The Three Objective causes of the spiritual life. Part 1

 

29 10 2021

The Three Objective causes of the spiritual life.  Part 1

This is the sun rising.  Let us always see our cup half full.

 

So, Facebook has decided to change its name to meta (sounds like ‘dead’ (feminine form) in Hebrew.  מתה)  Anyhow people will go into this digital universe wearing these goggles and living their virtual world. A lot of people are not interested in the spiritual, but the fact is they practice it every day even without realizing it.  We all have a spiritual life something that cannot be touched, and it is not tangible in the everyday sense, but it does exist.  We see glimpses of the spiritual life in everyone we meet.  A smile can tell you that a person is feeling good inside.  When a person has a sad experience, they may shed tears.  Everyone is different but we cannot escape spirituality not even the atheist or the scientist although they may interpret spirituality in a way that I would choose not to. 

We now move into Bavinck’s world, and he is going to explain to us what the objective and subjective causes of the spiritual life are.  I want to begin by looking at his introduction to this topic.  He touches on election, so it is vital to have a proper understanding of the objective causes of the spiritual life:

The first objective cause of the spiritual life is election, which is the fountain of all blessings (Rom. 8:28). The Father gave the elect to the Son from eternity (John 6:37; 17:24). The second objective cause, the meritorious cause, is the obedience of Christ,” “who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10). This is signified and sealed in baptism, the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5) …”

(From Reformed Ethics; Herman Bavinck; Edited by John Bolt; Baker Academic; page 254)

There is also a third objective cause of the spiritual life:

“The third objective cause is the Holy Spirit: “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5; cf. John 3:5: “born of water and the Spirit”). God the Father is also mentioned because the Triune God is the author of all life” (page 254 We will look at this last objective later on.)

 

Let us take a closer look at Romans 8:28:

“28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. Romans 8:28-30”

As Bavinck says, “the first objective cause of the spiritual life is election.”  In this passage he quoted we see Jesus being described as the ‘First Born among many brethren’ and those who were predestined are to be conformed to “the image of His Son.”

We see a pattern in election; Christ first and then we are chosen and have our life in Christ.  Our election started in ‘eternity’ within the economy of God.  No human can see this far into the distance and know God’s mind because the Creator of the universe knows everything.  Compared to God’s creation (universe, universes) we are smaller than the smallest particle.   Bavinck the master theologian gives us some revelation from God’s word.  Herman quotes John 6. 37 but I want to quote the passage it is found in:

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:37-40

From this passage we see Bavinck is correct in saying that God gave the elect to Christ.  Let us look at the next reference:

Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. 25 “O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; 26 and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:24-26

This is amazing stuff.  Our election is in Christ.  As God the Father loved the Son so in Christ God the Father loves us too.  The Son of God was chosen as the representative of God here on earth and we have our election in the Son of God. 

We have then covered the first objective cause of the spiritual life that God the Father gave the elect to the Son.

The second objective cause of the spiritual life is to do with ‘meritorious cause’.  When we see the word merit, it obviously implies some type of ‘work and action’ that could be pleasing to God.  This cannot be our works especially while we were still sinners (trapped because of the Fall).   As Herman Bavinck reminds us this second objective cause could only happen through the second Adam our Lord Jesus Christ as a reminder what we read earlier:

The second objective cause, the meritorious cause, is the obedience of Christ,” “who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10). This is signified and sealed in baptism, the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5) …”

It is the obedience of Christ that abolished death:

but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 2 Timothy 1:10

 

 

 

Our deeds could never save us as it says here our renewing is through the Holy Spirit.

He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, Titus 3:5

The Master theologian then looks at water and how it is used to denote our spiritual washing and renewal by the Holy Spirit.  This is an introduction to his third objective:

“The third objective cause is the Holy Spirit: “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5; cf. John 3:5: “born of water and the Spirit”). God the Father is also mentioned because the Triune God is the author of all life” (From page 254)

Christ is also referred to in Scripture as the life-giving Spirit (1 cor. 15. 45) Within the internal working of the Trinity (economy, perichoresis) The Holy Spirit works in the world at many different levels.  Obviously, he regenerates and makes us new and holy on a daily basis. As well as the spiritual aspects here let us not forget what the Holy Spirit does for all life including the ‘natural man’.  This is an interesting quote from him:

“The Holy Spirit is the author also of all rational, moral life; wisdom, power, courage, bravery, intellect come from him. He is therefore the Spirit of life (Rom. 8:2), the author of all that is spiritual in humanity. It is the distinctive characteristic of the Holy Spirit to influence the human spirit. All spirituality, intellectual competence, inclination, and activity depend on the Holy Spirit, the source of all spirituality.” (From page 255)

Reflection

We have seen three objective causes of the spiritual life that we live.

·        The first objective cause is that God the Father gave the elect (the Church to the Son)

·        The second objective cause is that the meritorious cause, is the ‘obedience of Christ’

·        The holy Spirit saves us not according to our powers but because of God’s own mercy on us by the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit.

We as believers in Christ are truly blessed.  God had a plan to save us from before the foundation of the world.  Great minds have tried to find a solution to the question of election.  There are varieties of theories on election, but I think they all fail somehow.  The most important fact however is that God loves us, and God is love and he created us.  He not only created us (Genesis), but he made a second brand new creation; giving us a new heart that can in Christ bring us into communion with the Divine life of the Trinity.  This is why we were created, to have fellowship with God forever and this is why we will now be allowed to eat of the tree of life amen.

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