Monday, July 19, 2010

The Process of Justification

Calvin breaks men down into four categories and we will spend the next couple of days examining each class. He says that men (1) have no knowledge of God, (2) are Christian in name only, (3) hypocrites, or (4) truly regenerated by God's Spirit. The first classification of men are those who have no knowledge of God. "Not one spark of good will be found in them from the top of their heads to the soles of their feet." There are many passages then listed in this section, all dealing with the wickedness of those who have no knowledge of God. An interesting point that Calvin makes is that any apparent good seen in these men should still be examined in light of the fact that they do not know God. Their intentions are necessarily not right because the good they do is not for God but for some other motivation. Good works on their own have no merit.

Even though their motivation is off, "all the notable endowments that manifest themselves among unbelievers are gifts of God." It is God that has given all men a sense of morality - a basic understanding of what is good and what is evil. We know that all virtues come from God because all things that are praise-worthy come from Him.

Once again, all virtue comes from God. There is no "true virtue without true faith." Calvin speaks to intention here, which is what Christ taught many times such as in the Sermon on the Mount. Calvin states that "duties are weighted not by deeds but by ends." He agrees with Augustine when he wrote about non-believers not having the right intention in their good works, therefore they actually defile God's good works. Calvin states, "Therefore, because they do not look to the goal that God's wisdom prescribes, what they do, through it seems good in the doing, yet by its perverse intention is sin."

Augustine wrote, "Our religion distinguishes the just from the unjust not by the law of works but by that of faith, without which what seemed good works are turned into sins." Paul tells us that there is nothing we can do to earn salvation. If someone is apart from Christ, then he does not have salvation. It is only when we rely on Christ that we will be saved. Augustine also made a clever comparison to faith and a runner along a path. "It is better to limp on the path than to run outside it." In other words, it is better to have faith and struggle with good works than to have no faith and perform many good works.

A recurring theme with Calvin and all the Reformers is that we are saved by grace alone. There are no good works that have the ability to save us. Calvin examines several Scripture passages which emphasize that God finds nothing in the hearts of men good enough to cause God to save him. It is always God's grace that saves us, never any merit of our own. Titus 3:4-7 reads, "But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." Calvin says about this, "By this confession we deprive man of all righteousness, even to the slightest particle, until, by mercy alone, he is reborn into the hope of eternal life, since if the righteousness of works brings anything to justify us, we are falsely said to be justified by grace." Calvin continues to defend God's mercy as our hope for salvation and none of our own works contribute to it.

Calvin lumps hypocrites and nominal Christians together in the next sections. These two groups lack regeneration in their lives. This absence of regeneration points to the fact that they must have a lack of faith. If they have a lack of faith, then they must not have been reconciled to God, nor have they been justified before God. These benefits come from faith. They may believe that they have earned God's favor by some of their good works, but they are wrong. "As soon as any very wicked person has performed one or another of the duties of the law, he does not doubt that it will be accounted as righteousness; but the Lord proclaims that no sanctification can be acquired from this action unless the heart has first been well cleansed."

Just like the unbelievers in the first category, "works manifesting even the highest splendor are so far away from righteousness before the Lord that they are reckoned sins." If the motivation is wrong then the action is necessarily wrong. Calvin goes on, "Accordingly, they have spoken very truly who have taught that favor with God is not obtained by anyone through works, but on the contrary works please him only when the person has previously found favor in his sight."

Tomorrow's reading: 3.14.9-3.14.14

No comments:

Post a Comment

Presbyterian Bloggers
Powered By Ringsurf