Calvin in chapter 24 and 25 of Book 3 of his institutes turns to a quite thorny subject. How do we deal with election when it comes to salvation and what will this salvation and final resurrection look like? Who is part of this “elect?” In short who’s in and who’s out at the end of the final day?
For several previous chapters Calvin has been discussing predestination and the elect. The basic summary of this is a return to God’s will. Calvin reminds us that it is God’s will to predestine those to salvation those whom God wishes and it is God’s will to predestine those to destruction those whom God wills!
Calvin acknowledges that it is this assurance of our election which can cause problems indeed! He reminds us that there are two callings, a universal one and a “special” one. “Though the Lord, by electing his people, adopted them as his sons, we, however, see that
they do not come into possession of this great good until they are called; but when called,
the enjoyment of their election is in some measure communicated to them.” 24.1 We only see dimly what it means to be called to be part of God’s elect. Calvin acknowledges that the devil uses this doubt to cause us to question our assurance of our “elected status.”
Lane asks us to explore the relationship between election and assurance. He also asks us what hope exists for the Christian for the future. It is to these two questions that we now turn.
When we begin that ever slippery slope of asking ourselves if we are among the “elect” Calvin helps us return to the correct path.
“First, if we seek for the paternal mercy and favor of God, we must turn our eyes to
Christ, in whom alone the Father is well pleased (Mt. 3:17). When we seek for salvation,
life, and a blessed immortality, to him also must we retake ourselves, since he alone is the fountain of life and the anchor of salvation, and the heir of the kingdom of heaven.” (institutes 3.24.5) We are elected not in and of ourselves but in Christ Jesus!
The second assurance is found in 3.24.6 when Calvin states:
“Another confirmation tending to establish our confidence is, that our election is
connected with our calling. For those whom Christ enlightens with the knowledge of his
name, and admits into the bosom of his Church, he is said to take under his guardianship
and protection.” (institutes 3.24.6) Calvin reminds us in 3.24.7 that there are some who will look like they are called – in fact they are called but they will be proud and rely on themselves rather than Christ for security.
If we acknowledge that we must not stay in this mystery of assurance and that Christ is the compass by which we are pointed back to God, we must now turn our thoughts to Lane’s second question about Christian hope. What does this look like? Because our hope is in Christ, our assurance is in Christ, our present lives will be changed as Calvin reminds us:
“Our present condition, therefore, requires us to “live soberly, righteously, and
godly;” “looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.” Here there is need of no ordinary patience, lest, worn out with fatigue, we either turn backwards or abandon our post.” (institutes 3.25.1) We cannot rely on earthly concerns but must keep our eyes fixed on the heavenly prize.
Calvin reminds us that our faith is not like that of the philosophers which believe in the immortality of the soul, but rather we believe in the physical resurrection of our bodies along with our soul. In fact “Scripture furnishes two auxiliary proofs, the one the likeness of Christ’s resurrection, and the other the omnipotence of God. Therefore, whenever the subject of the resurrection is considered, let us think of the case of our Savior, who, having completed his mortal course in our nature which he had assumed, obtained immortality, and is now the pledge of our future resurrection.” (institutes 3.25.3) God did not use God’s power only to raise Christ but to give that same thing to those who are His body in the world.
Calvin reminds us that this very power of God was not shown to the religious authorities and the roman political powers but the manifestation of God’s glory, the resurrected appearances of Christ was given to women and the disciples. Those were “regular” people who had no reason to create a fictitious story. These things provide proof that Christ has risen!
Calvin reminds us that not everyone supports this possibility of the resurrection of the body in 3.25.6 when he says: “Some, under the idea that the whole man perishes, have thought that the soul will rise again with the body; while others, admitting that spirits are immortal, hold that they will be clothed with new bodies, and thus deny the resurrection of the flesh.” As we think of this resurrection of both flesh and spirit, we will be raised to glory with Christ. We will have “improved” bodies as Christ has an improved body. We will not be able to now comprehend the full nature of this glory and manifestation of God’s glory.
Calvin in 3.24.12 also reminds us that the reprobate and their eternal fate is described incompletely through the human language that we now possess.
As we read this magnificent description of what is in store for God’s elect and the reprobate, I am returned back to Calvin’s idea of two separate callings:
My questions regard Calvin’s words as found in 3.24.8 when he speaks of the two calls:
“There are two species of calling: for there is an universal call, by which God, through the external preaching of the word, invites all men alike, even those for whom he designs the call to be a savor of death, and the ground of a severer condemnation. Besides this there is a special call which, for the most part, God bestows on believers only, when by the internal illumination of the Spirit he causes the word preached to take deep root in their hearts.”
I am reminded of Christ’s parable of the sower found in Matthew 13.
Assuming that we are in that “called and elected group” (this is not my position to decide that is for God) Does Calvin give us any words of wisdom on how we should witness and to which group, the “all” who are called or the “special” people? And secondly does our method of witnessing change the membership of the groups?