Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Calvin, Concerning the Obedience of Believers (1)

John Calvin, Institutes of Religion - Book 3:14.
"6. And, indeed, I would fain know, from those who pretend that man meets God with some righteousness of works, whether they imagine there is any kind of righteousness save that which is acceptable to Him... 
"9. Let us now see what kind of righteousness belongs to those persons whom we have placed in the fourth class. We admit that when God reconciles us to himself by the intervention of the righteousness of Christ, and bestowing upon us the free pardon of sins regards us as righteous, his goodness is at the same time conjoined with mercy, so that he dwells in us by means of his Holy Spirit, by whose agency the lusts of our flesh are every day more and more mortified while that we ourselves are sanctified; that is consecrated to the Lord for true purity of life, our hearts being trained to the obedience of the law. It thus becomes our leading desire to obey his will, and in all things advance his glory only. Still, however while we walk in the ways of the Lord, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, lest we should become unduly elated, and forget ourselves, we have still remains of imperfection which serve to keep us humble: "There is no man that sinneth not," saith Scripture, (1 Kings 8:46.) What righteousness then can men obtain by their works? First, I say, that the best thing which can be produced by them is always tainted and corrupted by the impurity of the flesh, and has, as it were, some mixture of dross in it. Let the holy servant of God, I say, select from the whole course of his life the action which he deems most excellent, and let him ponder it in all its parts; he will doubtless find in it something that savors of the rottenness of the flesh, since our alacrity in well-doing is never what it ought to be, but our course is always retarded by much weakness. Although we see that the stains by which the works of the righteous are blemished, are by no means unapparent, still, granting that they are the minutest possible, will they give no offense to the eye of God, before which even the stars are not clean? We thus see, that even saints cannot perform one work which, if judged on its own merits, is not deserving of condemnation."
[emphasis added] 

1 comment:

  1. Some imagine that the classical Reformed position on Romans 2:5–16 has in view only a hypothetical possibility, which in actual fact cannot be true of any sinner, whether redeemed or not. But many Reformed theologians did not adopt the hypothetical view of this disputed passage (though vv. 5–11 and 12–16 were sometimes distinguished), such as Martin Bucer, John Ball, Thomas Manton, Herman Witsius, Wilhelmus à Brakel, and Petrus van Mastricht. For example, Mastricht put forth the view that there are three stages of justification that should be 'diligently observed.' These are not different justifications, but distinct stages in the one justification by faith alone. In the first stage, 'establishment,' in which man is first justified, the efficacy and presence of works are entirely excluded for acquiring justification. In the second stage, 'continuation,' works have no efficacy, but works must be present, as we see in James 2:14–16. In the third stage, 'consummation,' in which believers gain possession of eternal life, good works have a certain 'efficacy,' insofar as God will not grant possession of eternal life unless they are present. Interestingly, Mastricht adduces Romans 2:7, 10 in support of his view. Like Mastricht, Professor Gaffin also rejects the view that Romans 2:5–16 is hypothetical. For that reason, both authors hold firmly to the Reformed view that good works are a necessary condition (consequent, not antecedent, to faith) for salvation. Spirit-wrought good works are not only the way of life, but also the way to life/salvation (see WLC 32). Yet the position expounded in this book is perhaps more persuasive than what one finds in Mastricht’s significant work." (Mark Jones, Intro to Dr. Richard Gaffin's By Faith, Not By Sight)