Calvin, Institutes, Vol.2, Part 18 (conclusion)
(... continued from part 17) 

Chapter 17. 
17. Christ rightly and properly said to have merited grace and 
salvation for us. 
    The three leading divisions of this chapter are, - I. A proof 
from reason and from Scripture that the grace of God and the merit 
of Christ (the prince and author of our salvation) are perfectly 
compatible, sec. 1 and 2. II. Christ, by his obedience, even to the 
death of the cross, (which was the price of our redemption,) merited 
divine favour for us, sec. 3-5. III. The presumptuous rashness of 
the Schoolmen in treating this branch of doctrine. 
1. Christ not only the minister, but also the author and prince of 
    salvation. Divine grace not obscured by this mode of 
    expression. The merit of Christ not opposed to the mercy of 
    God, but depends upon it. 
2. The compatibility of the two proved by various passages of 
3. Christ by his obedience truly merited divine grace for us. 
4. This grace obtained by the shedding of Christ's blood, and his 
    obedience even unto death. 
6. In this way he paid our ransom. 
6. The presumptuous manner in which the Schoolmen handle this 
    1. A question must here be considered by way of supplement. 
Some men too much given to subtilty, while they admit that we obtain 
salvation through Christ, will not hear of the name of merit, by 
which they imagine that the grace of God is obscured; and therefore 
insist that Christ was only the instrument or minister, not the 
author or leader, or prince of life, as he is designated by Peter, 
(Acts 3: 15.) I admit that were Christ opposed simply, and by 
himself, to the justice of God, there could be no room for merit, 
because there cannot be found in man a worth which could make God a 
debtor; nay, as Augustine says most truly, "The Saviour, the man 
Christ Jesus, is himself the brightest illustration of 
predestination and grace: his character as such was not procured by 
any antecedent merit of works or faith in his human nature. Tell me, 
I pray, how that man, when assumed into unity of person by the Word, 
co-eternal with the Father, as the only begotten Son at God, could 
merit this." - "Let the very fountain of grace, therefore, appear in 
our head, whence, according to the measure of each, it is diffused 
through all his members. Every man, from the commencement of his 
faith, becomes a Christian, by the same grace by which that man from 
his formation became Christ." Again, in another passage, "There is 
not a more striking example of predestination than the mediator 
himself. He who made him (without any antecedent merit in his will) 
of the seed of David a righteous man never to be unrighteous, also 
converts those who are members of his head from unrighteous into 
righteous" and so forth. Therefore when we treat of the merit of 
Christ, we do not place the beginning in him, but we ascend to the 
ordination of God as the primary cause, because of his mere good 
pleasure he appointed a Mediator to purchase salvation for us. Hence 
the merit of Christ is inconsiderately opposed to the mercy of God. 
It is a well known rule, that principal and accessory are not 
incompatible, and therefore there is nothing to prevent the 
justification of man from being the gratuitous result of the mere 
mercy of God, and, at the same time, to prevent the merit of Christ 
from intervening in subordination to this mercy. The free favour of 
God is as fitly opposed to our works as is the obedience of Christ, 
both in their order: for Christ could not merit anything save by the 
good pleasure of God, but only inasmuch as he was destined to 
appease the wrath of God by his sacrifice, and wipe away our 
transgressions by his obedience: in one word, since the merit of 
Christ depends entirely on the grace of God, (which provided this 
mode of salvation for us,) the latter is no less appropriately 
opposed to all righteousness of men than is the former. 
    2. This distinction is found in numerous passages of Scripture: 
"God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that 
whosoever believeth in him might not perish," (John 3: 16.) We see 
that the first place is assigned to the love of God as the chief 
cause or origin, and that faith in Christ follows as the second and 
more proximate cause. Should any one object that Christ is only the 
formal cause, he lessens his energy more than the words justify. For 
if we obtain justification by a faith which leans on him, the 
groundwork of our salvation must be sought in him. This is clearly 
proved by several passages: "Herein is love, not that we loved God, 
but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for 
our sins," (1 John 4: 10.) These words clearly demonstrate that God, 
in order to remove any obstacle to his love towards us, appointed 
the method of reconciliation in Christ. There is great force in this 
word "propitiation"; for in a manner which cannot be expressed, God, 
at the very time when he loved us, was hostile to us until 
reconciled in Christ. To this effect are all the following passages: 
"He is the propitiation for our sins;" "It pleased the Father that 
in him should all fulness dwell, and having made peace by the blood 
of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself;" "God was 
in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their 
trespasses unto them;" "He has made us accepted in the Beloved," 
"That he might reconcile both into one body by the cross." The 
nature of this mystery is to be learned from the first chapter to 
the Ephesians, where Paul, teaching that we were chosen in Christ, 
at the same time adds, that we obtained grace in him. How did God 
begin to embrace with his favour those whom he had loved before the 
foundation of the world, unless in displaying his love when he was 
reconciled by the blood of Christ? As God is the fountain of all 
righteousness, he must necessarily be the enemy and judge of man so 
long as he is a sinner. Wherefore, the commencement of love is the 
bestowing of righteousness, as described by Paul: "He has made him 
to be sin for us who knew no sin; that we might be made the 
righteousness of God in him," (2 Cor. 5: 21.) He intimates, that by 
the sacrifice of Christ we obtain free justification, and become 
pleasing to God, though we are by nature the children of wrath, and 
by sin estranged from him. This distinction is also noted whenever 
the grace of Christ is connected with the love of God, (2 Cor. 13: 
13;) whence it follows, that he bestows upon us of his own which he 
acquired by purchase. For otherwise there would be no ground for the 
praise ascribed to him by the Father, that grace is his, and 
proceeds from him. 
    3. That Christ, by his obedience, truly purchased and merited 
grace for us with the Father, is accurately inferred from several 
passages of Scripture. I take it for granted, that if Christ 
satisfied for our sins, if he paid the penalty due by us, if he 
appeased God by his obedience; in fine, if he suffered the just for 
the unjust, salvation was obtained for us by his righteousness; 
which is just equivalent to meriting. Now, Paul's testimony is, that 
we were reconciled, and received reconciliation through his death, 
(Rom. 5: 11.) But there is no room for reconciliation unless where 
offence has preceded. The meaning, therefore, is, that God, to whom 
we were hateful through sin, was appeased by the death of his Son, 
and made propitious to us. And the antithesis which immediately 
follows is carefully to be observed, "As by one man's disobedience 
many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be 
made righteous," (Rom. 5: 19.) For the meaning is - As by the sin of 
Adam we were alienated from God and doomed to destruction, so by the 
obedience of Christ we are restored to his favour as if we were 
righteous. The future tense of the verb does not exclude present 
righteousness, as is apparent from the context. For he had 
previously said, "the free gift is of many offences unto 
    4. When we say, that grace was obtained for us by the merit of 
Christ, our meaning is, that we were cleansed by his blood, that his 
death was an expiation for sin, "His blood cleanses us from all 
sin." "This is my blood, which is shed for the remission of sins," 
(1 John 1: 7; Luke 22: 20.) If the effect of his shed blood is, that 
our sins are not imputed to us, it follows, that by that price the 
justice of God was satisfied. To the same effect are the Baptist's 
words, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the 
world," (John 1: 29.) For he contrasts Christ with all the 
sacrifices of the Law, showing that in him alone was fulfilled what 
these figures typified. But we know the common expression in Moses - 
Iniquity shall be expiated, sin shall be wiped away and forgiven. In 
short, we are admirably taught by the ancient figures what power and 
efficacy there is in Christ's death. And the Apostle, skilfully 
proceeding from this principle, explains the whole matter in the 
Epistle to the Hebrews, showing that without shedding of blood there 
is no remission, (Heb. 9: 22.) From this he infers, that Christ 
appeared once for all to take away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 
Again, that he was offered to bear the sins of many, (Heb. 9: 12.) 
He had previously said, that not by the blood of goats or of 
heifers, but by his own blood, he had once entered into the holy of 
holies, having obtained eternal redemption for us. Now, when he 
reasons thus, "If the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of 
an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of 
the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the 
eternal Spirit offered himself to God, purge your consciences from 
dead works to serve the living God?" (Heb. 9: 13, 14,) it is obvious 
that too little effect is given to the grace of Christ, unless we 
concede to his sacrifice the power of expiating, appeasing, and 
satisfying: as he shortly after adds, "For this cause he is the 
mediator of the new testament, that by means of his death, for the 
redemption of the transgressions that were under the first 
testament, they which are called might receive the promise of 
eternal inheritance," (Heb. 9: 15.) But it is especially necessary 
to attend to the analogy which is drawn by Paul as to his having 
been made a curse for us, (Gal. 3: 13.) It had been superfluous and 
therefore absurd, that Christ should have been burdened with a 
curse, had it not been in order that, by paying what others owed, he 
might acquire righteousness for them. There is no ambiguity in 
Isaiah's testimony, "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was 
bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was laid 
upon him; and with his stripes we are healed," (Is. 53: 5.) For had 
not Christ satisfied for our sins, he could not be said to have 
appeased God by taking upon himself the penalty which we had 
incurred. To this corresponds what follows in the same place, "for 
the transgression of my people was he stricken," (Is. 53: 8.) We may 
add the interpretation of Peter, who unequivocally declares, that he 
"bare our sins in his own body on the tree," (1 Pet. 2: 24,) that 
the whole burden of condemnation, of which we were relieved, was 
laid upon him. 
    5. The Apostles also plainly declare that he paid a price to 
ransom us from death: "Being justified freely by his grace, through 
the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God has set forth to be 
a propitiation through faith in his blood," (Rom. 3: 24, 25.) Paul 
commends the grace of God, in that he gave the price of redemption 
in the death of Christ; and he exhorts us to flee to his blood, that 
having obtained righteousness, we may appear boldly before the 
judgement-seat of God. To the same effect are the words of Peter: 
"Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible 
things, as silver and gold," "but with the precious blood of Christ, 
as of a lamb without blemish and without spot," (1 Pet. 1: 18,19.) 
The antithesis would be incongruous if he had not by this price made 
satisfaction for sins. For which reason, Paul says, "Ye are bought 
with a price." Nor could it be elsewhere said, there is "one 
mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself 
a ransom for all," (1 Tim. 2: 5, 6,) had not the punishment which we 
deserved been laid upon him. Accordingly, the same Apostle declares, 
that "we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of 
sins," (Col. 1: 14;) as if he had said, that we are justified or 
acquitted before God, because that blood serves the purpose of 
satisfaction. With this another passage agrees, viz., that he 
blotted out "the handwriting of ordinances which was against us, 
which was contrary to us," (Col. 2: 14.) These words denote the 
payment or compensation which acquits us from guilt. There is great 
weight also in these words of Paul: "If righteousness come by the 
law, then Christ is dead in vain," (Gal. 2: 21.) For we hence infer, 
that it is from Christ we must seek what the Law would confer on any 
one who fulfilled it; or, which is the same thing, that by the grace 
of Christ we obtain what God promised in the Law to our works: "If a 
man do, he shall live in them," (Lev. 18: 5.) This is no less 
clearly taught in the discourse at Antioch, when Paul declares, 
"That through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; 
and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from 
which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses," (Acts 13: 38, 
39.) For if the observance of the Law is righteousness, who can deny 
that Christ, by taking this burden upon himself, and reconciling us 
to God, as if we were the observers of the Law, merited favour for 
us? Of the same nature is what he afterwards says to the Galatians: 
"God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to 
redeem them that were under the law," (Gal. 4: 4, 5.) For to what 
end that subjection, unless that he obtained justification for us by 
undertaking to perform what we were unable to pay? Hence that 
imputation of righteousness without works, of which Paul treats, 
(Rom. 4: 5,) the righteousness found in Christ alone being accepted 
as if it were ours. And certainly the only reason why Christ is 
called our "meat," (John 6: 55,) is because we find in him the 
substance of life. And the source of this efficacy is just that the 
Son of God was crucified as the price of our justification; as Paul 
says, Christ "has given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice 
to God for a sweet-smelling savour," (Eph. 5: 2;) and elsewhere, he 
"was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our 
justification," (Rom. 4: 25.) Hence it is proved not only that 
salvation was given us by Christ, but that on account of him the 
Father is now propitious to us. For it cannot be doubted that in him 
is completely fulfilled what God declares by Isaiah under a figure, 
"I will defend this city to save it for mine own sakes and for my 
servant David's sake," (Isaiah 37: 35.) Of this the Apostle is the 
best witness when he says "Your sins are forgiven you for his name's 
sake," (1 John 2: 12.) For although the name of Christ is not 
expressed, John, in his usual manner, designates him by the pronoun 
"He," ("autos".) In the same sense also our Lord declares, "As the 
living Father has sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that 
eateth me, even he shall live by me," (John 6: 57.) To this 
corresponds the passage of Paul, "Unto you it is given in the behalf 
of Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for his 
sake," (Phil. 1: 29.) 
    6. To inquire, as Lombard and the Schoolmen do, (Sent. Lib. 3 
Dist. 18,) whether he merited for himself, is foolish curiosity. 
equally rash is their decision when they answer in the affirmative. 
How could it be necessary for the only Son of God to come down in 
order to acquire some new quality for himself? The exposition which 
God gives of his own purpose removes all doubt. The Father is not 
said to have consulted the advantage of his Son in his services, but 
to have given him up to death, and not spared him, because he loved 
the world, (Rom. 8.) The prophetical expressions should be observed: 
"To us a Son is born;" "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion: shout, 
O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee," (Isaiah 
9: 6; Zech. 9: 9.) It would otherwise be a cold commendation of love 
which Paul describes, when he says, "God commendeth his love toward 
us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us," (Rom. 
5: 8.) Hence, again, we infer that Christ had no regard to himself; 
and this he distinctly affirms, when he says, "For their sakes I 
sanctify myself," (John 17: 19.) He who transfers the benefit of his 
holiness to others, testifies that he acquires nothing for himself. 
And surely it is most worthy of remark, that Christ, in devoting 
himself entirely to our salvation, in a manner forgot himself. It is 
absurd to wrest the testimony of Paul to a different effect: 
"Wherefore God has highly exalted him, and given him a name which is 
above every name," (Phil. 2: 9.) By what services could a man merit 
to become the judge of the world, the head of angels, to obtain the 
supreme government of God, and become the residence of that majesty 
of which all the virtues of men and angels cannot attain one 
thousandth part? The solution is easy and complete. Paul is not 
speaking of the cause of Christ's exaltation, but only pointing out 
a consequence of it by way of example to us. The meaning is not much 
different from that of another passage: "Ought not Christ to have 
suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?" (Luke 24: 26.) 
End of the second book. 

Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 2, Part 18)
(conclusion, book 2) 

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