Saturday, June 11, 2011

Calvin on the Testimony of the Spirit in our lives

Here are some great quotes from Calvin concerning the testimony or witness of the Holy Spirit in our lives, giving us assurance of our sonship, eternal life, election and salvation...
[from Commentary on Romans 8:14...] The import of the whole is this — “all those are the sons of God who are led by God’s Spirit; all the sons of God are heirs of eternal life: then all who are led by God’s Spirit ought to feel assured of eternal life. But the middle term or assumption is omitted, for it was indubitable. But it is right to observe, that the working of the Spirit is various: for there is that which is universal, by which all creatures are sustained and preserved; there is that also which is peculiar to men, and varying in its character: but what he means here is sanctification, with which the Lord favors none but his own elect, and by which he separates them for sons to himself.
[from Commentary on Romans 8:16...] But Paul means, that the Spirit of God gives us such a testimony, that when he is our guide and teacher, our spirit is made assured of the adoption of God: for our mind of its own self, without the preceding testimony of the Spirit, could not convey to us this assurance. There is also here an explanation of the former verse; for when the Spirit testifies to us, that we are the children of God, he at the same time pours into our hearts such confidence, that we venture to call God our Father.
[from Commentary on 1 Corinthians 2:12...] It is a passage that is most abundantly clear, for refuting that diabolical doctrine of the Sophists as to a constant hesitancy on the part of believers. For they require all believers to be in doubt, whether they are in the grace of God or not, and allow of no assurance of salvation, but what hangs on moral or probable conjecture. In this, however, they overthrow faith in two respects: for first they would have us be in doubt, whether we are in a state of grace, and then afterwards they suggest a second occasion of doubt — as to final perseverance. Here, however, the Apostle declares in general terms, that the elect have the Spirit given them, by whose testimony they are assured that they have been adopted to the hope of eternal salvation. Undoubtedly, if they would maintain their doctrine, they must of necessity either take away the Spirit of God from the elect, or make even the Spirit himself subject to uncertainty. Both of these things are openly at variance with Paul’s doctrine. Hence we may know the nature of faith to be this, that conscience has from the Holy Spirit a sure testimony of the good-will of God towards it, so that, resting upon this, it does not hesitate to invoke God as a Father

The Experiential Life of the Christian

I have been in some Christian cultures where we really avoid any kind of experiential kind of Christianity. We wanted everything to be "objective" and "intellectually grounded", so to speak. We didn't like to speak of "feeling God's presence", or saying things like "God told me...". We didn't like the idea of people having a "subjective call from God". We were uneasy with any talk of God speaking to us other than through the grammatico-historical exegesis of Scripture.

Well, we definitely want to understand the Scriptures correctly. And it is in the Scriptures that God always speaks of a dynamic relationship between Himself and his people. In the New Testament think of the prophet Agabus, or the Spirit telling Paul and his companions to go to Macedonia, or the interactive way that God works through prayer. The God of the Bible is an immanent and living God, intimately involved in the lives of his people. It is natural to expect God to be subjectively/ experientially involved in our lives, since we are not Deists, we do not believe that God has just set up all the rules, and then watches from a distance. So we should expect some kind of dynamic interaction in our lives, regarding how He wants us to live, and what he wants us to do. Isn't that part of the evidence of Jesus' ascension and his reigning through the sending of the Holy Spirit (cf Acts 2 etc)?

Of course there can be abuses and twists to this kind of idea, but that seems true of just about anything. And sure it is wise to give more attention to God's revealed will in his Written Word, over our fallible interpretations of God's present activities in our lives. Nonetheless, we should embrace Christian *experience* and not shy away from it.