Saturday, June 5, 2010


We left off last time in the middle of Calvin's discussion about sin and the believer.  Just because we are believers, it does not mean that we cease sinning.  This reminds me of an anecdote a friend of mine tells.  This old preacher met a man who was not a church-goer.  After talking for a while, the preacher mentioned that he was a pastor.  The other man said that he did not go to church because churches were full of hypocrites.  The pastor replied, "You are right!  But we always have room for one more."  So often the secular world expects Christians to be perfect, and when we fail (which we will always fail) the world charges us with hypocrisy.  We are not perfect, and we will continue to sin throughout this life.

Calvin writes here about our corrupt nature.  Through the sin of Adam, we are all corrupted.  He writes, "...we teach that all human desires are evil, and charge them with sin - not in that they are natural, but because they are inordinate.  Moreover, we hold that they are inordinate because nothing pure or sincere can come forth from a corrupt and polluted nature."  He follows this by quoting Augustine extensively from his books, Against Julian and Against Two Letters of the Pelagians.  Calvin and Augustine were mostly in agreement, but again Augustine stops short of calling ungodly works of believers "sin". 

Certain Anabaptists during Calvin's time believed that once they became followers of Christ, they were led by the Spirit in all their works, therefore they no longer sinned.  If the Spirit led them to do certain things that were against God's law, it was not a sin because the Spirit led them to do these things.  Calvin calls this "madness" and a "monstrous" thing.  It absolutely goes against Scripture.  Calvin writes that true Christians "earnestly seek a knowledge of him from the Scriptures."  He then writes these two things about Christ:  "First, he has been given to us for sanctification in order that he may bring us, purged of uncleanness and defilement, into obedience...Second, we are purged by his sanctification in such a way that we are besieged by many vices and much weakness so long as we are encumbered with our body." 

2 Corinthians 7:11 is a description of repentance, "For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter" (NKJV).  We are "aroused to diligence that [we] may escape the devil's snares."  Clearing of ourselves involves asking for pardon.  Calvin translates this as "excuse" rather than clearing.  Then comes indignation when "the sinner moans inwardly with himself, finds fault with himself, and is angry with himself, while recognizing his own perversity and his own ungratefulness toward God."  Fear is the "trembling which is produced in our minds as often as we consider both what we deserve and how dreadful is the severity of God's wrath toward sinners."  Vehement desire, or longing, is "that diligence in doing our duty and that readiness to obey to which recognition of our sins ought especially to summon us."  Zeal "signifies an ardor by which we are aroused when those spurs are applied to us."  Finally, about vindication, or avenging, Calvin writes, "For the more severe we are toward ourselves, and the more sharply we examine our own sins, the more we ought to hipe that God is favorable and merciful toward us." 

Closing today's post, I am going to take a quote from this section of the Institutes which Calvin attributes to Bernard: "Sorrow for sins is necessary if it be not unremitting.  I beg you to turn your steps back sometimes from troubled and anxious remembering of your ways, and to go forth to the tableland of serene remembrance of God's benefits." 

Tomorrow's reading: 3.3.16-3.3.20

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