Calvin on the Law Gospel Hermeneutic

Michael Horton writes in his article on Calvin and the Law-Gospel Hermeneutic: Far from adopting a Law-Gospel-Law approach, Calvin insists that the believer no less than the unbeliever must have the Gospel “daily repeated in the Church. That peace of conscience, which is disturbed on the score of works, is not a one-day phenomenon, but ought to continue through our whole life.”18 Since we are ever-assaulted by the fear inculcated by the Law, we must be ever-assured of the promises of the Gospel. Whenever the believer seeks assurance or favor with God, the Law is never a comfort, but when he is trusting in Christ’s imputed righteousness, his relation to the Law changes. It no longer represents God as Judge, but God as Father. More will be said about this below. Well, then, does Hesselink summarize, “Here Calvin does not differ significantly from Luther, except in emphasis and discretion.”19 In the Institutes, Calvin observes that “a man may indeed view from afar the proffered promises, yet he cannot derive any benefit from them. Therefore this thing alone remains: that from the goodness of the promises he should the better judge his own misery, while with the hope of salvation cut off he thinks himself threatened with certain death. On the other hand, horrible threats hang over us, constraining and entangling not a few of us only, but all of us to a man. They hang over us, I say, and pursue us with inexorable harshness, so that we discern in the Law only the most immediate death.”20


Author: Brad

Sinner saved by the sovereign grace of God in the doing, dying, and rising of His Son Jesus Christ.