Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Binding the conscience beyond the Word

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 10 - Power of making laws: Pope's tool of tyranny
1-8 - Church law and Christian conscience
1. Rome lays heavy burdens on people and binds their conscience, like the Pharisees did - Luke 11:46; Matt 23:4. Our spiritual freedom in Christ must be maintained. We can have institutions "which provide for the preservation of discipline or honesty or peace."
2. Paul was careful not to lay a restraint on the Corinthians - 1 Cor 7:35. The conscience is greatly wounded "if in those matters which the Lord left free, necessity were imposed."
3. Conscience is our knowledge; in the Bible it is our knowledge of our guilt, which conscience doesn't allow us to suppress, and knowledge of our pardon - 1 Pet 3:21; Heb 10:2.
4. A good conscience is not just knowledge, though: "it is a lively longing to worship God and a sincere intent to live a godly and holy life." See 1 Tim 1:5, 19; Acts 24:16. In matters not inherently sinful, you may be bound to certain outward actions with regard to others, but your conscience toward God is still free - 1 Cor 10:28-29. In matters inherently sinful, your conscience is bound regardless of the presence of others.

5. Human laws, whether political or church, do not bind our conscience. We must honor the rulers for conscience' sake (Rom 13:5). But the laws we obey aren't obeyed from "inward governing of the soul," nor do they bind the conscience.
6. The church has no right to command obedience to laws she makes up apart from the Bible.
7. God shows us that He is the only lawgiver - James 4:11-12; Isa 33:22. 1 Peter 5:2-3 also applies.
8. The Bible has all the laws and guides we need. God is the only authority over our souls, not men. This is all very clear from Col 1:28; 2:3, 8, 16-23; Gal 5:1-12.

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