30. Renovation


The life of the regenerated Christian must grow and develop. It is not sufficient that a man has been born into the spiritual world, thereby coming into possession of spiritual life, but as a child of God he must grow and develop under the fostering care of the Spirit. Man begins his walk in the newness of life, clothed in the righteousness of Christ, with the power of sin broken in principle, but with the old Adam still alive. Through the act of regeneration the Christian has received new powers by which he willingly co-operates in the continued work of redemption through the grace of the Spirit. The development of Christian liberty is always conditioned by grace. This grace is called gratia cooperans, and although the Christian co- operates in the work of renovation, still he does not do so through his own natural powers, but through the powers granted by the Spirit, and in a direct sense grace always remains the principle of renovation and sanctification.

Renovation and sanctification have been considered in both a broad and a more restricted sense. Sanctification can be considered as a part of renovation. By sanctification some understand all the works of grace, and then it is called sanctificatio late dicta. Sanctificatio stricte dicta is equivalent to renovatio negativa, and strictissime dicta is equivalent to the positive side of renovatio.

While regeneratio is a momentary act, renovatio, on the other hand, is a progressive process, which continues through life. The Christian experiences anew the gracious acts of the Spirit, in general, not with the same limitations as during the period of conversion, but in a more intimate way with the acts of grace interlocking and overlapping.


RENOVATION is that act of grace by which the Holy Spirit through the means of grace with the co-operation of the regenerated person more and more overcomes the power of sin and restores the image of God, so that the old man is put off and the new man is put on. Renovation consists of two acts, one the negative, and the other the positive.

Renovatio negativa or sanctificatio stricte dicta is that part of the grace of renovation by which the power of sin is ever increasingly overcome and the old Adam is put off or dies, although slowly.

Renovatio positiva or sanctificatio strictissime dicta is therefore the gracious act of the Spirit through which He renews in man the image of God, while man co-operates with the powers granted in regeneration. Renovation is therefore considered both from the transitive and intransitive point of view.

Causa efficiens principalis is the Triune God, but terminative the Holy Spirit. Compare 1 Thess. 5: 23; Rom. 15: 16; Gal. 5: 22; Titus 3: 5. The regenerated person is considered causa efficiens in a secondary sense. Compare Phil. 2: 12, 13. Terminus a quo is the old Adam and unconquered sins. Subjectum quo is in a primary sense the spiritual nature of man, which sin has permeated and corrupted as to the intellect, will and emotions. In a secondary sense the membra corporis are also included. The media or means that are to be used are the means of grace, although the means employed in ascetic morality may at times prove useful as formal auxiliaries.

Among Scripture passages that present the negative and positive sides of renovation the following may be quoted: “Though our outward man is decaying, yet our. inward man is renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4: 16); “Our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away, that we should no longer be in bondage to sin” (Rom, 6:6); “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 13: 14; cf. 4: 22–24; Col. 3: 9, 10).


Inasmuch as renovation is progressive and therefore continually developing, it must have degrees. The above-cited passage from 2 Cor. 4: 16 as well as other passages indicate this. Sometimes a backsliding will take place on account of the weakness of man, but the normal state is one of progress. In this matter the emotions are not always a reliable gauge, and man himself is seldom able to measure the progress of his spiritual development. Under normal conditions the Christian passes through the various spiritual ages such as the age of spiritual childhood, youth, and manhood. Compare 1 Cor. 3: 1; 1 John 2: 12–14; Heb. 6: 1; 1 Cor. 16: 13. But although terminus ad quem is the new man, yet renovation never becomes complete in this life, which doctrine we stress against Methodists and others, who assert that man can become perfectly sinless on earth. Compare Rom. 7: 19–22; Gal. 5: 17; Phil. 3: 12–16; Heb. 12: 1; 1 John 1: 8–10; 3: 2.


Renovatio is demonstrated in good works. They are called good works, not because they are perfect in themselves, but because they proceed from faith. Only the regenerated are therefore capable of doing good works. By good works are meant not only external deeds, but also the emotions of the heart and the decisions of the will. HOLLAZIUS defines bona opera as follows: “BONA OPERA are the free acts of justified persons which stand forth as good in the light of the preceding true faith in Christ and are performed through the renewing grace of the Holy Spirit, according to the prescription of the divine Law, to the honor of God and the edification of man.” 

The Lutheran Church has never underestimated the significance of good works, and her doctrine of justification does not conflict with the Biblical doctrine of good works. But by reason of the teachings of the Catholic Church concerning good works and her false doctrine of justification it became necessary for the Protestant Church to emphasize the doctrine of justification by faith alone, without thereby denying the necessity of good works as the fruits of faith. The Catholics have intermingled good works in justification and have falsely conceived both justification and sanctification. The Church of the Middle Ages taught that the works that proceed from gratia habitualis merit everlasting life. The consilia evangelica were placed above the fulfilment of praecepta, such as abstention from the pleasures of the world, voluntary poverty, chastity and obedience. The Council of Trent decided that the justified man is able to fulfill the commandments of God, and the meeting condemned those that deny this. In the confutation of the Augsburg Confession the Catholic Church states that the doctrine of sola fide conflicts absolutely with the Word of God, while the doctrine of good works is emphasized. The Apology presents clearly the relation between faith and good works. Major, Menius and Amsdorf especially gave rise to an investigation of the relationship between justification and good works. These theologians expressed themselves in a way that could be misunderstood. MAJOR and MENIUS expressed themselves as follows: Good deeds are necessary to salvation. No one can be saved without good works. Good works are necessary in order to retain salvation or are necessary in order not to lose salvation. AMSDORF, on the contrary, stated that good works are injurious for salvation. The Formula of Concord sets forth the following points among others: That it is the will of God that the believers perform good works; that good works are not performed through the natural powers of man; that good works are well-pleasing to God for Christ’s sake through faith; that good works are to be performed not by constraint (coactio), but by the free spirit, which freedom is not arbitrary. Such modes of expression as those used by Major and Menius ought to be avoided, since they may be misunderstood, while they conflict with particulae exclusivae. The Epicurean doctrine that faith, justification and salvation could not be lost through intentional sins was also rejected. But if salvation could be lost through intentional sins, still it could not be kept through good works. Faith is indeed the only organ for the reception of justification and salvation both in regard to the beginning, middle and end. The expressions of Amsdorf were also criticized. Good works are injurious only when intermingled in justification so as to constitute the foundation for self-confidence. But when performed with the proper intention and for a proper end they are the characteristic marks of the Christian and are well-pleasing to God, who shall reward them both in this life and in that which is to come.

Affectiones operum bononim are therefore: 1) spontefiunt, or that they take place voluntarily; 2) necessaria, or that they are necessary as the fruits of faith; 3) imperfecta, inasmuch as they are imperfect.

Bona opera are divided into interna and externa. With regard to their so-called forma the old Dogmaticians say that when they are considered in the absolute sense, then forma is conformitas cum lege, but when considered in the relative sense, on the ground of the special favor of God, then forma is fides in Christum, since the works do not completely conform to the demands of the Law, but nevertheless are well-pleasing to God on account of faith which apprehends Christ.

There are different degrees of good works and all are not of the same quality. Bona opera have therefore been divided into different grades, as follows: 1) interior obedientia cordis, such as good intentions, the inclination of the will and the pure motives of the heart. To this class belong the invisible works of sanctification which God alone sees; 2) opera moralia tabulae primae, to which belong worship in an internal and external sense and therefore also love to God; 3) opera moralia tabulae secundae, to which belongs love to our neighbor, which manifests itself in a variety of ways. In every case God sees all of these deeds and in many cases they are seen and observed by our neighbors also.

The quality of the bona opera is set forth in the Scriptures in figures of speech, such as gold, silver, precious stones, etc. Compare 1 Cor. 3: 12–15; 2 Tim. 2: 19–21. Although the first passage on account of the context must be applied in a primary sense to the teachers of the Word as to how they build on the foundation, still there are lessons to be drawn in the interest of sanctification for Christians in general. All Christians build on the same foundation, but they do not all build alike. The works of some are like gold, silver and costly stones, while the works of others are like wood, hay and stubble. The quality of sanctification, therefore, is of great importance before God. and this not only for time, but also for eternity. This phase of the matter is clearly presented in vv. 14 and 15. There are, besides, so-called Christians who bear no fruit, an evidence of the fact that they have become withered branches. This condition denotes that they have lost their salvation. They withered because they did not abide in Christ. Compare John 15: 2–6. But true Christians desire to bear fruit and to build in such a fashion on the true foundation that their works shall stand the test of the fiery trial. This does not always mean that they shall stand the test in their own estimation or in the estimation of others, but God judges a righteous judgment. The deep-seated desire of all true Christians is to follow after sanctification, without which no man shall see the Lord. Cf . Heb. 12: 14.


Finis proximus is the same as the term terminus ad quem, i. e., the new man. Renovation has its beginning, its continuance and its completion. The Holy Spirit is continually occupied with the gracious work of restoring man to the likeness of God, i. e., to the divine image in which he was originally created. If man had remained in the original state of integrity, he would have developed more and more until he had become prepared for entrance into the world of glory. In accordance with the divine plan of salvation the same work is now accomplished in another way. This work, however, is hid from the eyes of the world, and in certain cases also from the Christians themselves, since our life is hid with Christ in God. Compare Col. 3: 1–10. The Christians, nevertheless, experience the activity of the Spirit of the Lord. If they remain faithful, the new man will in due season become complete. But renovation has also a final goal, finis ultimus, which is life eternal and the glory of God. This object possesses great significance, inasmuch as the glory belongs to God and He is glorified through the salvation of man.