The Institutes (14)

Book 1 Chapter 9

In this last chapter in his defense of the inerrancy and authority of Scripture, Calvin turns to what can best be described as the early relativists of his day; those that “seize upon whatever they may have conceived of while snoring” as Calvin puts it. His intent is to show that true knowledge of God cannot be sourced in man’s own mind, but from outside man. Calvin wants to show that the source of authoritative knowledge about God is not another religion, or the whims of man, but Scripture.

… those who, having forsaken Scripture, imagine some way or other of reaching God, ought to be thought of as not so much gripped by error as carried away with frenzy.

These people are not caught in the thrall of error that has permeated their thinking… the issue is that they aren’t thinking. I’m reminded of the severe foolishness found in those who “toke the Ghost”, or in the Word of Faith movement. Just watching TBN (or watching Justin Peter’s excellent apologetic series), I’m struck by how often it simply seems like they pulled their ideas about God out of thin air.

First, Calvin sets out the goal and hope of every true Christian:

Where [God] says, “My Spirit which is in you, and the words that I have put in your mouth, will not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your seed . . . forever”, he does not bind the ancient folk to outward doctrine as if they were learning their ABC’s; rather, he teaches that under the reign of Christ the new church will have this true and complete happiness: to be ruled no less by the voice of God than by the Spirit.

This is where the Christian’s heart is drawn to… not to conjure up new and strange forms of belief and practice, but to the Scriptures, for “he would have us recognize him in his own image, which he has stamped upon the Scriptures.”

Second, He points out that the Holy Spirit and the Scripture are two inseparable parts of His revelation to man. So for someone to claim that “the Holy Spirit told me” without a corresponding appeal to Scripture carries absolutely no authority.

For by a kind of mutual bond the Lord has joined together the certainty of his Word and of his Spirit so that the perfect religion of the Word may abide in our minds when the Spirit, who causes us to contemplate God’s face, shines; and that we in turn may embrace the Spirit with no fear of being deceived wjem we recognize him in his own image, namely, in the Word. So indeed it is. God did not bring forth his Word among men for the sake of a momentary display, intending at the coming of his Spirit to abolish it. Rather, he sent down the same Spirit by whose power he had dispensed the Word, to complete his work by the efficacious confirmation of the Word.

The Christian life is a blood-bought, Spirit-filled and interpreted, God-centered journey with Scripture as the perfect guide. This is why Christians have always looked to the Bible, and those who today wish to call themselves followers of Christ without regard to Scripture are only deceiving themselves.

Certainly a far different sobriety befits the children of God, who just as they see themselves, without the Spirit of God, bereft of the whole light of truth, so are not unaware that the Word is the instrument by which the Lord dispenses the illumination of his Spirit to believers. For they know no other Spirit than him who dwelt and spoke in the apostles, and by whose oracles they are continually recalled to the hearing of the Word.

Thank God for giving us Himself in Scripture!


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