Friday, July 30, 2010

Rewards, Part II

Yesterday we looked at some passages that dealt with rewards. Today we will look at a few more that Calvin's opponents use to try to make salvation a reward for good works and other misinterpretations. We understand through Scripture that good works are "likened to the riches we shall enjoy in the blessedness of eternal life." God is so loving and merciful to us. He forgives all of our shortcomings. He overlooks our faults and the faults of our good works. Calvin writes, "...the services we offer him are unworthy even of his glance, he permits none of them to be lost."

In 2 Thessalonians 1, Paul is speaking to the church about the tribulations they are suffering. He teaches that "such tribulations are sent to them in order that they may be counted worthy of God's Kingdom, for which they suffer." We are assured by God that the trouble we experience for His sake in this life will not be in vain. "Let us always remember that this promise, like all others, would not bear fruit for us if the free covenant of his mercy had not gone before, upon which the whole assurance of our salvation depended." God is not unjust, but keeps all the promises that He makes. Calvin quotes an interesting line from Augustine's commentary on the Psalms. He quotes, "The Lord is faithful, who made himself our debtor - not by accepting anything from us, but by promising us all things." I never thought of God being in debt to us. I am going to have to ponder this some more.

We have gone over and over that we are justified by what? By faith alone! The main competing thought to this is that we are justified by faith and works. Well, there is yet another camp that emerged and Calvin shoots down. They misunderstand at 1 Corinthians 13:2, 13, and Colossians 3:14. "From these two passages (the two passages from 1 Corinthians) our Pharisees contend that we are justified by love rather than faith, doubtless by a stronger power, as they say." We agree with Paul that love is greater than faith, but it is not more meritorious. Calvin tells us that love extends farther than faith, plus it lasts forever, but faith only for a time. He writes, "The power of justifying, which faith possesses, does not lie in any worth of works. Our justification rests upon God's mercy alone and Christ's merit, and faith, when it lays hold of justification, is said to justify." Always the master of metaphors, Calvin writes about the relationship of faith to love: "It is as if someone argued that a king is more capable of making a shoe than a shoemaker is because he is infinitely more eminent." The third passage above is misunderstood by the Scholastics because they think that love perfects them. Calvin argues that we will never attain this perfection "unless we fulfill all the duties of love. From this I shall conclude that, since all men are very far away from fulfilling love, all hope of perfection is cut off from them."

Calvin deals next with arguments over how to understand the story of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16-22. In Matthew 19:17 Jesus tells the ruler that if he wants eternal life, he must follow all the commandments. The ruler had asked what he could do, in other words what works he must perform, in order to earn eternal life. As Calvin writes, "if we seek salvation in works, we must keep the commandments by which we are instructed unto perfect righteousness. But we must not stop here unless we wish to fail mid-course, for none of us is capable of keeping the commandments...We must betake ourselves to another help, to faith in Christ."

Some, in an attempt to derail the doctrine of justification by faith, foolishly claim that faith itself is a work. They point to John 6:29, "Jesus answered and said to them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.'" Calvin responds to these people, "As if faith, in so far as it is obedience to the divine will, obtains righteousness for us on its own merits - and not , rather, in embracing God's mercy, seals upon our hearts Christ's righteousness, by that mercy offered to us in the preaching of the gospel." I would also point out that in our English translation of John 6:29, it reads that this is the work of God - not some work that we accomplish. God is the one acting, not us. Calvin wraps up the section, "But you would be a foolish reasoner if you concluded, on the contrary, that man can be reconciled to God by a single good work when by his many sins he deserves God's wrath."

Tomorrow's reading: 3.19.1-3.19.6

No comments:

Post a Comment

Presbyterian Bloggers
Powered By Ringsurf