Commenting on John 6: 29, Calvin writes:
But we may think it strange that God approves of nothing but faith alone; for the love of our neighbor ought not to be despised, and the other exercises of religion do not lose their place and honor. So then, though faith may hold the highest rank, still other works are not superfluous. The reply is easy; for faith does not exclude either the love of our neighbor or any other good work, because it contains them all within itself. Faith is called the only work of God, because by means of it we possess Christ, and thus become the sons of God, so that he governs us by his Spirit. So then, because Christ does not separate faith from its fruits, we need not wonder if he make it to be the first and the last.
Genesis 30: 33 reads, “So my righteousness will answer for me in time to come, when the subject of my wages comes before you: every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats, and brown among the lambs, will be considered stolen, if it is with me.”
I’d imagine most of us would initially want to say that Jacob’s dealing with Laban was unrighteous, since he uses a sort of trickery to fix the outcome. Jacob has no such fears though. Wisdom in warfare always works this way, as we have a bit of the ransom theory in Genesis yet again.
“Righteousness” is fidelity to the terms of the covenant, but this isn’t at all opposed to morality. Rather, the Bible gives us cause to examine all of our presuppositions of what morality ought to be. God keeps true to himself, and as he reveals himself in covenant, we keep true to his character by keeping the terms of the covenant.
Certain covenant theologians need to read this over again:
”The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life,” (Rom. 6:23). Why, as he contrasts life with death, does he not also contrast righteousness with sin? Why, when setting down sin as the cause of death, does he not also set down righteousness as the cause of life? The antithesis which would otherwise be complete is somewhat marred by this variation; but the Apostle employed the comparison to express the fact, that death is due to the deserts of men, but that life was treasured up solely in the mercy of God. In short, by these expressions, the order rather than the cause is noted. The Lord adding grace to grace, takes occasion from a former to add a subsequent, so that he may omit no means of enriching his servants. Still, in following out his liberality, he would have us always look to free election as its source and beginning. For although he loves the gifts which he daily bestows upon us, inasmuch as they proceed from that fountain, still our duty is to hold fast by that gratuitous acceptance, which alone can support our souls; and so to connect the gifts of the Spirit, which he afterwards bestows, with their primary cause, as in no degree to detract from it.
~ John Calvin Institutes Book 3, Chapt. 14.21
Calvin, agreeing with Paul, shows an important way in which the work of Christ was not like the work of Adam. Death is earned. Life is graced.
Laban’s statement to Jacob in Gen. 29:15 literally reads, “Is it because you are my brother that you have served me for nothing? Tell me what should your wages should be.”
This, despite numerous mistranslations, is a rejection of Jacob’s status as brother. Continue reading
Genesis 29:1-14 exudes Edenic imagery right from the beginning. Jacob has just left “the house of God,” where he saw heaven and earth united, and he proceeds east-ward. This is the direction of the garden (Gen. 2:8), and it should come as no surprise that Jacob encounters water, livestock, and of course, a woman who will be his bride.
This story is a clear parallel to the earlier account of Isaac’s servant meeting Rebekah (which is also a new Adam and Eve story), but this time Laban (who we have also met before) is no longer a friend. Like the Pharaohs and Emperors who always forget the good guys, so too does Laban turn on Jacob. Our new Eden becomes a new Egypt, and an Exodus will be required.