The Friend of Righteousness the Foe of Iniquity

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One of the reasons I would encourage Christians of any age and in every age to read Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion is because of his indomitable allegiance to the greatness and the wonder and the glory of God.  Calvin had a vision of God who was matchless and incomparable in all of His eternal majesty and transcendence.  Today, religion is light weight and shallow; worldliness rests all too pervasively upon the Evangelical Church.  Still, Scripture calls us to conduct our lives every day in a way that is pleasing to Jesus:

9 “Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”
— (2 Cor. 5.9-10)

For Calvin, being pleasing to God, was to simply prefer His ways above our own. To recognize our lack, our darkness apart from His light, and confess our “miserable condition” without God’s grace 1.   For Calvin, and in order to please God, one must first acknowledge his/her shortcomings, limitations, and even pride; then man must also abandon trying to define the greatness and glory of God as we may perceive it and accept it for what it really is i.e. as He has revealed it.  Calvin says: 

“It is not fitting for us to measure God’s glory according to our ability; for whatever we may be, he remains always like himself: the friend of righteousness, the foe of iniquity… whatever he requires of us (because he can require only what is right) we must obey…” 2

In order to be truly pleasing to Him, we must confess that God’s opinion of himself (and of all things) is better than ours, we must remember that His glory is comprised of His delight for righteousness and His opposition to iniquity.  Our ambition, as Paul teaches in 2 Cor. 5.9, must be the relentless pursuit of pleasing our holy Lord by being holy ourselves.  In the context, Paul has been speaking of life in this world (indeed in these bodies vv.1-8) but also life with Christ in the presence of Christ.  What holds true for both states of our existence (whether in time or eternity) is our life’s goal i.e. “to be pleasing to Him.”  

Paul’s powerful incentive for such a Christ-centered life now was the reality of Christ’s awful judgment seat in eternity; this is eschatology touching our every day ethics (cf. 2 Pet. 3.11-13).  The more and more we grow to realize that God is “the friend of righteousness” the more sanctified our ambition to please Christ will be.  The more we understand that God is the “foe of iniquity” the less sin we will tolerate in our lives and the more we will desire to honor our sin-opposing God by opposing sin ourselves.  God as our loving Father is benevolent enough to show us our wanderings and discipline us for our sins.  It is God’s merciful chastisement that reveals what Calvin called, “His supreme love for righteousness.”   He does not allow us to escape our iniquities because He loves us too much to allow His children to defy His Laws and contradict the goodness of His Gospel.  The more we ourselves learn to befriend righteousness and resolve ourselves foes of iniquity the more we will please Christ and reflect His image to the glory of God the Father.  

“Oh Father, do this in us for Christ’ sake, Amen.”

Soli Deo Gloria

1John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Ed. John T. Mcneill (Louisville/London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006) vol. I p.368-369.
2Ibid, 369.
3Ibid, 370.