Spiritual gems from Grace and Glory (Geerhardus Vos)

Stephen L Smith

Moderator
Staff member
Banner of Truth did a reprint of one of their classic books this past year - Grace and Glory by Geerhardus Vos. This books consists of 16 of his sermons. Six of them were preached at Princeton in 1922. Another nine were preached at Princeton between 1896 and 1913. It also includes an exposition of Eph 2:4-5 translated from the Dutch.

Over the next few weeks I hope to highlight some spiritual gems from each of the sermons. Vos is widely regarded as on of the greatest Reformed theologians and exegetes of the church. Although the sermons are rich with profound theology, there is much wise and practical application in each sermon.

Sinclair Ferguson gives an excellent introduction to Vos' sermons. Here are some choice quotes:
It is the nature of the sermons themselves which will have a stunning effect on the reader. For they combine such constantly penetrating depths of biblical and theological understanding with such soaring heights of eloquence that it is difficult to imagine their like being heard in any pulpit in the world today. They are at one and the same time intensely demanding on the reader and glorious in their exposition of Scripture. These pages contain a thesaurus of theological riches, a gold mine whose every vein is packed with gleaming insight. Such is the character of these sermons that, to a world which is obsessed with ‘sound-bites’ and in a church which has become unused to concentrated thought, their content and style may seem almost overwhelming…In these pages the reader is invited, almost commanded and certainly demanded, to become a spiritual mountaineer. There are times when many will be left gasping for the higher oxygen levels of the lower slopes. But Vos was aiming for the summit, and those who follow him there will find panoramic views of the wonders of God and his ways which will make the ascent immensely rewarding.

Here, then, is material calculated to enrich the mind, heart, will and emotions; grace and glory indeed."

Here is a discussion of the book by the Reformed Forum Vos Group Excursus — Grace and Glory: Sermons of Geerhardus Vos – Reformed Forum
The Reformed Forum reads the original 1922 sermons: Sermons 1-2 Theology Simply Profound – Page 4 – Reformed Forum
Sermons 3-6 Theology Simply Profound – Page 3 – Reformed Forum
 

Stephen L Smith

Moderator
Staff member
Sermon 1: The Wonderful Tree

O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols?
It is I who answer and look after you.
I am like an evergreen cypress;
from me comes your fruit.
Hosea 14:8 [ESV]

It is believed Vos' sermon was written between 1896-1902 although it was published with his 1922 sermons. Vos was working on Hosea during this time. It reflects his earlier thought on redemptive history.

The essence of this sermon is that the fruition of the covenant is God Himself. It is through God Himself that the image bearer finds ultimate delight, satisfaction, and everlasting life. God is the One true God. He is the One people should fix their hope on. He is the God of the covenant.

In this passage in Hosea we find something of the organic unfolding of scripture. Hosea is a message which is complete in itself. Yet it is part of a larger prophetic message, part of the Old Covenant, yet the message extends to the New Covenant.

Throughout this sermon Christ is mentioned implicitly not explicitly. Through the work of Christ we get to God. Jesus is the servant of the covenant, Lord of the covenant.

In Hosea 14:8 we get the heart-miracle of true religion. God the all-sufficient One, forever rich and blessed in Himself appears, putting Himself at the service of man. God's resources are infinite thus people can freely receive riches from Him. Religion in its true concept is a supreme feast and sabbath of the soul.

Sin mars this relationship with God. Sin brings with it sorrow. Sadly it invades true religion itself. Yet it is equally true that there is no religious joy like the joy engendered by religion. God is the One given to us to enjoy. The almighty all-powerful and perfect God enters into relationship with us. One senses here the sense of the WLC Q1 "What is the chief and highest end of man? Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him for ever."

The redemptive self-communication from God is what the prophet had in mind. The expression of God's love, benevolence, and free self-communication is heightened and enriched in redemption. This path takes one directly to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christ Himself becomes the embodiment of the tree of life.

In God there is fullness of life. There is also great fullness of joy as one comes to comprehend the inexhaustible fullness of the Triune God who is the light and life of the creature.

The prophet contrasts the inexhaustible fullness of God to the futility of idols. Qualities of life, fruitfulness and miraculous provision are utterly absent from the pagan deity. The dead stump strikingly symbolises the barrenness and hopelessness of nature worship. Pagans look to barren nature worship because they have no faith in the perpetual miracle of the fruit-bearing fir tree of redemption.

But God is the evergreen fruit bearing tree who is Himself life.

You can find this read sermon on the Reformed Forum.
You can find an informative discussion of this sermon also on the Reformed Forum. I am greatly indebted to this.
 

George Bailey

Puritan Board Freshman
I have been studying Vos for a few months now, and the Reformed Forum is an excellent resource! Vos' writings, including his sermons, have totally transformed my inner thought life. "Hungering and Thirsting after righteousness" is groundbreaking and transformative to me.
 

JimmyH

Puritan Board Senior
I read Rabboni last night. The sermon Sinclair Ferguson in his forward said impressed young John Murray so much. I too was impressed. His pointing out the grief the disciples felt not yet realizing the significance of the empty tomb was instructive. The only parallel I could draw in my own experience was the assassination of JFK, and 9-11.
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
Rabboni is an all time favorite of mine, and the hungering and thirsting sermon is indeed transformative. The Sunday before last I read his new-to-me sermon on the resurrection. After instruction, the connection between the resurrection and justification seems obvious, but it had not been impressed upon me previously.
 

Stephen L Smith

Moderator
Staff member
Sermon 2: Hungering and Thirsting after Righteousness

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Matthew 5:6 [ESV]

Vos starts his comments by discussing the importance of the Sermon on the Mount in the scriptures as a whole and the ethical standard they set. However when it comes to ethics, Vos has a timely warning. The Sermon on the Mount must not be read as simply a moral standard devoid of theology and the gospel. Vos was well aware of 20th century Liberal Theology. He agreed with Machen that Liberal Theology was not Christianity. It was another religion. We must reject ethical theology.

Natural man loves ethical theology. It flatters him; it means he can take for granted that he needs nothing more than the high moral standard of the Sermon on the Mount. He thinks that our Lord does him the honour of thinking him capable of realising it by his natural goodness. The natural man dislikes the story of the helplessness of man, and mans utter condemnation in the sight of God, and the necessity of the cross.

Yet the Beatitudes, consistent with the rest of scripture, presupposes saving faith, calling and pardon, and repentance. We are not received by Jesus into a school of ethics, but into a kingdom of redemption. This is something Liberal Theology does not understand. Therefore the rich and full emphasis of the Beatitudes is on the absolute dependance of man upon divine grace. The poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the hungary - all this is founded upon divine grace. We do not have the religion of Liberal Theology here. We have the true religion of salvation through the grace of God in Christ.

Now, righteousness does imply moral conduct. In Biblical usage righteousness is linked to sin and the need of a Saviour. One needs to walk before the Lord and be blameless. The word needs to be placed in the light of the divine nature, the divine will, and the divine judgment. To turn righteousness into a mere moral code or an ethical religion is in Isaiah's words "these people honour Me with their lips but their heart is far from Me". Our Lord is absolute in His demands. We are to give Him our heart, mind, soul, and strength. The issue is the heart. It is God's inalienable right, as God, to impress His character on us to make and keep us reflectors of His glory.

In a state of sin man is utterly incapable of perfectly obeying God. He forgets the eternal seriousness and solemnity of true righteousness. On the contrary our Lord says"you shall be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect". Given the absolute holiness of God, can we say God must overlook little blemishes, minor sins, and half-hearted efforts? Or shall we confess with the speaker in Job that "the heavens are not clean in His sight"?

One of the chief glories of the work of redemption is that it produces in the heart and mind of the sinner such a profound understanding of the holy character of God. Nothing will so lay bare the foundations of our relationship to Him as the experience of salvation. True hungering and thirsting of righteousness lies in the conviction of sin. In fact true repentance must be distinguished from every kind of superficial regret for the secondary consequences of sin. True repentance gets to the heart of the issue. It resembles an inner chamber where no one and nothing else is admitted except God, the sinner and his sin. In the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 51 "against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You may be justified in Your words and blameless in Your judgment."

The hungering and thirsting after righteousness also include a desire to exhibit the righteousness of discipleship in a sanctified life. This Christian pursuit of holiness is centred in God. The true disciple does not seek to be made better for his glory but in the interest of and for the glory of God.

The text says that those who hunger and thirst after righteousness shall be satisfied. The love of God has found them and the breath of the Spirit has blown upon them, quickening them into newness of life. A satisfying righteousness must be provided for the people of God. And it must be provided outside of us.

Through sanctification God's holy character is impressed on our souls, so that notwithstanding our imperfections, God takes a true delight in us, seeing that the inner man is changed from day to day after the likeness of Christ. In a coming day the Lord will present His people to God perfect in body, soul, and spirit. Then we will behold God's face in righteousness, and awaken and be satisfied with His likeness.

You can find this read sermon on the Reformed Forum
 
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Stephen L Smith

Moderator
Staff member
Sermon 3: Seeking and Saving the Lost

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost
Luke 19:10 [ESV]

Our Lord's encounter with Zacchaeus is a commentary on our Saviour's ministry in the largest sense. This is sacred redemptive history. This encounter with Zacchaeus was not by chance. It was an encounter with eternal significance.

This event occurred during Jesus last journey to Jerusalem shortly before the great passover. The cross itself drew near.

Our Lord had a specific duty to perform. He said "Today I want to abide at your house." His times, His ways and works were not His own but the Father's who had sent Him. Our Lord's great mission was one great devotion to the work of God. Our Lord echoes Paul's words "Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel". In short, our Lord came to seek and save the lost.

We must reflect on the unspeakable grace of our Lord, who being rich as God alone can be rich, yet for our sake became poor as sinful man only can be poor. God condescended. What language will express this meaning in the case of the infinite God? The Son of Man stooped down to redeem sinful man. Seeking and saving are acts in which God puts forward His omniscience and omnipotence as the searcher of hearts. The Son of Man brings to His task all the qualifications which its character as a strictly divine work requires. Our Lord proved His power when he said to the paralytic "take up your bed and walk". Mark 2:9. By His miracles proves His claim that he can say to a guilty soul "your sins are forgiven".

Our Lord clearly sought Zacchaeus out. Thanks be to God He is a Saviour who seeks the lost. Our Lord draws our interest to Himself by the sweet constraint of His grace, till we are face to face with Him and our soul is saved. It is through grace that our Lord says "I must lodge at your house" Luke 19:5. Note the divine omniscience here manifested. We also witness the Lord's sovereign and almighty power. Zacchaeus knows the voice of the Shepherd. He makes haste to come down and receives the Saviour with joy. He was brought into the Shepherd's fold by sovereign effectual calling. This is a supernatural work. The spiritually dead sinner cannot be roused by human means. Let us rejoice that it is a supernatural work of God.

Our Lord came to seek and to save that which was lost. This means man is lost in his relationship to God. The sinner is deprived of all the attractions of fellowship, trust, obedience, and blessedness. The sinner has also lost the rhythm of his own spiritual life. He is full of discords and inner conflicts. Law clashes with law. The very moment the prodigal leaves his father's house he carries this fatal disorder with him. When a sinner recognises his desperate condition he 'comes to himself' by bitter repentance. Our Lord's seeking undoes the being lost.

To be lost also has the terrible sense of being ruined, given up to destruction. Our Lord gives something of the horrors of sinful lostness in the High Priestly prayer in John 17 - "none of them is lost except the son of perdition". Therefore for our Lord there is the solemn occupation of rescuing the lost from the judgment.

There is no class distinction in the words "that which was lost". The renewed heart prays for the ingathering of many. We desire to see the salvation of many. All our religious endeavor ought to carry the image and superscription of Christ's. We likewise seek and save for God. We also have the solemn task of bringing Christ to men and men to Christ. This is a difficult and delicate task. Pray that salvation will do its perfect work in the lives of sinners.

You can find this sermon read on the Reformed Forum
 

Stephen L Smith

Moderator
Staff member
Sermon 4: Rabboni

Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).
John 20:16 [ESV]

Mary came to the tomb, found no body there. She stood outside weeping. Mary's attitude to Jesus, more than perhaps any other disciple seemed to be characterised by that simple obedience which was evidence of an ever present need. It was an act of faith and love that drove her commitment. She knew that Jesus was her Saviour. She had an intimate bond with her Saviour. Clearly there was an element of unbelief with her sorrow. But who can blame her? She had been cut off her Lord for three days. Mary needs the person to person fellowship that only Jesus can give.

All humans need to trustingly look at sorrow in the face, scan its features, and search for help and hope. It is to be found in Christ. In our sorrows remember that the Lord has been there before us.

In her sorrow Mary missed something important. Angels were there to testify to our Lord's resurrection. Mary said "they have taken away my Lord" v13. To Mary the Lord was her Lord, her Saviour, the One who sought, saved, and owned her in her sins. We can be confident that, how dim our conscious faith, on the Lord's side the foundation of grace is never closed.

The first appearance of our risen Lord was given to Mary for no other reason than she needed Him first and needed Him most. We seen in this our Lord's tender sympathy. We can be thankful for the grace of Christ for the transition period - between resurrection and departure for heaven - a period to help the feebleness of our faith in the act of apprehending His glory.

Mary calls the Lord 'Rabboni'. The Lord had opened her eyes. This was the One who changes darkness to light and joy to sorrow. Jesus was there. That made all the difference.

Vos argues there is a rich covenantal relationship there. 'To be a Christian is to stand in conscious reciprocal fellowship with God, to be identified with Him in thought, purpose, and work, to receive from Him and to give back to Him in the ceaseless interplay of spiritual forces'. Thus Jesus is giving Mary deepest religious reality of the covenant because He gives Himself to her and she knows Him just as He knows her by name.

Jesus tells Mary not to cling to her v17. Our Lord must ascend to the Father and send His Spirit. An embrace would be broken by death. The true embrace would be when Christ ascends on high. The ascended Messiah would intercede for Mary. This is far better than a sub-eschatological embrace!

Vos' conclusion is fitting. 'Let us not linger at the tomb but turn our faces and stretch our hands upwards into heaven, where our life is hid with God, and where He shall come again to reveal Himself. We will meet our Saviour in the early dawn, that eternal Sabbath that awaits the people of God'.

Reformed Forum reads Vos' sermon here
Reformed Forum discusses Vos' sermon here [I am indebted to this discussion for some key insights]
 
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