Calvin on Romans 1:11-12

Romans 1:11-12 says, “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you — that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.

Here’s what John Calvin writes about these verses in his Commentary on Romans:

See to what degree of modesty [Paul’s] pious heart submitted itself, so that he disdained not to seek confirmation from inexperienced beginners: nor did he speak dissemblingly, for there is no one so void of gifts in the Church of Christ, who is not able to contribute something to our benefit: but we are hindered by our envy and by our pride from gathering such fruit from one another. Such is our high-mindedness, such is the inebriety produced by vain reputation, that despising and disregarding others, everyone thinks that he possesses what is abundantly sufficient for himself


Justification by Grace

Part 6 in an 8 part series. View series intro and index.

The pillar of the Reformation was “justification by faith.” Justification is by faith alone, but if there was no grace—unmerited favor from God—there would be no opportunity for faith. God’s grace is the foundation for our faith.

Romans 4:16 makes this clear: “That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring.” Justification is by faith, then, in order that the promise of eternal life may depend wholly on grace, not works.

If justification came to men by anything other than grace through faith, it would be on the basis of works. We must hold firm to this truth, otherwise this precious pillar of the Christian faith come tumbling down. Man would be exalted, not God. Man would get the glory, not God. Man would be most powerful, not God. As Wayne Grudem said in the introduction, if the gospel is to go forth in power for generations to come, we must firmly uphold this truth.

This is clear in other passages, too. Outside of the epistles, in Acts, Peter tells the Jerusalem church, “But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as [the Gentiles] will” (15:11). In Romans 3:24, Paul says that people “are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Later, in 4:4, he writes, “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.” In Titus 2:11, Paul writes, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people.” Later in 3:7, he says, “So that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

In Galatians 2:21, Paul contrasts works of the law with God’s grace. He says, “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” God’s grace cannot be canceled-out. Jesus died for our sins—this was grace. But if we could be righteous from our own good works, then Jesus’ death (i.e. God’s grace) would be null and void.

Perhaps the most popular passage on the distinctive roles of grace and faith is found in Ephesians 2:8-9. Paul writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this [i.e. faith] is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Grace is the foundation for all that Christians do. It is even the foundation and reason for the faith that comes to us when we believe.

To be continued.


New Calvinism vs. Old Calvinism

Time magazine writes that “New Calvinism” is the third biggest idea that is changing the world right now.  That’s pretty significant.  On the Resurgence blog, you can read Driscoll’s insights on how New Calvinism differs from Old Calvinism.

Before I go, I want to say a quick word on the label “Calvinism.”  I don’t like labels, because people have preconceived notions and opinions when they hear a particular label.  Ask any “Calvinist” about who they follow, and they will say, “I follow Jesus, not Calvin.  Calvin simply brought to light biblical theology that was clouded over during a dark period in the history of the church.”  This is my conviction as well.

Because people like labels, we use the term “Calvinist.”  Charles Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher in London (who called himself a Calvinist), said that he has no particular allegiances toward Calvin, just simply what he taught.  Spurgeon also said, “Calvinism is the gospel,” that is, salvation is completely a one-handed effort on God’s part (what we call “monergism”) and we take no credit in it.  This is opposed to “synergism,” which is at the heart of Arminian theology.  This means that salvation is a two-handed effort, merging God’s work with ours.

Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said in the Time article:  “The moment someone begins to define God’s [being or actions] biblically, that person is drawn to conclusions that are traditionally classified as Calvinist.”  Mohler’s statement is bold, but I agree.  He uses the word “classified.”  This means that biblical conclusions aren’t cemented as Calvinism.  You don’t have to call yourself a Calvinist if you believe that only those who are elect get saved and that God sovereingnly reins over all things. You don’t have call yourself a Calvinist if you read Calvin, Luther, Owen, Edwards, or Spurgeon.

Forgive the label.  We don’t follow Calvin.  In fact, ignore the label, because in heaven, no one will be Calvinist or Arminian.  But don’t ignore the theological teaching because of preconceived notions.  Trust God to understand his being and actions biblically, and I promise that by God’s grace Jesus will quickly become the supreme treasure of your life.


From Elation to Depression in a Matter of Seconds

This evening, I found out that Calvin’s 22-volume commentary was on sale at CBD for 100 bucks.  I didn’t even have to think about it: Buy it!  When I clicked the link, I found out that it was no longer available.  Evidently, more people enjoy reading Calvin than I think.

Check back at CBD often to see if it comes available soon.