Geerhardus Vos (1862-1949): The circle of revelation is not a school, but a ‘covenant’

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“God’s self-revelation to us was not made for a primarily intellectual purpose. It is not to be overlooked, of course, that the truly pious mind may through an intellectual contemplation of the divine perfections glorify God. This would be just as truly religious as the intensest occupation of the will in the service of God. But it would not be the full-orbed religion at which, as a whole, revelation aims. It is true, the Gospel teaches that to know God is life eternal. But the concept of ‘knowledge’ here is not to be understood in its Hellenic sense, but in the Shemitic sense. According to the former, ‘to know’ means to mirror the reality of a thing in one’s consciousness. The Shemitic and Biblical idea is to have the reality of something practically interwoven with the inner experience of life. Hence ‘to know’ can stand in the Biblical idiom for ‘to love’, ‘to single out in love.’ Because God desires to be known after this fashion, He has caused His revelation to take place in the milieu of the historical life of a people. The circle of revelation is not a school, but a ‘covenant’.”

– Geerhardus Vos (1862-1949), Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments, p. 8

Geerhardus Vos (1862-1949) on the results of overemphasizing the love of God above other important truths

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“No one will deny that in the Scriptural disclosure of truth the divine love is set forth as a most fundamental principle, nor that the embodiment of this principle in our human will and action forms a prime ingredient of that subjective religion which the Word of God requires of us.

But it is quite possible to overemphasize this one side of truth and duty as to bring into neglect other exceedingly important principles and demands of Christianity. The result will be that, while no positive error is taught, yet the equilibrium both in consciousness and life is disturbed and a condition created in which the power of resistance to the inroads of spiritual disease is greatly reduced. There can be little doubt that in this manner the one-sidedness and exclusiveness with which the love of God has been preached to the present generation is largely responsible for that universal weakening of the sense of sin, and the consequent decline of interest in the doctrines of atonement and justification, which even in orthodox and evangelical circles we all see and deplore.”

– Geerhardus Vos (1862-1949), The Scriptural Doctrine of the Love of God in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, In: The Shorter Writings of Geerhardus Vos, p. 426

Geerhardus Vos (1862–1949): We find in the resurrection the strongest possible assurance of pardon and peace

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“The resurrection is a public announcement to the world that the penalty of death has been borne by Christ to its bitter end and that in consequence the dominion of guilt has been broken, the curse annihilated forevermore. And all this was true of Christ not in his personal capacity so much but as our representative. We were concerned – you and I and all believers – in this momentous transaction. The principle of our justification was given here as an accomplished fact.

It is just as impossible that anyone for whom Christ rose from the dead should fail to receive the righteousness of God as it is that God should undo the resurrection of Christ itself. Consequently, knowing ourselves one with Christ, we find in the resurrection the strongest possible assurance of pardon and peace. When Christ rose on Easter morning he left behind him in the depths of the grave every one of our sins; there they remain buried from the sight of God so completely that even in the day of judgment they will not be able to rise up against us any more.”

– Geerhardus Vos (1862–1949), “The Joy of Resurrection Life” (Sermon on 1 Cor 15.14), in: Grace and Glory, p.161-162

Geerhardus Vos (1862–1949) on eschatology in the thinking of modern and early Christians

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In his magisterial The Pauline Eschatology, Geerhardus Vos (1862–1949) contrasts how eschatology is treated by modern Christians in their dogmatic formulations, and how it was treated by the first Christians.  For most of us (modern people), eschatology is that last section in our Systematic Theology volumes.  But Vos argues that this is not the only way eschatology has been treated. This passage is taken from p. 42-43:

“We think and theologize out of the present into the future, because our base of existence is in the present.  Whether this is as it ought to be need not be here considered; it certainly is a matter-of-fact state of mind.  To the early Christians a different orientation had been given, and that not merely as a matter of practical religious outlook, but likewise through the teaching of Revelation.  The ultimate things were brought forward in their consciousness, in order that in the light of these they might learn the better to understand the provisional and the preparatory.  For the ultimate is in a very important sense the normative, that to which every preceding stage will have to conform itself to prove the genuineness of its Christian character…. The light of the world to come cast its clarifying and glorifying radiance backward into the present through the medium of teaching and prophecy concerning the future.”

Geerhardus Vos (1862–1949) on Abraham’s faith

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Geerhardus Vos’ (1862–1949) description of the faith of the Old Testament patriarchs – particularly Abraham – is most excellent. I highly recommend the entire section, but I only have selected a few passages. This section can be found in Vos’ Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments, p. 83-87.

“Faith was in Abraham’s life the chief religious act and frame of mind.  His whole life was a school of faith in which the divine training developed this grace from step to step.  Even at the beginning there was a heavy demand on the patriarch’s faith.  He was called upon to leave his own country, kindred, father’s house.”

Abraham’s “faith and a desire for more faith” went hand in hand.  “There entered into it a personal factor, viz., the trustworthiness of God, who made the declaration of the promises.  Religious belief exists not in its last analysis on what we can prove to be so, but on the fact of God having declared it to be so.”  “Faith therefore begins and ends in the trust – rest in God.” 

“For this treasure [Gen 15.1 – the reward – God himself] he could cheerfully renounce all other gifts.”  By faith, “Abraham…renounced all of his own purely human resources.  He expected nothing from himself…he expected everything from the supernatural interposition of God….  This is the reason why the Apostle [Paul] compares Abraham’s faith…to the Christian’s faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  This kind of faith is a faith in the creative interposition of God.  It trusts in Him for calling the things that are not as though they were….  Abraham learned to possess the promses of God, in the promising God alone.  The promises had no chance of becoming materialized through detachment from their centre in God.  They could only be had and enjoyed as a part and potential outflow of the divine heart itself.  For the promises are like an ethereal garment, more precious than the body of the promised thing over which it is thrown.”

“From the earthly, possessed or not-yet-possessed, they [the patriarchs] had learned to look upward to a form of possession of the promise identifying it more closely with God Himself.”