Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Calvin and Genesis 17

Bullinger’s treatise on the covenant, De testamento, was an extended exegesis of Genesis 17. It is an interesting exercise to compare Bullinger’s conclusions with the thoughts of both Luther and Calvin on Genesis 17. Lillback has made such a comparison in his “The Binding of God” and in his article “The Early Reformed Covenant Paradigm: Vermigli in the context of Bullinger, Luther and Calvin” in Frank A James III (ed) “Peter martyr Vermigli and the European Reformation: Semper Reformanda.”

The following are some sections taken from Calvin’s commentary on Genesis 17:

“Now that word summarily contains this declaration, that god enters into covenant with Abram: it then unfolds the nature of the covenant itself, and finally puts to it the seal, with the accompanying attestations (p442).”

“In this single word we are plainly taught, that this was a spiritual covenant, not confirmed in reference to the present life only; but one from which Abraham might conceive the hope of eternal salvation, so that being raised even to heaven, he might lay hold of solid and perfect bliss. For those whom God adopts to himself, from among a people – seeing that he makes them partakers of his righteousness and of all good things – he also constitutes heirs of celestial life. Let us then mark this as the principal part of the covenant, that he who is the God of the living, not of the dead, promises to be a God to the children of Abraham (p450).”

“As formerly, covenants were not only committed to public records, but were also wont to be engraven in brass, or sculptured on stones, in order that the memory of them might be more fully recorded, and more highly celebrated; so that in the present instance, god inscribes his covenant in the flesh of Abraham. For circumcision was as a solemn memorial of that adoption, by which the family of Abraham had been elected to be the peculiar people of God (p451).”

"and it is common to all sacraments to have the word of God annexed to them, by which he testifies that he is propitious to us, and calls us to the hope of salvation; yea, a sacrament is nothing else than a visible word, or sculpture or image of that grace of God, which the word more fully illustrates. If, then, there is a mutual relation between the word and faith; it follows, that the proposed end and use of the sacraments is to help, promote and confirm faith. But they who deny that sacraments are supports to faith, or that they aid the word in strengthening faith, must of necessity expunge the name of covenant; because, either God there offers himself as a Promiser, in mockery and falsely, and from which it may confirm its own assurance (pp451,452).”

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