Monthly Archives: May 2007

Calvin on Genesis 22

Speaking about the Lord’s design in keeping Abraham in the dark as to the exact details of his sacrifice of Isaac:

“There were, however, two reasons for this suspense. There is nothing to which we are more prone than being wise beyond our capabilities. Therefore, in order that we may become docile and obedient to God, we benefit from being deprived of our own wisdom. Thus we are left with nothing to do but resign ourselves to be led according to God’s will. Second, this also tended to make Abraham persevere, so that he would not obey God just because he had sudden impulse to do so.”

This is awfully close to home. I have been thinking much about the Lord’s limitation of our wisdom, forcing us to be dependent on His Self-Revelation in the Word, Jesus. Philosophically this is a beautiful passage. Calvin in general has a really cool way of articulating the Scriptures epistemology.

Deuteronomy and John: Love and Law

I have been thinking about the relationship the Christian has to the Law for some time now. Reading through Deuteronomy I have seen so MANY passages that underscore the same ethic that is in the New Testament.

Behold, to the LORD your God belong the heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the LORD set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. Circumcise therefor the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn” (Deut 10:14-16).

This is one of the many passages in Deut. that generally follow this pattern: The Lord has loved you though you deserve wrath, if you love Him, obey Him. (Deut. 6:5ff, 7:7ff 11:1, 13ff) What struck me today was that Jesus says the exact same thing in John 13, 15 etc. Here is John 15:12-17:
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15No longer do I call you servants,[a] for the servant[b] does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

This has been floating around in my brain for a while now. Especially since Paul quotes Deuteronomy 30:11ff in Romans 10 as the voice of the righteousness of faith (from God) and Leviticus 18:5 as the voice of righteousness of man. Here is Deut 30:
For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. 12It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

and Lev 18:5
You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD.

So here is my question. Is there as great a chasm between the gospel of the NT and the law of Moses as we often think? For after all, the author of Hebrews tells us that the gospel was preached to them in the desert (Heb. 4). I think that you find both the promise of life by our own righteousness and the promise of life by God’s continual graciousness imputing His righteousness in the law, as the note on Romans 10 above shows. What then is to be made of the issues that Paul raises in Galatians, for example?

The problem crystalized in the NT is that men judge themselves righteous having done part of the Law, and think themselves commended to God for His approval. In this way Lex Semper Accusat (cool Latin Phrase I learned from others that means “The Law always accuses”, this was Luther’s refrain). For, showing God as righteous Judge, and not us, the Law exposes that our sin is not simply actions done, but in fact constitutes our whole nature, and infects every layer of our thinking. So obedience was never attained. Man did not know God, but simply duties and standards of men, and men’s approval.

YET, this same problem is spoken of in Deuteronomy. We are commanded to love the Lord, and are judged for whoring after other gods, wandering after gods “whom you have not known” (Deut. 11:28, 13:2, 6, 13, etc.). In fact, the reason given in Deut for our not loving God is that “your heart [is] decieved” and you have “[turned] aside” (11:6). Isn’t this the same deceit that Eve follows in the garden? Judging the fruit to be good (by her own criteria) she disobeys the Lord, and turns aside. She does not love Him because she has been deceived by her own judgment, taking “as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:8-9 citing Isaiah 29:13).

That is all for now.