Calvin’s Institutes: The Ten Commandments

Are the ten commandments relevant today? Are they something we only pay lips service to? Or do they still guide and order the moral imperative for Christian living? Calvin says, “[M]an is so wrapped in darkest ignorance that, through natural law, he is scarcely able to savour what it means to serve God acceptably” (110). And that’s the bottom line isn’t it? Without God’s law we would remain in “darkest ignorance” and we would not know (not just sipping kind of know, but the drinking deeply kind of know) that we need the mercy of God. Calvin again, “[W]hen we compare the righteousness of the law with the life we lead and when we see how little we comply with God’s will, we recognize that we do not deserve to keep our place and position among his creatures, still less to be reckoned as his children” (111).

Some might say that this is whole of the law. It shows that we need the mercy of God, but Calvin goes on to make an important point. “The Lord, however, is not content to teach us only to revere his righteousness. He seeks to train our hears to love it and to hate iniquity, and thus adds both promises and threats” (ibid). The law does not exist solely to inspire fear of punishment and despair without the gospel. It does that, but, after it does its first work, God then trains our hearts to love him through loving his law. As David so regularly said in the Psalms, he delighted in the law of God.

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Calvin’s Institutes: The Knowledge of God

I used to carry a book with me everywhere. I would casually read, be interrupted, and read more. However, as I age I find that approach no longer sustainable. Something about reading a book over an extended period of time no longer works for me. I find now I enjoy having several hours to sit down and plow through a book.

I have tried several times to take the slow approach to Calvin’s Institutes. It just never worked for me and I don’t think that’s changing anytime soon. That’s why when I saw Banner of Truth’s new translation—a handsome, single volume edition of Calvin’s Institutes—I knew now was the time to move beyond my patchwork reading of Institutes and read the entire volume.

My approach will be one hundred pages plus per week until the end of the year, which leaves me time to do other reading projects and writing. My hope is to offer bi-weekly posts to highlight sections that are interesting in hopes of encouraging more of you to pick up this classic work of theology and read it. I won’t have a specific format for these posts. They won’t be a traditional book review or a more focused post. They will be more of a rambling commentary. Without further ado.

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