Monday, December 28, 2009

John Calvin: Keeping the law perfectly is impossible

The following helps to demonstrate, in the words of Brian Schwertley, that "Both Calvin and Luther believed that personal obedience has nothing to do with our justification":

With regard to the Ten Commandments we ought likewise to heed Paul’s warning: “Christ is the end of the law unto salvation to every believer” [Rom. 10:4p.]. Another: Christ is the Spirit [II Cor. 3:17] who quickens the letter that of itself is death-dealing [II Cor. 3:6]. By the former statement he means that righteousness is taught in vain by the commandments until Christ confers it by free imputation and by the Spirit of regeneration. For this reason, Paul justly calls Christ the fulfillment or end of the law. For it would be of no value to know what God demands of us if Christ did not succor those laboring and oppressed under its intolerable yoke and burden. Elsewhere he teaches that ‘the law was put forward because of transgressions’ [Gal. 3:19]; that is, in order to humble men, having convinced them of their own condemnation…..At this point the feebleness of the law shows itself. Because observance of the law is found in none of us, we are excluded from the promises of life, and fall back into the mere curse. I am telling not only what happens but what must happen. For since the teaching of the law is far above human capacity, a man may indeed view from afar above human capacity, 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…We have said that the observance of the law is impossible. (John T. McNeill, ed. Ford Lewis Battles, trans. of Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion [Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960], 1:351-353; quoted by Brian Schwertley in his refutation of the Auburn Avenue theology)

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