Blog 83: 2.15.5 - 2.16.2

Justin Taylor

Rather than summarizing each section today, I want to draw our attention to 2.16.2, where Calvin seeks to show the importance of being both clear and specific regarding the nature of the wrath of God which rests upon each of us on account of our righteousness. Calvin's point is that the clearer our doctrine of sin and wrath, the sweeter will be our understanding of grace, mercy, and liberation.

Calvin illustrates this point with the following contrast of presentation. As you read, meditate on the way in which clarity on the bad news leads to increased joyful awareness of the good news:

For example, suppose someone is told:

If God hated you while you were still a sinner,
and cast you off, as you deserved,
a terrible destruction would have awaited you.

But because he kept you in grace voluntarily, and of his own free favor,
and did not allow you to be estranged from him,
he thus delivered you from that peril.

This man then will surely experience and feel something of what he owes to God's mercy.

On the other hand, suppose he learns, as Scripture teaches, that

• he was estranged from God through sin,
• is an heir of wrath,
• subject to the curse of eternal death,
• excluded from all hope of salvation,
• beyond every blessing of God,
• the slave of Satan,
• captive under the yoke of sin,
• destined finally for a dreadful destruction and already involved in it;

and that at this point

• Christ interceded as his advocate,
• took upon himself and suffered the punishment that, from God's righteous judgment, threatened all sinners;
• that he purged with his blood those evils which had rendered sinners hateful to God;
• that by this expiation he made satisfaction and sacrifice duly to God the Father;
• that as intercessor he has appeased God's wrath;
• that on this foundation rests the peace of God with men;
• that by this bond his benevolence is maintained toward them.

Will the man not then be even more moved by all these things which so vividly portray the greatness of the calamity from which he has been rescued?

Calvin concludes that God has mercifully made it so that we cannot "seize upon life ardently enough" or "accept it with the gratefulness we owe" unless our minds are first struck and overwhelmed by fear of God's wrath and by dread of eternal death.

Apart from Christ we can do nothing, and apart from Christ we are objects of destruction. But praise be to God for his fatherly kindness in and through Christ.