Calvin’s Institutes (Book I Chapter VI Section 1-4)
In the previous 5 chapters Calvin has sought to establish the key principle, that although God has used many means to awaken our minds to his presence and grant us knowledge of himself, they have all proved ineffectual due to our blindness and corruption. The main means being – 1) the implanted sense of the divine within us, 2) the glorious wonder of the created world and 3) God’s gracious providential care in our circumstances.
All the time Calvin is seeking to draw out what it would have been possible to know of God as our Creator had Adam never fallen and had God not gone on to reveal himself as our Redeemer, which led to a much deeper revelation of his character and will be discussed in Book II.
So, at the right time God spoke directly to individuals, breaking into their worlds and revealing himself to them. People such as Noah, Abraham and Moses, who heard God speak to them out of the darkness. Not only did God speak to them, but he caused them to record their experiences so that the next generation could learn of him too.
Calvin identifies three objectives of recording these experiences in writing:
- To prevent it from perishing from neglect
- To prevent if vanishing away in error
- To prevent it from being corrupted by men
A tangential comment by Calvin in this chapter stopped me in my tracks these last few days. While speaking of the absolute necessity for scripture in having any right thinking about God, he states that the first step in true knowledge of God is taken when we embrace God’s testimony of himself contained in the bible. For “all correct knowledge of God, originates in obedience”.
How easy it is to see knowledge as a collection of facts gained through study and application. Yes we should seek to convince others of the reasonableness of our faith, but in the end remember that spiritual knowledge is revealed to those who humble themselves. This is a kind of knowledge very different to every type of knowledge we have ever experienced. It must be revealed rather than researched. And who does God reveal it to? The obedient. This is exactly what Jesus says in John 7.17 – that if we really want to know if it is all true, then we should follow in his footsteps and we will come to know God as we move in obedience.
For the last 5 chapters Calvin has been building the foundation for our understanding concerning our corrupt nature and the impossibility of knowing God due to our natural spiritual blindness. Now we begin to see that God has taken the initiative in entering into our lives directly, and that our response is now to obey the word he has spoken.
“If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.” John 7.17
Father, thank you for the recording of your encounters with mankind. Open our eyes that we may see you in your word, change our wills that we may learn how to live and fill us with a knowledge of yourself. Amen
One thought on “Knowledge of God through obedience to the Word”
Unless we become like little children…. God reveals to babes.
Thanks Martyn. Keep it up!