Tag Archives: john calvin

How big is your view of God? Let John Calvin challenge you:

“[I]t is not enough to believe simply that [God] is the only being everyone ought to worship and adore, unless we are also convinced that he is the source of all goodness, and that we must seek for everything in him alone. I am trying to say that we must be convinced not only that he created the world, keeps it going by his goodness, rules the human race with justice, puts up with it in his love and shields it with his protection, but also that there is not an atom of light, wisdom or justice, power, integrity or truth to be found anywhere but flowing from him and generated by him. […] Until people feel that they owe everything to God, that they are protected by his fatherly care and that he is the Author of all their blessings, so that nothing should be sought apart from him, they will never submit to him voluntarily. Indeed, unless they put their complete happiness in his hands, they will never truly have their lives under his control.” (Institutes, 2.1)

I must confess, personally, that I rarely — if at all — think of God in such categories. Rather more the opposite — I tend to put Him in a box, bound by my rules. Perhaps that’s why I lack thankfulness, or prayerfulness? Calvin draws a direct connection between our knowledge of God and how we live:

“The result of our knowledge ought to be first, that we learn reverence and awe and second, that we should be led under its guidance to ask for every good thing from him, and when we receive it to give thanks to him. How can the idea of God come to mind without immediately making us think that since he made us, we are bound by the law of creation itself to submit to his authority — that we owe our lives to him and that we should refer everything we do to him? Otherwise it surely follows that our lives are spoilt, if they are not planned in obedience to him, since our lives should be ruled by his will. Our grasp of his nature is not clear unless we acknowledge him to be the origin and fount of all goodness. This would always lead to confidence in him and a longing to stay close to him, if the depravity of man’s mind did not lead it away from the right approach.” (Institutes, 2.2)

The final sentence of the previous paragraph shows us why we often don’t see God for who He is — because of the fall, sin has corrupted our mind; man’s mind has become depraved. In our fallen state we fail to acknowledge Him and seek to distance ourselves from Him.

But as Christians, we are set free from sin and set free to see God for who He really is: utterly good. Let us then pray that we would not lapse into the old ways of thinking. May we be convinced that he is the “source of all goodness … and seek for everything in him alone”.  

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Calvin on how the Imago Dei should influence our ethics

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, III.4.6.696-7:

The great part of [men] are most unworthy if they be judged by their own merit. But here Scripture helps in the best way when it teaches that we are not to consider that men merit of themselves but to look upon the image of God in all men, to which we owe all honour and love. [You] say, ‘he is contemptible and worthless’; but the Lord shows him to be one to whom he has given the beauty of his image. Say that you owe nothing for any service of his; but God, as it were, has put him in his own place in order that you may recognise toward him the many and great benefits with which God has bound you to himself. Say that he does not deserve even your least effort for your sake; but the image of God, which recommends him to you, is worthy of your giving yourself and all your possessions. … You will say, ‘He has served something far different of me.’ Yet what has the Lord deserved? … remember not to consider men’s evil intention but … look upon the image of God in them, which … with its beauty and dignity allures us to love and embrace them.

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December 5, 2013 · 9:52 am

Christ, our righteousness

Then we show that the only haven of safety is the mercy of God, as manifested in Christ, in whom every part of our salvation is complete. As all mankind are, in the sign of God, lost sinners, we hold that Christ is their only righteousness, since, by His obedience, He has wiped off all our transgressions; by His sacrifice, appeased the divine anger; by His blood, washed away our sins; by His cross, borne our curse; and by His death, made satisfaction for us. We maintain that in this way man is reconciled in Christ to God the Father, by no merit of his own, by no value of works, but by gratuitous mercy.

A Reformation Debate, John Calvin

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