Saturday, November 23, 2019

Calvin: The Reward of Good Works...

Continuing with the sometime murky doctrine of  sanctification, I want to focus a little on "our good works."  Does God reward the good works of believers?  If so, in what way?  Are believers able to do good works?  The Bible teaches that we are.  Yet, how are we to understand the nature of those good works we do in light of the remnant of sin that still clings to every part of our being? And how
are we to understand the nature of the reward that God bestows upon those good works?  John Calvin, in his commentary on 2 Cor. 5:10, provides some insight:
"That every one may give account..." As the passage relates to the recompensing of deeds, we must notice briefly, that, as evil deeds are punished by God, so also good deeds are rewarded, but for a different reason; for evil deeds are requited with the punishment that they deserve, but God in rewarding good deeds does not look to merit or worthiness. For no work is so full and complete in all its parts as to be deservedly well-pleasing to him, and farther, there is no one whose works are in themselves well-pleasing to God, unless he render satisfaction to the whole law. Now no one is found to be thus perfect. Hence the only resource is in his accepting us through unmerited goodness, and justifying us, by not imputing to us our sins. After he has received us into favor, he receives our works also by a gracious acceptance. It is on this that the reward hinges. There is, therefore, no inconsistency in saying, that he rewards good works, provided we understand that mankind, nevertheless, obtain eternal life gratuitously. [emphasis added]
Calvin's quote amplifies what is taught in the chapter on good works in Westminster Confession of Faith - Of Good Works, 16:5 & 6. 
WCF 16:5. We cannot by our best works merit pardon of sin, or eternal life at the hand of God, by reason of the great disproportion that is between them and the glory to come; and the infinite distance that is between us and God, whom, by them, we can neither profit, nor satisfy for the debt of our former sins, but when we have done all we can, we have done but our duty, and are unprofitable servants: and because, as they are good, they proceed from his Spirit; and as they are wrought by us, they are defiled, and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection, that they cannot endure the severity of God's judgment.
WCF: 16:6. Notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreprovable in God's sight; but that he, looking upon them in his Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

“If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” John Calvin reads with Law/Gospel glasses..

John Calvin writes...
This passage (Matt 19:16-22) was erroneously interpreted by some of the ancients, whom the Papists have followed, as if Christ taught that, by keeping the law, we may merit eternal life. On the contrary, Christ did not take into consideration what men can do, but replied to the question, What is the righteousness of works? or, What does the Law require? And certainly we ought to believe that God comprehended in his law the way of living holily and righteously, in which righteousness is included; for not without reason did Moses make this statement, 
  • He that does these things shall live in them, (Leviticus 18:5;) 
and again, 
  • I call heaven and earth to witness that l have this day showed you life, (Deuteronomy 30:19.)    
We have no right, therefore, to deny that the keeping of the law is righteousness, by which any man who kept the law perfectly--if there were such a man--would obtain life for himself. But as we are all destitute of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23,) nothing but cursing will be found in the law; and nothing remains for us but to betake ourselves to the undeserved gift of righteousness. And therefore Paul lays down a twofold righteousness, the righteousness of the law, (Romans 10:5,) and the righteousness of faith, (Romans 10:6.) He makes the first to consist in works, and the second, in the free grace of Christ. 
Hence we infer, that this reply of Christ is legal, because it was proper that the young man who inquired about the righteousness of works should first be taught that no man is accounted righteous before God unless he has fulfilled the law, (which is impossible,) that, convinced of his weakness, he might betake himself to the assistance of faith. I acknowledge, therefore, that, as God has promised the reward of eternal life to those who keep his law, we ought to hold by this way, if the weakness of our flesh did not prevent; but Scripture teaches us, that it is through our own fault that it becomes necessary for us to receive as a gift what we cannot obtain by works. 
If it be objected, that it is in vain to hold out to us the righteousness which is in the law, (Romans 10:5,) which no man will ever be able to reach, I reply, since it is the first part of instruction, by which we are led to the righteousness which is obtained by prayer, it is far from being superfluous; and, therefore, when Paul says, that the doers of the law are justified, (Romans 2:13,) he excludes all from the righteousness of the law.
John Calvin, Commentary on Matthew 

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

"Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”

When the young man came to Jesus and said, “Good master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” our Lord did not answer him by saying, “If thou wilt enter into life believe, have faith in the Son of God, but he said, “If thou wilt enter into life keep the commandments.” 

Our Lord, to whom all things are open and known, was well acquainted with the pharisiacal boasting which swelled the heart of this proud justiciary, even before he declared that from his youth he had kept all the commandments. But on our Lord's probing him farther, he discovered his deficiency, and went away sorrowful. 

And this is often the means he takes, when men will be their own saviors, and look for righteousness by the law, he bids them go and keep the commandments; he holds up that mirror to shew them their deformities, and when broken and humbled at the horrible view, instead of threatening, he encourages and comforts them with rich promises of free grace. Then he invites them to lay their burden down, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest; “The spirit of the Lord is upon me to preach liberty to the captive.” &c.

Samuel Bolton, Christian Freedom: pp 83-84