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Bernard of Clairvaux

(3 posts)

Be Transformed

Tuesday··2007·10·02 · 5 Comments
I am not a preacher, but I have occasionally played one when asked to fill in. Of the few times I have done so, there is really only one that I can look back on with any satisfaction that I did right with that responsibility. On that occasion, I chose Romans 12:1–2 for my text. Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Since then, I have always been interested in seeing how real expositors handle that text. I am always gratified to find that I didn’t botch it completely, and in fact agreed almost entirely with those who know far better than I. However, I am also severely humbled to see how much I missed. Luther heaps more shame upon me: Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind (12:2). In this way the Apostle describes (Christian) progress; for he addresses those who already are Christians. The Christian life does not mean to stand still, but to move from that which is good to that which is better. St. Bernard (of Clairvaux) rightly says: “As soon as you do not desire to become better, then you have ceased to be good.” It does not help a tree to have green leaves and flowers if it does not bear fruit besides its flowers. For this reason—(for not bearing fruit)—many (nominal Christians) perish in their flowering. Man (the Christian) is always in the condition of nakedness, always in the state of becoming, always in the state of potentiality, always in the condition of activity. He is always a sinner, but also always repentant and so always righteous. We are in part sinners, and in part righteous. No one is so good as that he could not become better; no one is so evil, as that he could not become worse. This (fact) the Apostle expresses very nicely by saying “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” He adds “By the renewing of your mind” to stress that renewal of the mind, which takes place from day to day and progresses farther and farther, according to the words, II Corinthians 4:16: “The inward man is renewed day by day”; of Colossians 3:10: “Be ye renewed in the spirit of your mind” or “Put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.” —Martin Luther, Luther’s Commentary on Romans, trans. J. Theodore Mueller (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1954), 151–152. What a rich passage this is! Maybe I’ll live long enough to thoroughly appreciate it. I have long said that being a Christian is not a matter of doing, but of being. I think I’ll have to replace being with becoming.

The Bernardine Tradition

Monday··2018·09·24
You may know Bernard of Clairvaux as the author of “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded,” “Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee,” and perhaps a few other hymns. What you might not know is the extent of his influence as a theologian. Steve Lawson writes, Bernard’s theological works closely hold to the truths of sovereign grace in salvation. This is not surprising, as his theology followed a strict Augustinian line. Because of this theological affinity and Bernard’s far-reaching influence, many scholars have contended that the Augustinian tradition, after the middle of the twelfth century, might more accurately be called the Bernardine tradition. For this reason, Bernard’s teaching was deeply appreciated by Luther and Calvin. Luther called Bernard “the greatest doctor of the church.” Calvin quoted Bernard in his Institutes of the Christian Religion more frequently than any previous nonbiblical author except Augustine, citing his works to support the doctrines of the bondage of the will, divine grace, justification by faith, and predestination. So immersed was Calvin in Bernard’s writings that “the French genius of Geneva may well have written his greatest works feeling the presence of the French genius of Clairvaux peering over his shoulder.” The Protestant Reformers merely brought to fruition that which Bernard had set out to accomplish in his own day. —Steven J. Lawson, Pillars of Grace (Reformation Trust, 2011), 325.

Monastic Monergist: Bernard of Clairvaux

Tuesday··2018·09·25
Bernard of Clairvaux on election: As a champion of biblical truth, Bernard argued that because of man’s sin and the subsequent bondage of the will, salvation is entirely of God’s grace. Those who receive the kingdom of God, he said, are those whom God previously foreknew and foreordained for salvation. Bernard says: “He says: Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom (Luke xii 32). Who are these? These are they whom He foreknew and foreordained to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first born among many brethren.” . . . This determinative choice was the beginning of an immutable process by which spiritually dead sinners are brought to eternal life. Bernard writes: “The mystery, hidden from eternity concerning souls that have been predestinated and are to be glorified, begins in some degree to emerge from the depths of eternity, as each soul, called by fear and justified by love, becomes assured that it, too, is of the number of the blessed, knowing well that whom He justified, them also He glorified (Rom. viii 30).” . . . Further, Bernard understood that sovereign election is rooted in the eternal decree of God. He states, “The decree of the Lord stands firm; His purpose of peace stands firm upon those who fear Him.” Elsewhere he adds: “He has made known his great and secret counsel. The Lord knoweth them that are his, but that which was known to God was manifested to men; nor, indeed, does he deign to give a participation in this great mystery to any but those whom he foreknew and predestinated to be his own.” . . . Citing John 15:16, Bernard declares that man is saved by God’s sovereign will: “For you have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you [John 15:16]; not for any merits that I found in you did I choose you, but I went before you. Thus have I betrothed you to Myself in faith, not in the works of the law.” It is through divine election that Christ receives His chosen people to Himself, not by their works. Bernard affirmed this truth in his own experience of grace. He writes, “Therefore my beginning is solely of grace, and I have nothing which I can attribute to myself in predestination or in calling.” . . . Bernard took the apostle Paul’s teaching in Romans 9:16 at face value, accepting that salvation flows from the mercy of God, not from anything man can do: “We believe that it pleases the reader that we nowhere depart from the teaching of the Apostle; and wherever the argument may have wandered, we have often made use of his very words. For what else do we mean than what he says: ‘It is therefore neither of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy’?” —Steven J. Lawson, Pillars of Grace (Reformation Trust, 2011), 328–329.

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