Blog 122: 3.11.9 - 3.11.11

Paul Helm

In his attack upon Osiander Calvin adds that while 'Christ, as he is God and man, justifies us', nevertheless Christ's righteousness is a work of the Saviour's human nature, the fruit of his obedience. This is another reason why it cannot be God's essential righteousness which is actually conveyed to us.

Calvin now brings us to the heart of how he understands the application of redemption. It comes to us by our union with Christ, a union in which we remain distinct from Christ but are bound to him by his Spirit. 'We do not, therefore, contemplate him outside ourselves from afar in order that his righteousness may be imputed to us but because we put on Christ and are engrafted into his body - in short, because he deigns to make us one with him'.  Osiander disdains this, preferring to think of a 'gross mingling' of Christ with believers.

Calvin glances at the way in which these differences affect the understanding of  the Supper, and with the Lutheran teaching that at the Supper the substance of Christ is received. For Calvin the whole Christ is received in the Supper, but as the Spirit imparts his graces to faithful participators.

The final problem is assurance. The imputation of Christ's righteousness, because that righteousness is perfect and  complete, can be the only  ground of assurance. Osiander thinks (as many have since) that such imputation is a fiction, but this is because he fails to see that 'the grace of justification is not separated from regeneration, although they are things distinct'.