Eucharist as Absolution

Commenting on Mark 14:24, Calvin writes:

Which is shed for many. By the word many he means not a part of the world only, but the whole human race; for he contrasts many with one; as if he had said, that he will not be the Redeemer of one man only, but will die in order to deliver many from the condemnation of the curse. It must at the same time be observed, however, that by the words for you, as related by Luke–Christ directly addresses the disciples, and exhorts every believer to apply to his own advantage the shedding of blood. Therefore, when we approach to the holy table, let us not only remember in general that the world has been redeemed by the blood of Christ, but let every one consider for himself that his own sins have been expiated.

Now that’s a pastoral application! The sacraments are gospel. Each of us, in particular, are called to believe that our sins have been expiated, and the Eucharist is a promise that this is true.

This all works because of Calvin’s definition of faith. For him, it includes assurance. You are sure that Christ paid for your sins. The gospel is objective. It is what you place your faith in.

In other words, it isn’t that your faith is sure in itself, that you yourself have already been regenerated or that you have “true faith”, but rather you are sure that the message is true, and that being sure just is faith.

Now Pastors, go preach this. Go show this.

Calvin and Inverting the Ordo

Calvin’s comments on John’s prologue are all really good.  Here he discusses the relationship between faith and regeneration, and it shows that he is a certainly aware of the difficulties in making any sort of an ordo.  He opts for a both/and approach:

It may be thought that the Evangelist reverses the natural order by making regeneration to precede faith, whereas, on the contrary, it is an effect of faith, and therefore ought to be placed later. I reply, that both statements perfectly agree; because by faith we receive the incorruptible seed, (1 Peter 1:23,) by which we are born again to a new and divine life. And yet faith itself is a work of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in none but the children of God. So then, in various respects, faith is a part of our regeneration, and an entrance into the kingdom of God, that he may reckon us among his children. The illumination of our minds by the Holy Spirit belongs to our renewal, and thus faith flows from regeneration as from its source; but since it is by the same faith that we receive Christ, who sanctifies us by his Spirit, on that account it is said to be the beginning of our adoption.

On John 1: 13

We can certainly sympathize with Calvin here.  On the one hand, we wish to say that faith is an effect of regeneration, for only those who are born of God can accept the gospel offer.  But on the other hand, new life is located in the person of Christ, and thus we must lay hold of him in faith before we can be created anew.

Calvin’s answer is “Yes.”

Jesus Christ is the regeneration, and He must be apprehended by faith, yet we cannot believe until the Holy Spirit first enlightens us.