Friday, July 10, 2009

7/11- I John 1:1

(Calvin in stained glass)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

The great historian Philip Schaff said Calvin’s commentaries ranked “among the very best of ancient and modern times.” Calvin’s commentaries are in 45 volumes, and are rather lengthy. Rather than jus typing Calvin’s commentaries in my blog, or re-translating them (which some time should be done), I hope to abridge what Calvin says. This will involve some summary, and some quoting from Calvin’s own words- revised a bit from the translations into English from the 19th century, and some paraphrasing so we may understand. This work is not meant to be academic, but practical so that the average Christian may easily use it. So I have purposefully left off some of the historical references in Calvin’s work. I chose I John as a beginning point, because I believe besides Ephesians it fits in well with Calvin’s ideas. Below I have written my abridgement compared to the 1855 English translation by John Owen.

I John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes,
which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;

Abridgement of Calvin: This letter exhibits the spirit of John who was loved by Christ that we might also be Christ’s friend. This letter speaks of the doctrines of the eternal deity of Christ, the grace of Christ, and adoption. There are also practical teachings to be holy and to love. The doctrinal and practical are mixed together. He also touches on many other ideas including watching out for imposters.

1845 Translation: THIS Epistle is altogether worthy of the spirit of that disciple who, above others, was loved by Christ, that he might exhibit him as a friend to us. But it contains doctrines mixed with exhortations; for he speaks of the eternal Deity of Christ, and at the same time of the incomparable grace which he brought with him when he appeared in the world, and generally of all his blessings; and he especially commends and extols the inestimable grace of divine adoption. On these truths he grounds his exhortations; and at one time he admonishes us in general to lead a pious and holy life, and at another time he expressly enjoins love. But he does none of these things in a regular order; for he everywhere mixes teaching with exhortation. But he particularly urges brotherly love: he also briefly touches on other things, such as to beware of impostors, and similar things. But each particular shall be noticed in its own place.

Abridgement of Calvin: The writer is trying to get us to think about God and eternal things, but to help us have faith in the gospel he says, “what we have seen what we have heard and what we have looked on” To believe doesn’t mean we just form an opinion or intellectually assent to what is said, but it involves a firm, undoubting conviction.

1845 Translation: Then the Apostle’s object, in setting before us the vast good, yea, the chief and only true happiness which God has conferred on us, in his own Son, is to raise our thoughts above; but as the greatness of the subject requires that the truth should be certain, and fully proved, this is what is here much dwelt upon. For these words, What we have seen, what we have heard, what we have looked on, serve to strengthen our faith in the gospel. Nor does he, indeed, without reason, make so many asseverations; for since our salvation depends on the gospel, its certainty is in the highest degree necessary; and how difficult it is for us to believe, every one of us knows too well by his own experience. To believe is not lightly to form an opinion, or to assent only to what is said, but a firm, undoubting conviction, so that we may dare to subscribe to the truth as fully proved. It is for this reason that the Apostle heaps together so many things in confirmation of the gospel.

[From here on, I will not compare the abridgement to the 1845 translation to save space and time on your part]
1. That which was from the beginning. The “that” refers to the divinity of Christ for God in the flesh was not from the beginning. But the next sentence speaks to Christ’s human nature- “what we have seen and heard.” In this sense, John is declaring that Christ is one person in two natures (divine and human). Thus the invisible became visible. Here Christ was acknowledged to be God’s invisible Word. John was saying that he taught nothing but what had been really made known to him (what he had seen, heard, and touched). Some may think that what the writer is talking about has little to do with the power of Christ. For Christ’s glory is not known in the body of Christ. Yet Christ gave proof when he was in the body of his Divine power. The “we” here applies to all the apostles.
“Of the Word of life” The first chapter of John’s Gospel reminds us that “in him was life.” This belongs to the Son of God because
1) he has infused life into all creatures, and 2) he restores the life in us that was extinguished in our sin. “Word” may refer to Christ or to the doctrine of the Gospel for both bring salvation. But as the substance is Christ, the first view appears more likely.

Prayer: Thank you Lord that you have become flesh accommodating yourself to us that we might understand you better. Help us to grow in our trust of you and of your gospel truth.

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