John Calvin and the Simple Gospel

Published July 17, 2011 by Tim Scott in Uncategorized

Just read a post on the Sharper Iron website in the Church History section which concluded with the following sentence: “None of these Religious leaders [i.e. Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli] was guided by the Holy Spirit, but instead they were guided by what Paul calls “the natural man”, and were incapable of truly grasping the Spiritual truth of the simple Gospel.” I wonder how the author of that statement would square his words with Calvin’s comments in his treatise on “The Necessity of Reforming the Church,” which was issued in 1544. Calvin gives three simple stages for how one comes to saving knowledge of Christ. He writes:

Stage One:

“We come now to what we have set down as the second principle branch of Christian doctrine, viz., knowledge of the source from which salvation is to be obtained. Now the knowledge of our salvation presents three different stages. First, we must begin with a sense of individual wretchedness, filling us the despondency as if we were spiritually dead. This effect is produced when the original and hereditary depravity of our nature is set before us as the source of all evil–a depravity which begets in us distrust, rebellion against God, pride, avarice, lust, and all kinds of concupiscence, and making us averse to all rectitude and justice, holds us captive under the yoke of sin and when, moreover, each individual, on the disclosure of his own sins, feeling confounded at his turpitude, is forced to be dissatisfied with himself, and to account himself and all that  he has of his own as less than nothing; then, on the other hand, conscience being cited to the bar of God, becomes sensible to the curse under which it lies, and, as if it had received a warning of eternal death, learns to tremble at the divine anger.”

Stage Two:

“From this [see above] he should rise to the second stage. This he does when, animated by the knowledge of Christ, he again begins to breathe. For to one humbled in the manner in which we have described, no other course remains but to turn to Christ, that through his interposition he may be delivered from misery. But the only man who thus seeks salvation in Christ is the man who is aware of the extent of his power; that is, acknowledges Him as the only Priest who reconciles us to the Father, and His death as the only sacrifice by which sin is expiated, the divine justice satisfied, and a true and perfect righteousness acquired; who, in fine, does not divide the work between himself and Christ, but acknowledges it to be by mere gratuitious favour that he is justified in the sight of God.”

Stage Three:

“From this stage [stage two above] also he must rise to the third, when instructed in the grace of Christ, and in the fruits of his death and resurrection, he rests in him with firm and solid confidence, feeling assured that Christ is so completely his own, that he possesses in him righteousness and life.”

Sounds like Calvin had a grasp of the “Spiritual truth of the simple Gospel” to me!

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