Friday, March 26, 2010

The Law and The Mediator

Calvin opens chapter seven speaking of the Law.  It was given about 400 years after the death of Abraham to Moses and the Israelites.  Calvin writes, "From that continuing succession of witnesses which we have reviewed it may be gathered that this was not done to lead the chosen people away from Christ; but rather to hold their minds in readiness until his coming; even to kindle desire for him, and to strengthen their expectation, in order that they might not grow faint by too long delay."  So the Law pointed toward Christ, not away from Christ.  The Law was to ready our hearts for him.  This is also explained in what Calvin referred to as "types".  Types or foreshadowings are contained in the ceremonial law.  These types point to the coming of Christ and his perfect sacrifice for us.  "Yet that very type shows that God did not command sacrifices in order to busy his worshipers with earthly exercises.  Rather, he did so that he might lift their minds higher.  This also can be clearly discerned from his own nature: for, as it is spiritual, only spiritual worship delights him."

Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, wrote that the Law was given to us as a tutor.  "Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith" (Galatians 3:24).  Calvin refers to this when he speaks of the inadequacy of men to become priests and kings because they are corrupted with sin.  He writes, "For, since they had not yet come to know Christ intimately, they were like children whose weakness could not yet bear the full knowledge of heavenly things."  Later Calvin quotes Romans 10:4 when he writes, "With regard to the Ten Commandments we ought likewise to heed Paul's warning: 'Christ is the end of the law unto salvation to every believer.'"

It is clear that we are unable to fulfill God's Law.  Because of this, we must cling to the hope of forgiveness.  "If it is true that in the law we are taught the perfection of righteousness, this also follows: the complete observance of the law is perfect righteousness before God.  By it man would evidently be deemed and reckoned righteous before the heavenly judgment seat."  We are unable to perfectly follow the law, so on our own we cannot be righteous before God. 

"Therefore if we look only upon the law, we can only be despondent, confused, and despairing in mind, since from it all of us are condemned and accursed."  Calvin is referring to Galatians 3:10 in this.  We cannot achieve the happiness promised to us by fulfilling the law.  Fortunately, God looks past the disobedience of his chosen people, freely giving us the gift of salvation.  Calvin tells us that later we will be looking more into the doctrine of justification by faith. 

Only Christ has ever been the perfect keeper of the Law.  No one else in all history has been able to be credited with perfect obedience.  Scripture reminds us in a number of places that every man is born corrupt, every one commits sin, every single person breaks the Law of God.  No saint has ever been perfect.  Pelagius and his followers battled Augustine over this idea that is clearly Scriptural.  Pelagius believed that man could be considered righteous before God through perfect obedience to the Law.  Augustine pointed to Scripture which clearly states that this is impossible.  Even some of the Pharisees during Jesus' day thought that they were able to follow the Law perfectly, but Jesus demonstrated that following the letter of the Law was not the intent.  It was to get our hearts right before God. 

Tomorrow's reading: 2.7.6-2.7.11

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