Aroused consciences, when they have to do with God, feel this [free justification in Christ alone] to be the only asylum in which they can breathe safely. For if the stars which shine most brightly by night lose their brightness on the appearance of the sun, what do we think will be the case with the highest purity of man when contrasted with the purity of God? For the scrutiny will be most strict, penetrating to the most hidden thoughts of the heart.
Tag: Institutes of the Christian Religion
The words ‘piety’, ‘holiness’, ‘righteousness’ amongst others are words few hear today from church pulpits without thinking of the evils of legalism. Even the word ‘religion’ has been lambasted to the point of being equal to that of the ideology of the Pharisees.
What has occurred though to a great degree is that the idea of piety itself, properly defined, in Biblical terms has been left by the way side, in the wake of moving from one extreme to the other. Personal holiness is something that is lightly if ever talked about. We talk about our mistakes or external sins here and there, for sure, but how often are we admonished to pursue virtuous piety, in the terms the Bible describes? It is a shame personal holiness is not advocated the way the Scripture advocate it. The problem is that you risk offending people, which is exactly what Scripture does to sinners (like myself) who are in violation of God’s law. It brings rebuke and correction, something our “enlightened” American society has a hard time with.
Wherever this living faith exists, it must have the hope of eternal life as its inseparable companion, or rather must of itself beget and manifest it; where it is wanting, however clearly and elegantly we may discourse of faith, it is certain we have it not. For if faith is (as has been said) a firm persuasion of the truth of God – a persuasion that it can never be false, never deceive, never be in vain, those who have received this assurance must at the same time expect that God will perform his promises, which in their conviction are absolutely true; so that in one word hope is nothing more than the expectation of those things which faith previously believes to have been truly promised by God.
Thus, faith believes that God is true; hope expects that in due season he will manifest his truth. Faith believes that he is our Father; hope expects that he will always act the part of a Father towards us. Faith believes that eternal life has been given to us; hope expects that it will one day be revealed. Faith is the foundation on which hope rests; hope nourishes and sustains faith. For as no man can expect any thing from God without previously believing his promises, so, on the other hand, the weakness of our faith, which might grow weary and fall away, must be supported and cherished by patient hope and expectation.
This is a “prophetic” word from Calvin out of the Institutes related to the postmodern sensibilities of Western Christianity. I’m not implying Calvin was speaking directly against postmodernism itself as a formal philosophy, as it had not yet been articulated, but this certainly does speak against its core tenets asserted today, to be sure. And I would say that ultimately, postmodernism, within the setting of Christianity, leaves a person without certainty that they will be accepted before God, which is exactly what Calvin explains in this section. The reason for this is because if you have no certainty and a house built on solid rock, ultimately, you will try and pick up the slack of uncertainty through your own deeds, works and effort in order to please God, which oddly enough, is what we see happening with many (though not all) postmoderns in the focus of various ministry focal points (i.e. deeds versus creeds).
Next follows the resurrection from the dead, without which all that has hitherto been said would be defective. For seeing that in the cross, death, and burial of Christ, nothing but weakness appears, faith must go beyond all these, in order that it may be provided with full strength. Hence, although in his death we have an effectual completion of salvation, because by it we are reconciled to God, satisfaction is given to his justice, the curse is removed, and the penalty paid; still it is not by his death, but by his resurrection, that we are said to be begotten again to a living hope, (1 Pet. 1: 3;) because, as he, by rising again, became victorious over death, so the victory of our faith consists only in his resurrection.
The nature of it is better expressed in the words of Paul, “Who (Christ) was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification,” (Rom. 4: 25;) as if he had said, By his death sin was taken away, by his resurrection righteousness was renewed and restored. For how could he by dying have freed us from death, if he had yielded to its power? how could he have obtained the victory for us, if he had fallen in the contest?