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Tag: Holiness

The Gospel-Centeredness of John Calvin – The Gospel as the Foundation Unto Progressing in Holiness

Excerpted from the Institutes of the Christian  Religion, Book III, Chapter XV, Section 5, Christ as the Sole Foundation, As Beginner and Perfecter.

The below section from Calvin’s Institutes is an excellent summary of the foundation of Gospel-centered sanctification (progressing and maturing in holiness). Any other application of teaching apart from this foundation is basing our progression in the faith, at some level, upon our own working and toiling to “be good” (which is an oxymoron in light of Scripture), as opposed to submitting ourselves to His sovereign working in us of what is already true of us by the declaration of our justification before God’s throne. Living in light of what is already true of us in Christ is itself the motivation unto holiness. As Albert Mohler pointed out in his talk from the Together for the Gospel conference in 2010, “The Reformation was all about the recovery of The Gospel; the means of reforming the church was The Gospel.” This excerpt from Calvin is a perfect summary of what this means.

Only by a constant orientation to the Gospel, in particular that Christ is our righteousness (having none of our own with which to offer God in exchange for the eternal life of our souls), are we going to progress in holiness. Any other teaching is using law as a means unto progression in holiness which results in burnout, deadness, legalism, and oddly enough, legalism itself actually winds up resulting in the worst forms of license. The law was given by God to expose how far we fall short, not an instrument to motivate us unto holiness. It is an instrument whose design is to bring us low, to bring us into humility before God, so that we see how great the love of Christ is in the Gospel, that He Himself fulfilled the law in our place, died our death in our place, and rose again to seal, give life, and confirm all He has accomplished in our place. He is righteousness. Calvin shows us just how great this Gospel is and how it is the only true motivator unto holiness.

“…Christ, when we acknowledge Him, is given us to be our righteousness [1 Cor. 1:30]. He alone is well founded in Christ who has perfect righteousness in himself: since the apostle [Paul] does not say that He was sent to help us attain righteousness but Himself to be our righteousness [1 Cor. 1:30]. Indeed, he states that “He has chosen us in Him” from eternity “before the foundation of the world,” through no merit of our own “but according to the purpose of divine good pleasure” [Eph. 1:4-5, cf. Vg.]; that by His death we are redeemed from condemnation of death and freed from ruin [cf. Col. 1:14, 20]; that we have been adopted unto Him as sons and heirs by our Heavenly Father [cf. Rom. 8:17; Gal. 4:5-7]; that we have been reconciled through His blood [Rom. 5:9-10]; that, given into His protection, we are released from the danger of perishing and falling [John 10:28]; that thus ingrafted into Him [cf. Rom. 11:19] we are already, in a manner, partakers of eternal life, having entered in the Kingdom of God through hope. Yet more: we experience such participation in Him that, although we are still foolish in ourselves, He is our wisdom before God; while we are sinners, He is our righteousness; while we are unclean, He is our purity; while we are weak, while we are unarmed and exposed to Satan, yet ours is that power which has been given Him in heaven and on earth [Matt. 28:18], by which to crush Satan for us and shatter the gates of hell; while we still bear about with us the body of death, He is yet our life. In brief, because all His things are ours and we have all things in Him, in us there is nothing. Upon this foundation, I say, we must be built if we would grow into a holy temple to the Lord [cf. Eph. 2:21].”

The Holiness of God

Having come to the close of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament) in my Scripture reading, the holiness of God has been made clear. I don’t see how you could miss it. When postmoderns in our day reject the “nonsense” of the laws and sacrifices contained within these five books, I can’t help but think that their underlying rejection is the holiness of God Himself who set these out as definitively appropriate. What we call absurd laws and statutes in our intellectually “sophisticated” society, God plainly and clearly set forth as right and true. If we reject and rebel against what He instituted, is it not Him we are rejecting ultimately, the Giver of those laws and statutes?

As I have been reading these passages this time, I have been struck by God’s absolute otherness, separateness from us. Surely He has condescended and made Himself known to us in Christ. But this in no way negates His transcendence. These five books make this abundantly clear. In order for God to be favorable toward us, a sacrifice had to take place over and over again that covered or took the place of us in punishment, pointing to the final sacrifice of Christ upon the cross for our sins who bore our punishment once and for all. When we anthropomorphize God and make Him like us (apart from how He has revealed Himself and condescened to us in Christ), we do a great disservice to the clear proclamation of His holiness in Scripture.

It is this very holiness which caused many of those holy saints in the Old Testament to fall on their faces in terror at His presence. And to think how glibly we approach Him in our worship many times. The God of the New Testament is the God of the Old Testament. We must always keep that in mind when we read through any passage of the time during and after Christ’s life, death and resurrection.

Ezekiel 1 – A Reverential Fear of God

Ezekial 1

This chapter is such an incredible, fearful image of the throne of God. I cannot help but be stunned to think of what this vision must have been like. How frightening! For those of us who have believed in Christ, this is the great and glorious God we serve. He should be feared, but with a reverential fear, not a fear that causes us to shrink back. And the only reason we don’t shrink back from this all-consuming fire of glory is because of the blood of Christ. In Christ, the Son of God, we are totally accepted by God the Father, by faith in Christ.

While God is loving, kind, merciful, gentle and all of those other things, He is also at the same time just, righteous, and full of wrath against sin, unrighteousness and all wickedness, because all of it is a slap in His face on an infinite level, because His worth and value are infinite. He must punish all wrong-doing.

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