John Calvin: Earnestly desire the things of God (Commentary)

Luke 16:8 “And his master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the sons of at his age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.

Here it is obvious that if we were to attempt to find a meaning for every minute circumstance, we would act absurdly. To make donations out of what belongs to another man, is an action which is very far from deserving applause; and who would patiently endure that an unprincipled villain should rob him of his property, and give it away according to his own fancy? It were indeed the grossest stupidity, if that man who beheld a portion of his substance taken away, should commend the person who stole the remainder of it and bestowed it on others. But Christ only meant what he adds a little afterwards, that ungodly and worldly men are more industrious and skillful in conducting the affairs of this fading life, than the children of God are anxious to obtain the heavenly and eternal life, or careful to make it the subject of their study and meditation.
By this comparison he charges us with highly criminal indifference, in not providing for the future, with at least as much earnestness as ungodly men display by attending to their own interests in this world. How disgraceful is it that the children of light, whom God enlightens by his Spirit and word, should slumber and neglect the hope of eternal blessedness held out to them, while worldly men are so eagerly bent on their own accommodations, and so provident and sagacious! Hence we infer, that our Lord does not intend to compare the wisdom of the Spirit to the wisdom of the flesh, (which could not have been done without pouring contempt on God himself,) but only to arouse believers to consider more attentively what belongs to the future life, and not to shut their eyes against the light of the Gospel, when they perceive that even the blind, amidst their darkness, see more clearly. And, indeed, the children of light ought to be more powerfully excited, when they behold the children of this world making provision against a distant period, for a life which is fading, and which passes in a moment.

John Calvin: Faith and Love to Christ unseen (Commentary)

1 Peter 1:8 and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory (NASB)

He lays down two things, that they loved Christ whom they had not seen, and that they believed on him whom they did not then behold. But the first arises from the Second; for the cause of love is faith, not only because the knowledge of those blessings which Christ bestows on us, moves us to love him, but because he offers us perfect felicity, and thus draws us up to himself. He then commends the Jews, because they believed in Christ whom they did not see, that they might know that the nature of faith is to acquiesce in those blessings which are hid from our eyes. They had indeed given some proof of this very thing, though he rather directs what was to be done by praising them.
The first clause in order is, that faith is not to be measured by sight. For when the life of Christians is apparently miserable, they would instantly fail, were not their happiness dependent on hope. Faith, indeed, has also its eyes, but they are such as penetrate into the invisible kingdom of God, and are contented with the mirror of the Word; for it is the demonstration of invisible things, as it is said in Hebrews 11:1. Hence true is that saying of Paul, that we are absent from the Lord while we are in the flesh; for we walk by faith and not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:6-7.)
The second clause is, that faith is not a cold notion, but that it kindles in our hearts love to Christ. For faith does not (as the sophists prattle) lay hold on God in a confused and implicit manner, (for this would be to wander through devious paths;) but it has Christ as its object. Moreover, it does not lay hold on the bare name of Christ, or his naked essence, but regards what he is to us, and what blessings he brings; for it cannot be but that the affections of man should be led there, where his happiness is, according to that saying,

“Where your treasure is, there is also your heart.” (Matthew 6:21.)

Ye rejoice, or, Ye exult. He again refers to the fruit of faith which he had mentioned, and not without reason; for it is an incomparable benefit, that consciences are not only at peace before God, but confidently exult in the hope of eternal life. And he calls it joy unspeakable, or unutterable, because the peace of God exceeds all comprehension. What is added, full of glory, or glorified, admits of two explanations. It means either what is magnificent and glorious, or what is contrary to that which is empty and fading, of which men will soon be ashamed. Thus “glorified” is the same with what is solid and permanent, beyond the danger of being brought to nothing. Those who are not elevated by this joy above the heavens, so that being content with Christ alone, they despise the world, in vain boast that they have faith.

Martin Luther: Preface to the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans

Translator’s Note: The material between square brackets is explanatory in nature and is not part of Luther’s preface. The terms “just, justice, justify” in this piece are synonymous with the terms “righteous, righteousness, make righteous.” Both sets of English words are common translations of German “gerecht” and related words. A similar situation exists with the word “faith”; it is synonymous with “belief.” Both words can be used to translate German “Glaube.” Thus, “We are justified by faith” translates the same original German sentence as does “We are made righteous by belief.”

This letter is truly the most important piece in the New Testament. It is purest Gospel. It is well worth a Christian’s while not only to memorize it word for word but also to occupy himself with it daily, as though it were the daily bread of the soul. It is impossible to read or to meditate on this letter too much or too well. The more one deals with it, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes. Therefore I want to carry out my service and, with this preface, provide an introduction to the letter, insofar as God gives me the ability, so that every one can gain the fullest possible understanding of it. Up to now it has been darkened by glosses [explanatory notes and comments which accompany a text] and by many a useless comment, but it is in itself a bright light, almost bright enough to illumine the entire Scripture.

To begin with, we have to become familiar with the vocabulary of the letter and know what St. Paul means by the words law, sin, grace, faith, justice, flesh, spirit, etc. Otherwise there is no use in reading it.

You must not understand the word law here in human fashion, i.e., a regulation about what sort of works must be done or must not be done. That’s the way it is with human laws: you satisfy the demands of the law with works, whether your heart is in it or not. God judges what is in the depths of the heart. Therefore his law also makes demands on the depths of the heart and doesn’t let the heart rest content in works; rather it punishes as hypocrisy and lies all works done apart from the depths of the heart. All human beings are called liars (Psalm 116), since none of them keeps or can keep God’s law from the depths of the heart. Everyone finds inside himself an aversion to good and a craving for evil. Where there is no free desire for good, there the heart has not set itself on God’s law. There also sin is surely to be found and the deserved wrath of God, whether a lot of good works and an honorable life appear outwardly or not.

Therefore in chapter 2, St. Paul adds that the Jews are all sinners and says that only the doers of the law are justified in the sight of God. What he is saying is that no one is a doer of the law by works. On the contrary, he says to them, “You teach that one should not commit adultery, and you commit adultery. You judge another in a certain matter and condemn yourselves in that same matter, because you do the very same thing that you judged in another.” It is as if he were saying, “Outwardly you live quite properly in the works of the law and judge those who do not live the same way; you know how to teach everybody. You see the speck in another’s eye but do not notice the beam in your own.”

Outwardly you keep the law with works out of fear of punishment or love of gain. Likewise you do everything without free desire and love of the law; you act out of aversion and force. You’d rather act otherwise if the law didn’t exist. It follows, then, that you, in the depths of your heart, are an enemy of the law. What do you mean, therefore, by teaching another not to steal, when you, in the depths of your heart, are a thief and would be one outwardly too, if you dared. (Of course, outward work doesn’t last long with such hypocrites.) So then, you teach others but not yourself; you don’t even know what you are teaching. You’ve never understood the law rightly. Furthermore, the law increases sin, as St. Paul says in chapter 5. That is because a person becomes more and more an enemy of the law the more it demands of him what he can’t possibly do.

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John Calvin: Sanctification (Commentary)

1 Thessalonians 3:3-5: For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality;  4 that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor,  5 not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God;  (NASB)

For this is the will of God. This is doctrine of a general nature, from which, as from a fountain, he immediately deduces special admonitions. When he says that this is the will of God, he means that we have been called by God with this design. “For this end ye are Christians—this the gospel aims at—that ye may sanctify yourselves to God.” The meaning of the term sanctification we have already explained elsewhere in repeated instances—that renouncing the world, and clearing ourselves from the pollutions of the flesh, we offer ourselves to God as if in sacrifice, for nothing can with propriety be offered to Him, but what is pure and holy.
That ye abstain. This is one injunction, which he derives from the fountain of which he had immediately before made mention; for nothing is more opposed to holiness than the defilement of fornication, which pollutes the whole man. On this account he assigns the lust of concupiscence to the Gentiles, who know not God. “Where the knowledge of God reigns, lusts must be subdued.”
By the lust of concupiscence, he means all base lusts of the flesh, but, at the same time, by this manner of expression, he brands with dishonor all desires that allure us to pleasure and carnal delights, as in Romans 13:14, he bids us have no care for the flesh in respect of the lust thereof. For when men give indulgence to their appetites, there are no bounds to lasciviousness. Hence the only means of maintaining temperance is to bridle all lusts.
As for the expression, that every one of you may know to possess his vessel, some explain it as referring to a wife, as though it had been said, “Let husbands dwell with their wives in all chastity.” As, however, he addresses husbands and wives indiscriminately, there can be no doubt that he employs the term vessel to mean body. For every one has his body as a house, as it were, in which he dwells. He would, therefore, have us keep our body pure from all uncleanness.
And honor, that is, honorably, for the man that prostitutes his body to fornication, covers it with infamy and disgrace.

John Calvin: Wineskin and Cloth Parabel (Commentary)

Matt. 9:14-17 (NASB)   Then the disciples of John came to Him, asking, “Why do we and and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?”  15 And Jesus said to them, “The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16 “But no one puts  patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and a worse tear results. 17 “Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.”

Can the children of the bridegroom mourn? Christ apologizes for his disciples on the score of the season, alleging that God was still pleased to indulge them in joyous feelings, as if they were present at a marriage: for he compares himself to the bridegroom, who enlivens his friends by his presence. Chrysostom thinks that this comparison was taken from the testimony of John the Baptist, He that hath the bride is the bridegroom, (John 3:29.) I have no objection to that view, though I do not think that it rests on solid grounds. Let us be satisfied with Christ’s declaration, that he spares his disciples, and treats them with gentleness, so long as he is with them. That none may envy them advantages which are of short duration, he gives warning that they will very soon be treated with greater harshness and severity.
The apology rests on this consideration, that fasting and prayers are adapted to sorrow and adversity: extraordinary prayers I mean, such as are here mentioned. Christ certainly intended to accustom them, by degrees, to greater patience, and not to lay on them a heavy burden, till they gained more strength. Hence we ought to learn a twofold instruction. When the Lord sometimes endures the weakness of our brethren, and acts towards them with gentleness, while he treats us with greater severity, we have no right to murmur. Again, when we sometimes obtain relief from sorrow and from vexations, let us beware of giving ourselves up to enjoyments; but let us, on the contrary, remember that the nuptials will not always last. The children of the bridegroom, or of the nuptial bed, is a Hebrew phrase, which denotes the guests at a marriage.

And no man putteth a piece of fresh cloth. He supports the preceding statement by two comparisons, one of which is taken from garments, and the other from vessels of wine. Those who think that he compares worn-out garments and decayed bottles to the Pharisees, and new wine and fresh cloth to the doctrine of the gospel, have no probability on their side. The comparison is beautifully adapted to the matter in hand, if we explain it as referring to the weak and tender disciples of Christ, and to a discipline more strict than they were able to bear. Nor is it of any consequence that the idea of being old does not agree with scholars who were only commencing: for, when Christ compares his disciples to old bottles and torn garments, he does not mean that they were wasted by long use, but that they were weak and wanted strength. The amount of the statement is, that all must not be compelled indiscriminately to live in the same manner, for there is a diversity of natural character, and all things are not suitable to all; and particularly, we ought to spare the weak, that they may not be broken by violence, or crushed by the weight of the burden. Our Lord speaks according to the custom of the country, when he uses the word bottles instead of tuns or casks.