Saturday, June 15, 2013

Calvin and the Gospel...

When the words Calvin and theology come up in the same sentence one often thinks first of the doctrines of predestination, election, or the Genevan polity and worship of the church.  More generally, to those less familiar with John Calvin, vague images of a strict and rigid Christianity erroneously come to mind.  Because his theology was so comprehensive, as laid out in his Institutes of the Christian Religion and his commentaries on various books of the bible, its easy to zero in on any number of important doctrines and somehow lose sight of the overall focus and heart of Calvin's religion.  And that focus was indeed the centrality of Jesus Christ, the good news of God.  This is clearly seen in the following excerpts from his preface to Pierre Oliv├ętan's French translation of the New Testament (1534).  Calvin focuses like a laser on the gospel:
Scripture is also called the gospel, that is, new and joyful news, because it is declared that Christ, the sole true and eternal Son of the living God, was made man, to make us children of God his Father, by adoption. Thus he is our only Savor, to whom we owe our redemption, peace, righteousness, sanctification, salvation, and life; who died for our sins and rose again for our justification; who ascended to heaven for our entry there and took possession of it for us and [it is] our home; to be always our helper before his Father; as our advocate and perpetually dong sacrifice for us, he sits at the Father's right hand as King, mde Lord and Master over all, so that he may restore all that is in heaven and on earth; an act which all the angels, patriarchs, prophets, apostles did not know how to do and were unable to do, because they had not been ordained to that end by God...

... Without the gospel everything is useless and vain; without the gospel we are not Christians; without the gospel all riches is poverty, all wisdom, folly before God; strength is weakness, and all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God.  But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made children of God, brothers of Jesus Christ, fellow townsmen with the saints, citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, heirs of God with Jesus Christ, by whom the poor are made rich, the weak strong, the fools wise, the sinners justified, the desolate comforted, the doubting sure, and slaves free.  The gospel is the Word of life and truth.  It is the power of God for the salvation of all those who believe; and the key to the knowledge of God, which opens the door of the Kingdom of Heaven to the faithful by releasing them from sins, and closes it to the unbelievers, binding them in their sins.  Blessed are all those who hear the gospel and keep it; for in this way they show that they are children of God.  Woe to those who will not hear it and follow it; because they are children of the devil.

O Christians, men and women, hear this and learn.  For surely the ignorant man shall perish in his ignorance, and the blind who follows another blind man will fall into the ditch with him.  But there is one way to life and salvation, and that is faith and certainty in the promises of God which cannot be had without the gospel; for by hearing it and knowing it living faith is provided, together with sure hope, and perfect love for God and a lively love toward our neighbor.  Where then is your hope, if you contemn and scorn to hear, see, read, and retain this holy gospel?

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