Week 14 of 50 in the Institutes: An Empty Tomb to Fill Empty Places in the Heart

Since this is Easter Sunday, I couldn’t resist latching onto some of Calvin’s comments in the coming week’s assignments, 2.8.58, in particular where he mentions impulses coming from “some empty place in the soul” (McNeill-Battles rendering), or “some empty corner” as we find in Beveridge:

We are forbidden to have strange gods. When the mind, under the influence of distrust, looks elsewhere or is seized with some sudden desire to transfer its blessedness to some other quarter, whence are these movements, however evanescent, but just because there is some empty corner in the soul to receive such temptations? And, not to lengthen out the discussion, there is a precept to love God with the whole heart, and mind, and soul; and, therefore, if all the powers of the soul are not directed to the love of God, there is a departure from the obedience of the Law; because those internal enemies which rise up against the dominion of God, and countermand his edicts prove that his throne is not well established in our consciences.

In this section (2.8.58) in the Institutes Calvin points out the illegitimacy of any attempt to  distinguish between mortal and venial sins, because all sin is deadly: it only takes one to bring eternal death (Rom. 6:23).  His comments here about some empty corner/place in the soul remind me of how John Owen said, at least in one instance (loose quote, cited in a sermon I heard), that when we sin we have become bored with God (if anyone finds that exact quote, I will be indebted to whoever provides).  This passage makes me wonder if Owen wasn’t partly inspired by Calvin.

Today churches around the world celebrated the empty tomb, vacated by a risen Savior two thousand years ago, in His victory over sin and death and the grave.  And a wonder of wonders is that He now dwells in the heart of every believer (John 14:23).  At the same time, however, the believer still has indwelling sin, as Calvin pointed out back in 2.2.27.  Contemplating both of these truths may lead us to agree with St. Augustine and confess together with him that we are a complete mystery to ourselves!

Calvin is helpful here again in this regard.  Further on in this week’s assignment (2.9.3) when pointing out that the promises are not abrogated for NT believers (an erroneous teaching by Servetus) he describes a wonderful reliance on Christ:

Indeed we have no enjoyment of Christ, unless by embracing him as clothed with his own promises. Hence it is that he indeed dwells in our hearts and yet we are as pilgrims in regard to him, because “we walk by faith, not by sight,” ( 2 Cor. 5:6, 7).  There is no inconsistency in the two things—viz. that in Christ we possess every thing pertaining to the perfection of the heavenly life, and yet that faith is only a vision “of things not seen,” (Heb. 11:1).

This brings us to the title of this blog.  Christ’s tomb is empty, so that every believer’s heart would not be.  Herein we find the key to sanctification and the discovery of our true identity as followers of Christ.  Collectively we are fellow citizens of the saints and members of the household of God, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole building being fit together grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom we also are being built together into a habitation of God by the Spirit (Eph. 2:19-22).  Individually we each have the indwelling Holy Spirit given as a seal of promise, the down payment of our inheritance before redemption of the purchased possession (Eph. 1:14).

In closing, I encourage rich meditation as we ask ourselves and others: So what (or better yet, who) is in your heart today? Take up and read!  The sight is glorious!

Links to Reformation 21 blogs through the Institutes:

Apr. 6:  2.8.33 – 2.8.38

Apr. 7:  2.8.39 – 2.8.46

Apr. 8:  2.8.47 – 2.8.52

Apr. 9:  2.8.53 – 2.8.59

Apr. 10:  2.9.1 – 2.9.5

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