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Institutes of the Christian Religion

(16 posts)

Evangelism & Irresistable Call in Acts

Wednesday··2013·01·16 · 1 Comments
I once heard a seminary student refer to himself and his fellow scholars as Gods sales department. He believed that the salvation of souls depended on the preachers persuasive skills. Considering the quality of average salesman (as the student himself lamented), we can be grateful that God doesnt leave it to the preacher to save sinners, but opens hearts to receive the gospel. God also must open the human heart before it can receive the saving message and believe. Left to itself, the fallen soul is closed to the gospel: One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. Acts 16:14 Because of the radical depravity of mans fallen nature, the human heart is bolted shut by the twin locks of sin and Satan. In its natural state, no heart is open to God. When God saves His elect, He must open that heart so it can receive the message of salvation. The same word for opened is used later in Acts to describe the earthquake that struck Philippi, with the result that immediately all the doors were opened (16:26). Those closed and locked prison doors were instantly overpowered by the earthquake and made to open. This is precisely what God did to Lydias heartHe instantly threw it open by a spiritual earthquake within her soul. Calvin writes, Indeed, [believing] does not so stand in mans own impulse, and consequently even the pious and those who fear God still have need of the especial prompting of the Spirit. Lydia, the seller of purple, feared God, yet her heart had to be opened to receive Pauls teaching [Acts 16:14] and to profit by it. Steve Lawson, Foundations of Grace (Reformation Trust, 2006), 476477.

Ungrateful False Humility

Friday··2017·03·10
Doctrinal precision is quite out of fashion. Many times, it is argued that we can’t hold a doctrine too dogmatically because it is a “mystery.” The Trinity is such a doctrine. Because we can’t understand it fully, we should be open to different interpretations. Whether it be the modalism of T. D. Jakes, or the weird, blasphemous trinity of The Shack, we ought not reject them as heresy because, after all, none of us understands perfectly. We ought to ”humbly” embrace the mystery and leave it at that. John Calvin disagrees. Addressing objections to the precise teaching of predestination, he writes, Only I wish it to be received as a general rule, that the secret things of God are not to be scrutinized, and that those which he has revealed are not to be overlooked, lest we may, on the one hand, be chargeable with curiosity, and, on the other, with ingratitude. —Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 2006), 3.21.4. Certainly, there are things that are hard to understand (2 Peter 3:15–16), and others that are not yet revealed to us (Deuteronomy 29:29), but to say we can’t understand them simply because we don’t yet understand them is lazy. Worse, it is ungrateful. God has revealed himself and his redemptive plan to us in quite some detail; to refuse to learn what he has revealed is to reject a tremendous, life-giving gift. Rather, we ought to work hard to glean every truth we can from God’s revelation, the Bible. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. —2 Timothy 2:15

The True Standard

Wednesday··2018·01·24
It is certain that man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself unless he has first looked upon God’s face, and then descends from contemplating him to scrutinize himself. For we always seem to ourselves righteous and upright and wise and holy—this pride is innate in all of us—unless by clear proofs we stand convinced of our own unrighteousness, foulness, folly, and impurity. Moreover, we are not thus convinced if we look merely to ourselves and not also to the Lord, who is the sole standard by which this judgment must be measured. For, because all of us are inclined by nature to hypocrisy, a kind of empty image of righteousness in place of righteousness itself abundantly satisfies us. And because nothing appears within or around us that has not been contaminated by great immorality, what is a little less vile pleases us as a thing most pure—so long as we confine our minds within the limits of human corruption. Just so, an eye to which nothing is shown but black objects judges something dirty white or even rather darkly mottled to be whiteness itself. Indeed, we can discern still more clearly from the bodily senses how much we are deluded in estimating the powers of the soul. For if in broad daylight we either look down upon the ground or survey whatever meets our view round about, we seem to ourselves endowed with the strongest and keenest sight; yet when we look up to the sun and gaze straight at it, that power of sight which was particularly strong on earth is at once blunted and confused by a great brilliance, and thus we are compelled to admit that our keenness in looking upon things earthly is sheer dullness when it comes to the sun. So it happens in estimating our spiritual goods. As long as we do not look beyond the earth, being quite content with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue, we flatter ourselves most sweetly, and fancy ourselves all but demigods. Suppose we but once begin to raise our thoughts to God, and to ponder his nature, and how completely perfect are his righteousness, wisdom, and power—the straightedge to which we must be shaped. Then, what masquerading earlier as righteousness was pleasing in us will soon grow filthy in its consummate wickedness. What wonderfully impressed us under the name of wisdom will stink in its very foolishness. What wore the face of power will prove itself the most miserable weakness. That is, what in us seems perfection itself corresponds ill to the purity of God. —John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 1.1.2. In short, when we compare ourselves to our fellow man, sinners all, we can come out looking pretty good. When we compare ourselves to the one true standard of holiness, our many imperfections stand out in stark relief. Only then can we see the reality of our sin and our need of a savior. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Although our mind cannot apprehend God without rendering some honor to him, it will not suffice simply to hold that there is One whom all ought to honor and adore, unless we are also persuaded that he is the fountain of every good, and that we must seek nothing elsewhere than in him. This I take to mean that not only does he sustain this universe (as he once founded it) by his boundless might, regulate it by his wisdom, preserve it by his goodness, and especially rule mankind by his righteousness and judgment, bear with it in his mercy, watch over it by his protection; but also that no drop will be found either of wisdom and light, or of righteousness or power or rectitude, or of genuine truth, which does not flow from him, and of which he is not the cause, Thus we may learn to await and seek all these things from him, and thankfully to ascribe them, once received, to him. For this sense of the powers of God is for us a fit teacher of piety, from which religion is born. I call “piety” that reverence joined with love of God which the knowledge of his benefits induces. For until men recognize that they owe everything to God, that they are nourished by his fatherly care, that he is the Author of their every good, that they should seek nothing beyond him—they will never yield him willing service. Nay, unless they establish their complete happiness in him, they will never give themselves truly and sincerely to him. —John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 1.2.1. God is not just good. He is the source of all good. He is our one sufficient source, the provider for every need. Without him, we have nothing; in him, we have everything. “In Him we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:28).

Scripture Spectacles

Monday··2018·01·29
The existence of God has been clearly revealed to all so that any who deny it or replace him with idols are proven liars (Romans 1:18–23). This general revelation, however, is not adequate to lead us to saving knowledge of the true God. That brightness which is borne in upon the eyes of all men both in heaven and on earth is more than enough to withdraw all support from men’s ingratitude—just as God, to involve the human race in the same guilt, sets forth to all without exception his presence portrayed in his creatures. Despite this, it is needful that another and better help be added to direct us aright to the very Creator of the universe, It was not in vain, then, that he added the light of his Word by which to become known unto salvation; and he regarded as worthy of this privilege those whom he pleased to gather more closely and intimately to himself. For because he saw the minds of all men tossed and agitated, after he chose the Jews as his very own flock, he fenced them about that they might not sink into oblivion as others had. With good reason he holds us by the same means in the pure knowledge of himself, since otherwise even those who seem to stand firm before all others would soon melt away. Just as old or bleary-eyed men and those with weak vision, if you thrust before them a most beautiful volume, even if they recognize it to be some sort of writing, yet can scarcely construe two words, but with the aid of spectacles will begin to read distinctly; so Scripture, gathering up the otherwise confused knowledge of God in our minds, having dispersed our dullness, clearly shows us the true God. This, therefore, is a special gift, where God, to instruct the church, not merely uses mute teachers but also opens his own most hallowed lips. Not only does he teach the elect to look upon a god, but also shows himself as the God upon whom they are to look. He has from the beginning maintained this plan for his church, so that besides these common proofs he also put forth his Word, which is a more direct and more certain mark whereby he is to be recognized. —John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 1.6.1.

God without the Word

Tuesday··2018·01·30
Those who seek God outside of Scripture seek him in vain. Accordingly, [David], after he states, “The heavens declare the glory of God, the firmament shows forth the works of his hands, the ordered succession of days and nights proclaims his majesty” [Ps. 19:1–2 p.], then proceeds to mention his Word: “The law of the Lord is spotless, converting souls; the testimony of the Lord is faithful, giving wisdom to little ones; the righteous acts of the Lord are right, rejoicing hearts; the precept of the Lord is clear, enlightening eyes” [Ps. 28:8–9, Vg.; 19:7–8, EV]. For although he also includes other uses of the law, he means in general that, since God in vain calls all peoples to himself by the contemplation of heaven and earth, this is the very school of God’s children. Psalm 29 looks to this same end, where the prophet—speaking forth concerning God’s awesome voice, which strikes the earth in thunder [v. 3], winds, rains, whirlwinds and tempests, causes mountains to tremble [v. 6], shatters the cedars [v. 5]—finally adds at the end that his praises are sung in the sanctuary because the unbelievers are deaf to all the voices of God that resound in the air [vs. 9–11]. Similarly, he thus ends another psalm where he has described the awesome waves of the sea: “Thy testimonies have been verified, the beauty and holiness of thy temple shall endure forevermore” [Psalm 93:5 p.]. Hence, also, arises that which Christ said to the Samaritan woman, that her people and all other peoples worshiped they knew not what; that the Jews alone offered worship to the true God [John 4:22]. For, since the human mind because of its feebleness can in no way attain to God unless it be aided and assisted by his Sacred Word, all mortals at that time—except for the Jews—because they were seeking God without the Word, had of necessity to stagger about in vanity and error. —John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 1.6.4.

Spirit and Word

Tuesday··2018·02·06
The ministry of the Holy Spirit is not to be separated from his written Word. The Holy Spirit so inheres in His truth, which He expresses in Scripture, that only when its proper reverence and dignity are given to the Word does the Holy Spirit show forth His power. . . . For by a kind of mutual bond the Lord has joined together the certainty of his Word and of his Spirit so that the perfect religion of the Word may abide in our minds when the Spirit, who causes us to contemplate God’s face, shines; and that we in turn may embrace the Spirit with no fear of being deceived when we recognize him in his own image, namely, in the Word. So indeed it is. God did not bring forth his Word among men for the sake of a momentary display, intending at the coming of his Spirit to abolish it. Rather, he sent down the same Spirit by whose power he had dispensed the Word, to complete his work by the efficacious confirmation of the Word. In this manner Christ opened the minds of two of his disciples [Luke 24:27, 45], not that they should cast away the Scriptures and become wise of themselves, but that they should know the Scriptures. Similarly Paul, while he urges the Thessalonians not to “quench the Spirit” [1 Thess. 5:19–20], does not loftily catch them up to empty speculations without the Word, but immediately adds that prophecies are not to be despised. By this, no doubt, he intimates that the light of the Spirit is put out as soon as prophecies fall into contempt. What say these fanatics, swollen with pride, who consider this the one excellent illumination when, carelessly forsaking and bidding farewell to God’s Word, they, no less confidently than boldly, seize upon whatever they may have conceived while snoring? Certainly a far different sobriety befits the children of God, who just as they see themselves, without the Spirit of God, bereft of the whole light of truth, so are not unaware that the Word is the instrument by which the Lord dispenses the illumination of his Spirit to believers. For they know no other Spirit than him who dwelt and spoke in the apostles, and by whose oracles they are continually recalled to the hearing of the Word. —John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 1.9.3.

Images as “Books”

Wednesday··2018·02·07
Writing against images of God, Calvin addresses the Roman Catholic assertion that “images are the books of the uneducated.” This is a lame excuse, says Calvin, when used by those who are to blame for said ignorance by withholding the Word from the masses. But whence, I pray you, this stupidity if not because they are defrauded of that doctrine which alone was fit to instruct them? indeed, those in authority in the church turned over to idols the office of teaching for no other reason than that they themselves were mute. Paul testifies that by the true preaching of the gospel “Christ is depicted before our eyes as crucified” [Gal. 3:1 p.]. What purpose did it serve for so many crosses—of wood, stone, silver, and gold—to be erected here and there in churches, if this fact had been duly and faithfully taught: that Christ died on the cross to bear our curse [Gal. 3:13], to expiate our sins by the sacrifice of his body [Heb. 10:10], to wash them by his blood [Rev. 1:5], in short, to reconcile us to God the Father [Rom. 5:10]? From this one fact they could have learned more than from a thousand crosses of wood or stone. —John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 1.11.7.

The Proper Use of Images

Thursday··2018·02·08
Calvin was not opposed to all visual art, but only that which attempted to portray God. And yet I am not gripped by the superstition of thinking absolutely no images permissible. But because sculpture and painting are gifts of God, I seek a pure and legitimate use of each, lest those things which the Lord has conferred upon us for his glory and our good be not only polluted by perverse misuse but also turned to our destruction. We believe it wrong that God should be represented by a visible appearance, because he himself has forbidden it [Ex. 20:4] and it cannot be done without some defacing of his glory. And lest they think us alone in this opinion, those who concern themselves with their writings will find that all well-balanced writers have always disapproved of it. If it is not right to represent God by a physical likeness, much less will we be allowed to worship it as God, or God in it. Therefore it remains that only those things are to be sculptured or painted which the eyes are capable of seeing: let not God’s majesty, which is far above the perception of the eyes, be debased through unseemly representations. Within this class some are histories and events, some are images and forms of bodies without any depicting of past events. The former have some use in teaching or admonition . . . —John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 1.11.12. He did, however, oppose all paintings and sculptures in one setting: the church. But setting aside this distinction, let us in passing examine if it is expedient to have in Christian churches any images at all, whether they represent past events or the bodies of men. First, if the authority of the ancient church moves us in any way, we will recall that for about five hundred years, during which religion was still flourishing, and a purer doctrine thriving, Christian churches were commonly empty of images. Thus, it was when the purity of the ministry had somewhat degenerated that they were first introduced for the adornment of churches. I shall not discuss what reason impelled those who were the first authors of this thing; but if you compare age with age, you will see that these innovations had much declined from the integrity of those who had done without images. Why? Are we to think that those holy fathers would have allowed the church to go for so long without something they adjudged useful and salutary? Of course it was because they saw in it either no usefulness or very little, but very much danger, that they repudiated it out of deliberation and reason, rather than overlooked it out of ignorance or negligence. Augustine even states . . . “Images have more power to bend the unhappy soul, because they have mouth, eyes, ears, feet, than to straighten it, because they do not speak, or see, or hear, or walk.” . . . And by the dreadful madness that has heretofore occupied the world almost to the total destruction of godliness, we have experienced too much how the ensign of idolatry is, as it were, set up, as soon as images are put together in churches. For men’s folly cannot restrain itself from falling headlong into superstitious rites. But even if so much danger were not threatening, when I ponder the intended use of churches, somehow or other it seems to me unworthy of their holiness for them to take on images other than those living and symbolical ones which the Lord has consecrated by his Word. I mean Baptism and the Lord’s Supper . . . —Ibid., 1.11.13. I don’t know if I would take as hard a position on this as Calvin did, but I do think there is a great deal of wisdom in his reasoning.

The Witness of the Apostles to the Divinity of Christ

Friday··2018·02·09
Some ammunition for your next conversation with Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses: First of all, a point worth especial attention is the apostles’ teaching that what had been foretold concerning the eternal God had already been revealed in Christ or was someday to be manifested in him. For when Isaiah prophesies that the Lord of Hosts is to be “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense for the Judeans and Israelites” [Isa. 8:14 p.], Paul declares this prophecy fulfilled in Christ [Rom. 9:32–33]. Therefore he proclaims Christ to be Lord of Hosts. Similarly, elsewhere he says, “We must all stand once before the judgment seat of Christ” [Rom. 14:10 p.]. “For it is written, . . . To me every knee shall bow [Rom. 14:11, Vg.], to Me . . . every tongue shall swear” [Isa. 45:23, order changed]. Since in Isaiah, God foretells this concerning himself, and Christ, indeed, shows it forth in himself, it follows that he is that very God whose glory cannot be transferred to another. It is evident that what Paul cites to the Ephesians from The Psalms applies to God alone: “Ascending on high, he led the captivity” [Eph. 4:8; Ps. 68:18; 67:19, Vg.]. Understanding that an ascension of this sort had been prefigured when in a notable victory God put forth his power against the foreign nations, Paul indicates that it was manifested more fully in Christ. Thus John testifies that it was the glory of the Son which had been revealed through Isaiah’s vision [John 12:41; Isa. 6:1], even though the prophet himself writes that he saw the majesty of God. Obviously the titles of God that the apostle in The Letter to the Hebrews confers upon the Son are the most glorious of all: “In the beginning, thou, O Lord, didst found heaven and earth” [Heb. 1:10 p.; Ps. 101:26 p., Vg.; 102:25, EV], etc. Likewise, “Adore him, all ye his angels” [Ps. 96:7, Vg.; 97:7, EV; cf.Heb. 1:6]. And still he does not misuse them when he applies them to Christ. Indeed, whatever they sing in The Psalms, He alone fulfills. For he it was who, rising up, was merciful to Zion [Ps. 101:14, Vg.; 102:13, EV]; he who asserted for himself the rule over all nations and islands [Ps. 96:1, Vg.; 97:1, EV]. And why should John have hesitated to refer the majesty of God to Christ, when he had declared that the Word was ever God [John 1:1, 14]? Why should Paul have feared to place Christ on God’s judgment seat [2 Cor. 5:10], when he had previously proclaimed his divinity so openly, saying that he was “God . . . blessed forever” [Rom. 9:5]? And to make clear how consistent lie is in this respect, in another passage he writes that “God has been manifested in the flesh” [I Tim. 3:16 p.]. If God is to be praised forever, he, then, it is to whom alone all glory and honor are due, as Paul affirms in another place [I Tim. 1:17]. And he does not conceal this, but openly proclaims: “Though he was in the form of God, he would not have counted it robbery if he had shown himself equal with God, yet he voluntarily emptied himself” [Phil. 2:6–7 p.]. And lest the impious carp about some feigned god, John went farther, saying: “He is the true God, and eternal life” [I John 5:20 p.]. However, it ought to be more than enough for us that he is called God, especially by that witness who aptly declares to us that there are not many gods, but one [Deut. 6:4]. Moreover, it is that Paul who said, “Though many are called gods, whether in heaven or on earth, . . . yet for us there is one God, from whom are all things.” [I Cor. 8:5–6 p.] When we hear from the same mouth that “God was manifested in the flesh” [I Tim. 3:16 p.], that “God has purchased the church by his blood” [Acts 20:28 p.], why do we imagine a second god, whom Paul acknowledges not at all? And no doubt the same was the opinion of all godly men. In like manner Thomas openly proclaims him his Lord and God [John 20:28], and thus professes him to be that sole God whom he had always worshiped. —John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 1.13.11.

The Witness of Christ to His Divinity

Monday··2018·02·12
We have heard the witness of the apostles to the divinity of Christ. See now what Christ himself said: Now if we weigh his divinity by the works that are ascribed him in the Scriptures, it will thereby shine forth more clearly. Indeed, when he said that he had been working hitherto from the beginning with the Father [John 5:17], the Jews, utterly stupid to all his other sayings, still sensed that he made use of divine power. And therefore, as John states, “the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the Sabbath, but also called God his Father, making himself equal with God” [John 5:18]. How great will our stupidity then be if we do not feel that his divinity is here plainly affirmed? And verily, to govern the universe with providence and power, and to regulate all things by the command of his own power [Heb. 1:3], deeds that the apostle ascribes to Christ, is the function of the Creator alone. And he not only participates in the task of governing the world with the Father; but he carries out also other individual offices, which cannot be communicated to the creatures. The Lord proclaims through the prophet, “I, even I, am the one who blots out your transgressions for my own sake” [Isa. 43:25 p.]. According to this saying, when the Jews thought that wrong was done to God in that Christ was remitting sins, Christ not only asserted in words, but also proved by miracle, that this power belonged to him [Matt. 9:6]. We therefore perceive that he possesses not the administration merely but the actual power of remission of sins, which the Lord says will never pass from him to another. What? Does not the searching and penetrating of the silent thoughts of hearts belong to God alone? Yet Christ also had this power [Matt. 9:4; cf.John 2:25]. From this we infer his divinity. —John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 1.13.12.

Against Speculation

Tuesday··2018·02·13
The human mind is made to be curious, and to learn. We are designed to investigate and discover. Where would we be without modern advances in technology and medicine? These have been accomplished by God’s design and providence, and we are rightly grateful. But not all investigations are profitable or reverent. There are things that God has chosen not to reveal, and we should be content with that. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29). [I]t was his will that the history of Creation be made manifest, in order that the faith of the church, resting upon this, might seek no other God but him who was put forth by Moses as the Maker and Founder of the universe. Therein time was first marked so that by a continuing succession of years believers might arrive at the primal source of the human race and of all things. This knowledge is especially useful not only to resist the monstrous fables that formerly were in vogue in Egypt and in other regions of the earth, but also that, once the beginning of the universe is known, God’s eternity may shine forth more clearly, and we may be more rapt in wonder at it. And indeed, that impious scoff ought not to move us: that it is a wonder how it did not enter God’s mind sooner to found heaven and earth, but that he idly permitted an immeasurable time to pass away, since he could have made it very many millenniums earlier, albeit the duration of the world, now declining to its ultimate end, has not yet attained six thousand years. For it is neither lawful nor expedient for us to inquire why God delayed so long, because if the human mind strives to penetrate thus far, it will fail a hundred times on the way. And it would not even be useful for us to know what God himself, to test our moderation of faith, on purpose willed to be hidden. When a certain shameless fellow mockingly asked a pious old man what God had done before the creation of the world, the latter aptly countered that he had been building hell for the curious. Let this admonition, no less grave than severe, restrain the wantonness that tickles many and even drives them to wicked and hurtful speculations. . . . Augustine rightly complains that wrong is done to God when a higher cause of things than his will is demanded. Elsewhere the same man wisely warns that it is no less wrong to raise questions concerning immeasurable stretches of time than of space. . . . As if within six thousand years God has not shown evidences enough on which to exercise our minds in earnest meditation! Therefore let us willingly remain enclosed within these bounds to which God has willed to confine us, and as it were, to pen up our minds that they may not, through their very freedom to wander, go astray. —John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 1.14.1.

Guardian Angels

Wednesday··2018·02·14
It is a popular legend that each of us has a personal guardian angel. I don’t believe we do. Calvin, while not denying the possibility, demonstrates that there is no Scriptural reason to believe it. [W]hether individual angels have been assigned to individual believers for their protection, I dare not affirm with confidence. Certainly, when Daniel introduces the angel of the Persians and the angel of the Greeks [Dan. 10:13, 20; 12:1] he signifies that specific angels have been appointed as guardians over kingdoms and provinces. Christ also, when he says that the children’s angels always behold the Father’s face [Matt. 18:10], hints that there are certain angels to whom their safety has been committed. But from this I do not know whether one ought to infer that each individual has the protection of his own angel. We ought to hold as a fact that the care of each one of us is not the task of one angel only, but all with one consent watch over our salvation. For it is said of all the angels together that they rejoice more over the turning of one sinner to repentance than over ninety-nine righteous men who have stood fast in righteousness [Luke 15:7]. Also, it is said of a number of angels that “they bore Lazarus’ soul to Abraham’s bosom” [Luke 16:22 p.]. And Elisha does not in vain show to his servant so many fiery chariots which had been destined especially for him [II Kings 6:17]. There is one passage that seems to confirm this a little more clearly than the rest. For when Peter, led out of the prison, knocked at the gates of the house in which the brethren were gathered, since they could not imagine it was he, “they said, ‘It is his angel’” [Acts 12:15]. This seems to have entered their minds from the common notion that each believer has been assigned his own guardian angel. Although here, also, it can be answered that nothing prevents us from understanding this of any angel at all to whom the Lord had then given over the care of Peter; yet he would not on that account be Peter’s perpetual guardian. Similarly the common folk imagine two angels, good and bad—as it were different geniuses—attached to each person. Yet it is not worth-while anxiously to investigate what it does not much concern us to know. For if the fact that all the heavenly host are keeping watch for his safety will not satisfy a man, I do not see what benefit he could derive from knowing that one angel has been given to him as his especial guardian. —John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 1.14.7.

Angel Worship

Thursday··2018·02·15
According to Roman Catholicism, angels as well as saints are appropriate recipients of prayer. Calvin, and Scripture, say otherwise. It remains for us to cope with that superstition which frequently creeps in, to the effect that angels are the ministers and dispensers of all good things to us. For at once, man’s reason so lapses that he thinks that no honor ought to be withheld from them. Thus it happens that what belongs to God and Christ alone is transferred to them. Thus we see that Christ’s glory was for some ages past obscured in many ways, when contrary to God’s Word unmeasured honors were lavished upon angels. And among those vices which we are today combating, there is hardly any more ancient. For it appears that Paul had a great struggle with certain persons who so elevated angels that they well-nigh degraded Christ to the same level. Hence he urges with very great solicitude in the letter to the Colossians that not only is Christ to be preferred before all angels but that he is the author of all good things that they have [Col. 1:16, 20]. This he does that we may not depart from Christ and go over to those who are not self-sufficient but draw from the same well as we. Surely, since the splendor of the divine majesty shines in them, nothing is easier for us than to fall down, stupefied, in adoration of them, and then to attribute to them everything that is owed to God alone. Even John in Revelation confesses that this happened to him, but at the same time he adds that this answer came to him [chs. 19:10; 22:8–9]: “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you . . . Worship God.” —John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 1.14.10.

All Things Foreordained

Friday··2018·02·16
The Westminster Confession states that “God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass” (WCF 3.1; Cf. WLC 12, WSC 7). This is at odds with what is commonly believed, that is, that Satan is a free agent, working evil in the world, and that God is left to react to his attacks, protecting us from evil, and/or using it for our good. But God is more ahead of the game than that. God does not merely use evil after-the-fact; it is a part of his eternal plan (Genesis 50:20). As for the discord and strife that we say exists between Satan and God, we ought to accept as a fixed certainty the fact that he can do nothing unless God wills and assents to it. For we read in the history of Job that he presented himself before God to receive his commands [Job 1:6; 2:1], and did not dare undertake any evil act without first having obtained permission [chs. 1:12; 2:6]. Thus, also, when Ahab was to be deceived, Satan took upon himself to become a spirit of falsehood in the mouths of all the prophets; and commissioned by God, he carried out his task [I Kings 22:20–22]. For this reason, too, the spirit of the Lord that troubled Saul is called “evil” because the sins of the impious king were punished by it as by a lash [I Sam. 16:14; 18:10]. And elsewhere it is written that the plagues were inflicted upon the Egyptians by God “through evil angels” [Ps. 78:49]. According to these particular examples Paul generally testifies that the blinding of unbelievers is God’s work [II Thess. 2:11], although he had before called it the activity of Satan [II Thess. 2:9; cf. II Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2]. Therefore Satan is clearly under God’s power, and is so ruled by his bidding as to be compelled to render him service. Indeed, when we say that Satan resists God, and that Satan’s works disagree with Gods works, we at the same time assert that this resistance and this opposition are dependent upon God’s sufferance. I am not now speaking of Satan’s will, nor even of his effort, but only of his effect. For inasmuch as the devil is by nature wicked, he is not at all inclined to obedience to the divine will, but utterly intent upon contumacy and rebellion. From himself and his own wickedness, therefore, arises his passionate and deliberate opposition to God. By this wickedness he is urged on to attempt courses of action which he believes to be most hostile to God. But because with the bridle of his power God holds him bound and restrained, he carries out only those things which have been divinely permitted to him; and so he obeys his Creator, whether he will or not, because he is compelled to yield him service wherever God impels him. —John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 1.14.17.

From Him Alone

Wednesday··2018·02·21
[W]henever we call God the Creator of heaven and earth, let us at the same time bear in mind that the dispensation of all those things which he has made is in his own hand and power and that we are indeed his children, whom he has received into his faithful protection to nourish and educate. We are therefore to await the fullness of all good things from him alone and to trust completely that he will never leave us destitute of what we need for salvation, and to hang our hopes on none but him! We are therefore, also, to petition him for whatever we desire; and we are to recognize as a blessing from him, and thankfully to acknowledge, every benefit that falls to our share. So, invited by the great sweetness of his beneficence and goodness, let us study to love and serve him with all our heart. —John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 1.14.22.

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