John Calvin on the Resurrection of Jesus


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Christian, I hope you are anticipating the celebration of our Lord’s resurrection by meditating on the glory of God in the resurrection of Jesus. The more deeply you allow your mind to wander into the complexities of God’s grace, the more your heart will delight in him and worship him. The fact that God chose to save sinners is enough to occupy our minds and hearts for trillions of years. And the way he did it, by means of the gospel (the life, death, and resurrection of his Son), is uniquely and supremely glorious and delightful. While there is a real temptation to grow weary of all of the “Jesus is alive!” chatter that seems to come and go with the Easter season, it is important that Christians never grow tired of hearing the gospel story. I hope you never cease to rejoice at the news that God sent his Son to die and be raised for sinners.

It is always helpful when you are meditating over a particular biblical and theological truth to see how other Christians throughout the centuries have understood that particular truth. John Calvin is always one I seem to turn to when I want to think more deeply about a theological truth. I gained true joy from reading Calvin’s thoughts on the resurrection of Jesus. May the meditations of this theological giant of the Reformation fuel your own meditations of the risen Son.

Next comes the resurrection from the dead. Without this what we have said so far would be incomplete. For since only weakness appears in the cross, death, and burial of Christ, faith must leap over all these things to attain its full strength. We have in his death the complete fulfillment of salvation, for through it we are reconciled to God, his righteous judgment is satisfied, the curse is removed, and the penalty paid in full. Nevertheless, we are said to ‘have been born anew to a living hope’ not through his death but ‘through his resurrection’ [I Peter 1:3 p.]. For as he in rising again, came forth victor over death, so the victory of our faith over death lies in his resurrection alone. Paul better expresses its nature: ‘He was put to death for our sins, and raised for our justification’ [Rom. 4:25]. This is as if he had said: ‘Sin was taken away by his death; righteousness was revived and restored by his resurrection.’ For how could he by dying have freed us from death if he had himself succumbed to death? How could he have acquired victory for us if he had failed in the struggle? Therefore, we divide the substance of our salvation between Christ’s death and resurrection as follows: through his death, sin was wiped out and death extinguished; through his resurrection, righteousness was restored and life raised up, so that–thanks to his resurrection–his death manifested its power and efficacy in us (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, II.xvi.13).

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