Week 27 of 50 in the Institutes: John (Calvin’s) 3:16

This coming Friday, July 10th will be the 506th anniversary of Calvin’s birth.  As Rick Phillips observed in his blogs for this week’s assignments, Calvin continues to be as relevant today as he was five centuries ago when it comes to the topic of justification by faith.  The four sections in 3.16 of the Institutes possess pastoral and doctrinal value which Phillips described as “worthy of consideration by every believer”.  I agree wholeheartedly, which is why I have tagged it as John (Calvin’s) 3:16, because it takes us to the heart of the gospel.

In book 3 chapter 16 of the Institutes, Calvin answers three objections to justification by faith alone:

  1. That the doctrine of justification does away with good works (3.16.1)
  2. That the doctrine of justification stifles zeal for good works (3.16.2 – 3.16.3)
  3. That the doctrine of justification invites men to sin (3:16.4)

Here is my synopsis of Calvin’s answers to these objections:

  1. Justification includes sanctification.  Christ justifies no one whom he doesn’t also sanctify, because of the believer’s union with Christ.
  2. True believers are motivated by the glory of God and the mercy of God to do good works.  In fact, no one is fit to pursue holiness who has not imbibed the truth of justification by faith in Christ alone.
  3. Since the cost of redemption is so great (the blood of Christ), those who have any sense of God can but dread to wallow in the mire of filth from which they have been cleansed.

As I reflected on this chapter and the paths on which the Lord has led me in the process of sanctification (in light of 3.16.1), the words of the hymn Whate’er My God Ordains Is Right came to mind.  They supply a fitting end here:

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
his holy will abideth;
I will be still whate’er he doth,
and follow where he guideth.
He is my God; though dark my road,
he holds me that I shall not fall:
wherefore to him I leave it all.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
here shall my stand be taken;
though sorrow, need, or death be mine,
yet am I not forsaken.
My Father’s care is round me there;
he holds me that I shall not fall:
and so to him I leave it all.

Links to Reformation 21 blogs through the Institutes:

July 6: 3.14.19 – 3.15-3

July 7: 3.15.4 – 3.15.8

July 8: 3.16.1 – 3.16.4

July 9: 3.17.1 – 3.17.5

July 10: 3.17.6 – 3.17.10

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