Sunday, August 9, 2009

(Raphael- "School of Athens" Socrates and Aristotle- some Christians were saying such great thinkers deserved to go to heaven- like Zwingli)

8/9- I John 5:9-12
9 We accept human testimony, but God's testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Calvin abridged: We believe safely and with tranquil minds in Christ, because God by his authority begins our faith. It is not that God speaks outwardly, but every one of the godly feels within that God is the author of their faith. How different is faith from a fading opinion depending on an ideology. 5:10- “He that does not believe”- he makes the ungodly to be guilty of extreme blasphemy, because they charge God with falsehood. Nothing is more valued by God than his own truth, so no wrong can be done to God worse than robbing him of honor. Who would not dread to withhold faith from the gospel, in which God would have himself to be counted singularly true and faithful? Some wonder why God commends faith so much and why he condemns unbelief. But the glory of God is at stake in that he has designed his truth especially to shown in the gospel. Though in other parts a person may be an angel, yet their holiness is diabolical as long as they reject Christ. 5:11- “God has given us eternal life” – He invited us to believe. Since he freely offers life to us, our ingratitude will be intolerable. We shouldn’t just obey the gospel, but we are called to love it. The Apostle gives us three things: 1) that we are all given up to death until God graciously restores us to life; 2) this life is conferred on us by the gospel; 3) we cannot otherwise become partakers of this eternal life than by believing in Christ.
5:12- “Whoever has the Son has life”- God made life to be in none but those who are in Christ. Those who do not seek life in Christ do not have this hope. Some say this is unreasonable. History shows there have been great people with heroic virtues. Yet it seems unreasonable that these had no honor. But we are greatly mistaken if we think that whatever is eminent in our eyes is approved by God (Lk. 16:15- “What is highly esteemed by people is an abomination with God.”). We look only on the externals, but God sees the filth of the heart. If someone has an impure heart and bad motives, even if the externals seem virtuous could not please God- but produce a bad odor before Him. Besides purity only comes from the Spirit of Christ. Our righteousness is found not in our acts or works, but in the remission of sins. If you take away Christ’s remission of sins then eternal death awaits all. Christ pacifies the Father, reconciling us to Him by the cross. God is therefore forgiving to only those united to Christ, nor is there any righteousness but in Him. Some may object and say that Cornelius (Acts 10:2) was called to the faith of the gospel. But this is to confuse the seed of faith (or calling) with having faith. Cornelius did not have a clear perception of Christ, but did understand something of the need for a Mediator. Let us disregard such questions that profit nothing, and hold only to the plain way of salvation, which he has made known to us.

Thoughts: Zwingli has a famous passage in which he followed some of the Nicean fathers in allowing virtuous men of old (like Socrates) into the kingdom. Calvin points out that we cannot judge the hearts of people, and should not assume the heart is clean because teachings or works appear to be wonderful. In the end, Calvin retreats to what we do know revealed in scripture- that salvation is found in Christ alone. Guessing about the judgment of other people (as Calvin points out above) is not profitable at all. This is why Barth would not come out openly with universalism- it is guesswork. Our task, is to spread the gospel of Christ. We do know and have it confirmed by scripture and the testimony of the Word and Spirit that salvation is found in Him. Frankly, I am tired of our desire to judge people’s eternal salvation. I heard one person say that if you believe in evolution you will go to hell. I heard another say, “How can God send anyone to hell whom he has made?” We must not take away nor add to what has been revealed- such questioning is specious- a waste of our time, and it makes Christians look like their faith either is too exclusive (mean) or too inclusive (meaningless). Life is found in Christ- and we must stick to this- clinging to the cross with all our hearts. Calvin is right, to say that people who are externally good go to heaven- does not look at their hearts and comes close to saying we go to heaven by being good. It is God who has the right to set the standard for forgiveness and for entrance into heaven. Those who do not believe in heaven or in the Christ who sacrificed have no right (and maybe desire) to be forced into it. On the other hand to go around condemning people because of their external actions also does not look at their heart.

Prayer: Lord, you alone set the standard. Help us to submit to what you have revealed to us by your Spirit. Help us not to be led away from you by our own specious questions. Give us grace, to see the importance of proclaiming that life is found in you.

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