Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Indwelling of the Spirit

Calvin continues today what he was saying yesterday about faith coming from God. 2 Thessalonians 1:11 reads, "Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power," (NKJV).  Calvin writes about this passage: "Here Paul calls faith 'the work of God,' and instead of distinguishing it by an adjective, appropriately calls it 'good pleasure.'  Thus he denies that man himself initiates faith, and not satisfied with this, he adds that it is a manifestation of God's power."  Calvin then highlights 1 Corinthians 2:4-5, "And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,  that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God," (NKJV).  Our faith depends not upon our own power and wisdom, but by the might of the Spirit we receive faith.  Calvin concludes, "Christ, when he illumines us into faith by the power of his Spirit, at the same time so engrafts us into his body that we become partakers of every good."

We know that faith is a matter of our hearts, not of our heads.  Calvin puts it this way, "It now remains to pour into the heart itself what the mind has absorbed.  For the Word of God is not received by faith if it flits about in the top of the brain, but when it takes root in the depth of the heart that it may be an invincible defense to withstand and drive off all the stratagems of temptation."  The Spirit then acts as a seal upon our hearts, giving us the certainty of knowing the promises "which it had previously impressed upon our minds; and takes the place of a guarantee to confirm and establish them."  Calvin quotes 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, "Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee," (NKJV).

Calvin acknowledges again that faith is sometimes stronger than at other times.  Sometimes believers can have doubts.  He writes, " is tossed about by various doubts, so that the minds of the godly are rarely at peace- at least they do not always enjoy a peaceful state."  We have looked before at some psalms written by David where his faith was being tossed about, but David always came back to knowing that his hope and strength was in the Lord. 

There were/are scholars who believe that our faith is based upon believing that God is favorable to us because we have earned His favor through our good deeds.  Calvin responds, "Indeed, if we should have to judge from our works how the Lord feels toward us, for my part, I grant that we can in no way attain it by conjecture."  We cannot tell by the state of someone's life whether or not God is pleased with him.  Calvin writes, "...if anyone would judge by the present state of things, which men God pursues with hatred and which he embraces in love, he labors in vain and troubles himself to no profit..."  Calvin then quotes Ecclesiastes 9:2 but could have easily quoted the more familiar Matthew 5:45.

The last section for today deals with whether or not a Christian can know in his heart if the Spirit is dwelling inside of him.  His opponents argued that no one can know for certain.  He quotes several passages including 1 Corinthians 2:12, "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God."  The key words here being "that we might know".  We have received the Spirit, and when we do we know.  He says those who attack this belief that we know if the Spirit is dwelling within us are also attacking the Spirit Himself. 

I think an appropriate way to close this post is with the words of Christ as recorded in John 14:16-17, "And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you."

Tomorrow's reading: 3.2.40-3.2.43

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