Christ as the Sole Foundation

Christ foundation

John Calvin, in his Institutes, speaks brilliantly of Christ as being the “sole foundation, [the] beginner and perfecter” of the believer’s faith.

Calvin says:

What sort of foundation have we in Christ? Was he the beginning of our salvation in order that its fulfillment might follow from ourselves? Did he only open the way by which we might proceed under our own power? Certainly not. But, as Paul had set forth a little before, Christ, when we acknowledge him, is given us to be our righteousness (1 Cor 1:30). He alone is well founded in Christ who has perfect righteousness in himself: since the apostle does not say that he was sent to help us attain righteousness but himself to be our righteousness (1 Cor 1:30). Indeed, he states that “he has chosen us in him” from eternity “before the foundation of the world”, through not merit of our own “but according to the purpose of divine good pleasure” (Eph 1:4-5); that by his death we are redeemed from the condemnation of death and freed from ruin (1 Cor 1:14, 20); that we have been adopted unto him as sons and heirs by our heavenly Father (Rom 8:17, Gal 4:5-7); that we have been reconciled through his blood (Rom 5:9-10); that, given into his protection, we are released from the danger of perishing and falling (John 10:28); that thus ingrafted into him (Rom 11:19) we are already, in a manner, partakers of eternal life, having entered into the Kingdom of God through hope. Yet more: we experience such participation in him that, although we are still foolish in ourselves, he is our wisdom before God; while we are sinners, he is our righteousness; while we are unclean, he is our purity; while we are weak, while we are unarmed and exposed to Satan, yet ours is that power which has been given him in heaven and on earth (Mt 28:18), by which to crush Satan for us and shatter the gates of hell; while we still bear about with us the body of death, he is yet our life. In brief, because all his things are ours and we have all things in him, in us there is nothing. Upon this foundation, I say, we must be built if we would grow into a holy temple to the Lord (Eph 2:21).

 

The Reformers on Works-righteousness

“For if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose” (Gal 2:21).

John Calvin, from his commentary on Galatians, writes,

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Hence it follows, that we are justified by his grace, and, therefore, not by works… If we could produce a righteousness of our own, then Christ has suffered in vain; for the intention of his sufferings was to procure it for us, and what need was there that a work which we could accomplish for ourselves should be obtained from another? If the death of Christ be our redemption, then we were captives; if it be satisfaction, we were debtors; if it be atonement, we were guilty; if it be cleansing, we were unclean. On the contrary, he who ascribes to works his sanctification, pardon, atonement, righteousness, or deliverance, makes void the death of Christ.

Martin Luther, from his commentary, says:

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Is it true that Christ suffered death or not? Did he suffer in vain or not? Unless we are quite mad, we have to answer that he did indeed suffer, not in vain or for himself, but for us… Take the…law, which contains the most perfect religion and the highest service to God — that is, faith, the fear of God, the love of God, and the love of our neighbor — and show me anyone who has been justified by it. It will then be true that Christ died in vain, for anyone who is justified by the law has power to obtain righteousness by himself… If you grant this, it must follow that Christ died in vain… Are we to allow this horrible blasphemy that the divine Majesty, not sparing his own dear Son, but giving him up to death for us all, should not do all these things seriously but as a sort of joke? I would rather see all the saints and holy angels thrown into hell with the devil. My eyes will see only this inestimable price, my Lord and Savior Christ.