Saturday, March 13, 2010

Will and Grace (not the TV show)

This morning the weather is gray.  There are scattered sprinkles in the area.  It is a perfect morning to sleep in...almost.  We have dogs - our dog and our grand-dogs.  We also have a large pecan tree in our yard.  Pecan trees attract bushy-tail-tree-rats (also known as squirrels).  Dogs must keep their yards free of these tree rats, even when it is raining.  The same dog who would rather hold it for 24 hours rather than potty outside if it is sprinkling will run as fast as possible in a hurricane if a squirrel is trying to get across the back fence.  A dog must chase the squirrel.  It is out of necessity, not compulsion.  I am not forcing the dog into the backyard to chase a squirrel through the mud and rain, but the dog must still do it.

Calvin wrote about man sinning out of necessity, but without compulsion.  Like a dog, we chase sin like a squirrel not because anyone is forcing us to, but because we can't help ourselves.  He wrote, "The chief point of this distinction, then, must be that man, as he was corrupted by the Fall, sinned willingly, not unwillingly or by compulsion; by the most eager inclination of his heart, not by forced compulsion; by the prompting of his own lust, not by compulsion from without.  Yet so depraved is his nature that he can be moved or impelled only to evil.  But if this is true, then it is clearly expressed that man is surely subject to the necessity of sinning."

It is by God's grace alone that we are converted.  I could write a book on this, and many others have.  I will try my best to be brief.  Calvin addresses the controversial topic of predestination in these sections.  He quotes so much from Scripture.  For instance, Philippians 1:6 reads, "...that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ."  Calvin comments on this verse, "...there is no doubt that through "the beginning of a good work" he denotes the very origin of conversion itself, which is in the will.  God begins his good work in us, therefore, by arousing love and desire and zeal for righteousness in our hearts; or, to speak more correctly, by bending, forming, and directing, our hearts to righteousness.  He completes his work, moreover, by conforming us to perseverance."  God is the one who begins the good work in us and He will complete his good work in us.  Calvin quotes Ezekiel 36:26-27 where God tells his people that He is going to change their hearts.  He is going to change them.  Philippians 2:13 reads, "...for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure."  God is who corrects our depraved will. 

Calvin takes time to argue against those who believe that God and man co-operate in order to achieve salvation.  He writes that the theologian Lombard had twisted the words of Augustine to indicate that man's will and God's grace worked together.  Augustine actually wrote that grace is prior to all merit.  Grace must come first.  Without grace, we are all hopelessly lost.

Goodness comes from God alone.  Calvin writes, "Surely there is ready and sufficient reason to believe that good takes its origin from God alone.  And only in the elect does one find a will inclined to good.  Yet we must seek the cause of election outside men.  It follows, thence, that man has a right will not from himself, but that it flows from the same good pleasure by which we were chosen before the creation of the world [Eph 1:4]."  Man is incapable of any good on his own.  Thankfully God chose to show grace to his elect, whom he chose before the beginning of the world.  That is the only way we are freed from the bondage of sin.  Calvin goes on to say, "But since the whole of Scripture proclaims that faith is a free gift of God, it follows that when we, who are by nature inclined to evil with our whole heart, begin to will good, we do so out of mere grace."  He wraps up today's reading by writing, "For it always follows that nothing good can arise out of our will until it has been reformed; and after its reformation, in so far as it is good, it is so from God, not from ourselves."

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. 
Ephesians 1:3-6

Tomorrows reading: 2.3.9-2.3.14

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