughts and deeds of the spiritual person. Love of God gives stature and form to the spiritual life; it organizes and inspires it, turning it into one beautiful organic whole which function as the foundational life-force.” (From: Reformed Ethics; Herman Bavinck; edited by John Bolt; Book 2, chapter 7, page 248)  All Biblical quotations have been from the NASB

Reflection

The principle of the spiritual life is not from the same tree as our natural life although God has created both.  The natural life ran into problems because of our disobedience.  God then found a better way for us to come into his presence.  The love of God has reached us by the Holy Spirit and the work of the Son.  God’s love is very deep, but it also flows from his holiness.  This is God’s grace.  It is God who has reached down to us.  Without the work of the Holy Spirit no one could come close to God.  We would forever be lost in our sins.

Let us stop for a moment and think with gratitude about God’s love for us.  You may not be a Christian reading this blog, God’s love is for you too.  God reaches out to touch your life and to bring you into his kingdom.  He is at your door knocking; Will you open the door and let Jesus into your life?  The Creator of the universe who created your natural life also wants to create your spiritual life.  Look around you my friend and what do you see?

As life marches on people die and we die too.  This life is fleeting.  When we are young, we think we can live forever but the truth is that a hundred years is a drop in the bucket.  The human soul cries out for the eternal.   There is something within us that search for God.  Have you found God yet?  Have you found this inner peace that flows from the love of God that is not a fake peace?  Peace cannot be found in the size of your wallet, if anything it can weigh a person down and send them to hell.  True Peace can only come from a pure love and there cannot be any purer love than that demonstrated by God; He became a human being and gave his life to save his creation.

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