The pattern for the Believer’s Life. The Law, the divine Law, not only reveals the character of God, it not only reveals his holiness and righteousness, but it also reveals and sets forth his will, his just and righteous demands for all of his people, for the elect. It admonishes the Christian, those in whose heart, the Spirit of God dwells. For although they have the Law written, engraved in their hearts by the finger of God, and are moved and quickened by the Holy Spirit to long, to desire, as with Romans seven, to obey the Law of God, yet, they still profit from the Law, in two ways, says Calvin.
Firstly, he says, it is the best instrument to learn more thoroughly the nature of the Lord’s will and to come to an understanding of it. To search out and to observe his ways more carefully. None of us escapes this need. All need says Calvin, to be daily instructed in the Law, for us to make more progress towards a purer knowledge of the divine will.
Secondly, Calvin says, we need exhortation. It is the meditation upon the divine Law, that rouses obedience, that strengthens us in the same. It draws us back from the slippery path of sin. The Law is like a whip to the flesh and its sting, says Calvin, will not let us sit still. He says, David in Psalm nineteen, proclaims the usefulness of the Law for the believer. For the believer lays hold of, not just the precept, but also the grace that is promised therein, which alone sweetens the bitter. But David also shows us that he apprehended the Mediator in the Law. Thus, says Calvin, it encourages the believer the more to seek and to obey their God. It announces God’s demands, everything, all that is necessary to be known, everything a man or woman needs to know concerning the will of God, his righteous requirements are to be found there.
A true Yardstick
Calvin, on Isaiah, says, that God reveals himself to us in his Law, he lays down there what he demands of us. The Law contains the doctrine of salvation, the rule for a good and happy life for the believer and it is for this reason God justly forbids when we turn aside from it in the slightest degree. Christ also speaks this way does he not? What does he say in Luke about Moses and the Prophets? “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Psalm 19:7). “To the law and the testimony if they speak not according to this word it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20). Firstly, he more than implies that there is sufficient saving knowledge there alone. Secondly, his words there charge us to hear Moses and the Prophets, listen to the divine Law in other words, not abrogate, set aside for some New Covenant notion. The Lord would have us to depend wholly upon his word and his word in its entirety alone, as Calvin says, everything necessary to be known, is contained therein. Calvin believed wholeheartedly in the sufficiency of scripture. We have no liberty, he says, to go anywhere else for knowledge. All that is introduced by men and by their authority is nothing but corruption, a gross insult to God. And it is the only protection that we have against superstition and the wicked ways of worship that we see proliferating in our society and the visible church today. Rest assured, he says, such as turn aside from the Law of God, will turn to such superstition. Those who speak contrary to the Law of God are blind, wicked and must be turned away from so as ye will not be infected with their blindness and with their obstinacy whether it be an angel from heaven or even the apostle Paul himself, says the Reformer.
An Everlasting Rule
It is an everlasting and an unchangeable rule, says Calvin, for the believer that is. Many ignorant folks, he says, would rashly cast out Moses and the Law today, bid farewell to both its tables and think it alien to Christianity and grace. Ban such wicked thoughts from your mind, says Calvin. Among sinners, the Law engenders nothing but death. He is clear on that. But among saints it has a better, it has a higher, more excellent use. Moses at the time of his death charged the people of God to Law-obedience, for therein lies a perfect pattern of righteousness, that is, an everlasting, unchangeable rule to live by, says Calvin. What the Bible says concerning the righteous man is applicable in everyday generation, it says, the divine Law is his delight. “They have…Moses and the prophets, let them hear them” (Luke 16:29). “Set your hearts unto all the words….all the words of this law. For it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life: and through this thing, ye shall prolong your days in the land” (Deuteronomy 32). The Law points to our goal of perfection which throughout our lives we are to strive towards, for if we fail not in this struggle, it is well with our soul. Calvin reminds us that the Christian life is a race and one to be run lawfully. But, with all that you see in the visible church today, the fallout of sin, the pervasive uncleanness, no, not just in society but in the visible church itself. We hear of men, of ministers, Elders, Church members, I can think of men I knew personally, that I have studied with, whose ministries I have sat under, but who are gone, out of it altogether, because of wicked, filthy adulterous affairs. We hear stories of Christian men and women falling in this area constantly! Is it not in part at least, due to the benign, the effeminate, the lawless preaching that abounds in the visible church? Is it not because the thunder of Sinai is no longer heard amongst God’s people? It is not just the State, the government that is pink, effeminate, so too is the church.
(©️ James R Hamilton, February 2020)