Berkouwer on Social Concern and Sanctification
Berkouwer approaches social concern from a Biblical and Reformed perspective. In Ephesians 2:8-10, the emphases ‘by grace’ and ‘through faith’ lead directly on to the emphasis ‘for good works’. Berkouwer underscores this connection between ‘Sola Fide and Sanctification’ (Chapter II, pp. 17-44). He emphasizes that the true nature of good works cannot be understood apart from Christ who is our ’sanctification’ (1 Corinthians 1:30) (p. 21). Sanctification is not ‘the humanly operated successor to the divinely worked justification (p. 78). ‘Genuine sanctification’ has a ‘continued orientation toward justification’ (p. 78). Berkouwer emphasizes the ‘by grace … through faith’ context in which the ‘for good works’ character of sanctification expresses itself. He draws attention to the nature of the Spirit’s work in sanctification: ‘The Spirit alone could perform the miracle of making man walk on the road of sanctity without a sense of his own worth’ (p. 78). The life of sanctification has a gracious character which Berkouwer observes in the parable of the unprofitable servants (p. 41) and a social context which he sees in the parable of the good Samaritan (A Half Century of Theology, p. 191). A Reformed theology, grounded in the ‘Scripture alone’ principle, seeks to rightly represent the purpose of Scripture – ‘to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus … that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:15, 17). Berkouwer, in his discussion entitled ‘The Imitation of Christ’ (Chapter VII, pp. 135-160), emphasizes both the gracious character and the social context of the Biblical teaching concerning sanctification.