Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Chief End of the Knowledge of God

Book 1: Chapter 10 of Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion, is a wonderfully rich although short section. The subject of this chapter is "In Scripture, the True God Opposed, Exclusively, to All the Gods of the Heathen."

Calvin states: "In every part of Scripture we meet with descriptions of his paternal kindness and readiness to do good, and we also meet with examples of severity which show that he is the just punisher of the wicked, especially when they continue obstinate notwithstanding of all his forbearance" (p. 87).

Of the many passages of Scripture that address these fundamental attributes of the character of God, Calvin selects three. These ought to be highlighted and memorized by every believer because they are foundational.

Exodus 34:6-7
6 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Psalm 145 (see here)

Jeremiah 9:24 (ESV)
but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”
Having presented these foundational passages, Calvin states what is the chief end of such knowledge of God. He writes:

Moreover, the knowledge of God, which is set before us in Scriptures, is designed for the same purpose as that which shines in creation--viz. that we may thereby learn to worship him with perfect integrity of heart and unfeigned obedience, and also to depend entirely on his goodness. (pp. 88-89)
Lord, help us!

I hope that you have taken up the challenge to read through this monumental work. I'm a little behind, but that's okay. I'm still plugging along, and this has been very rewarding!

If you are interested in following along in Beveridge's translation, see my reading schedule for Books 1 & 2.