Blog 61: 2.8.2 - 2.8.7
John Calvin is full of surprises.
As he comes to expound the Decalogue (the third longest chapter in the work, after his expositions of Prayer and the Lord's Supper), how will the master biblical theologian introduce the God of the Law? As Creator who has the place of Father and Lord in our lives--as the One to whom, put simply, we owe everything. His Law teaches us how to live in his will as the children we don't deserve to be.
If only we understood things as clearly as that!
Is this Calvin gone soft? Far from it. He speaks into a situation of tragedy. Our ability to keep God's law is "non existent." But the tragedy is not unmitigated. For our failure drives us to God's mercy. And Calvin's God--no, Moses' God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus--stoops down low in kindness to help us. Therein lies the rationale for the promised rewards and threatened punishments that attend the law.
Calvin's references to God's "great kindness" and his "benevolence" remind us that the Institutes is written by a child of God for the children of God. But we are children of GOD--whose law reaches beyond outward action to heart-motivation. Calvin will not allow us to fall into the abyss of legalism which always separates the law of God from the person of God. We do not understand the law or please God through it apart from personal (rather than formal) and relational (rather than abstract) obedience to the Father.
That is why--as Calvin everywhere shows--in the hands of our Lord Jesus the meaning of the law is restored to its original integrity.