Going Down and Coming Up

Calvin continues:

Now let us apply this to ourselves, for we are no more competent than the Jews. Yet we need God to make himself small, so that we can have access to him, otherwise we would be completely shut out. However, he does not make himself so small because he wants his glory to be lessened, but rather he does this out of goodness to lift us up to admire his glory and to adore him with the reverence that he deserves.

When we have access to the preached Word, God speaks in a common and ordinary fashion to us. It is an illustration of his condescension. Hence, the preaching of the Gospel is like God descending to earth in order to seek us. We must not abuse this simplicity of the Word of God by disdaining it. Rather, we must receive it all the more, recognising that he indeed deigns to transfigure himself, so to speak, that we might approach him. He is not content with giving us his Word, but he adds baptism to confirm it. When we are baptised- though only a little water is used- it stands for crucifying our old man, for renewing our souls, and for being united with the angels- but can a little water do that? The point, of course, is that since God has come down to us (in this symbol), we must go up to him (in faith).

Sermons on 2 Samuel (Banner of Truth), pg. 235

So the Christian church is affected by God’s infinity just as the Jews were. We need God to appear as we are in order for us to have access to Him. And so He does so. He comes in our language, and through created elements in the sacraments. This does not lessen His glory, but rather allows us to admire it appropriately.

Now, we should be immediately struck by the references to the angels regarding baptism. Baptism makes us heavenly people. That’s the most basic fact of it. We have entered through the glassy sea into God’s dwelling place.

The sacraments are the incarnation, and our faith is the ascension. Calvin sounds like Luther when he asks “Can a little water do that?” His answer is, of course (!), that we are to believe that it can.

This entry was posted in calvin, doctrine of God by Steven Wedgeworth. Bookmark the permalink.

About Steven Wedgeworth

Steven Wedgeworth is the pastor of Christ Church in Lakeland, FL. He is also a founder and general editor of The Calvinist International. A graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary (Jackson, MS), a full-time minister, and occasional classical school teacher, Steven lives in Lakeland, FL with his wife, son, and daughter.

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