Blog 162: 3.25.1 - 3.25.3

Stephen Nichols

With this new chapter, Calvin moves from the discussion of election to the final resurrection.  As he explains, citing Peter, the issue of the resurrection is "the outcome of our faith" (1 Peter 1:8-9; 3.25.1).  In discussing election, God's bringing about of his purposes and plan, and the assurance that we as believers possess--all topics in the previous chapter--Calvin is led right up to the final resurrection, our place to stand in the midst of the miseries, trials, and injustices in this life.  It is the final resurrection that is our ultimate hope.  The gospel brings us into union with the Triune God through union with Christ, our elder brother.  It is the final resurrection that brings this union to its fullest and most glorious fruition.  That's hope.

In 3.25.2., Calvin displays the glory of the final resurrection along two lines: our union with God, the first paragraph, and the renewal of the "formless ruins" of our fallen world, the second paragraph.  As for the former, Calvin mentions that Plato came closest, though he only did so faintly, in seeing union with God as the highest good among the Greeks.  The Greek philosophical discussion of the highest good was one way of asking not only what is the point (of life, of everything), but what is the ultimate point.  The authors of the Westminster Catechism express this discussion as the "chief end."  It's going to take direct revelation from God, Scripture, to even begin to answer this ultimate question.

Sounding very Edwardsian, Calvin says the chief end, the highest good, the ultimate meaning and purpose of it all is union with the Triune God.  I say that tongue-in-cheek, of course.  It appears our friend Edwards, with his obsession over the question of the chief end, was merely following a path marked out by Calvin.  In heaven, using an Edwardsian phrase we will be "unclogged," in perfect union with God. 

What's more, there will be the new heavens and the new earth.  Creation, groaning as it is under the curse and reeling from the fall in its "formless ruins," will be set right.  Calvin clues us in to the upshot of all this:  "Whatever hardships distress us, let this 'redemption' sustain us until its completion."   Might I add one small piece:  This vision of union with God and the ultimate renewal should not merely be a future hope, but let it serve to inspire us to make a difference in the present.