Monday, March 29, 2010

The Top 10 List

Before David Letterman had his Top Ten List, God had his.  They are viewed more as suggestions these days rather than commandments.  Calvin reminds us of the importance and significance of these commandments here in chapter 8.

Calvin begins by reminding us of points that he already made.  The laws concerning the public worship of God are still in effect.  That we cannot perfectly keep the law but the law serves to show us our shortcomings.  God is everything and we are nothing, therefore we are motivated to worship him.  Calvin then highlights two purposes of the law.  "First, claiming for himself the lawful power to command, he calls us to reverence his divinity, and specifies wherein such reverence lies and consists.  Secondly, having published the rule of his righteousness, he reproves us both for our impotence and for our unrighteousness.  For our nature, wicked and deformed, is always opposing his uprightness; and our capacity, weak and feeble to do good, lies far from his perfection."

We are told that God's law has been written upon our hearts.  Our conscience serves as a guide when we are confronted with a decision between good and evil and as an accuser when we have done wrong.  In our brokenness, our conscience is not perfect and it can be manipulated.  Because of this, we need a written, unchanging law.

Sometimes we like to bend the rules like rolling through a stop sign or improving the lie of your golf ball.  What does it hurt?  Well, God's laws are not bendable - you either follow them or you break them and we are all guilty of breaking them.  God is constantly good and against evil.  There are no shades of gray when it comes to God and his law.  "It is not fitting for us to measure God's glory according to our ability; for whatever we may be, he remains always like himself: the friend of righteousness, the foe of iniquity."  It is inexcusable when we break his law because we are willingly offending God when we sin.

The law causes us to become aware of our sinful nature and our dependence on God and his grace.  This is achieved in two ways.  "First, by comparing the righteousness of the law with our life, we learn how far we are from conforming to God's will...Secondly, in considering our powers, we learn that they are not only too weak to fulfill the law, but utterly nonexistent."  Therefore we rely on God's mercy for our salvation because we consistently fall short of his standards and we are incapable of even coming close to these standards.  Calvin puts it this way, "Thus, realizing that he [man] does not possess the ability to pay the law what he owes, and despairing in himself, he is moved to seek and await help from another quarter."

God is not just satisfied with us having a desire to worship him.  He really wants us to have a love of righteousness and a hatred of wickedness.  He accomplishes this through promises and threats contained in his commandments.  "And to urge us in every way, he promises both blessings in the present life and everlasting blessedness to those who obediently keep his commandments.  He threatens the transgressors no less with present calamities than with the punishment of eternal death."

God's law is sufficient.  We need to add nothing to it.  Deuteronomy 12:28 reads, "Observe and obey all these words which I command you, that it may go well with you and your children after you forever, when you do what is good and right in the sight of the LORD your God."  If we could just keep these commandments we would be doing good.  Later in verse 32 Moses says, "Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it."  This means that the law is sufficient.  Nothing else must be added to it.  We humans try to obtain righteousness apart from the law but it is impossible to do so.  There is no amount of good works that we can perform in order to achieve righteousness.  Calvin writes that the best way to overcome this tendency is to keep this in mind, "the law has been handed down to us to teach perfect righteousness; there no other righteousness is taught than that which conforms to the requirements of God's will; in vain therefore do we attempt new forms of works to win the favor of God, whose lawful worship consists in obedience alone; rather, any zeal for good works that wanders outside God's law is an intolerable profanation of divine and true righteousness.

Tomorrow's reading: 2.8.6-2.8.10

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