Christ is Isaac, the beloved Son of the Father who was offered as a sacrifice, but nevertheless did not succumb to the power of death. He is Jacob the watchful shepherd, who has such great care for the sheep which He guards.
Tag: John Calvin Page 1 of 2
The very form of the death embodies a striking truth. The cross was cursed not only in the opinion of men, but by the enactment of the Divine Law. Hence Christ, while suspended on it, subjects himself to the curse. And thus it behoved to be done, in order that the whole curse, which on account of our iniquities awaited us, or rather lay upon us, might be taken from us by being transferred to him. This was also shadowed in the Law, since the word by which sin itself is properly designated, was applied to the sacrifices and expiations offered for sin. By this application of the term, the Spirit intended to intimate, that they were a kind of kaqarmavton (purifications), bearing, by substitutions the curse due to sin. But that which was represented figuratively in the Mosaic sacrifices is exhibited in Christ the archetype. Wherefore, in order to accomplish a full expiation, he made his soul a propitiatory victim for sin (as the prophet says, Is. 53:5, 10), on which the guilt and penalty being in a manner laid, ceases to be imputed to us. The Apostle declares this more plainly when he says, that “he made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,” (2 Cor. 5:21). For the Son of God, though spotlessly pure, took upon him the disgrace and ignominy of our iniquities, and in return clothed us with his purity. To the same thing he seems to refer, when he says, that he “condemned sin in the flesh,” (Rom. 8:3), the Father having destroyed the power of sin when it was transferred to the flesh of Christ. This term, therefore, indicates that Christ, in his death, was offered to the Father as a propitiatory victim; that, expiation being made by his sacrifice, we might cease to tremble at the divine wrath. It is now clear what the prophet means when he says, that “the Lord has laid upon him the iniquity of us all,” (Is. 53:6); namely, that as he was to wash away the pollution of sins, they were transferred to him by imputation. Of this the cross to which he was nailed was a symbol, as the Apostle declares, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth 440on a tree: that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ,” (Gal. 3:13, 14). In the same way Peter says, that he “bare our sins in his own body on the tree,” (1 Peter 2:24), inasmuch as from the very symbol of the curse, we perceive more clearly that the burden with which we were oppressed was laid upon him. Nor are we to understand that by the curse which he endured he was himself overwhelmed, but rather that by enduring it he repressed broke, annihilated all its force. Accordingly, faith apprehends acquittal in the condemnation of Christ, and blessing in his curse. Hence it is not without cause that Paul magnificently celebrates the triumph which Christ obtained upon the cross, as if the cross, the symbol of ignominy, had been converted into a triumphal chariot. For he says, that he blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross: that “having spoiled principalities and powers he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it,” (Col. 2:14, 15). Nor is this to be wondered at; for, as another Apostle declares, Christ, “through the eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot to God,” (Heb. 9:14), and hence that transformation of the cross which were otherwise against its nature. But that these things may take deep root and have their seat in our inmost hearts, we must never lose sight of sacrifice and ablution. For, were not Christ a victim, we could have no sure conviction of his being ajpoluvtrwsi”, ajntivlutron, kai; iJlasthvrion, our substitute-ransom and propitiation. And hence mention is always made of blood whenever scripture explains the mode of redemption: although the shedding of Christ’s blood was available not only for propitiation, but also acted as a laver to purge our defilements.
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].”
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.
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).
Then David came to Nob to Ahimelech the priest. And Ahimelech came to meet David trembling and said to him, “Why are you alone, and no one with you?” And David said to Ahimelech the priest, “The king has charged me with a matter and said to me, ‘Let no one know anything of the matter about which I send you, and with which I have charged you.’ I have made an appointment with the young men for such and such a place. Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever is here.” And the priest answered David, “I have no common bread on hand, but there is holy bread—if the young men have kept themselves from women.” And David answered the priest, “Truly women have been kept from us as always when I go on an expedition. The vessels of the young men are holy even when it is an ordinary journey. How much more today will their vessels be holy?” So the priest gave him the holy bread, for there was no bread there but the bread of the Presence, which is removed from before the Lord, to be replaced by hot bread on the day it is taken away. – 1 Samuel 21:1-6
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?
“But we are drunk with the false opinion of our own insight and are thus extremely reluctant to admit that it is utterly blind and stupid in divine matters. Hence, it will be more effective, I believe, to prove this fact by Scriptural testimonies than by reasons. John very beautifully teaches it in a passage that I have previously quoted; he writes that: “Life was in God from the beginning and that life was the light of men; this light shines in the darkness, but the darkness comprehends it not” [John 1:4-5]. He shows that man’s soul is so illumined by the brightness of God’s light as never to be without some slight flame or at least a spark of it; but that even with this illumination it does comprehend God. Why is this? Because man’s keenness of mind is mere blindness as far as the knowledge of God is concerned. For when the Spirit calls men “darkness,” he at once denies them any ability of spiritual understanding. Therefore he declares that those believers who embrace Christ are “born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” [John 1:13]. This means: Flesh is not capable of such lofty wisdom as to conceive God and what is God’s, unless it be illumined by the Spirit of God. As Christ testified, the fact that Peter recognized him was a special revelation of the Father [Matt. 16:17].”
All that to say: Regeneration precedes Faith and any understanding of spiritual things at all. God must open our eyes, our ears, open our minds and hearts if we are to ascend to the demands for understanding, true spiritual illumination, faith, and repentance in the Scriptures. What God commands of us He gives in Jesus Christ, including the very faith and knowledge to believe in Him. Therefore, anyone attempting to ascend to understand God of himself and his own devices will completely fail in this endeavor, for knowledge about God is revealed by God Himself. Darkness cannot reveal and ascent to the light. Rather the light illumines the darkness and causes it to flee from its presence. So it is with the Lord.