Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Light of Life

Yesterday was spent dealing with gifts from God.  Calvin summarizes his thoughts on these gifts in the first section we read today.  He reiterates the fact that "For if he had not spared us, our fall would have entailed the destruction of our whole nature."  He speaks directly to special gifts given to some: "...God inspires special activities, in accordance with each man's calling."  And each event is directed by God: " every extraordinary event there is some particular impulsion."  Calvin illustrates this point by highlighting Scriptures where God has directed Saul, David, and Job.

The rest of today's reading deals with our blindness in our knowledge of God's Kingdom and spiritual insight.  Calvin defines spiritual insight as consisting of three things: "(1) knowing God; (2) knowing his fatherly favor in our behalf, in which our salvation consists; (3) knowing how to frame our life according to the rule of his law."  He tells us that in points one and especially two, "the greatest geniuses are blinder than moles!"  I really like the metaphors Calvin chooses.  It really does not matter how intelligent you are, unless God has opened your eyes to see his glory, you can never truly recognize it.  "Human reason, therefore, neither approaches, no strives toward, nor even takes a straight aim at, this truth: to understand who the true God is or what sort of God he wishes to be toward us."

"In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.  And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it" (John 1:4-5 NKJV).  Calvin discusses this Scripture in detail and uses it as an example of how men are spiritually blind to God.  "Because man's keenness of mind is mere blindness as far as the knowledge of God is concerned."  Later Calvin writes, "Flesh is not capable of such lofty wisdom as to conceive God and what is God's, unless it be illuminted by the Spirit of God."

Calvin uses OT texts to support his case as well.  Deuteronomy 29:3-4 reads, "...the great trials which your eyes have seen, the signs, and those great wonders.  Yet the LORD has not given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear, to this very day."  This was Moses speaking to the Israelites not long before they entered the promised land.  Moses knew that only God could illumine their hearts and show them how he had been with the Israelites all along, guiding and protecting them in the wilderness. 

Going back to the New Testament, John 6:44a reads, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him..."  Calvin writes about this passage and others, "But nothing is accomplished by preaching him if the Spirit, as our inner teacher, does not show our minds the way.  Only those men, therefore, who have heard and have been taught by the Father come to him" (emphasis mine).  God must draw us to him.  R.C. Sproul makes good points about this John 6:44 passage as well, especially to the word translated here as "draw".  The other two times the word is used in the New Testament, it is translated as "drag" as in being dragged into court.  This is not a wooing as some would believe, that God woos us.  But instead, he drags us because he loves us so much.  This is the only way our sinful hearts can be changed.

Calvin concludes this topic about the illumination from God by reminding us that "without the light of the Spirit, all is darkness."  God must reveal himself to us in order for us to see him and his glory. 

He finishes with a logical argument:  "If we confess that we lack what we seek of God, and he by promising it proves our lack of it, no one should now hesitate to confess that he is able to understand God's mysteries only in so far as he is illumined by God's grace.  He who attributes any more understanding to himself is all the more blind because he does not recognize his own blindness."  In other words, by recognizing that we cannot fully comprehend God and his Glory we acknowledge that necessarily it is God who is the one who chooses what to reveal to us.  If we claim that we know more about him than we actually do know, we are deceiving ourselves and claiming sight when we are blind.

Tomorrow's reading: 2.2.22-2.2.25

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