Saturday, September 22, 2012

John Calvin on Christ's Kingdom

In his Institutes of the Christian Religion (Book 2, Chapter 16, Section 16) John Calvin lays out the nature of Christ's kingdom in his discussion of Christ's ascension into Heaven and sitting at the right hand of God the Father. Not only does he explain it, but he does because "from this doctrine faith derives manifold advantages." The three aspects he teaches that faith perceives in Christ's kingship are the following.

"First, it perceives that the Lord, by his ascension to heaven, has opened up the access to the heavenly kingdom, which Adam had shut. For having entered it in our flesh, as it were in our name, it follows, as the Apostle says, that we are in a manner now seated in heavenly places, not entertaining a mere hope of heaven, but possessing it in our head." His exaltation and glorification shows the accomplishment of redemption, and because of our covenantal connection to Jesus, our salvation is already accomplished. We possess the kingdom of heaven now.

Secondly, faith perceives that his present reign is with great advantage to us in our relationship with God. He "constantly appears as our advocate and intercessor in the presence of the Father; directs attention to his own righteousness, so as to turn it away from our sins; so reconciles him to us, as by his intercession to pave for us a way of access to his throne." This seems to me more like His priestly role, but it is good to note that His work as king is to redeem His kingdom and reconcile it to God. In His current reign at the right hand of the Father He not only is king, but prophet and priest as well, and these offices coordinate with one another.

Thirdly, faith discerns Christ's present power, "on which depend our strength, might, resources, and triumph over hell, 'When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive,' (Eph. 4:8)." There are two parts to this aspect of Christ's reign. First is His reign in believers by His Spirit, "Spoiling his foes, he gave gifts to his people, and daily loads them with spiritual riches. He thus occupies his exalted seat, that thence transferring his virtue unto us, he may quicken us to spiritual life, sanctify us by his Spirit, and adorn his Church with various graces" It is this aspect that Romans 14:17 speaks of when it says that the kingdom of God is a matter of "righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." Wherever this new life in the Spirit is present, Christ's kingdom is manifest. This includes not only the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:16-26), but also gifts of the Spirit such as church leadership (Eph. 4:11). Second is His reign over all for the sake of His church, where he does "by his protection preserve it [the Church] safe from all harm, and by the strength of his hand curb the enemies raging against his cross and our salvation." All things are under Christ's feet, He has all authority in heaven and earth, and He guides the course of history in chastening and defending His people and judging His and our enemies (Eph. 1:22; Matt. 28:18-20; Psalm 2, 110; 1 Cor. 15:24-28).

Thus Calvin says, "Such is the true nature of the kingdom, such the power which the Father has conferred upon him, until he arrive to complete the last act by judging the quick and the dead." Praise God!