Davenant on Rewards for Good Works

RewardsHere is John Davenant’s explanation of how Christians should view rewards. This can be found in his commentary on Colossians.

We conclude, therefore, that a reward to good works is proposed by God, and that it ought to be regarded by us,

  1. That hence we may learn the will and munificence [generosity] of God.
  2. That we may exercise hope and faith by fixing our view upon it.
  3. That hence we may be excited to cheerfulness in good works.

But we ought not to regard and look to the reward;

  1. So as to be unwilling to serve God if there is no reward.
  2. So as to set the blessedness itself as our end in loving God.
  3. So as to infer any merit in our good works from the reward being proposed.

A couple of notes on this.

It is wonderful that Davenant’s first point is rewards point us to God’s generosity and desire for us His people. Rewards are proof that God is a generous, giving God, the overflowing fountain of all good.  Rewards first cause us to praise God and not to praise our virtue.

And of course rewards should motivate us to cheerfully and hopefully work. Too often Christians question of the value of focusing on rewards as we labor for Christ. But Christ promises rewards for those who work and strive. The Scriptures teach this from start to finish. Rewards should drive us to persevere in good deeds.

But Davenant also warns against some dangers with the focus on rewards. Most obvious is the last one, where our works  become a foundation for our salvation. The more works we do the more saved we are. This is explicitly taught in the Roman Catholic system, but it is easy for Protestants to buy into it as well.

The next danger, working up the list, is that rewards become the end instead of God Himself. The goal is always and forever commune with the Lord. Rewards are a byproduct of that goal, but not the ultimate goal.

Finally, there is the danger of refusing to work unless we see the reward.

These last two dangers are often seen in an over-realized eschatology where rewards become the end and those rewards are to be found in this life.  Many health and wealth teacher make the basic error of trying to make the not yet into the already by saying that God rewards us here and now. God does reward us at times in this life. But the great, lasting, and perfect rewards will only be found in the next life. If we expect to do good deeds here and God to reward us quickly, immediately, and in this life, we will often be disappointed.

Promiscuously Called Saints

John_Davenant-300x200Here is a quote from John Davenant’s commentary on Colossians, which is published by Banner of Truth. He commenting on Paul’s use of “saints” in Colossians 1:2.

Whereas the Apostle calls not this or that good man, but the Colossians promiscuously, saints, as many as put on Christ by baptism; hence we learn that we must think and speak well of all who profess religion, unless by clear and manifest deeds they shew themselves to be ungodly and hypocrites. For the Apostles always, when they descend to particular men and churches, presume every Christian to be elect, sanctified, justified, and in the way of being glorified, until he himself shall proved himself to be wicked or an apostate. So Paul writing to the Corinthians affirms indiscriminately concerning them Ye are washed, ye are sanctified, ye are justified, I Cor. 6:11. For in those things which relate to faith, we must speak and think according to Scripture, which is a certain and infallible rule: so, in other things which relate to charity it is sufficient to think and speak according to the probability of appearances. This rule may deceive; yet not by any fault or hazard of him who thought better of another than he truly deserved, but rather of that hypocrite who was a different and much worse man than he appeared to be.

This rule is solid and the only way to make sense of the way the Apostles’ write while at the same time holding that not all who are in the church are actually saved. I think the 21st century context may need a bit more nuance than this, but it is still good rule to follow. His last point is a good one. If a person assumes that a professing Christian is saved, yet they prove apostate the fault does not lie with the one who showed charity in judgment, but rather with the hypocrite.

"I Now Take Thee" Weddings in Calvin’s Geneva

Wedding 2

Here is another post on Kingdon and Witte’s book on marriage in Geneva. 

Eloping or getting married without a public wedding ceremony has become a trend of late. As the value of our wedding vows have diminished through divorce and fornication so too have wedding themselves become passe. Weddings are still big business, but many couples are choosing to avoid ceremonies all together.  In Geneva there was no eloping.

In Geneva “Marriages without weddings were invalid.”  You could not be married without a public ceremony presided over by the pastor and witnessed by the congregation. “Marriages that had been secretly contracted or improperly celebrated elsewhere had to be announced and celebrated anew in a church wedding in Geneva.” The couple, the church, and the magistrate all had to consent to the marriage before the wedding was performed. Here was the process: Continue reading

Cold Feet in Calvin’s Geneva

Groom Running
I am continuing to work through Kingdon and Witte’s book on marriage in Geneva. 
 

In a previous post I looked at what happens when people get too excited about marriage and up sleeping together before their wedding. As with all periods of history, this problem was common in Geneva. However, there was another issue that Geneva faced that is not a problem in 21st Century America; desertion before marriage. Today an engagement is not binding therefore this is not an issue. If a couple is engaged, it is assumed they will get married. But if they do not wish to get married all they have to do is break off the engagement.  Nothing more is needed.  Continue reading

Marriage in Medieval Canon Law

Warrior and his LadyThis is the second in a series of posts on Kingdon and Witte’s excellent book Sex, Marriage, and Family in John Calvin’s Geneva: Vol 1.

In an earlier post I mentioned some general findings from the book Courtship, Engagement and Marriage in Geneva. Now I will work through the different chapters of the book. I find these studies fascinating for two main reasons: it puts the Reformation in context and it forces me to go back to the Scriptures to evaluate why I believe what I believe.

In the first chapter, the authors give an introduction to Roman Catholic theology of marriage and then use Geneva’s Marriage Ordinance of 1546 to show how Geneva changed prevailing theology and practice. This post will briefly look at the Roman Catholic view on marriage prior to the Reformation.

The Marriage Tradition at the Time of the Reformation
Here are some of the key ideas which dominated Roman Catholic marital theology and practice of the time. As we move through the book we will see that some of these ideas carried over into the Reformation, some were modified, and some rejected altogether. Continue reading

Berkhof on Knowing God Through Scripture

Here is a short quote from Berkhof’s Systematic Theology on how we learn about God.

The only proper way to obtain perfectly reliable knowledge of the divine attributes is by the study of God’s self-revelation in Scripture. It is true that we can acquire some knowledge of the greatness and power, the wisdom and goodness of God through the study of nature, but for an adequate conception of even these attributes it will be necessary to turn to the Word of God. In the theology of revelation we seek to learn from the Word of God which are the attributes of the Divine Being. Man does not elicit knowledge from God as he does from other objects of study, but God conveys knowledge of Himself to man, a knowledge which man can only accept and appropriate. For the appropriation and understanding of this revealed knowledge it is, of course, of the greatest importance that man is created in the image of God, and therefore finds helpful analogies in his own life. In distinction from the a priori method of the Scholastics, who deduced the attributes from the idea of a perfect Being, this method may be called a posteriori, since it takes its starting point, not in an abstract perfect Being, but in the fulness of the divine self-revelation, and in the light of this seeks to know the Divine Being.

 

Three Goals of Church Discipline

More from Scott Manetsch and church discipline in Geneva.

Geneva’s ministers believed ecclesiastical discipline had three primary purposes or goals. First, moral correction helped preserve the purity of Christ’s church and protected the Lord’s Supper from being profaned. Second,  church discipline was intended to protect Christians from the bad influence of wicked people. Third, moral discipline was intended to shame rebellious sinners, thereby hastening their repentance and making possible restoration to the Christian community.

Two notes on this.

The primary goal of church discipline is always to honor Christ and his church. While we want to see sinners restored that is not the primary aim. Christ is honored when ministers consider his church, which he shed his blood for, precious enough to remove those who through heresy or wicked living flagrantly dishonor Christ. A refusal to do this is a refusal to love Jesus.

Second, the loss of shame across our society has made church discipline much less effective. Even in churches shame is considered a bad thing, something to be avoided. How can a sinner be brought to repentance without being ashamed of his actions? The only goal of discipline is not to shame a person. Nor is the shame to exceed the nature and gravity of the sin. Still, without shame excommunication loses its power. It is a terrible thing for men’s souls when they can go down the road, head held high, and join another church after having been excommunicated.