Louis Berkhof (1873–1957) on the purpose of special revelation


“In speaking of the purpose of revelation we may distinguish between its final end and its proximate aim. The final end can only be found in God. God reveals Himself, in order to rejoice in the manifestation of His virtues, especially as these shine forth in the work of redemption and in redeemed humanity. The proximate aim of revelation, however, is found in the complete renewal of sinners, in order that they may mirror the virtues and perfections of God. If we bear in mind that revelation aims at the renewal of the entire man, we shall realize that it cannot seek the realization of its aim merely by teaching man and enlightening the understanding (Rationalism), or by prompting man to lead a virtuous life (Moralism), or by awakening the religious emotions of man (Mysticism). The purpose of revelation is far more comprehensive than any one of these, and even more inclusive than all of them taken together. It seeks to deliver from the power of sin, of the devil, and of death, the entire man, body and soul, with all his talents and powers, and to renew him spiritually, morally, and ultimately also physically, to the glory of God; and not only the individual man, but mankind as an organic whole; and mankind not apart from the rest of creation, but in connection with the whole creation, of which it forms an organic part. This purpose also determines the limits of special revelation. The historical process of revelation may be said to reach its end in a measure in Christ. Yet it does not end with the ascension of Christ. This is followed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the special operation of gifts and powers under the guidance of the apostolate. Such a continued revelation was necessary, in order to ensure special revelation a permanent place in the midst of the world, and that not only in Scripture, but also in the life of the Church. But after the revelation in Christ, appropriated and made effective in the Church, has thus been introduced into the world, a new dispensation begins. Then special revelation ceases and no new constitutive elements are added. The work of Christ in furnishing the world with an objective revelation of God is finished. But the redemption wrought by Christ must still be applied, and this requires a constant operation of the Holy Spirit, always in connection with the objective revelation, for the renewal of man in his being and consciousness. By the Spirit of Christ man is led to accept the truth revealed in Scripture, and becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus, making God’s revelation the rule of his life, and thus aiming at the glorification of God.”

– Louis Berkhof (1873–1957), Systematic Theology, p. 137-138

Louis Berkhof (1873–1957) on the grace of God


“The grace of God. The significant word “grace” is a translation of the Hebrew ‘chanan’ and of the Greek ‘charis’. According to Scripture it is manifested not only by God, but also by men, and then denotes the favor which one man shows another, Gen. 33:8,10,18; 39:4; 47:25 ; Ruth 2:2 ; I Sam. 1:18; 16:22. In such cases it is not necessarily implied that the favor is undeserved. In general it can be said, however, that grace is the free bestowal of kindness on one who has no claim to it. This is particularly the case where the grace referred to is the grace of God. His love to man is always unmerited, and when shown to sinners, is even forfeited. The Bible generally uses the word to denote the unmerited goodness or love of God to those who have forfeited it, and are by nature under a sentence of condemnation. The grace of God is the source of all spiritual blessings that are bestowed upon sinners. As such we read of it in Eph. 1:6,7; 2:7-9; Tit. 2:11 ; 3:4-7.While the Bible often speaks of the grace of God as saving grace, it also makes mention of it in a broader sense, as in Isa. 26:10; Jer. 16:13. The grace of God is of the greatest practical significance for sinful men. It was by grace that the way of redemption was opened for them, Rom. 3:24; II Cor. 8:9, and that the message of redemption went out into the world, Acts 14:3. By grace sinners receive the gift of God in Jesus Christ, Acts 18:27; Eph. 2:8. By grace they are justified, Rom. 3:24; 4:16; Tit. 3:7, they are enriched with spiritual blessings, John 1:16; II Cor. 8:9; II Thess;. 2:16, and they finally inherit salvation, Eph. 2:8; Tit. 2:11. Seeing they have absolutely no merits of their own, they are altogether dependent on the grace of God in Christ. In modern theology, with its belief in the inherent goodness of man and his ability to help himself, the doctrine of salvation by grace has practically become a ‘lost chord,’ and even the word ‘grace’ was emptied of all spiritual meaning and vanished from religious discourses. It was retained only in the sense of ‘graciousness,’ something that is quite external. Happily, there are some evidences of a renewed emphasis on sin, and of a newly awakened consciousness of the need of divine grace.”

– Louis Berkhof  (1873–1957), Systematic Theology, p. 71-72

Louis Berkhof (1873–1957) on one of the great mistakes of Pietism


In a day when “Christian empiricism” and “emotionalism” is prevalent and the subjective is often preferred to the objective, these words of Louis Berkhof (1873–1957) are rather helpful:

“It was one of the great mistakes of the Pietism of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that, in seeking the assurance of faith, or of salvation, it divorced itself too much from the Word of God.  The basis of assurance was sought, not in the objective promises of the gospel, but in the subjective experiences of believers.  The knowledge of the experiences that were made the touch-stone of faith, was not gathered from the Word of God, but was obtained by an inductive study of the subjective states and affections of believers.”

“In many cases these were not even put to the test of Scripture, so that the true was not always distinguished from the counterfeit.  Moreover, there were unwarranted generalizations.  Individual experiences and experiences of a very dubious character were often made normative, were set forth as the necessary marks of true faith.  The result was that they who were concerned about the welfare of their soul turned attention to themselves rather than to the Word of God, and spent their life in morbid introspection.”

“It is no wonder this method did not promote the assurance of faith that fills the heart with heavenly joy, but rather engendered doubt and uncertainty and caused the soul to grope about in a labyrinth of anxious questionings, without and Ariadne-thread to lead it out.  This method of seeking assurance by looking within rather than by looking without, to Jesus Christ as he is presented in Scripture, and by making the experiences of others, especially of those who are regarded as ‘oaks of righteousness’ normative, has not yet been abandoned entirely in our circles.  Yet it [this method] is a most disappointing one.”

“If we would have the assurance of faith, the first great requisite is that we make a diligent study of the Bible, and more particularly of the glorious promises of forgiveness and salvation.  After all it is only in the Word of God and in the living Christ, as he is mirrored in the Word, that we find the objective basis for the assurance of grace and perseverance to the end.  The free promises of God are the foundation of our faith, and it is only on the strength of these that we place our trust in Christ as our Savor.  These promises are absolutely reliable and have their confirmation in Christ (2 Cor. 1:20).  These promises are not only sure, but also unconditional, i.e. they are not conditioned by any work of man.”

– Louis Berkhof (1873–1957), Assurance of Faith

If you don’t have all the feelings, emotions, and spiritual experiences of other Christians, don’t despair.  Feelings, emotions, and spiritual experiences didn’t die on the cross for us; they cannot save us – Jesus did, he can and does.  If you truly trust in him you are saved, even if you don’t always feel it.  In other words, solid assurance has to do with an empty tomb, not an emotional fervor.