Posted by: joelrbeeke | July 15, 2008

John Calvin on Piety – Part Two

Piety’s Supreme Goal: Soli Deo Gloria

The goal of piety, as well as the entire Christian life, is the glory of God—glory that shines in God’s attributes, in the structure of the world, and in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Glorifying God supersedes personal salvation for every truly pious person.  Calvin writes thus to Cardinal Sadolet: “It is not very sound theology to confine a man’s thought so much to himself, and not to set before him, as the prime motive for his existence, zeal to illustrate the glory of God…. I am persuaded that there is no man imbued with true piety who will not consider as insipid that long and labored exhortation to zeal for heavenly life, a zeal which keeps a man entirely devoted to himself and does not, even by one expression, arouse him to sanctify the name of God.”
That God may be glorified in us, the goal of piety, is the purpose of our creation. It thus becomes the yearning of the regenerate to live out the purpose of their original creation.   The pious man, according to Calvin, confesses, “We are God’s: let us therefore live for him and die for him. We are God’s: let his wisdom and will therefore rule all our actions. We are God’s: let all the parts of our life accordingly strive toward him as our only lawful goal.”
God redeems, adopts, and sanctifies His people that His glory would shine in them and deliver them from impious self-seeking.  The pious man’s deepest concern therefore is God Himself and the things of God—God’s Word, God’s authority, God’s gospel, God’s truth. He yearns to know more of God and to commune more with Him.
But how do we glorify God? As Calvin writes, “God has prescribed for us a way in which he will be glorified by us, namely, piety, which consists in the obedience of his Word. He that exceeds these bounds does not go about to honor God, but rather to dishonor him.”  Obedience to God’s Word means taking refuge in Christ for forgiveness of our sins, knowing Him through His Word, serving Him with a loving heart, doing good works in gratitude for His goodness, and exercising self-denial to the point of loving our enemies.  This response involves total surrender to God Himself, His Word, and His will.
Calvin says, “I offer thee my heart, Lord, promptly and sincerely.” This is the desire of all who are truly pious. However, this desire can only be realized through communion with Christ and participation in Him, for outside of Christ even the most religious person lives for himself. Only in Christ can the pious live as willing servants of their Lord, faithful soldiers of their Commander, and obedient children of their Father.


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