Saturday, July 17, 2010

Free Justification

Calvin addresses two items in this chapter. The first is that "the Lord's glory should stand undiminished good repair." The second items is that "our consciences in the presence of his judgment should have peaceful rest. and serene tranquility." In short, we should (1) give God His due glory (which is all glory) and (2) have the faith that He loves us and will give us the salvation which we have done absolutely nothing to deserve.

To his first point, "We see how often and how earnestly Scripture urges us, wherever righteousness is concerned, to give thanks to God alone." We are not righteous on our own. Only when we are clothed in Christ's righteous before the judgment seat of God do we appear righteous. We should never give into the illusion that somehow our good works make us righteous. It is insulting to God when we think too highly of ourselves in this regard. We are undeserving of any glory. "For, so long as man has anything to say in his own defense, he detracts somewhat from God's glory." Paul quotes the prophet Jeremiah in saying "He who glories, let him glory in the LORD" (1 Corinthians 1:31, NKJV).

When we attribute to ourselves glory that is rightfully the Lord's, then we are going against God.  "We never truly glory in him unless we have utterly put off our own glory...whoever glories in himself, glories against God."  We never want to take away from what belongs to God.  Calvin tells us that we are only fooling ourselves if we think that we have any righteousness at all that we are not glorying in ourselves.  Calvin continues in his discussion of righteousness, "the praise of righteousness remain perfect and whole in the Lord's possession, since it was to manifest his own righteousness that - as the apostle attests - he poured out his grace upon us 'so that he himself may be righteous, and the justifier of him who has faith in Christ' [Romans 3:26, Vg.]."

The question next presented is how can our conscience be made quiet before God.  Calvin answers by saying, "we shall find the only way to be that unmerited righteousness be conferred upon us as a gift of God."  It is God's free gift, nothing that we have earned.  It is not because of our righteousness that we will have peace in our salvation but in that unmerited righteousness that He pours out onto His people.  And we can truly take comfort in this.  However, "The conscience, if it looks to God, must either have sure peace with his judgment or be besieged by the terrors of hell."  If we truly have faith in God and His love for us, then we ought to have sure peace and not terror.  Part of this comfort comes from knowing that righteousness totally comes from God and not our own doing.  We cannot earn righteousness by following the Law.  "For no one can ever confidently trust in it because no one will ever come to be really convinced in his own mind that he has satisfied the Law."  Relying on our own strength will always lead us to uncertainty whereas relying on the grace of God will give us security.

Calvin returns to the dangers of believing in our own righteousness.  If we believe in our own good, how much good must we have to earn God's blessing?  That is a question that can never be answered.  "The promise [of salvation] will be fulfilled only to those who have faith in him" and not to those who have faith in themselves.  God has promised salvation to His faithful, and "whatever God mercifully promises, he also faithfully performs."  Calvin quotes Augustine, "Christ will reign forever in his servants.  God has promised this; God has said this; if that is not enough, God has sworn it.  Therefore, since the promise is firm not according to our merits but according to his mercy, no one ought to proclaim with misgiving what he cannot doubt."  God has made a promise to us and we can take comfort in knowing that He will always fulfill what He has vowed.

We can have faith in God's free grace.  He has promised it to us and no one can take it from us.  A favorite passage of mine is Romans 8:38-39, "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  We will always be cared for by God.  Finally, Calvin speaks one more time about righteousness.  He writes, "Therefore, we must come to this remedy: that believers should be convinced that their only ground of hope for the inheritance of a Heavenly Kingdom lies in the fact that, being engrafted in the body of Christ, they are freely accounted righteous."

Tomorrow's reading: 3.14.1-3.14.8

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