Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Arguments Against Justification by the Papists

As we have all learned by now, the Roman Catholics argued against the Reformed doctrine of justification by faith alone. They really wanted to make works a part of justification and redemption. Here in this chapter Calvin tackles three objections that were raised by the papists.

The papists argued that the doctrine of justification did away with good works. They claimed that the Reformers attempted to do away with good works, encouraged men to not worry about good works, lured "into sin men who are already to much inclined to it of their own accord." Calvin argues against these claims in two ways. The first is that good works do not lead to salvation. If the only reason good works are being performed is in the hope of eternal life, then these works are done in error. However, if performing good works are done in gratitude for the saving grace of Jesus Christ who loved us first, then they are being done for the right reason.

The papists argued the the doctrine of justification stifled zeal for good works. This too is not true. Calvin responds by saying, "in saying men will take no care to regulate their lives aright unless hope of reward is held out to them, they are completely in error." People do not need a carrot dangled in front of them to do the right thing IF they are responding to God's mercy. Performing good works is then a natural response because of gratitude for God's love. If we did not perform good works, it would highlight our ingratitude for what Christ did for us. The writers of the New Testament were big on telling their readers to perform good works. "All the apostles are full of exhortations, urgings, and reproofs with which to instruct the man of God in every good work, and that without mention of merit. Rather, they derive their most powerful exhortations from the thought that our salvation stands upon no merit of ours but solely upon God's mercy."

The papists argued that the doctrine of justification is incitement to the sinful. Calvin responds, "But it is the most worthless of slanders to say men are invited to sin, when we affirm the free forgiveness of sins in which we assert righteousness consists." Romans 6:1-2 reads, "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?"  Calvin speaks more about the "free forgiveness of sins," and that it is only free for us.  It was not free for Christ "who dearly bought it at the cost of his most sacred blood, apart from which there was no ransom of sufficient worth to satisfy God's judgment.  When men are taught this, they are made aware that they cannot do anything to prevent the shedding of his most sacred blood as often as they sin."

The main points Calvin is making throughout this chapter are that God's gift of mercy is a free gift to us that we cannot earn.  But those who are truly called by God respond by doing good works, not with the hope that it will earn salvation, but because it is the appropriate response for our gratitude to Christ.

Tomorrow's reading: 3.17.1-3.17.6

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