This Spring, I have been taking my daughter Claudia to Andy Davis’ seminary class, at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, on John Calvin, where he has been working his way through, Calvin’s Institutes, which is on her reading list this year.
Here are a few notes from the last class:
Andy started by stating that the reformation was mainly about the doctrine of worship – how will God be worshiped in the church. At the beginning of the lecture he quoted Matthew 15:8-9, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 9 They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men."
Then he quotes Calvin on "will worship,"
"By these words, all kinds of will-worship, as Paul calls it, (Colossians 2:23,) are plainly condemned. For, as we have said, since God chooses to be worshipped in no other way than according to his own appointment, he cannot endure new modes of worship to be devised. As soon as men allow themselves to wander beyond the limits of the Word of God, the more labor and anxiety they display in worshipping him, the heavier is the condemnation which they draw down upon themselves; for by such inventions religion is dishonored." [Comm. on Matthew 15:9]
"From this we may gather that man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols." (1.11.8)
"Man’s mind, full as it is of pride and boldness, dares to imagine a god according to its own capacity; as it sluggishly plods, indeed is overwhelmed with the crassest."
"There is no doubt that the perfect teaching of righteousness that the Lord claims for the law has a perpetual validity. Not content with it, however, we labor mightily to contrive and forge good works upon good works. The best remedy to cure that fault will be to fix this thought firmly in mind: the law has been divinely handed down to us to teach us perfect righteousness; there no other righteousness is taught than that which conforms to the requirements of God’s will; in vain therefore do we attempt new forms of works to win the favor of God, whose lawful worship consists in obedience alone. (2.8.5)
i) The God who is spirit is fully able to reveal his will for his own worship… and to oppose ALL HUMAN INVENTIONS.
ii) Christians are thus forbidden not only images but all forms of worship invented by the mind of man.
"The purpose of this commandment, then, is that he does not will that his lawful worship be profaned by superstitious rites. To sum up, he wholly calls us back and withdraws us from petty carnal observances, which our stupid minds, crassly conceiving of God, are wont to devise. And then he makes us conform to his lawful worship, that is, a spiritual worship established by himself." (2.8.17)
iii) God alone regulates his worship; he has not given to the church the authority to introduce new forms of worship.
"…he alone (when we seek the way to worship him aright and fitly) has authority over our souls, him we ought to obey, and upon his will we ought to wait." (4.10.8)
iv) The church must resist the temptation to add to or to take away from revealed worship.
v) The church had no power to bind the consciences of members with worship invented by the church which had no foundation in the Word of God.
"…in these observances one thing must be guarded against. They are not to be considered necessary for salvation and thus bind consciences by scruples; nor are they to be associated with the worship of God, and piety thus be lodged in them." (4.10.27)
vi) Unbiblical ceremonies are very attractive to fallen human nature; the simple forms of worship instituted by God are very different and are designed to lead us straight to Christ.
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