Monday, August 31, 2009

First entry into the church is...

Calvin's Institutes (1559)
Book 4 of 4 - External Means by which God Invites Us into the Society of Christ and Holds Us Therein
Chapter 1 - The True Church with which as Mother of All the Godly We Must Keep Unity

17-22 - Imperfect holiness doesn't justify schism, but gives opportunity for forgiveness
17. The church is holy, not in being perfect (which would "leave no church at all"), but in that the Lord is cleansing her (Eph 5:25-27). The Lord has always had His church, from the beginning with Adam till now - Ps 89:3-4.

18. The prophets did not "establish new churches for themselves," though they called Israel Sodom and Gomorrah - Isa 1:10.

19. Christ and the disciples did not separate from the temple, in spite of the impurity in the Saduccees and Pharisees. "Those who participated in these same rites with a clean conscience knew that they were not at all contaminated by association with the wicked?" Cyprian: "Let no one so claim for himself what is the Son's alone, that it is enought to winnow the chaff and threst the straw and by human judgment to separate out all the tares."

20. It is "devilish... to be cocksure of our perfection." Forgiveness of sins is the "first entry into the church." This is marked by baptism: "we are initiated into the society of the church by the sign of baptism, which teaches us that entrance into God's family is not open to us unless we first are cleansed of our filth by His goodness."

21. God's ongoing forgiveness of our continual is also the basis for our remaining in the church, preserved by God's grace.

22. Christ gave the keys of the church to the apostles (Matt 16:19; 18:18; John 20:23), so His people would believe their sins were forgiven - 2 Cor 5:18, 20. The church regularly, in public and private (Acts 20:20-21), brings to us outwardly the forgiveness of our sins in Christ. "For very many... need personal consolation." We are never in this life so holy as to stand before God without needing forgiveness. We can't enjoy that forgiveness rightly without being members of the church. The church offers it through preaching the Word and administering the sacraments. "Seek forgiveness of sins only where the Lord has placed it."

Though it swarms with many faults

Calvin's Institutes (1559)
Book 4 of 4 - External Means by which God Invites Us into the Society of Christ and Holds Us Therein
Chapter 1 - The True Church with which as Mother of All the Godly We Must Keep Unity

10-16 - Church with these marks not to be forsaken: sin of schism
10. "No one is permitted to spurn its authority, flout its warnings, resist its counsels, or make light of its chastisements - much less to desert it and break its unity." 1 Tim 3:15; Eph 1:23. That would be like adultery - Eph 5:23-32.

11. It is arrogant to leave a church with true preaching and right administration of sacraments, "with which the Lord thought His church sufficiently marked." Satan seeks to either destroy right preaching and sacraments, or to "heap contempt upon them."

12. "We must not reject it so long as it retains [these marks], even if it otherwise swarms with many faults." Not all doctrines are of equal weight and importance. "A difference of opinion over ... nonessential matters should in no wise be the basis of schism among Christians." See Phil 3:15. We either have to agree on everything, or not allow any church to be genuine due to some disagreement, or allow for disagreement on "those matters which can go unknown without harm to the sum of religion and without loss of salvation."

13. Some "with a false conviction of their own perfect sanctity," don't deign to associate with anyone in whom they see any sin at all. Others, "out of ill-advised zeal for righteousness than out of that insane pride... judge that no church exists" where they don't see holiness corresponding to the Gospel preached. This IS a problem without excuse. But they "sin in that they do not know how to restrain their disfavor. For where the Lord requires kindness, they neglect it and give themselves over completely to immoderate severity." "They think no church exists where there are not perfect purity and integrity of life." But "the church is at the same time mingled of good men and bad." See Matt 13:24-30, 47-58; 3:12.

14. The Corinthians were divided by a party spirit, greedy, letting sexual sin go undisciplined, defaming Paul, acting selfishly at Communion, and questioning the resurrection. God doesn't declare them an untrue church, but calls them saints! 1 Cor 1:2. "Who, then, would dare snatch the title 'church' from these who cannot be charged with even a tenth part of such misdeeds?"

15. Sometimes the church doesn't discipline as it should, and you may find yourself taking communion with one you know to be in unrepentant sin, shouldn't you separate? 1 Cor 5:2, 11. "Even if the church be slack in its duty, still each and every individual has not the right at once to take upon himself the decision to separate.... It is one thing to flee the boon companionship of the wicked; another, in hating them, to renounce the communion of the church.... They are much more rigid than Paul. For... he does not require that one examine another, or every one the whole church, but that each individual prove himself - 1 Cor 11:28." The unworthy don't eat and drink judgment on others, but on themselves - 1 Cor 11:29. "Individuals ought not to have the authority to determine who are to be received and who are to be rejected. This cognizance belongs to the church as a whole."

16. Those who "incite defection from the church" because of her impurity do "from ill-advised zeal for righteousness... born of pride and arrogance and false opinion of holiness." The goal of discipline should be the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph 4:3), as Augustine said. Don't forget all those who ARE righteous in the church, those grieving their sin. Realize the benefit is greater for the whole church receiving the Word and sacraments than the danger of some unworthy men undoing or besmirching that benefit.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Invisible only to us

Calvin's Institutes (1559)
Book 4 of 4 - External Means by which God Invites Us into the Society of Christ and Holds Us Therein
Chapter 1 - The True Church with which as Mother of All the Godly We Must Keep Unity

7-9 - Visible Church: membership and marks
7. Scripture speaks in two ways of the church. The invisible-to-us church - all the elect -who are in God's presence by adoption; and the visible church - all on earth professing faith. "Just as we must believe... that the former church, invisible to us, is visible to the eyes of God alone, so we are commanded to revere and keep communion with the latter, which is called 'church' in respect to men."

8. Our knowledge of limited. The Lord knows those who are His - 2 Tim 2:19. But it is edifying for us to see and be with those counted as His children. So we receive others as Christians "by a certain charitable judgment" on their "confession of faith, by example of life, and by partaking of the sacraments."

9. The church is visible wherever the Word is preached and the sacraments administered. It may be we need to reckon as believers those we doubt are, if the church counts them as such. Unbelievers "in a sense belong to [the church] until they have been rejected by public judgment." But the church as a whole can confidently be named a church if the group is honoring the Word and celebrating the sacraments.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Appointed instructors

Calvin's Institutes (1559)
Book 4 of 4 - External Means by which God Invites Us into the Society of Christ and Holds Us Therein

Chapter 1 - The True Church with which as Mother of All the Godly We Must Keep Unity
5-6 - Church ministers
5. God has enjoined a teaching office upon the church - Eph 4:10-13; Isa 59:21; Rom 10:17; 2 Cor 4:7. "As He was of old not content with the law alone, but added priests as interpreters from whose lips the people might ask its true meaning - Mal 2:7 - so today He not only desires us to be attentive to its reading, but also appoints instructors to help us by their effort." He could "thunder at us" directly, or through angels, but uses men, instead. "Although God's power is not bound to outward means, He has nonetheless bound us to this ordinary manner of teaching.... the church is built up solely by outward preaching.... believers have no greater help than public worship, for by it God raises His own folk upward step by step." Through this we are all to aspire to unity with our Head, Jesus, not cling to an earthly temple or pattern.

6. God, as the author of preaching, promises benefits from it. Luke 1:17; Mal 4:5-6; John 15:16; 1 Cor 2:4; 3:9; 4:15; 9:2; 2 Cor 3:6; Gal 3:2. The preacher is nothing without God working through him. 1 Thess 3:5; Col 1:29; Gal 2:8; 1 Cor 3:7; 15:10. God Himself grants "illumination of mind and renewal of heart."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

So powerful is participation in mother church...

Calvin's Institutes (1559)
Book 4 of 4 - External Means by which God Invites Us into the Society of Christ and Holds Us Therein

Chapter 1 - The True Church with which as Mother of All the Godly We Must Keep Unity

1-4 - The Holy Catholic Church, our mother
1.We partake of Christ's benefits by faith. But "we need outward helps" because of "our ignorance and sloth." So He gives the church: preachers preaching - Eph 4:11 - and sacraments to foster faith and draw near to God. "Satan, in the papacy, has polluted everything god had appointed for our salvation." If God is your father, the Church is your mother - Gal 4:26. We may not tear these two asunder - Mark 10:9.

2. The phrase from the Creed, "I believe the holy catholic church" refers to the visible church, and also to all God's elect. We should not say we believe IN the church, as we only believe IN God. "Because a small and contemptible number are hidden in a huge multitude and a few grains of wheat are covered by a pile of chaff, we must leave to God alone the knowledge of His church, whose foundation is His secret election." The church is called catholic and universal because there is only one church, there can't be more, or Christ is torn apart - 1 Cor 1:13; Eph 1:22-23; 4:16; Rom 12:5; 1 Cor 10:17; 12:12, 27. "Let us know that Christ's death is fruitful, and that God miraculously keeps His church as in hiding places." See 1 Kings 19:18.

3. "The communion of saints." This describes the church very well. Anything we receive from Christ we are to share with one another. Acts 4:32; Eph 4:4. The church "stands by God's election," even if the whole world falls. "So powerful is participation in the church that it keeps us in the society of God." But we don't have to see the church to embrace and receive her benefits. We shouldn't try to distinguish elect from reprobate. We just need to know that we are received into the fellowship and Body of Christ.

4. The visible church is our mother, who conceives, bears and nourishes us. "Our weakness does not allow us to be dismissed from her school until we have been pupils all our lives. Furthermore, away from her bosom one cannot hope for any forgiveness of ins or any salvation, as Isaiah (37:32) and Joel (2:32) testify - Ezek 13:9; Isa 56:5; Ps 87:6. "God's fatherly favor... [is] limited to His flock, so that it is always disastrous to leave the church."

The minutest part would scarce be told

Calvin's Institutes (1559)
Book 3 of 4 - How We Receive the Grace of Christ

Chapter 25 - The Final Resurrection
10-12 - Life in the hereafter
10. Death will be swallowed up in victory - Isa 25:8; Hos 13:14; 1 Cor 15:54-55. But "the minutest part [of this] would scarce be told if all were said that the tongues of all men can say." See 1 Cor 13:12; 1 John 3:2. The prophets only "sketched it in physical terms." "There will not be an equal measure of glory in heaven." See 2 Tim 4:8; Matt 19:29. [I would add Matt 25:14-30.]

11. "Men hungry for empty learning inquire.... [into every] corner of heaven.... few out of a huge multitude care how they are to go to heaven, but all long to know before hand what takes place there. Almost all are lazy and loath to do battle, while already picturing to themselves imaginary victories."

12. Of the damned, we are shown physical things: "darkness, weeping, and gnashing of teeth... undying fire and worm" - Matt 8:12; 22:13; Matt 3:12; Mark 9:43; Isa 66:24. This is meant "to confound all our senses with dread." Damnation is "to be cut off from all fellowship with God." See 2 Thess 1:9.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Intermediate State

Calvin's Institutes (1559)
Book 3 of 4 - How We Receive the Grace of Christ

Chapter 25 - The Final Resurrection
5-9 - Objections answered

5. Pagan denials of resurrection, reflected in Eccl 9:4; 3:21; Mark 12:18; Luke 20:27; Acts 23:8, are refuted by their own burial practices, for what is burial but an expression of hope in resurrection?

6. It is wrong to say the soul must die or sleep when the body does. Scripture says otherwise - 2 Pet 1:14; 2 Cor 5:1, 6, 8; Heb 12:23; Luke 23:43. But don't "inquire too curiously concerning our souls' intermediate state." They are in Abraham's bosom - Luke 16:22. Beyond this, we only know they rest from their labors: "all things are held in suspense until Christ the Redeemer appear." The reprobate are in the same condition as the devils, in Jude 6.

7. The sin in our bodies won't hinder the resurrection of those same bodies - 2 Cor 7:1; 5:10; 4:11; 1 Thess 5:23; 1 Cor 3:16; 6:15; 1 Tim 2:8; Rom 12:1; 1 Cor 6:20. Our bodies are changed, not replaced - 1 Cor 15:53; Rom 14:11; Isa 45:24; Dan 12:2; John 2:19. Since Christ's own body arose, ours will, too - 1 Cor 15:12.

8. "Sheer unbelief is the mother of this notion," that we will need new bodies. Rom 8:11; 1 Cor 6:13-15, 20; Phil 3:20-21. The body which suffers for Christ won't be denied its reward. God trained the patriarchs in this doctrine by emphasizing burial rites (Gen 23:4, 19; 47:30), which Jesus also endorsed - Matt 26:10. Burial is "a rare and precious aid to faith." Would it not have been absurd for [Joseph] to give a command concerning dust about to be reduced to nothing?" John 6:39 also shows we will receive the same body resurrected. Scripture describing death as sleep also proves it. The very word "cemetery" means sleeping place.

We will have the same body, but "the quality will be different" - 1 Cor 15:51.

9. It shouldn't trouble us that the ungodly will be resurrected in body, too. This appears as a reward in Scripture - John 11:25 - but it will also be a judgment - John 5:29; Matt 25:32; Acts 24:15. "They will be unwillingly haled before the judgment seat of Christ."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

In my flesh I shall see God

Calvin's Institutes (1559)
Book 3 of 4 - How We Receive the Grace of Christ

Chapter 25 - The Final Resurrection
1-4 - The doctrine
1. 2 Tim 1:10; John 5:24; Eph 2:6. The resurrection hope is unseen - Rom 8:25; Heb 11:1; 2 Cor 5:6; Col 3:3-4; Titus 2:12-13. This means we have to lift our thoughts to heaven, a hard and rare thing - 1 Pet 1:8-9; Col 1:4-5; Matt 6:21; Phil 3:14.

2. We ought to long and strive for union with God, the goal of resurrection - Phil 3:20; Rom 8:19, 22-23; Heb 9:28.

3. This is critical. "The authority of the gospel would fall... in its entirety" if the resurrection were untrue - 1 cor 15:13-14, 19. The natural mind does not believe it easily. Two helps are God's omnipotence, and the parallel of Christ's resurrection. "It was not for Himself alone" that He died and was raised. 2 Cor 4:8-10; 1 Cor 15:16; Eph 1:20; Ps 16:10; Acts 2:27; Phil 3:20-21; Col 3:4; Rom 8:11; 1 Cor 15:23. "Scorners will treat as a fairy tale what the Evangelists relate as history" [Christ's resurrection]. Why didn't Christ appear to Pilate or the Jews? "They were deprived of a sight of Christ as well as of other signs [Jesus' other miracles]." Were the guards overpowered by the disciples? The guards, "by their silence or their lying, became the heralds of the same resurrection." Other proofs: Luke 24:38, 40; John 20:27; Acts 1:3, 9; 1 Cor 15:6; Acts 9:4; 7:55. "To discredit so many authentic evidences is not only disbelief but a depraved and even insane obstinacy."

4. God's power is our other help in believing the resurrection - Phil 3:21. The picture of sowing, where fruit comes from burial, also helps - 1 Cor 15:36. You can't believe in the resurrection without believing God's power - Isa 26:19; Ps 68:20; Job 19:25-27; Ezek 37:1-10; John 5:28-29. God is ABLE to bring justice and life - 2 Tim 1:12; 4:8; 2 Thess 1:6-8, 10.

That they may become even more deaf

Calvin's Institutes (1559)
Book 3 of 4 - How We Receive the Grace of Christ

Chapter 24 - Election confirmed by God's Call
12-17 - How God deals with the reprobate
12. God blinds them to the truth, "deprives them of the capacity to hear His Word." If some believe from a multitude preached to, the real question/miracle is how they believed - 1 Cor 4:7 - not why the rest didn't.

13. God could "turn the will of evil men to good." But "He wills otherwise." The difference isn't in man's decision but God's. Acts 13:48; 16:14. God "sends His Word to many whose blindness He intends to increase." Ex 4:19, 21; Ezek 2:3; 12:2; Jer 1:10; 5:14; Isa 6:9-10; Acts 28:26-27; Rom 11:8; Matt 13:11. "However much obscurity there may be in the Word, there is still always enough light to convict the conscience of the wicked."

14. Why does God harden them? "To show His name in all the earth" - Rom 9:17. It is their own fault for rejecting God, but reason is also given why God doesn't lift them out of it - 1 Sam 2:25; John 12:37-38. Paul emphasizes God's positive call on the elect - 1 Cor 1:22, 24, 27-28. The impious accuse God of arbitrary punishment, but the wicked deserve everything they get from God. We have to "admit some ignorance where God's wisdom rises to its height."

15. What about Ezek 33:11? "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked..." This is said "to bring the hope of pardon to the penitent only."

16. What about 1 Tim 2:3-4? "God wills all men to be saved." This is in context of praying for kings and rulers, and means God excludes no class of men from perhaps receiving His mercy. 2 Peter 3:9: "God does not will that any should perish but that He should receive all to repentance." But conversion is in God's hands, we know from Ezek 36:26; 2 Tim 2:25; Jer 31:18-19.

17. "His mercy is extended to all, provided they seek after it and implore it. But only those whom He has illuminted do this." This makes everything depend on the presence or absence of faith. It appears God has a double will, but He is only taking on human characteristic of pleading for our conversion. You can't "measure divine justice by the standard of human justice." See Rom 9:20, 24.

Friday, August 21, 2009

No shaking of faith

Calvin's Institutes (1559)
Book 3 of 4 - How We Receive the Grace of Christ

Chapter 24 - Election confirmed by God's Call
6-11 - Perseverance
6. Jesus will protect and preserve us, if we hear His voice - John 6:37, 39; 17:6, 12; 10:3. But "call and faith are of little account unless perseverance be added; and this does not happen to all." See Matt 22:14; Cor 10:12; Rom 11:20-23. But if we are truly His, He will kiip us - Rom 8:38; Phil 1:6; Luke 22:32; 1 John 2:19

7. Those who leave Christ never clung to Him truly - 1 John 2:19. We can have a simple confidence. The warnings are given against presumptuous and vaunting confidence - 1 Cor 10:12; Rom 11:18ff. We must fear, "not that we may be dismayed and waver but that... our trust in Him may in no wise be diminished."

8. There are two kinds of call, a general one offered to all, to which some respond for a time - Matt 22:11-13 - and a special call to which the elect always respond with faith. Matt 22:14; Titus 3:5; Eph 1:13-14; 2 Cor 1:22.

9. Judas was not one of Christ's sheep, but only occupied the place of one - John 6:70; 13:18. This shouldn't lead us to think the same of ourselves: that we occupy the place of a believer today, but don't know about tomorrow, as Gregory puts it. "Predestination, rightly understood, brings no shaking of faith but rather its best confirmation." God consciously rejects those who were counted among His people, but who are not His - Ezek 13:9; Luke 10:20; Ps 69:28; Rev 3:5.

10. Before the elect are called, there is no difference in them from unbelievers, except that they are preserved from death - Eph 2:1-3, 12; 5:8-9; 1 Cor 6:9-10; 9:11.

11. The elect are "snatched from this gulf of destruction."

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Be content with His promises

Calvin's Institutes (1559)
Book 3 of 4 - How We Receive the Grace of Christ

Chapter 24 - Election confirmed by God's Call
1-5 - Called and incorporated
1. Rom 8:29-30; John 17:6; 6:44 all speak of calling. If you are called, you not only CAN come, but you WILL come. This cll removes hard hearts - Ezek 11:19; 36:26. "The call is coupled with election."

2. This call is "the illumination of the Spirit." See 1 John 3:24; 4:13. It is from God's sovereign choice - Isa 65:1; Josh 24:2-3; Acts 13:48.

3. "Some make man God's co-worker, to ratify election by his consent.... As if we are merely given the ability to believe, and not, rather, faith itself!" Election doesn't depend on faith, but faith depends on election.

4. We should seek proof of our election in its fruits (faith), not in divining God's secret decrees. Look to God's call in the Word - Rom 8:33.

5. Election is always into Christ - Eph 1:4 - so look to Him. Rom 8:32; 13:14; Eph 4:15; John 3:16; 5:24; 6:35, 51, 58. "Be content with His promises" in Christ.

Doing His Will with Our Wills

Calvin's Institutes (1559)
Book 3 of 4 - How We Receive the Grace of Christ

Chapter 23 - Refuting false accusations burdening election
10. 3rd objection: doesn't God show partiality, in election? The partiality Scripture speaks against decides based on something good or bad in the person - Deut 10:17; Acts 10:34; Rom 2:11; Gal 2:6; 3:28; James 2:5; Col 3:25; Eph 6:9. God decides based on His own will, as He is free to do.

11. Objectors say God should either condemn all, or forgive all, to be fair. But He can justly be fair to some and condemn them, while being merciful to others and forgiving them. "By not giving to all, He can manifest what all deserve" [Augustine]. Rom 9:21; 11:32, 35; Gal 3:22.

12. 4th objection: election will lead people to not care how they live, since God has fated them one way or the other. Some pigs do think this way. But election is revealed to us to "tremble at His judgment and esteem His mercy." We have been chosen to be holy - Eph 1:4. It's foolish to think one's virtuous life could be lost in God's reprobation, for the virtue flows from God's election.

13. 5th objection: election makes admonition meaningless. But Paul teaches election, and admonishes - 1 Thess 4:4, 7; Eph 2:10. "He harmonizes things which they pretend disagree."

14. Augustine quoted extensively, to show we must admonish, and teach election. "He does with the very wills of men what He wills.... As we know not who belongs to the number of the predestined or who does not belong, we ought to be so minded as to wish that all men be saved."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

God's sovereignty has its own equity

Calvin's Institutes (1559)
Book 3 of 4 - How We Receive the Grace of Christ

Chapter 23 - Refuting false accusations burdening election
Sections 6-9 2nd Objection: election removes human responsibility
6. How can man be held responsible, if God causes His sin - Prov 16:4? We can't find refuge in foreknowledge - "He foresees future events only by reason of the fact that He decreed that they take place."

7. God did not lay aside His omnipotence when it came to Adam's future. Adam did not have "free choice that he might shape his own fortune."

8. Can we say God permitted it but did not will it? No! "Man falls according as God's providence ordains, but he falls by his own fault." We should focus on our fault, and "submit our understanding" to God's sovereignty. "Craving to know" God's secret decrees is "a kind of madness."

9. I can't stop the objections here, but have answered as well as is possible. "The ordinance of God... has its own equity." It is wrong to blame our condemnation on God's predestination; it is our own fault.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Election objections

Calvin's Institutes (1559)
Book 3 of 4 - How We Receive the Grace of Christ

Chapter 23 - Refuting false accusations burdening election
Sections 1-3 - Reproaching reprobation
1. You can't deny reprobation. If God passed over giving grace to some, He willed to exclude them. The cause is in God, not them. He hardens hearts - Matt 15:13; Rom 9:17-8, 22 show this.

2-3 - Objection: this makes God capricious
2. God's will is the first cause. To ask why He wills something is to seek some higher cause to which His will is bound - wrong! God's will is "free of all fault," and He doesn't have to render an account to us.
3. God is just to the reprobate, for all sin. Objectors to this try to blame their own guilt on God.

Sections 4-5 - Questioning God's justice
4. Objection: Isn't our guilt predestined, which causes our condemnation? How is this fair? Rom 9:20-21 is our answer. This is not evasion, but admission that God's ways are above our standards.

5. His judgments are a great deep - Ps 36:6 - not for us to search out, as Job learned.

Monday, August 17, 2009

No cause outside His will

Calvin's Institutes (1559)
Book 3 of 4 - How We Receive the Grace of Christ
Chapter 22 - Confirmation of Election from Scripture

Sections 7-11 - Objections to election answered
7. Jesus confirms unconditional election - John 6:37, 39, 44-45; 17:6; 13:18 - and our preservation by grace - John 10:28-29; 17:11-12. We begin to be joined with - received into - Christ by "the Father's gift" not our work or faith.

8. Ambrose, Origen and Jerome all believed God was gracious as He foresaw men used His grace well. They were wrong, or rather, spoke confusedly about this, sometimes better. Paul would have pointed to foreseen goodness as the condition of election if it were true, in response to the objection that God is unfair in this in Rom 9:14ff. But instead Paul turns to God's will, not to "him who runs." Ex 33:19.

9. Thomas Aquinas thought we could view election as conditional, from our perspective - not God's. But that still has us contemplating our merits/works/faith, instead of God's mercy. He said God predestines grace to us, that we may merit glory. But God predestined us to glory, and thus gave us grace freely. [Rom 8:30]

10. How can God invite all universally to repent, then only give the spirit of repentance to a few? God is not bound to "call all men equally." Amos 4:7; 8:11; Acts 16:6-7; Isa 8:16; 53:1. "Election... is the mother of faith." See Eph 1:3-4; Titus 1:1; Matt 13:11; Rom 8:29. "If He willed all to be saved, He would set His Son over them, and would engraft all into His body with the sacred bond of faith."

11. We patronize Paul if we say God rejected Esau because of his works; Paul points to God's will for them both, before either did anything good or bad. We should "seek no cause [for election] outside His will."

Sunday, August 16, 2009

God not a watcher, but an Author

Calvin's Institutes (1559)
Book 3 of 4 - How We Receive the Grace of Christ
Chapter 22 - Confirmation of Election from Scripture

Sections 1-6 - Election not from foreknowledge
1. Some "bring an action against" God [lawsuit], for choosing some and passing over others. But they need to explain how it is fair that God made them men instead of animals, which He could have done. Jesus is the prime example of election, as He was predestined to be our divine Savior from before His conception - Heb 1:2ff. This predestination was "before the creation of the world" for each of us, since we wouldn't have received any benefit from God any other way than by His free grace (not by our deserving it) - Eph 1:4-5; Col 1:12, 22.
2. We are elected to holiness, not because of it - Eph 1:4-5, 9
3. Our works [or faith] are not considered in God's election - 2 Tim 1:9; John 15:16; Rom 11:35.
4-5. Romans 9:11-13 also shows this, as does the example of Jacob and Esau.
6. You can't say Jacob only received the earthly blessing of the right of the firstborn, in this election. That right was an "earthly symbol to declare Jacob's spiritual election." So Jacob was chosen not for anything in him - Rom 9:15-16. That we are foreknown (Rom 11:2) doesn't mean God watched idly while we did the work of saving - see Acts 2:23; 1 Pet 1:19-20 for what foreknown really means. So Esau's rejection shows that "in the common adoption is included in His presence a special grace toward some... and that the common covenant does not prevent that small number from being set apart from the rank and file."

Friday, August 14, 2009

Throwing rocks at heaven

Calvin's Institutes (1559)
Book 3 of 4 - How We Receive the Grace of Christ
Chapter 21 - Election: God has predestined some to salvation, others to destruction

Sections 5-7 - Definition and explanation
5. Some make foreknowledge of our actions the cause of God's election. But pitting election against foreknowledge, or vice versa, is absurd. Accusing God of unfairness is like"hurling the stones of their insults toward heaven... [they] will fall back on their own heads!" Predestination is God's decree based only on His will. He also chose Israel on this basis - Deut 7:7-8; 9:6; 23:5; Ex 32:9; 1 Sam 12:22. "Election remains inviolable, although its signs do not always appear."

6. But there is a more limited election, within Israel. Ishmael was in the covenant, and Esau, but they were cut off. Ps 78:67-68; Mal 1:2-3; Rom 9:13.

7. But election is only half-explained when talking about groups, until we talk about individuals. "God not only offers salvation but so assigns it that the certainty of its effect is not in suspense or doubt." "The spirit of regeneration... enable[s] them to persevere in the covenant to the very end." "The outward change, without the working of inner grace, which might have availed to keep them, is intermediate between the rejection of mankind and the election of a meager number of the godly." Rom 11:29; Gal 4:28.

Predestination: neither speculation nor ingratitude

Calvin's Institutes (1559)
Book 3 of 4 - How We Receive the Grace of Christ
Chapter 21 - Eternal Election, by which God has predestined some to salvation, others to destruction

Sections 1-4 - Importance of predestination excludes presumption, and reticence to speak of it.
1. Predestination confuses some, and they raise unnecessary objections. "We shall never be clearly persuaded, as we ought to be, that our salvation flows from the wellspring of God's free mercy until we come to know His eternal election... He does not indiscriminately adopt all into the hope of salvation but gives to some what He denies to others." See Rom 11:5-6. Affirming predestination keeps us humble, and assured of our salvation (John 10:28-29). But "it is not right for man unrestainedly to search out things that the Lord has willed to be hid in himself."

2. "The Word of the Lord is the sole way that can lead us in our search for all that it is lawful to hold concerning Him." "To seek any other knowledge of predestination than what the Word of God discloses is not less insane than if one should purpose to walk in a pathless waste (Job 12:24)." Don't go beyond what the Word says about it!

3. "We must guard against depriving believers of anything disclosed about predestination in Scripture." "Scripture is the school of the Holy Spirit." "When He sets an end to teaching, [we should] stop trying to be wise." What is our rule, then? To search out what He has revealed to us - Deut 29:29.

4. Some say we shouldn't teach predestination, since some will distort or mock it. But they do the same with the Trinity and the 5,000 year-old creation, and we have to teach those! We shouldn't speculate about what isn't revealed; we shouldn't be ungrateful for what IS revealed. "Scripture proceeds at the pace of a mother stooping to her child, so to speak, so as not to leave us behind in our weakness." But if we pass over what God has told us about predestination, we act as if we had to cover up a mistake God made of saying something hurtful to His Church!

Set apart certain hours for prayer

Calvin's Institutes (1559)
Book 3 of 4 - How We Receive the Grace of Christ
Chapter 20 - Prayer as exercise of faith and way we receive God's benefits

Sections 48-49 - Closing thoughts on Lord's Prayer
48. This prayer covers everything needful, and to pray for more is going beyond the Word.

49. We don't have to pray it verbatim; many other good prayers are found in Scripture. But the sense and summary of it should not change.

Sections 50-52 - Special times of prayer and perseverance
50. We need to have set times of prayer, to fight our sluggishness: "when we arise in the morning, before we begin daily work, when we sit down to a meal, when by God's blessing we have eaten, when we are getting ready to retire." Don't do this superstitiously, though. No prayer of ours should seek to bind God's sovereignty in any way, by what, how or when we pray. We should also pray when aware of others' adversity or prosperity.

51. Sometimes our prayers feel like beating the air to a deaf God. But "even though He does not appear, He is always present to us." Ps 22:2. We may not drive bargains with God or grumble, incurring God's wrath as He answers us - Numbers 11:18, 33.

52. God still hears us sympathetically (1 John 5:15) even if we never get the answer we want. Faith perseveres in prayer, through trial.

Monday, August 10, 2009

We descend to our own affairs

Calvin's Institutes (1559)
Book 3 of 4 - How We Receive the Grace of Christ
Chapter 20 - Prayer as exercise of faith and way we receive God's benefits

Sections 44-47 - Lord's Prayer - last three requests
44. In the last half of the prayer, "we descend to our own affairs." "Give us today our daily bread." God's glory deals with food and drink, too - 1 Cor 10:31. We ask here for all "our bodies have need to use [in]... this world." In our sinfulness, we are more concerned about body than soul needs. Even when we entrust our souls to God, we have a hard time doing so with our bodies. We must remember our material needs are met by God, not us - Deut 8:17-18; Lev 26:20. Even if our pantries are full, we should ask for our daily bread - Deut 8:3; Matt 4:4. It is OUR bread only relatively - God gives it. If we have stolen it through any fraud it is not ours in any sense, and must be returned.

45. "Forgive us our debts." Our sins are debts "because we owe penalty for them." Those who look to their own merits forfeit this forgiveness and call for God's judgment instead. "As we forgive our debtors." Only God can forgive sin (Isa 43:25), but we are to put aside "wrath, hatred, desire for revenge, and willingly to banish to oblivion the remembrance of injustice." If we don't and pray this, we are asking God not to forgive our sins. Our forgiveness of others doesn't merit God's forgiveness of us. It is given as a warning to those who won't forgive others, and as comfort of forgiveness to those who do.

46. "Lead us not into temptation" for we need God's grace to withstand. We are often tempted away from God with "things not evil of their own nature" - James 1:2, 14; Matt 4:1, 3. Temptations from favorable things: riches, power; and from unfavorable things: disgrace, affliction, poverty. Either way, we pray God helps us turn either to good. It doesn't matter much if "evil" means Satan or sin. Satan tempts us to destroy -1 Peter 5:8; God does so to build us up, and gives a way out - 1 Cor 10:13; 2 Pet 2:9. "If the Lord did not snatch us from [Satan], we could not help being immediately torn to pieces by his fangs and claws, and swallowed down his throat." But with God's help we conquer - Ps 60:12. When James 1:13 says God doesn't tempt us it means that we can't blame Him for our lust giving in to temptation. He often allows His saints to give in to temptation for "a just but often secret judgment."

47. "For Yours is the kingdom, power and glory forever." Our prayers should be public, in community, as the plural pronouns in the prayer so far suggest. Our faith rests sure, knowing God is sovereign. "Amen." Our sincere desire that this prayer be answered. Dan 9:18-19.

We keep God's glory alone before our eyes

Calvin's Institutes (1559)
Book 3 of 4 - How We Receive the Grace of Christ
Chapter 20 - Prayer as exercise of faith and way we receive God's benefits

Sections 41-43 - Lord's Prayer - first three requests
41. "Hallowed be Your Name." We should desire God to be honored by all, though His holiness is besmirched by our sin, as His image-bearers. Ps 48:10.

42. "Your Kingdom Come." Very similar to the first request, God builds up churches, casts down enemies, helping us bear our cross in it all - 2 Cor 4:16; 2 Thess 2:8.

43. "Your will be done on earth as in heaven." As the angels serve Him gladly - Ps 103:20 - we renounce all desires in us contrary to God's revealed will. We want Him create clean hearts in us - Ps 51:20 - so we have "no prompting of desire but pure agreement with His will."

A More Certain Way of Praying

Calvin's Institutes (1559)
Book 3 of 4 - How We Receive the Grace of Christ
Chapter 20 - Prayer as exercise of faith and way we receive God's benefits

Sections 34-35 - Lord's Prayer - Introduction
34. God graciously teaches us what to pray for: what He wants, and what He wants to give us, since our greed often leads us astray in asking - Rom 8:26.

35. There are 6 petitions, the 1st 3 regard God's glory, and the last 3 regard our needs. The two sets of 3 are related. We seek God's glory above our own lives, as Moses and Paul did - Ex 32:32; Rom 9:3.

Sections 36-40 - Lord's Prayer - "Our Father in heaven"
36. God invites us to Him as His children - John 1:12; 1 John 3:1; Ps 27:10; Isa 63:16; Matt 7:11; Isa 49:15. If we don't seek help from Him, we proclaim Him an inadequate Father!

37. Luke 15:11-32 teaches us to expect compassion from our heavenly Father, "provided we still cast ourselves upon His mercy." Christ and the Spirit assure us of this favor - Gal 4:6; Rom 8:15.

38. He is OUR Father, and our love for Him should encompass His whole household - Matt 23:9; Eph 1:23; Gal 6:10.

39. We pray for others, as we give to them, as we know the need. But our prayers can extend farther. 1 Tim 2:8. "Strife shuts the gate to prayers."

40. God is in heaven, not bound there (1 Kings 8:27; Isa 66:!), but "beyond all place", incorruptible, and in sovereign command of the universe.

Voice and song, from deep feeling of heart

Calvin's Institutes (1559)
Book 3 of 4 - How We Receive the Grace of Christ
Chapter 20 - Prayer as exercise of faith and way we receive God's benefits

Sections 31-33 - Prayer in song, and the common language
31. Singing must come from the heart - Isa 29:13. It helps keep the mind attentive.

32. Church singing is legitimate, from 1 Cor 14:15; Col 3:16, and practiced in the early church. "Such songs as have been composed only for sweetness and delight of the ear are unbecoming to the majesty of the church and cannot but displease God in the highest degree."

33. Public prayer must be in the language of the people - 1 Cor 14:15-17. Private prayer need not be spoken, though when aroused this will often happen - 1 Sam 1:13.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Praying privately and publicly

Calvin's Institutes (1559)
Book 3 of 4 - How We Receive the Grace of Christ
Chapter 20 - Prayer as exercise of faith and way we receive God's benefits

Sections 28-30 - Prayer, private and public
28. Private prayer. We all have need to seek God - relief from trouble, or forgiveness of sin, and for blessings on our endeavors. Ps 50:15; James 4:14-15; Isaiah 30:1; 31:1; 1 Tim 4:5. "Our silence is spiteful" when we could thank Him for His blessings. Ps 51:15; Isa 38:20; Jonah 2:9; Ps 116:12-13; 106:47; 102:17-18, 21. Prayer flows from love for God. Ps 116:1; 18:1; Phil 4:6; 1 Thess 5:17-18. We praise Him through Jesus Christ - Heb 13:15.

29. Public prayers are not constant, but at regular times. 1 Cor 14:40. Dangers are making a show, and too many words. Prayer is of the heart and mind, essentially, but it is fitting to pray publicly, too. Jesus withdrew privately; also 1 Tim 2:8. "The chief part of His worship lies in the office of prayer." The temple is called house of prayer - Isa 56:7; Matt 21:13; Ps 65:1.

30. Church buildings are rightly used for the church to gather - Matt 18:19-20. But we do this "without distinction of place," as God "does not allow us to cleave to any material temple." John 4:23; Isa 66:1; Acts 7:48-49.