John Calvin and Sin in the Life of the Believer: The Gospel Coalition and Evangelical Spirituality

How should we who consider grace the central reality of our life think about God’s response to our sin?  This is a tricky question, one that defies some of the easy answers we offer to it.  Today at The Gospel Coalition, I ask and seek to answer this question in a post entitled “You Can Anger God But Not Lose Him.” 

Here’s a bit to chew on:

The fact that our sins displease God motivates us in practical terms to put our unrighteousness to death through the power of the Spirit offered and given us in the gospel (Col. 3:1-10). Pastor-theologian John Calvin said it best in his Institutes: “[H]e who in the end profits by God’s scourges is the man who considers God angry at his vices, but merciful and kindly toward himself” (III:4:34). Like David, God is angry at our “vices,” but if we may inject some Lutheran paradox into our treatment of Calvin, this anger is also kindness that leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4).

God’s response to the sin of believers is not vengeance, Calvin noted, but “chastisement.” The Frenchman pointed out that “when a father quite severely corrects his son, he does not do this to take vengeance on him or to maltreat him, but rather to teach him and to render him more cautious therefore” (III:4:31). The authors of the Westminster Confession concurred with Calvin when they noted that believers “may, by their sins, fall under God’s fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of his countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance” (11.5).

This short essay is part of a series on evangelical spirituality that TGC has been running this week.  Here are the other posts, all of which I commend to you.  Each tackles an important issue in the spiritual life of the believer.

(Image: Churchofnopeople.com)

  • Lynn

    What is an outsized sin? I understand where you went with the paraphrase and paragraph but do you think there is a danger in using that adjective?


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