Monday, August 9, 2010

Defective Prayer and Our One True Mediator

We have now covered Calvin's four basic rules of prayer, but now Calvin make exception for the rules using prayers from Scripture. He uses the examples of the prayers of Jotham (Judges 9:20) and Samson (Judges 16:28) as examples of prayers for vengeance. These prayers were not peaceful or composed. Calvin shows that sometimes God answers the prayers of the unbelievers. The example used was Psalm 107. Calvin writes, "Nay, it is by this circumstance to emphasize or illumine his mercy whenever the prayers of unbelievers are not denied to them; and again to incite his true worshipers to pray the more, when they see that even ungodly wailings sometimes do some good." Similarly, Calvin points out Ahab's feigned penitence in 1 Kings 21:29, but God used this to show how much He takes care of His elect.

Calvin admits that these four rules are not required to be followed in order for our prayers to be hear by God. He does write, "although prayer is an intimate conversation of the pious with God, yet reverence and moderation must be kept, lest we give loose rein to miscellaneous requests, and lest we crave more than God allows; further, that we should lift up our minds to a pure and chaste veneration of him, lest God's majesty become worthless for us." In regards to breaking the first rule of prayer which is reverence, Calvin explains, "But God tolerates even our stammering and pardons our ignorance whenever something inadvertently escapes us; as indeed without this mercy there would be no freedom to pray." Calvin also says that God still hears the prayers of those who break the rule of acknowledging our own insufficiency in prayer. In humility we are to ask forgiveness, but Calvin restates that we ought to seek a twofold pardon: first that our sins are forgiven and secondly that the wrath of God be averted.

Several summers ago, we had a seminary intern for a few months. I noticed that she rarely if ever prayed in Jesus' name. An older gentleman in our congregation also noticed. He caught me in Sunday school and tasked me with approaching the intern about this. Before I had a chance, this intern caused a much bigger stir with something said from the pulpit and fortunately return to seminary soon after. God willingly gave us His Son to be "our advocate and mediator with him, by whose guidance we may confidently come to him, and with such an intercessor, trusting nothing we ask in his name will be denied us, as nothing can be denied to him by the Father." Christ stands between us and the Father, bridging the gap that sin has caused. We can call upon God in Christ's name only - any other name would be a dreadful sin. "Indeed as Paul says, 'all God's promises find their yea and amen in him' [II Cor. 1:20]. That is, they are confirmed and fulfilled."

Christ is are sole intercessor. Under the Law, priests were the only ones who were allowed to approach God. Even then, they had to do it bearing sacrifices. This was a foreshadowing of Christ as Priest and His sacrifice that He made for us. The OT saints knew that if they needed something from God, they bring a sacrifice to Him. However, Christ's sacrifice was made for us once and for all time. "Hence we infer that God was from the beginning appeased by Christ's intercession, so that he received the petitions of the godly." The disciples did not understand after Christ rose that He must ascend into heaven, but "Christ by his very ascension into heaven would be a surer advocate of the church than he had been before."

"Now, since he is the only way, and the one access, by which it is granted to us to come to God, to those who turn aside from this way and forsake this access, no way and no access to God remain; nothing is left in his throne but wrath, judgment, and terror." Christ is the only Mediator. We should never be praying to some other mediator. This does not bar us from praying for one another. We are called to do this, but it should always be done in the name of Christ. The Sophists attempt to confuse this by claiming that Christ is the Mediator of redemption, but believers are mediators of intercession. Calvin points out numerous passages here that prove that Christ and Christ alone is the one true Mediator. You cannot get much clearer about this than the words of Paul when he wrote, "For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus," (1 Timothy 2:5, New King James Version).

Tomorrow's reading: 3.20.21-3.20.24

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