January 28, 2008

John Calvin (1509–1564) on John 5:34 and God's Saving Will

NKJ John 5:34 "Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved.
Calvin comments:
these things I say that you may be saved. By this statement he means that it is not so much from a regard to himself as from a desire to promote the advantage of men, that he raises up the heralds of his Gospel by whom he testifies to us concerning his will. In this we see also a striking proof of his wonderful goodness, by which he regulates all things for our salvation. It is therefore our duty, on the other hand, to strive that the great care which he bestows in saving us may not be fruitless.
From Calvin's Commentaries on John 5:34

The reader should take note of Jesus' audience in the immediate context. He is going to address grumbling, legalistic Jews:
John 5:10 The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, "It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed."
They were even of the sort that were trying to kill him:
John 5:16 For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath.

John 5:18 Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.
These same men inquired into John's teaching but rejected it:
John 5:33 "You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth.
Calvin rightly remarks on the context:
...they sent to John, and — as if their motive had been a desire to learn — inquired at him who was the Messiah, and yet paid no attention to his reply.
They were manifestly in unbelief and rejected the word of John and Jesus himself:
John 5:38 "But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe.
Their unbelief was willful stubbornness against God's witness:
John 5:40 "But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.
They did not love God:
John 5:42 "But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you.
Moses accuses these same men who thought they were following Moses:
John 5:45 "Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust.
They did not believe Moses:
John 5:46 "For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. 47 "But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?"
It is to these same men (some of whom were no doubt non-elect) that Jesus indiscriminately says:
John 5:34 "Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved.
Christ willed their salvation. What could be more plain?

The Puritan John Flavel said:
What a mournful voice is that in John 5:40: "Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life." How ready would I be to give you life; but you would rather die than come to me for it. What can Christ do more to express his willingness? All the sorrows that ever touched the heart of Christ from men, were on this account, that they would not yield to his calls and invitations.
John Flavel, Christ Knocking at the Door of Sinners' Hearts; or, A Solemn Entreaty to Receive the Saviour and His Gospel in This the Day of Mercy (New York: American Tract Society, 1850), 146.

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