Tuesday, August 18, 2009

8/18- Encouragement about the Church's Holiness

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

8/18- The holiness and endurance of the church

Scripture: “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:25b-27)

Calvin: “Also it is no less true that the Lord is daily at work in smoothing out wrinkles and cleansing spots. From this it follows that the church’s holiness is not yet complete. The church is holy, then, in the sense that it
is daily advancing and is not yet perfect: it makes progress from day to day but has not yet reached its goal of holiness…The prophets prophesy that there will be a holy Jerusalem through which “strangers shall never pass” [Joel 3:17], and a most holy temple wherein the unclean shall not enter [Isaiah 35:8Let us not understand this prophecy as if all the members of the church were without blemish; but because they zealously aspire to holiness and perfect purity, the cleanness that they have not yet fully attained is granted them by God’s kindness and although there are oftentimes few evidences of this sort of sanctification among men, still we must hold that from the creation of the world there was no time when the Lord did not have his church; and even until the consummation of the age, there will be no time when he will not have it. (IV.1.17)

Thought: Calvin says two things here about the church: that it is holy- though not yet completely holy, and that it will never die out. For Calvin what makes the church holy is that it has the right preaching of the Word and right administration of the sacraments. But here and also in his commentary on I John he emphasizes our effort at sanctification as an evidence of the church's eventual complete holiness. For someone who gives all the glory to God, Calvin does not downplay our need to strive for holiness and our efforts at living the Christian life. Calvin sees our effort as a gift from God as well. He doesn’t get into the mystery of how God’s sovereignty and our efforts interact. He says, “because they zealously aspire to holiness and perfect purity, the cleanness that they have not yet fully attained is granted them by God’s kindness.” In our day of so many falling away from the faith (including prominent politicians and clergy) there are two important concepts for us: 1) It is important to strive for holiness- and this striving should not be discounted; 2) The church will not disappear but will triumph. We should not think that we are all alone, or that secularism or sin will win in the end. If the victory is assured by the Creator of the universe’s promise, then we should be assured and make every effort to be on the winning side.

Prayer: Lord, one day your church will have no wrinkles or spots. For now, we need you to wash us, and iron out our problems. Despite your church’s problems Lord, strengthen it and us.

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