We Have No Righteousness of Our Own – Calvin on Luke 10:26

John_Calvin_by_HolbeinCommenting on Luke 10:26, Calvin wrote the following:

Luke 10:26 What is written in the law? He receives from Christ a reply different from what he had expected. And, indeed, no other rule of a holy and righteous life was prescribed by Christ than what had been laid down by the Law of Moses; for the perfect love of God and of our neighbors comprehends the utmost perfection of righteousness. Yet it must be observed, that Christ speaks here about obtaining salvation, in agreement with the question which had been put to him; for he does not teach absolutely, as in other passages, how men may arrive at eternal life, but how they ought to live, in order to be accounted righteous in the sight of God. Now it is certain that in the Law there is prescribed to men a rule by which they ought to regulate their life, so as to obtain salvation in the sight of God. That the Law can do nothing else than condemn, and is therefore called the doctrine of death, and is said by Paul to increase transgressions, (Romans 7:13,) arises not from any fault of its doctrine, but because it is impossible for us to perform what it enjoins. Therefore, though no man is justified by the Law yet the Law itself contains the highest righteousness, because it does not falsely hold out salvation to its followers, if any one fully observed all that it commands.72    “S’il s’en trouvoit quelqu’un qui observast entierement ce qu’elle commande;” — “if any one were found who observed entirely what it commands.”  Nor ought we to look upon this as a strange manner of teaching, that God first demands the righteousness of works, and next offers a gratuitous righteousness without works; for it is necessary that men should be convinced of their righteous condemnation, that they may betake themselves to the mercy of God. Accordingly, Paul (Romans 10:5, 6) compares both kinds of righteousness, in order to inform us that the reason why we are freely justified by God is, that we have no righteousness of our own. Now Christ in this reply accommodated himself to the lawyer, and attended to the nature of his question;   for he had inquired not how salvation must be sought, but by what works it must be obtained.

See Luke 10:25-37 in the ESV

See Calvin

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Do This, and Thou Shalt Live – Calvin on Luke 10:28

john-calvinCommenting on Luke 10:28: And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” John Calvin wrote the following:

Luke 10:28. Do this, and thou shalt live. I have explained a little before, how this promise agrees with freely bestowed justification by faith; for the reason why God justifies us freely is, not that the Law does not point out perfect righteousness, but because we fail in keeping it, and the reason why it is declared to be impossible for us to obtain life by it is, that it is weak through our flesh, (Romans 8:3.)  So then these two statements are perfectly consistent with each other, that the Law teaches how men may obtain righteousness by works, and yet that no man is justified by works, because the fault lies not in the doctrine of the Law, but in men. It was the intention of Christ, in the meantime, to vindicate himself from the calumny which, he knew, was brought against him by the unlearned and ignorant, that he set aside the Law, so far as it is a perpetual rule of righteousness.

See Luke 10:25-37 in the ESV

See Calvin

Calvin on Deuteronomy 6:5 – Love Towards God and Neighbor

John_Calvin_by_HolbeinIn Calvin’s Commentaries, Volume 3, Harmony of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, he harmonizes his exegetical thoughts on Deuteronomy 10:12-13, Deuteronomy 6:5, and Leviticus 6:5.  Often times in preaching where law and gospel are not rightly distinguished, passages such as Deuteronomy 6:5 or Matthew 22:37-40 will be referenced in passing and leave the listener with the impression they can actually do this law in the manner required by God in this life.  God actually requires that his law be obeyed perfectly in word, thought, and deed.  When a sermon uses a passage such as Deuteronomy 6:5 without suggesting that we fail to obey God’s law perfectly as required yet Christ fulfilled the righteous requirement of the law in our place, it can leave one more than a bit hopeless.  God’s Word is to be preached carefully to the people of God so that we are neither left to exalt nor despair in ourselves.  As the people of God gather to hear His Word preached, the Gospel should be proclaimed in such a way that genuine believers are comforted in Christ, built up in the faith, and propelled to live in loving obedience to our covenant Lord and loving our neighbor more and more as the day of Christ approaches.   Below I have included the entire section from Calvin’s Commentary on these three passages.  However, it is of particular interest to gain an understanding of Calvin’s view regarding how we fail to love God and neighbor as we should, as perfection requires:

Deuteronomy 10:12.And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require? After having expounded each Commandment in its order, it now remains for us to see what is the sum of the contents of the Law, and what the aim and object of its instructions. For Paul elicits its true use, when he declares that its end is “charity, out of a pure heart and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned,” (1 Timothy 1:5,) since even then it had its false interpreters, who, he says, had “turned aside unto vain jangling,” when they swerved from that object. Now, as it is contained in two Tables, so also Moses reduces it to two heads, that we should love God with all our heart, and our neighbor as ourselves; for, although he does not unite the two in one passage, yet Christ, by whose Spirit he spoke, ought to suffice to explain to us his intention, (Matthew 22:37 for, when He was asked what was the great Commandment of the Law, He replied that the first indeed was, that God should be loved, and the second like unto it, regarding the love of our neighbor; as if He had said, that the whole perfection of righteousness, which is set before us in the Law, consists of two parts, that we should serve God with true piety, and conduct ourselves innocently towards men according to the rule of charity. The same is the sense of Paul’s words, for the faith, which is there called the source and origin of charity, comprehends in it the love of God. At any rate, the declaration of Christ stands sure, that nothing is required of us by the Law, but that we should love God, together with our neighbors. From hence a short and clear definition may be laid down, that nothing is required unto a good life except piety and justice. 174

Paul, indeed, seems to add a third clause, when he says, that “the grace of God hath appeared, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world,” (Titus 2:11, 12) but this σωφροσύνη, (soberness,) is there added as the seasoning, so to speak, of a just and pious life; and assuredly no one will prove that he aims at holiness and integrity, unless by living chastely, honestly, and temperately. Thus, where the service of God is omitted,175 and the doctrine of the Law confined to the love of our neighbor alone, it is not so much that religion is put out of sight 176 it is not so much to bury religion, and what concerns the first table, as to give testimony of it by its fruits. — Fr. (sepelitur,) as that the proof of it is made to rest on serious self-examination; for since it is the way with hypocrites to cover themselves with ceremonies as with a mask of sanctity, whilst they are puffed up with pride, burn with avarice and rapacity, are full of envy and malice, breathe out threatenings and cruelty, and are abandoned to filthy lusts, Christ, in order to disperse these clouds of pretense, declares that the three chief points in the Law are “judgment, mercy,” and fidelity,177 is nothing else than strict integrity; not to attempt anything by cunning, or malice, or deceit, but to cultivate towards all that mutual sincerity which every man wishes to be pursued towards himself.” See also Inst., book 2. ch. 8. sect. 52.  (Matthew 23:23) and elsewhere, discoursing of the righteousness of the Law, He makes no mention of the First Table. (Matthew 19:18.)

For the same reason, Paul calls charity the fulfillment of the Law, (Romans 13:8,) and elsewhere, “the bond of perfectness.” (Colossians 3:14.) Still, nothing was further from their intention than to draw us away from the fear of God, that we might devote ourselves to our duties towards men, as I have already shown from another passage, where Christ, in summing up the Law, begins with the love of God. And Paul, where he teaches that we should be altogether perfect, if faith works in us by love, (Galatians 5:6,) does not omit the cause and principle of a good life. And thus are reconciled the passages which else might appear contradictory, via, that holiness is perfected in the fear of the Lord, when “we cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit,” (2 Corinthians 7:1) and “all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” (Galatians 5:14) that is to say, because our piety cannot otherwise make itself clear by certain proof, unless we behave justly and harmlessly towards men. 178 Again, since “our goodness extendeth not to” God, so it is perceived what our mind is by our performance of the duties of the Second Table, as it is said in the Psalm, “my goodness extendeth not to thee, but to the saints that are in the earth, in whom is all my delight,”  179 (Psalm 16:2, 3) for how will any one boast, (as John says,) that he loves God, whom he does not see, if he loveth not his brother with whom he is familiarly united? (1 John 4:20.) Since, therefore, falsehood is thus detected, God exercises us in piety by mutual charity; and hence John concludes, that “this Commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” (1 John 4:21.)

Before, however, I say any more of these two precepts, we must observe the end of the Law as it is described by Moses; “Now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and all thy soul?” For, although he further eulogizes the Law, because it prescribes nothing which nature does not itself dictate to be most certain and most just, and which experience itself does not shew us to be more profitable, or more desirable than anything else, still, at the same time, he reminds us what is the means by which it is to be kept. 180 Therefore he sets before us at the same time the fear and the love of God; for, inasmuch as God is the Lord, He justly desires to be feared in right of His dominion; and, inasmuch as He is our Father, He requires to be loved, as it is said in Malachi 1:6. Let us learn, therefore, if we would set ourselves about keeping the Law, that we must begin with the fear of God, which is hence called the “beginning of wisdom.” (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7, and Proverbs 9:10.) But, since God has no pleasure in extorted and forced obedience, love is immediately added. And this deserves to be well weighed, that whereas there is nothing pleasanter than to love God, still it always occupies the first place in all His service. Surely he must be more than iron-hearted who is not attracted by such kindness; since, for no other cause, does He invite and exhort us to love Him, than because He loveth us; nay, He has already prevented us with His love, as is said in 1 John 4:10. Meanwhile, we may at the same time gather, that nothing is pleasing to God which is offered “grudgingly or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7.) It is true that Paul is there speaking of alms-giving; but this voluntary and hearty inclination to obey, such as we see in good and ingenuous children, who take delight in subjection to their parents, ought to be extended to all the actions of our lives. And assuredly the reverence which is paid to God flows from no other source than the tasting of His paternal love towards us, whereby we are drawn to love Him in return; as it is said in Psalm 130:4, “There is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.” Whenever, then, we hear what Scripture constantly inculcates; “O love ye Jehovah, 181 all ye his meek ones!” (Psalm 31:23.) let us remember that God shews Himself loving towards us, in order that we may willingly and with becoming cheerfulness acquiesce in what He commands.

The perfection which is here required shews with sufficient clearness how far we are from a thorough obedience to the Law. We are commanded to love God with all our heart, and soul, and strength. However much we strive, our efforts are weak and imperfect, unless the love of God has possession of all our senses, and all our desires and thoughts are altogether devoted to Him, whilst all our endeavors are also directed to Him alone. But every one is abundantly convinced by his own experience, in how many ways our minds are carried away to vanity; how many corrupt affections creep over us; how difficult it is for us to restrain and overcome the evil motions of our flesh. Surely the very best wrestler, with all his strivings, is hardly able to make advances in this spiritual warfare; and if it be a great attainment not to faint altogether, certainly none will dare to boast that he comes near the mark which is set before us in the Law. In short, whenever worldly snares and foolish appetites insinuate themselves upon us, we must so often feel that some part of our soul is empty of the love of God, since otherwise nothing repugnant to it would penetrate there. The word heart here,182 as elsewhere, is not used for the seat of the affections, but for the intellect; and, therefore, it would have been superfluous to add διάνοιας, as the Evangelists have done, unless for the purpose of removing all ambiguity; but because this signification was not commonly in use among the Greeks, they have not hesitated to add a word of their own in explanation. Those, however, who are well acquainted with the teaching of Moses, are not ignorant that the word heart is equivalent to mind; for he elsewhere says, “The Lord hath not given you an heart to understand,183 and eyes to see, unto this day,” (Deuteronomy 29:4) but the expression would have been obscure to the Greeks, as being unusual in their language.184

Leviticus 19

Leviticus 19:18

18. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

18. Diliges proximum tuum sicut to ipsum.

 

18. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. What every man’s mind ought to be towards his neighbor, could not be better expressed in many pages that in this one sentence. We are all of us not only inclined to love ourselves more than we should, but all our powers hurry us away in this direction; nay, φιλαυτία (self-love) blinds us so much as to be the parent of all iniquities. Since, therefore, whilst we are too much given to love ourselves, we forget and neglect our brethren, God could only bring us back to charity by plucking from our hearts that vicious passion which is born with us and dwells deeply in us; nor, again, could this be done except by transferring elsewhere the love which exists within us. On this point no less has the dishonesty betrayed itself than the ignorance and folly of those185  who would have the love of ourselves come first: “The rule (say they) is superior to the thing regulated by it; and according to God’s commandment, the charity which we should exercise towards others is formed upon the love of ourselves as its rule.” As if it were God’s purpose to stir up the fire which already burns too fiercely. Naturally, as I have said, we are blinded by our immoderate self-love; and God, in order to turn us away from this, has substituted our neighbors, whom we are to love no less than ourselves; nor will any one ever perform what Paul teaches us to be a part of charity, viz., that she “seeketh not her own,” (1 Corinthians 13:5,) until he shall have renounced himself.

Not only those with whom we have some connection are called our neighbors, but all without exception; for the whole human race forms one body, of which all are members, and consequently should be bound together by mutual ties; for we must bear in mind that even those who are most alienated from us, should be cherished and aided even as our own flesh; since we have 186 seen elsewhere that sojourners and strangers are placed in the same category (with our relations; 187 and Christ sufficiently confirms this in the case of the Samaritan. (Luke 10:30.)

174    “Que la somme de bien vivre est d’honorer Dieu, et converser justement avec les hommes;” that the sum of a good life is to honor God, and to demean ourselves justly towards men. — Fr.

175    “En d’aucuns passages;” in some passages. — Fr.

176    “Ce n’est pas tant pour ensevelir la religion, et ce qui concerne la premiere table, que pour en rendre tesmoignage par fruits;”

177    Faith. — A.V. “Faith (says C. Harm. of Evang., vol. 3. 90,)

178    “Innoxie” — Lat. “En bonne simplicite” — Fr.

179    “Voluntas mea.” — Lat.

180    “Quel est le moyen de bien garder la Loi, quand on saura ou elle nous mene;” what is the means of properly keeping the Law, when we know whither it leads us. — Fr.

181    “O love the Lord, all ye his saints.” — A.V. See C.’s version, Calvin Society’s edition. “Misericordes ejusi.e., quotquot sensistis bonitatem ejus.” — Vatablus in Poole’s Synopsis.

182   The word לבב, lebab, the heart, is “extensively applied to the mind, and includeth the mind and every faculty, action, passion, disposition, and affection thereof, as thoughts,   understanding, reasoning, memory, will, judgment, wisdom, counsel; desire, love, hatred, courage, fear, joy, sorrow, anger.” — Taylor’s Concordance. See C. on Matthew 22:37Mark 12:33, and Luke 10:27, in Harmony of Evangelists: (Calvin Society’s translation,) vol. 3, p. 58

183    “An heart to perceive.” — A.V.

184    The last sentence omitted in Fr.

185    “Les docteurs Papistes.” — FrSee ante on Leviticus 19:18p. 23.

186    On Leviticus 19:33ante p. 118.

187    Added from Fr.)

Source: http://www.ccel.org/study/Deuteronomy_10%3A13-13?version=niv&tab=commentary&commentary=1

Distinguishing Law and Gospel Always Under Attack

The paradigm of distinguishing Law and Gospel is under attack.  The overarching fear seems to be that antinomianism will prevail in the church and practical holiness will not be pursued.  In this brief 3 minute video, Michael Horton, author and professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Seminary in California, defines the Gospel in a narrow sense.  Some accuse this definition of the ‘Gospel’ of being out of accord with the Reformation understanding of the gospel.  It’s claimed he presents a ‘truncated gospel’ and some have called this some form of ‘Modern Day Reformed Thought’.

Here are some quotes from The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man, (Escondido, California: den Dulk Foundation, 1990) Vol. 1 on the Gospel in the Narrow Sense https://covenantnurture.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/the-gospel-in-the-narrow-sense-herman-witsius/ These quotes provide evidence that Dr. Horton is completely in accord with the Reformation in his definition of the gospel.  Witsius elsewhere speaks of the 3rd use of the law throughout the Economy of the Covenants.  Michael Horton does the same in his writings and on his program the White Horse Inn.  The difference is Horton is attacked today by those that profess faith in Christ, even from within the Reformed churches.

What do God’s two words of Law and Gospel actually accomplish?  Michael Horton has some very helpful thoughts from his systematic theology, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way, p. 755-56.

It is important to recognize while God’s Word is living and active, its  “two words” of law and gospel do different things.  The law kills by revealing our guilt, while the Spirit makes alive by the gospel (2 Co 3:6-18).  By speaking law, God silences and convicts us; by speaking the gospel, God justifies and renews us.  God’s energies, mediated by human language, not only inform us of judgment and grace but judge and save.
                Specifically, the gospel is that part of God’s word that gives life.  While everything that God says is true, useful, and full of impact, not everything that God says is saving.  First Peter 1:23-24 adds, “You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.”  Furthermore, it is not the word in general but the gospel in particular that is credited with this vivifying effect: “This word is the good news that was preached to you” (v. 25).  Similarly, Paul says that “faith comes from hearing… the word of Christ,” and more specifically, “the gospel of peace,” (Ro 10:15, 17).  Salvation is not something that one has to actively pursue, attain, and ascend to grasp, as if it were far away, but is as near as  “the word of faith that we proclaim” (v. 8).  We do not have to bring Christ up from the dead or ascend into heaven to bring him down, since he addresses us directly in his word (vv. 6-9).  The gospel is “the power of God for salvation” (Ro 1:16).
                Calvin observes that some parts of God’s Word engender fear and judgment.11 “For although faith believes every word of God, it rests solely on the word of grace or mercy, the promise of God’s fatherly goodwill,” which is realized only in and through Christ.12 “For in God faith seeks life,” says Calvin, “a life that is not found in commandments or declarations of penalties, but in the promise of mercy, and only in a freely given promise.”13 The only safe route, therefore, is to receive the Father through the incarnate Son.  Christ is the saving content of Scripture, the substance of its canonical unity.14 “This, then, is the true knowledge of Christ, if we receive him as he is offered by the Father: namely, clothed with his gospel.  For just as he has been appointed as the goal of our faith, so we cannot take the right road unless the gospel goes before us.”15

11. Calvin, Institutes 3.2.7; 3.2.29.
12. Ibid., 3.2.28-30.
13. Ibid., 3.2.29.
14. Ibid., 1.13.7.
15. Ibid., 3.2.6.

The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way, p. 755-56 by Michael Horton

Heidelberg is helpful here too.  We get faith from hearing the Gospel preached.

21. What is true faith?

True faith is not only a sure knowledge whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in His Word, but also a hearty trust, which the Holy Spirit works in me by the Gospel, that not only to others, but to me also, forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.

65. Since, then, we are made partakers of Christ and all His benefits by faith only, where does this faith come from?

The Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts by the preaching of the Holy Gospel, and confirms it by the use of the holy sacraments.

More resources for learning how to distinguish Law and Gospel are available here:

Calvin on Faith Assuring Us of God’s Favor and Promises

28. FAITH ASSURES US NOT OF EARTHLY PROSPERITY BUT OF GOD’S FAVOR

Now, in the divine benevolence, which faith is said to look to, we understand the possession of salvation and eternal life is obtained. For if, while God is favorable, no good can be lacking, when he assures us of his love we are abundantly and sufficiently assured of salvation. “Let him show his face,” says the prophet, “and we will be saved.” [Psalm 80:3 p.; cf. Psalm 79:4, Vg.] Hence Scripture establishes this as the sum of our salvation, that he has abolished all enmities and received us into grace [Ephesians 2:14]. By this they intimate that when God is reconciled to us no danger remains to prevent all things from prospering for us. Faith, therefore, having grasped the love of God, has promises of the present life and of that to come [1 Timothy 4:8], and firm assurance of all good things, but of such sort as can be perceived from the Word. For faith does not certainly promise itself either length of years or honor or riches in this life, since the Lord willed that none of these things be appointed for us. But it is content with this certainty: that, however many things fail us that have to do with the maintenance of this life, God will never fail. Rather, the chief assurance of faith rests in the expectation of the life to come, which has been placed beyond doubt through the Word of God. Yet whatever earthly miseries and calamities await those whom God has embraced in his love, these cannot hinder his benevolence from being their full happiness. Accordingly, when we would express the sum of blessedness, we have mentioned the grace of God; for from this fountain every sort of good thing flows unto us. And we may commonly observe in the Scriptures that we are recalled to the love of the Lord whenever mention is made not only of eternal salvation but of any good we may have. For this reason, David sings of that divine goodness which, when felt in the godly heart, is sweeter and more desirable than life itself [Psalm 63:3].

In short, if all things flow unto us according to our wish, but we are uncertain of God’s love or hatred, our happiness will be accursed and therefore miserable. But if in fatherly fashion God’s countenance beams upon us, even our miseries will be blessed. For they will be turned into aids to salvation. So Paul heaps up all adverse things, but glories that we are not separated from God’s love through them [Romans 8:35, cf. 5:39], and always begins his prayers with God’s grace, whence flows all prosperity; in like manner, against all terrors that disturb us David sets God’s favor alone: “If I walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evils, for thou art with me” [Psalm 22:4, Vg.; 23:4, EV]. And we always feel our minds wavering unless, content with God’s grace, they seek their peace in it, and hold fixed deep within what is said in the psalm: “Blessed is the people whose God is Jehovah, and the nation he has chosen as his inheritance” [Psalm 33:12, cf. Comm.].

(Basis of faith the free promise, given in the Word, of grace in Christ, 29-32) 29.

29. GOD’S PROMISE THE SUPPORT OF FAITH

We make the freely given promise of God the foundation of faith because upon it faith properly rests. Faith is certain that God is true in all things whether he command or forbid, whether he promise or threaten; and it also obediently receives his commandments, observes his prohibitions, heeds his threats. Nevertheless, faith properly begins with the promise, rests in it, and ends in it. For in God faith seeks life: a life that is not found in commandments or declarations of penalties, but in the promise of mercy, and only in a freely given promise. For a conditional promise that sends us back to our own works does not promise life unless we discern its presence in ourselves. Therefore, if we would not have our faith tremble and waver, we must buttress it with the promise of salvation, which is willingly and freely offered to us by the Lord in consideration of our misery rather than our deserts. The apostle, therefore, bears this witness to the gospel: that it is the word of faith [Romans 10:8]. He distinguishes the gospel both from the precepts of the law and from the promises, since there is nothing that can establish faith except that generous embassy by which God reconciles the world to himself [cf. 2 Corinthians 5:19-20]. Thence, also, arises that frequent correlation of faith and gospel in the apostle, when he teaches that the ministry of the gospel is committed to him to further “obedience to the faith” [Romans 1:5], that “it is the power of God for salvation to every believer;…in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith” [Romans 1:16-17]. And no wonder! Indeed, since the gospel is the “ministry of reconciliation” [2 Corinthians 5:18], no other sufficiently firm testimony of God’s benevolence to us exists, the knowledge of which faith seeks.  

Therefore, when we say that faith must rest upon a freely given promise, we do not delay that believers embrace and grasp the Word of God in every respect: but we point out the promise of mercy as the proper goal of faith. As on the one hand believers ought to recognize God to be Judge and Avenger of wicked deeds, yet on the other hand they properly contemplate his kindness, since he is so described to them as to be considered “one who is kind” [cf. Psalm 86:5, Comm.], “and merciful” [cf. Psalm 103:8, Comm.; 102:8, Vg.], “far from anger and of great goodness” [cf. Psalm 103:8, Comm.], “sweet to all” [Psalm 144:9, Vg.], “pouring out his mercy upon all his works” [cf. Psalm 145:9, Comm.].

Source: John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion (1559) 3.2.28-29, Library of Christian Classics; John T. McNiell; trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1959) http://media.sabda.org/alkitab-7/LIBRARY/CALVIN/CAL_BAT3.PDF

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

Source: http://www.mountainretreatorg.net/articles/calvin_and_the_law-gospel_hermeneutic.shtml

Calvin on Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34; Luke 10:25-37

Matthew 22:34-40

Mark 12:28-34

Luke 10:25-37

34. But when the Pharisees heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they assembled together. 35. And one of them, a doctor of the law, put a question to him, tempting him, and saying, 36. Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37. Jesus saith to him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38. This is the first and great commandment. 39. And the second is like it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as much as thyself. 40. On these two commandments the whole law and the prophets depend.

28. And when one of the scribes came, and heard them disputing together, and saw that he had answered them well, he put a question to him, Which is the first commandment of all? 29. And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. 30. And, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength; this is the first commandment. 31. And the second, which is like it, is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: there is no other commandment greater than these. 32. And the scribe said to him, Master, thou hast answered well with truth, that there is one God, and there is no other besides him. 33. And that to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbor as himself, is better than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices. 34. And Jesus, when he saw that he had replied skillfully, said to him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And after that, no man ventured to put a question to him.

25. And, lo, a certain lawyer 71 rose up, tempting him, and saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 26. And he said to him, What is written in the law? How readest thou? 27. He answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself. 28. And he said to him, Thou hast answered right: do this, and thou shalt live. 29. But he wishing to justify himself, said to Jesus, and Who is my neighbor? 30. And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, who even stripped him of his raiment, and, having wounded him, went away, leaving him half-dead. 31. And it happened that a certain priest came down that way, and having seen him, passed by. 32. And in like manner a Levite, going near the place, having approached and seen him, passed by. 33. And a certain Samaritan, on his journey, came to him, and when he saw him, was moved with compassion. 34. And approaching, bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine; and, setting him on his own beast, conducted him to an inn, and took care of him. 35. And, next day, as he was departing, he drew out two denarii, and gave them to the landlord, and said to him, Take care of him, and whatever thou spendest more, when I return, I will repay thee. 36. Which therefore of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor to him who fell among robbers? 37. And he said, He who took compassion on him. Jesus therefore said to him, Go, and do thou in like manner.

Although I think that this narrative has nothing more than a resemblance to what is related by Matthew in the 22nd, and by Mark in the 12th chapter, of his Gospel, and that they are not the same; I have chosen to collect them into one place, because, while Matthew and Mark affirm that this was the last question by which our Lord was tempted, Luke makes no mention of that circumstance, and seems intentionally to leave it out, because he had stated it in another passage. And yet I do not dispute that it may be the same narrative, though Luke has some things different from the other two. They all agree in this, that the scribe put a question for the sake of tempting Christ; but he who is described by Matthew and Mark goes away with no bad disposition; for he acquiesces in Christ’s reply, and shows a sign of a teachable and gentle mind: to which must be added, that Christ, on the other hand, declares that he is not far from the kingdom of God. Luke, on the other hand, introduces a man who was obstinate and swelled with pride, in whom no evidence of repentance is discovered. Now there would be no absurdity in saying that Christ was repeatedly tempted on the subject of true righteousness, and of keeping the Law, and of the rule of a good life. But whether Luke has related this out of its proper place, or whether he has now passed by the other question — because that former narrative relating to doctrine was sufficient — the similarity of the doctrine seemed to require me to compare the three Evangelists with each other.

Let us now see what was the occasion that led this scribe to put a question to Christ. It is because, being an expounder of the Law, he is offended at the doctrine of the gospel, by which he supposes the authority of Moses to be diminished. At the same time, he is not so much influenced by zeal for the Law, as by displeasure at losing some part of the honor of his teaching. He therefore inquires at Christ, if he wishes to profess any thing more perfect than the Law; for, though he does not say this in words, yet his question is ensnaring, for the purpose of exposing Christ to the hatred of the people. Matthew and Mark do not attribute this stratagem to one man only, but show that it was done by mutual arrangement, and that out of the whole sect one person was chosen who was thought to excel the rest in ability and learning. In the form of the question, too, Luke differs somewhat from Matthew and Mark; for, according to him, the scribe inquires what men must do to obtain eternal life, but according to the other two Evangelists, he inquires what is the chief commandment in the law. But the design is the same, for he makes a deceitful attack on Christ, that, if he can draw any thing from his lips that is at variance with the law, he may exclaim against him as an apostate and a promoter of ungodly revolt.

Luke 10:26. What is written in the law? He receives from Christ a reply different from what he had expected. And, indeed, no other rule of a holy and righteous life was prescribed by Christ than what had been laid down by the Law of Moses; for the perfect love of God and of our neighbors comprehends the utmost perfection of righteousness. Yet it must be observed, that Christ speaks here about obtaining salvation, in agreement with the question which had been put to him; for he does not teach absolutely, as in other passages, how men may arrive at eternal life, but how they ought to live, in order to be accounted righteous in the sight of God. Now it is certain that in the Law there is prescribed to men a rule by which they ought to regulate their life, so as to obtain salvation in the sight of God. That the Law can do nothing else than condemn, and is therefore called the doctrine of death, and is said by Paul to increase transgressions, (Romans 7:13,) arises not from any fault of its doctrine, but because it is impossible for us to perform what it enjoins. Therefore, though no man is justified by the Law yet the Law itself contains the highest righteousness, because it does not falsely hold out salvation to its followers, if any one fully observed all that it commands. 72 Nor ought we to look upon this as a strange manner of teaching, that God first demands the righteousness of works, and next offers a gratuitous righteousness without works; for it is necessary that men should be convinced of their righteous condemnation, that they may betake themselves to the mercy of God. Accordingly, Paul (Romans 10:5, 6) compares both kinds of righteousness, in order to inform us that the reason why we are freely justified by God is, that we have no righteousness of our own. Now Christ in this reply accommodated himself to the lawyer, and attended to the nature of his question; for he had inquired not how salvation must be sought, but by what works it must be obtained.

Matthew 22:37. Thou shalt love the Lord thou God. According to Mark, the preface is inserted, that Jehovah alone is the God of Israel; by which words God supports the authority of his law in two ways. For, first, it ought to be a powerful excitement to the worship of God, when we are fully convinced that we worship the actual Creator of heaven and earth, because indifference is naturally produced by doubt; and, secondly, because it is a pleasing inducement to love him, when he freely adopts us as his people. So then, that they may not hesitate, as usually happens in cases of uncertainty, the Jews are informed that the rule of life is prescribed to them by the true and only God; and, on the other hand, that they may not be kept back by distrust, God approaches to them in a familiar manner, and reminds them of his gracious covenant with them. And yet there is no reason to doubt that the Lord distinguishes himself from all idols, that the Jews may not be drawn aside from him, but may adhere to the pure worship of God himself. Now if uncertainty does not keep back the wretched worshippers of idols from being carried away to the love of them by impetuous zeal, what excuse is left for the hearers of the Law, if they remain indifferent, after that God has revealed himself to them?

What follows is an abridgment of the Law, 73 which is also found in the writings of Moses, (Deuteronomy 6:5.) For, though it is divided into two tables, the first of which relates to the worship of God, and the second to charity, Moses properly and wisely draws up this summary, 74 that the Jews may perceive what is the will of God in each of the commandments. And although we ought to love God far more than men, yet most properly does God, instead of worship or honor, require love from us, because in this way he declares that no other worship is pleasing to Him than what is voluntary; for no man will actually obey God but he who loves Him. But as the wicked and sinful inclinations of the flesh draw us aside from what is right, Moses shows that our life will not be regulated aright till the love of God fill all our senses. Let us therefore learn, that the commencement of godliness is the love of God, because God disdains the forced services of men, and chooses to be worshipped freely and willingly; and let us also learn, that under the love of God is included the reverence due to him.

Moses does not add the mind, but mentions only the heart, and the soul, and the strength; and though the present division into four clauses is more full, yet it does not alter the sense. For while Moses intends to teach generally that God ought to be perfectly loved, and that whatever powers belong to men ought to be devoted to this object, he reckoned it enough, after mentioning the soul and the heart, to add the strength, that he might not leave any part of us uninfluenced by the love of God; and we know also that under the word heart the Hebrews sometimes include the mind, 75 particularly when it is joined to the word soul What is the difference between the mind and the heart, both in this passage and in Matthew, I do not trouble myself to inquire, except that I consider the mind to denote the loftier abode of reason, from which all our thoughts and deliberations flow.

It now appears from this summary that, in the commandments of the Law, God does not look at what men can do, but at what they ought to do; since in this infirmity of the flesh it is impossible that perfect love can obtain dominion, for we know how strongly all the senses of our soul are disposed to vanity. Lastly, we learn from this, that God does not rest satisfied with the outward appearance of works, but chiefly demands the inward feelings, that from a good root good fruits may grow.

39. And the second is like it. He assigns the second place to mutual kindness among men, for the worship of God is first in order. The commandment to love our neighbors, he tells us, is like the first, because it depends upon it. For, since every man is devoted to himself, there will never be true charity towards neighbors, unless where the love of God reigns; for it is a mercenary love 76 which the children of the world entertain for each other, because every one of them has regard to his own advantage. On the other hand, it is impossible for the love of God to reign without producing brotherly kindness among men.

Again, when Moses commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves, he did not intend to put the love of ourselves in the first place, so that a man may first love himself and then love his neighbors; as the sophists of the Sorbonne are wont to cavil, that a rule must always go before what it regulates. But as we are too much devoted to ourselves, Moses, in correcting this fault, places our neighbors in an equal rank with us; thus forbidding every man to pay so much attention to himself as to disregard others, because kindness unites all in one body. And by correcting the self-love (φιλαυτίαν) which separates some persons from others, he brings each of them into a common union, and—as it were—into a mutual embrace. Hence we conclude, that charity is justly pronounced by Paul to be

the bond of perfection, (Colossians 3:14,)

and, in another passage, the

fulfilling of the law, (Romans 13:10😉

for all the commandments of the second table must be referred to it.

Luke 10:28. Do this, and thou shalt live. I have explained a little before, how this promise agrees with freely bestowed justification by faith; for the reason why God justifies us freely is, not that the Law does not point out perfect righteousness, but because we fail in keeping it, and the reason why it is declared to be impossible for us to obtain life by it is, that

it is weak through our flesh, (Romans 8:3.)

So then these two statements are perfectly consistent with each other, that the Law teaches how men may obtain righteousness by works, and yet that no man is justified by works, because the fault lies not in the doctrine of the Law, but in men. It was the intention of Christ, in the meantime, to vindicate himself from the calumny which, he knew, was brought against him by the unlearned and ignorant, that he set aside the Law, so far as it is a perpetual rule of righteousness.

29. But he wishing to justify himself. This question might appear to be of no importance for justifying a man. But if we recollect what was formerly stated, that the hypocrisy of men is elderly detected by means of the second table—for, while they pretend to be eminent worshippers of God, they openly violate charity towards their neighbors—it will be easy to infer from this, that the Pharisee practiced this evasion, in order that, concealed under the false mask of holiness, he might not be brought forth to light. So then, aware that the test of charity would prove unfavorable to him, he seeks concealment under the word neighbor, that he may not be discovered to be a transgressor of the Law. But we have already seen, that on this subject the Law was corrupted by the scribes, because they reckoned none to be their neighbors but those who were worthy of it. Hence, too, this principle was received among them, that we have a right to hate our enemies, (Matthew 5:43.) For the only method to which hypocrites can resort for avoiding the condemnation of themselves, is to turn away as far as they are able, that their life may not be tried by the judgment of the Law.

30. And Jesus answering said. Christ might have stated simply, that the word neighbor extends indiscriminately to every man, because the whole human race is united by a sacred bond of fellowship. And, indeed, the Lord employed this word in the Law, for no other reason than to draw us sweetly to mutual kindness. The commandment would have run more clearly thus: Love every man as thyself. But as men are blinded by their pride, so that every man is satisfied with himself, scarcely deigns to admit others to an equal rank, and withholds from them the duties he owes them, the Lord purposely declares that all are neighbors that the very relationship may produce mutual love. To make any person our neighbor, therefore, it is enough that he be, a man; for it is not in our power to blot out our common nature.

But Christ intended to draw the reply from the Pharisee, that he might condemn himself. For in consequence of the authoritative decision being generally received among them, that no man is our neighbor unless he is our friend, if Christ had put a direct question to him, he would never have made an explicit acknowledgment, that under the word neighbor all men are included, which the comparison brought forward forces him to confess. The general truth conveyed is, that the greatest stranger is our neighbor, because God has bound all men together, for the purpose of assisting each other. He glances briefly, however, at the Jews, and especially at the priests; because, while they boasted of being the children of the same Father, and of being separated by the privilege of adoption from the rest of the nations, so as to be God’s sacred heritage, yet, with barbarous and unfeeling contempt, they despised each other, as if no relationship had subsisted between them. For there is no doubt that Christ describes the cruel neglect of brotherly kindness, with which they knew that they were chargeable. But here, as I have said, the chief design is to show that the neighborhood, which lays us under obligation to mutual offices of kindness, is not confined to friends or relatives, but extends to the whole human race.

To prove this, Christ compares a Samaritan to a priest and a Levite. It is well known what deadly hatred the Jews bore to the Samaritans, so that, notwithstanding their living close beside them, they were always at the greatest variance. Christ now says, that a Jew, an inhabitant of Jericho, on his journey from Jerusalem, having been wounded by robbers, received no assistance either from a Levite or from a priest, both of whom met with him lying on the road, and half-dead, but that a Samaritan showed him great kindness, and then asks, Which of these three was neighbor to the Jew? This subtle doctor could not escape from preferring the Samaritan to the other two. For here, as in a mirror, we behold that common relationship of men, which the scribes endeavored to blot out by their wicked sophistry; 77 and the compassion, which an enemy showed to a Jew, demonstrates that the guidance and teaching of nature are sufficient to show that man was created for the sake of man. Hence it is inferred that there is a mutual obligation between all men.

The allegory which is here contrived by the advocates of free will is too absurd to deserve refutation. According to them, under the figure of a wounded man is described the condition of Adam after the fall; from which they infer that the power of acting well was not wholly extinguished in him; because he is said to be only half-dead. As if it had been the design of Christ, in this passage, to speak of the corruption of human nature, and to inquire whether the wound which Satan inflicted on Adam were deadly or curable; nay, as if he had not plainly, and without a figure, declared in another passage, that all are dead, but those whom he quickens by his voice, (John 5:25.) As little plausibility belongs to another allegory, which, however, has been so highly satisfactory, that it has been admitted by almost universal consent, as if it had been a revelation from heaven. This Samaritan they imagine to be Christ, because he is our guardian; and they tell us that wine was poured, along with oil, into the wound, because Christ cures us by repentance and by a promise of grace. They have contrived a third subtlety, that Christ does not immediately restore health, but sends us to the Church, as an innkeeper, to be gradually cured. I acknowledge that I have no liking for any of these interpretations; but we ought to have a deeper reverence for Scripture than to reckon ourselves at liberty to disguise its natural meaning. And, indeed, any one may see that the curiosity of certain men has led them to contrive these speculations, contrary to the intention of Christ.

Matthew 22:40. On these two commandments. I now return to Matthew, where Christ says that all the Law and the prophets depend on these two commandments; not that he intends to limit to them 78 all the doctrine of Scripture, but because all that is anywhere taught as to the manner of living a holy and righteous life must be referred to these two leading points. For Christ does not treat generally of what the Law and the Prophets contain, but, in drawing up his reply, states that nothing else is required in the Law and the prophets than that every man should love God and his neighbors; as if he had said, that the sum of a holy and upright life consists in the worship of God and in charity to men, as Paul states that charity is

the fulfilling of the law, (Romans 13:10.)

And therefore some ill-informed persons are mistaken in interpreting this saying of Christ, as if we ought to seek nothing higher in the Law and the Prophets. For as a distinction ought to be made between the promises and the commandments, so in this passage Christ does not state generally what we ought to learn from the word of God, but explains, in a manner suited to the occasion, the end to which all the commandments are directed. Yet the free forgiveness of sins, by which we are reconciled to God, — confidence in calling on God, which is the earnest of the future inheritance, — and all the other parts of faith, though they hold the first rank in the Law, do not depend on these two commandments; for it is one thing to demand what we owe, and another thing to offer what we do not possess. The same thing is expressed in other words by Mark, that there is no other commandment greater than these.

Mark 12:32. Master, thou hast spoken well, and with truth. Mark alone mentions that the scribe was softened down; and it is worthy of notice that, though he had attacked Christ maliciously, and with the intention of taking him by surprise, not only does he silently yield to the latter, but openly and candidly assents to what Christ had said. Thus we see that he did not belong to the class of those enemies whose obstinacy is incurable; for, though they have been a hundred times convinced, yet they do not cease to oppose the truth in some manner. From this reply it may also be concluded, that Christ did not precisely include under these two words the rule of life, but embraced the opportunity which presented itself for reproving the false and hypocritical holiness of the scribes, who, giving their whole attention to outward ceremonies, almost entirely disregarded the spiritual worship of God, and cared little about brotherly kindness. Now though the scribe was infected by such corruptions, yet, as sometimes happens, he had obtained from the Law the seed of right knowledge, which lay choked in his heart, and on that account he easily allows himself to be withdrawn from the wicked custom.

33. Is better than all burnt-offerings and sacrifices. But it appears to be incongruous that sacrifices, which are a part of divine worship, and belong to the first table of the Law, should be reckoned of less importance than charity towards men. The reply is, Though the worship of God is greatly preferable, and is more valuable than all the duties of a holy life, yet its outward exercises ought not to be estimated so highly as to swallow up brotherly kindness. For we know that brotherly kindness, in itself and simply, is pleasing to God, though sacrifices are not regarded by him with delight or approbation, except with a view to another object. Besides, it is naked and empty sacrifices that are here spoken of; for our Lord contrasts a hypocritical appearance of piety with true and sincere uprightness. The same doctrine is to be found very frequently in the prophets, that hypocrites may know that sacrifices are of no value, unless spiritual truth be joined to them, and that God is not appeased by offerings of beasts, where brotherly kindness is neglected.

34. But when Jesus saw. Whether this scribe made any farther progress is uncertain; but as he had shown himself to be teachable, Christ stretches out the hand to him, and teaches us, by his example, that we ought to assist those in whom there is any beginning either of docility or of right understanding. There appear to have been two reasons why Christ declared that this scribe was not far from the kingdom of God. It was because he was easily persuaded to do his duty, and because he skillfully distinguished the outward worship of God from necessary duties. Nor was it so much with the design of praising as of exhorting him, that Christ declared that he was near the kingdom of God; and in his person Christ encourages us all, after having once entered into the right path, to proceed with so much the greater cheerfulness. By these words we are also taught that many, while they are still held and involved in error, advance with closed eyes towards the road, and in this manner are prepared for running in the course of the Lord, when the time arrives.

And after that, no man ventured to put a question to him. The assertion of the Evangelists, that the mouth of adversaries was stopped, so they did not venture any more to lay snares for Christ, must not be so understood as if’ they desisted from their wicked obstinacy; for they groaned within, like wild beasts shut up in their dens, or, like unruly horses, they bit the bridle. But the more hardened their obstinacy, and the more incorrigible their rebellion, so much the more illustrious was Christ’s triumph over both. And this victory, which he obtained, ought greatly to encourage us never to become dispirited in the defense of the truth, being assured of success. It will often happen, indeed, that enemies shall molest and insult us till the end, but God will at length secure that their fury shall recoil on their own heads, and that, in spite of their efforts, truth shall be victorious.


71     “Un docteur de la loy;” — “a doctor of the law.”
72     “S’il s’en trouvoit quelqu’un qui observast entierement ce qu’elle commande;” — “if any one were found who observed entirely what it commands.”
73     “Un abbregé ou sommaire de la Loy;” — “an abridgment or summary of the Law.”
74     “Moyse a fort bien et sagement comprins le tout en ce sommaire;” — “Moses has very properly and wisely comprehended the whole in this summary.”
75     “L’entendement;” — “the understanding.”
76     “Car l’amour qu’ont les enfans de ce monde les uns envers les autres n’est point une vray amour, mais est une amour mercenaire;” — “for the love which the children of the world have for each other is not a true love, but is mercenary love.”
77     “Par ur fausse glose et cavillation meschante;” — “by their false gloss and wicked sophistry.”
78     “Restraindre à ce sommaire;” — “to limit to this summary.”

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom33.ii.vii.html