Blog 120: 3.10.5 - 3.11.4
The Institutes is a great work of theology. But it is difficult to find the right adjective for the kind of theology it represents--systematic, biblical ecclesiastical, pastoral? It is certainly all of the above. Calvin engages the mind, heart, will, affections, as he writes. He does not want to miss the atmosphere in which Scripture teaches the church as he in turn becomes her teacher.
Thus as he directs us to the importance of meditating on the future life and seeing life now in the light of the future, he has further practical counsels to teach us how to live in the present.
• If you have little, learn how to go without. The advice may sound a little brutal coming from so famous a man. But do not presume he was rich. He left little of this world's goods behind. He "went without" because he had more important things to do with his life than to fuss about what he did not have.
• Remember you will render account for your stewardship. This changes everything. It puts in a new light "all delights that draw man's spirit away from chastity and purity, or befog the mind."
• Reflect on your God-given calling. Live in the light of it. This will produce a wonderful harmony in your life. Calvin stresses that there is no life-calling that is sordid or base. What dignity the sense of God's sovereignty and providence in our lives can produce!
Calvin--only now in 3.11--dramatically, introduces the doctrine of the justification of sinners by the free grace of God through faith apart from works. His arrangement seems to the modern reader (especially if schooled in the ordo salutis of later Calvinism) passing strange indeed. Why do this so late in the day, after describing the life of holiness?
Calvin is explicit about his motive: to demonstrate that the faith which justifies apart from works is never devoid of good works.
Further, his order also reflects the order in which our witness vindicates the gospel and leads others to seek Christ. First they see good works in our lives. Only then do they come to discover how--or better by whom--they were produced!
May that continue to be so!