Thursday, July 15, 2010

Righteousness Before God

There is none righteous, no, not one;
There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.

Romans 3:10-12
Calvin does not quote Romans 3 in this section, but he very well could have.  This section is devoted to our lack of righteousness before the judgment seat of God.  On earth, we tend to compare our works against those of other people.  We compare our righteousness to human standards.  There is no righteousness of man that compares to that of our Lord.  We cannot measure up to His standards, and it is against His standards that we must concern ourselves.  We are "concerned with the justice not of a human court but of a heavenly tribunal lest we measure by our own small measure the integrity of works needed to satisfy the divine judgment."  God is the supreme Judge, and Calvin uses many images of God from Scripture to paint a downright scary picture.  When we compare our lives to the law that God has given, we know that we fall short of His standard and are deserving of death.  "In short, this whole discussion will be foolish and weak unless every man admit his own guilt before the Heavenly Judge, and concerned about his own acquittal, willingly cast himself down and confess his nothingness."

When we compare ourselves to other men, our egos will get inflated.  We see how righteous that we are compared to others.  "Indeed, it is easy so long as the comparison stops with men, for anyone to think of himself as having something that his fellows ought not to despise."  But, when we lift our eyes toward God, we quickly realize how lowly we are.  We understand how short of His standard we fall.  We are reminded again in this section "we are clearly told the nature of God's righteousness, which will indeed not be satisfied by any works of man.  When it examines our thousand sins, we cannot be cleansed of even one."

Augustine wrote, "All the pious who groan under this burden of corruptible flesh and in this weakness of life have one hope: that we have one Mediator, Jesus Christ the righteous one, and he is the appeasement for our sins."  These words provide such comfort after reading two sections about how we will never live up to the righteousness of God.  We have Christ who has paid the penalty for our sins and we are clothed in His righteousness before the judgment seat of God.  Bernard wrote, "Where, in fact, are safe and firm rest and security for the weak but in the Savior's wounds?  The mightier he is to save, the more securely I dwell there.  The world menaces, the body weighs us down, the devil sets his snares.  I fall not, for I am grounded upon firm rock.  I have sinned a grave sin.  My conscience is disturbed, but it will not be perturbed because I shall remember the Lord's wounds."

Tomorrow's reading: 3.12.4-3.12.8

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