Monday, February 29, 2016

11. Exposition of the Moral Law

Calvin says that God gave the law for three reasons:  1) to bring “the elect to salvation” into repentance by the work of the Holy Spirit (2.7.6); 2) to restrain those who seek to do evil and care little or nothing for justice or mercy (2.7.10); 3) to teach the godly “the nature of the Lord’s will” (2.7.12).  
In 2.8, Calvin introduces the Ten Commandments and gives a short explanation of each.  The law of God, summarized in the Ten Commandments, is God’s pure grace extended to us.  The law was given to show us how God wants us to live as His covenant people.  We are to consider each commandment to determine why it was given to us knowing that “each commandment and prohibition always contain more than is expressed in words”  (2.8.8, pg 374).  
Humans are sinful.  We fail to live in trust, love, and obedience to God.  But, God’s law contains God’s promise of salvation addressed to the people of Israel.  "...the Jews not only learned from the law what the true character of godliness was; but also that, since they saw themselves incapable of observing the law, they were in dread of judgment drawn inevitably though unwillingly to the Mediator"  (2.8.1, pg 367).  

Calvin said the law contained God's promise of salvation and continues to function as a positive teacher for all believers. Calvin believed that the Old Testament taught the story of how God reached out to His people and promised to be their Savior.  This promise was fulfilled through Jesus Christ – the Mediator.  He is the one that reconciles us to God. He is the only one who can bring salvation.    

The fourth commandment, says Calvin, is in a different category then the others, for three reasons:  1)  a day of spiritual rest; 2) a day to be trained in piety; 3) a day for servants from labor.   The word sabbath means “to cease” or “stop.” We are to stop striving and turn our heart to God.  We are to reflect on the fact that God reigns over the world and puts us in our place as creatures and not creator.  Christians moved the day of worship to Sunday in order to highlight Jesus Christ and his resurrection as the ultimate sign of God’s reign, and anticipates the ultimate rest God gives to us all.    

In Galatians Paul said,”For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’.”  Calvin states that “our life shall best conform to God’s will and the prescription of the law when it is in every respect most fruitful for our brethren” (2.8.54, pg 417).  Jesus Christ is the foundation of our ministry.  We are to be "little Christs", carrying out the task of reflecting the mind of Christ in our relationships, both corporately and personally.

Lane Question:  How does the law in general, and the fourth commandment in particular, function in our Christian lives?  Calvin believed that the law functioned as a teacher for us all.  In particular, the fourth commandment, is meant to direct us to a day of rest and worship.  However, since the revocation of the “blue laws”, many have turned to a less disciplined observance of one particular day a week to an observance of “sabbath” in which we consciously cultivate ways of renewal, rest and worship.   

My Question:  Is Sabbath a “legalistic requirement” that isn’t practical today?  Are we succumbing to the pressures of society when we no longer devote one day to “public and private worship of God?”