Thursday, March 12, 2015

John Calvin and the Wheat and Tares Parable (2 of 2)

John Calvin

Then Calvin gets to the heart of the meaning of the parable, in his view:

The parable tells us that the removal of the wicked from among the righteous will not occur until the end of the world, the “harvest” of which the parable speaks, a depressing fact: “This is, no doubt, a very distressing consideration, that the Church is burdened with the reprobate to the very end of the world; but Christ enjoins on us to exercise patience till that time, that we may not deceive ourselves with a vain hope.” Pastors should continue to try to “purify” the church as best they can, but they should know that they will not be able to purify the church from every defilement. Jesus, though the parable, exhorts his followers not to lose heart in face of the fact that the wicked are among them.
The reapers in the parable are the angels, and the harvest designates “the commencement of that cleansing, which, this passage declares, will not take place before the last day, because not till then will it be fully completed.” If human beings seek to “root out” whomever displeases them, then they rashly and improperly take upon themselves the role of the angels. It is upon to the angels at the Last Judgment to cast the wicked “into a furnace a fire,” which is a metaphor for the incomprehensible punishment that awaits the reprobate. 
In contrast, “Then will the righteous shine,” which is “a remarkable consolation” for Christians. The Greek word then is emphatic, which highlights the contrast between the present state of Christians and their ultimate restoration through Christ. Calvin sums it up:
The meaning therefore is, Though many wicked men now hold a high rank in the Church, yet that blessed day is assuredly to be expected, when the Son of God shall raise his followers on high, and remove every thing that now tends to dim or conceal their brightness. . . . But as the life of the godly is now hidden, and as their salvation is invisible, because it consists in hope, Christ properly directs the attention of believers to heaven, where they will find the glory that is promised to them.
Tomorrow I will post a brief entry on Calvin's interpretation of the parable of the Net.

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