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Calvin on Expiation


Tom Ascol and John Calvin on expiation (the taking away of sin, not to be confused with propitiation):

img   Christ accomplished [expiation] in His death. Paul writes that it was “while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son” (Rom. 5:10). What Jesus did on the cross removed the cause of the breach in the relationship between God and sinners. His death expiated our sins.
   Calvin’s comments on the announcement of John the Baptist upon seeing Jesus for the first time (John 1:29) underscore this truth. Calvin writes:
imgThe principal office of Christ is briefly but clearly stated; that he takes away the sins of the world by the sacrifice of his death, and reconciles men to God. There are other favors, indeed, which Christ bestows upon us, but this is the chief favor, and the rest depend on it; that, by appeasing the wrath of God, he makes us to be reckoned holy and righteous. For from this source flow all the streams of blessings, that, by not imputing our sins, he receives us into favor. Accordingly, John, in order to conduct us to Christ, commences with the gratuitous forgiveness of sins which we obtain through him. [John Calvin, Commentary on the Gospel According to John, 1:63.]
   In the old covenant, expiation of sins was portrayed by means of animal sacrifices. All of the ceremony surrounding the sacrificial offerings was designed to point to the work of Christ on the cross. Calvin elaborates:
The sacrifice was offered in such a manner as to expiate sin by enduring its punishment and curse. This was expressed by the priests by means of the laying on of hands, as if they threw on the sacrifice the sins of the whole nation. (Exodus 29:15) And if a private individual offered a sacrifice, he also laid his hand upon it, as if he threw upon it his own sin. Our sins were thrown upon Christ in such a manner that he alone bore the curse. . . . [This describes] the benefit of Christ’s death, that by his sacrifice sins were expiated, and God was reconciled towards men. [John Calvin, Commentary on the Prophet Isaiah, 4:124–125.]

—Thomas K. Ascol, John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology, ed. Burk Parsons (Reformation Trust, 2008), 164–165.



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Posted  in: Church History · John Calvin · John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology · Tom Ascol
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