Posts Tagged ‘Institutes of the Christian Religion’

John Calvin, in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, goes great lengths to destroy any foundation under the feet of those who would insist on good works (even Spirit-wrought, regenerate, and sanctified works) as playing any part in our justification and right standing before God. He also offers insight as to why this form of legalism so easily offers itself to the minds of sinners like us.

If upon hearing again and again of the free offer of the gospel (the lavish forgiveness of sins, the gratuitous gift of perfect righteousness, and the gracious reconciliation with the Father) one finds his or her heart only more hardened or, as it were, unimpressed, it proves only our need to take recourse in one thing:

We Must Lift Up Our Minds to God’s Judgement Seat that We May Be Firmly Convinced of His Free Justification

1. No one is righteous before God’s judgment seat.

Even though all these things are by shining testimonies shown to be perfectly true [Calvin is referring to his treatise on free justification], still, how necessary they are will not be clear to us until we set before our eyes what ought to be the basis of this whole discussion. First, therefor, this fact should occur to us: that our discourse is concerned with the justice not of a human court but of a heavenly tribunal, lest we measure by our own small measure the integrity of works needed to satisfy the divine judgment. Yet it is amazing with what great rashness and boldness this is commonly defined. Indeed, one can see how there are none who more confidently, and as people say, boisterously chatter over the righteousness of works than they who are monstrously plagued with manifest diseases, or creak with defects beneath the skin. That happens because they do not think about God’s justice, which they would never hold in such derision if they were affected even by the slightest feeling of it. Yet surely it is held of precious little value if it is not recognized as God’s justice and so perfect that nothing can be admitted except what is in every part whole and complete and undefiled by any corruption. Such was never found in man and never will be.

In the shady cloisters of the schools anyone can easily and readily prattle about the value of works in justifying men. But when we come before the presence of God we must put away such amusements! For there we deal with a serous matter, and do not engage in frivolous word battles. To this question, I insist, we must apply our mind if we would profitably inquire concerning true righteousness: How shall we reply to the Heavenly Judge when he calls us to account? Let us envisage for ourselves that Judge, not as our minds naturally imagine him, but as he is depicted for us in Scripture: by whose brightness the stars are darkened [Job 9:5-6]; by whose strength the mountains are melted; by whose wrath the earth is shaken; Whose wisdom catches the wise in their craftiness; beside whose whose purity all things are defiled; whose righteousness not even the angels can bear; who makes not the guilty man innocent; whose vengeance when once kindled penetrates to the depths of hell. Let us behold him, I say, sitting in judgment to examine the deeds of me: Who will stand confident before his throne?
– John Calvin, Institutes, 3.12.1

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