The Many Functions of God's Timeless Law

John Calvin


Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. (Gal. 3:21-25).


This morning we made a thorough examination of the fact that although the law could not justify us or make us acceptable to God, it was not established in vain. It was not that God’s grace was weak or insufficient for our salvation, and that, consequently, it was necessary to introduce the law. No, the law was given for a totally different reason: to drive men to acknowledge that they are sinners, and to cause them to despair! For unless this happens, their consciences will not be prompted to take refuge in the Lord Jesus Christ. We can see evidence of this as we look around us. Now, however, Paul raises a different question: that is, whether the law is in keeping with the promises. For when the law promises salvation, it does so upon condition that we deserve it; but the gospel promises us acceptance with God, that we can be made acceptable to God through no merit of our own. Naturally, it could be thought that there is a contradiction here! It is rather like being offered a house for a price, being informed of the cost, and subsequently to have someone say, ‘No. You can have it for nothing!’ There is a great deal of difference between the two! It seems as though God is being inconsistent. By the law, he is saying, ‘Serve me and fulfil what I command and your wages are guaranteed.’ Yet, in the gospel he is using a different language, saying, ‘I ask nothing on your part, for you are so wretched that you cannot possibly please me; however, I will accept you into my kingdom without merit because of my free mercy. The inheritance will be assigned to you solely because it is my good pleasure to grant it to you.’

Paul is drawing our attention to the differences of style and approach in the law and the gospel. Nevertheless, it soon becomes apparent that there are, in fact, no real discrepancies. How is this? Well, we saw this morning that God did not intend to mock at us when he promised us a reward for our works. Rather, he desired that we should be struck silent before him and unable to murmur against him. For we know how ready we are to complain when God does not deal with us according to our whims and fancies; this is due to our own devilish pride. For this very reason, God cuts short all our protestations by saying that we will not be deprived of our reward if we have served him well enough! Yet, if we examine ourselves, we realise that we cannot possibly achieve justification in this way, for there is not one of us who can say that we have lived a blameless life; that is, if we judge without deceiving ourselves! Is this, then, the way God sees us? Yes, but he offers us hope in the gospel and assures us that, though we are all condemned and cannot hope to obtain justification by our works, he will justify us through his own free bounty because it pleases him to do so.

Hence, Paul writes here that if the law were given to bring justification, then we would be able to gain righteousness through it. But is this what God intended [when he gave us the law]? The answer is, most certainly not. Paul directs us to consider God’s purposes. He also highlights the pride of hypocrites who say that they can be justified and reach paradise by their own efforts! Not only are they poor expositors of the law, but also such as adulterate and corrupt it. For it is vital that we reflect upon the intentions of the one who is speaking. Clearly, God did not wish us to trust in or rely upon our merits, for our natures ensure that we already lean too heavily in this direction! Indeed, this particular error has been common throughout the whole world in every generation. We need not go to school in order to persuade ourselves that we are good people, that we can win God’s favour through our virtuous lives!

On the contrary, God granted us his law in order to pierce us through with a sword, as it were, and leave us mortally wounded to constrain us to take refuge in him. Since God intended the law to ‘kill’ us, it cannot have been sent for our justification! Therefore, those who seek life and salvation therein are deceiving themselves and mistakenly claim that God has promised it to them. They have omitted to ponder what God had in mind when he made such a promise. Paul’s solution to this question of the difference between the law and the gospel is that there is no contradiction here, even though it appears God has altered his approach!

Paul continues by saying that ‘the scripture hath concluded all under sin, in order that we might obtain the promise by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ’. When he says that the Scripture has ‘concluded all under sin’, one implication is that men are too foolish by far if they believe that the promise in Leviticus (‘which if a man do, he shall live in them’) suggests that a reward is due to them! For if we were to read the law in its entirety, and search its whole contents, or indeed, even if we were to read the whole of Holy Scripture, we would find that it condemns and accuses all men from the greatest to the least, without exception. If we are all condemned, even by the testimony of the law, what further witness against us do we need? Surely, we must be blinded by hypocrisy to think that we can gain God’s favour, though we possess no righteousness of our own. For God has declared that when we come before his face he will cast us into the pit! Paul does not quote any text here to prove that the Scripture has concluded all under sin; he takes it to be an indisputable fact, which believers ought not to question. Indeed, since the creation of the world, man has been corrupted through Adam. Sin not only caused one man’s condemnation, but that of the whole human race. We all fell in Adam’s fall. In fact God declares that all our thoughts are in rebellion against him and are full of evil (Gen. 6:5). What is the human soul like? It is a storehouse of every kind of iniquity. Since God has made this plain, what do we gain by attributing various qualities to ourselves? All such guile increases our evildoing, because we are ignoring God and provoking him to anger.

What, then, was the function of sacrifices? Surely, to display before our eyes that if man depends upon his own efforts, he will be damned. And if the sacrifices were not convincing enough, then experience itself would teach this lesson. We must all look within ourselves and discover what we really are; then we must seek to live according to the perfect standards required of us in Holy Scripture. At this point we shall discover that all that is, in fact, required is that we embrace God’s promises of mercy. For example, the promise we find in Isaiah where he says that, because of God’s love for us, all our iniquities will be blotted out (Isa. 43:25). Even this highlights our sin, especially when we realise that God had to send Jesus Christ to be our righteousness. But if we need a more complete and forceful declaration of the fact, let us study the third chapter to the Romans, from verse nineteen. Here, Paul explains at length what he says in brief in our passage, and he helps us to understand more clearly that the Scripture has, indeed, concluded all under sin. Paul points out the traits which mark human nature before God reforms and changes it. It is as if God looked down to earth to see if there was anyone with integrity, but found that all were corrupted and ruined by evil, so that none sought him. It is clear that he is not referring to just two or three, but to all in general, with the exception of those in whom God has worked and who are now led by the Holy Spirit. Paul then quotes David who also painted a picture of what we are like by birth and by nature (Psa. 14:1). Then he quotes, alongside others, the fifth Psalm. Next, he quotes from Isaiah (Isa. 59:8, 16), who reveals that when God desired to redeem men, he had to achieve their redemption by his own strength. What would men have otherwise done? They would only have run headlong into transgression and, therefore, into damnation. They would have wandered from the path, loving (as they do) deceit, cheating, falsehood and lies. It would have been far easier for man to die a thousand deaths than for him to assist God in the work of salvation! Thus, Paul refers to all these passages to support his argument.

Now we may flatter ourselves as much as we like, but the fact remains that what God has pronounced about mankind is irrevocable. Therefore, whenever we read these passages, or hear Paul’s exposition in the chapter to which I have just referred, our response ought to be that of hanging our heads, and feeling appropriately ashamed. For once we are stripped of all pride, we will come to God to supply that which we need. For the Scripture has concluded all under sin. In the eleventh chapter to the Romans, verse thirty-two, we read that God ‘hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all’. Here, we are soaring much higher, for this is not the message of the law or of the prophets. Paul is referring to the secret will of God, which has decreed that we will all be condemned to perdition, in order that our only hope of salvation might be in his mercy alone. Thus, if we ask the question, why did God allow man to fall and become so miserably lost, the answer is that Cod desired us to lean on his grace alone. This might seem strange to people who wish to reach God in their own way. For such people are so arrogant that they find the judgments of God incomprehensible to their human reasoning, and thus condemn him as if he were wicked and cruel! But Paul wishes us to submit to this teaching, that is, that God has concluded all under sin. In other words, God could have created us stronger and more perfect than he chose to do. He could also have preserved us as he did the angels. Adam, and indeed we ourselves, could have been granted such perseverance that he could have entered his heavenly home without having to die first. But God did not plan it this way! He could even have ensured that only Adam fell and that he alone was corrupted. Why did evil have to spread so far and wide? Surely, God intended it this way! We must allow this doctrine to arrest and possess us, accepting exactly what Paul states here. In other words, that God has made us all subject to sin, that we might seek refuge in his mercy.

However, although God had decreed these things in his secret will, he also desired to declare them publicly and openly. For until men are aware that they are condemned, they will simply continue to wallow in false confidence and glorify themselves in their own eyes. We see this happening all the time! Thus, the Scripture leads us to this conclusion, in order that we might be ready to condemn ourselves with our own lips, and unfeignedly declare that we are, indeed, sinners. Why should this be necessary? Because we can only obtain the promise — that is, the free promise of justification — if we first believe. In the passage that I just cited from the eleventh chapter to the Romans, Paul said, ‘that he might have mercy upon all’. But in our text he expounds the fact that not all people in general will be able to share in this mercy. Indeed, the greater part of mankind will perish in their sins because they refuse the remedy set forth in the gospel. Why, then, does Paul say ‘all’? His main point is to emphasise that there is only one way for anyone to be saved; that is, when God takes pity upon us and grants us his free grace. Then, having forgiven our sins and having become reconciled to us, he can own us as his children and welcome us into the promised inheritance of the kingdom of heaven. Now we can understand why Paul speaks of God showing mercy to all; he does not mean that ‘all’ without exception are included — rather, he is excluding and casting out any possibility of man’s so-called ‘righteousness’ having a part in our salvation.

Furthermore, Paul indicates the means of obtaining the promise: by faith. As it is written in the third chapter of John, verse sixteen, ‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ Do we wish to enter into the delights of such a treasure? Well, faith is the key to open the door to these things. We are called by God, but it is not good enough to be called; we must respond. For example, if he says ‘You are my people’, [we must say], ‘Yes Lord, you are our God’. And if he declares, ‘You are my children’, [we must say], ‘Therefore we come to you as our Father’ (Isa. 25:9; 63:16). We cannot respond in this way of our own volition, for it is a gift of the Holy Spirit. There is no question here of faith proceeding from men! Paul is simply proclaiming that we can bring nothing of our own which will move God to forgive us, and pluck us out of the pit of damnation in which we are engulfed. We must not entertain any thoughts of merit, but rather seek the grace which is so bountifully offered without being deserved. Our trust must be in this, for we cannot hope for salvation unless God chooses to take pity upon us.

We have already examined why this is needful: men will always seek to view themselves in a vain and presumptuous manner. Consider Adam, who was convicted of his sin and was fearful because of the majesty of God, searching for leaves to cover himself. We are just like this too, and, therefore, it is wrong for us to come before God like white-washed walls, expecting him to accept us. For God looks for an upright heart, which no one can claim to possess. If we remain just as we are, we are worth nothing, despite any appearance of goodness we may have! But has he transformed us? Has he given us the desire to walk in his fear, as all believers should? This does not mean that our love for God will be perfect or complete, for we fall short in many different ways. What we have is due to his free grace alone. Thus, we have no cause to exalt ourselves in order to experience peace, for we are not to lean upon our merits. Believers ought to endeavour to devote themselves whole-heartedly to God. Unless we have been sanctified by the Holy Spirit, we cannot be members of the body of the Lord Jesus Christ. We will consider this point when opportunity arises. The Lord Jesus Christ cannot be divided or fragmented, for he is infinite, and has secured forgiveness for our sins through his sufferings and death; our sins have been cleansed and purged by his blood. We have been cleansed in order to be conformed to the image of God the Father; that we might become new creatures in him. But whatever we may say, this was not designed to embolden us to come before God believing we are worthy of his acceptance, as if we can force him to be favourably disposed towards us!

Now, if any claim to have this or that merit, let me say, firstly, that everything we have proceeds from God. On the contrary, we ought to be aware of at least a hundred faults in ourselves. For example, when we set about some good work or other and believe we have accomplished it, this good work, if examined more closely, would be found to be marred by sin! Thus, it would make us liable to condemnation! Therefore, we must be silent before him. If we desire God’s mercy, the only requirement is faith, which he alone can give; yes, only faith! I do not mean that we may all feel free to do evil, as I have shown before. We must have the Holy Spirit, otherwise we will be open to all kinds of corrupt practices. This is not what I mean at all! Paul is only dealing with faith here, and with the basis of our trust as we call upon God our Father, and experience assurance of our eternal inheritance. If we trust in our works, as I have already said, we can have no assurance at all. Why not? God does not require one work, nor two, nor three, but perfect obedience, of the kind which is unknown to mortal man. And even if the angels were answerable to God, they could not attain to that perfect righteousness. How much less we, who are but vermin, and who drink iniquity as a fish drinks water (as Job expresses it, Job 15:16)? How can we trust such a foundation, believing that God will receive us because we are worthy? In short, we must reject all trust in our works, and confess that we are worthy of condemnation if we desire the promise to be fulfilled in us. This is a summary of what Paul is teaching us in this passage. Next, he says that ‘before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed’. The terms ‘law’ and ‘faith’ here would be unclear to us if they were not explained at greater length. For, on occasions, when the Scriptures speak of ‘faith’ they refer to the whole religion, including all the teachings of Holy Writ. At other times, the Scriptures are speaking of the confidence we can have when we come to call upon God. For we are not to approach him in a careless manner; we must come willing to accept the grace he offers us. Therefore, we need faith to embrace God’s promise, for his pledge does not depend on merit, but is absolutely bounteous and free. The only way we can have an interest in it is through the Lord Jesus Christ. This is what Paul is referring to when he speaks of ‘faith’ in this text. The same definition applies to the use of the word ‘faith’ in the Epistle to the Romans, and, indeed, everywhere that Paul deals with the subject of justification before God. The term ‘faith’ means one and the same thing in these places, as I have said.

However, in this passage the word ‘faith’ also has a more special sense: it means the revelation which we have in the gospel. For it is certain that our forefathers had a spirit of faith; indeed, as we have said, Abraham was justified because he believed God. If we follow his example, we become his children and are granted access to the kingdom of heaven. Faith has always had this power, for there has never been any other way of joining or uniting God and man. However, we read that in the time of Abraham ‘faith’ had not yet been revealed, because the Lord Jesus Christ, who was the object and fulfilment of faith, had not yet appeared. Today, we are justified freely without merit; perfection is imputed to those who believe that Jesus Christ died for their sins, and rose again for their justification. For we believe in our hearts unto righteousness (as that other passage says), and we confess with our mouths unto salvation (Rom. 10:10). Now, if Abraham had known the Lord Jesus Christ as we know him today, and as he was crucified amongst us (as Paul said earlier, Gal. 3:1), his faith would have been identical to ours. But ‘faith’ was somewhat obscured in his day. Yes, Abraham hoped in Jesus Christ and waited for salvation from him, and yes, he cast off all faith in himself, knowing that he possessed no virtue that could win God’s approbation. Nevertheless, he was kept in the shadows, viewing Jesus Christ from afar; for he had not as yet appeared as the Sun of Righteousness; this is referred to in Malachi, chapter four and the second verse.

We can now appreciate what Paul means when he says that faith had not yet come; he is telling us that the time for revealing had not yet come. Today, we have this revelation in the gospel, but our forefathers were ‘kept under the law’. There is, therefore, much that is different, but also much that is alike. If we were to enquire about the condition of our forefathers who lived under the law, we would find that it differed slightly from ours, yet was to an extent one and the same. How can it have been the same? Because God declared that he would be merciful to Abraham through our Lord Jesus Christ. Abraham realised the need to put his trust in God’s grace alone and deny himself; because he believed he was counted righteous, as we have seen. The same is true of all the patriarchs and prophets. In this way, their situation was just like ours: they placed their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, and did not hope in themselves but only in the mercy of God. Like us, they were promised an inheritance in heaven. But the difference is that, until the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, they had sacrifices, washings and the like. Under the law, there was the priest who entered the sanctuary to mediate on behalf of the people. The people themselves had to stand a long way off, with a veil between to symbolise the separation. This is how the condition of our forefathers differed from ours. In the absence of the Lord Jesus Christ, there were ceremonies and types; but now we have the body and substance of them, as Paul says in the second chapter to the Colossians and the seventeenth verse. God no longer requires a calf, or lamb, or bullock to atone for sin, but we must be sprinkled with the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. For in the Lord Jesus Christ we find all that is needful for salvation.

Thus, faith reigns now, that is to say, now that Jesus Christ has been fully revealed, whereas our forefathers had but a small taste of such things. This is why Paul speaks of them being ‘kept’ and ‘shut up’, as if the law kept them in bondage. Not that they did not see eternal life (which we anticipate), for we shall all be crowned together on the last day. But for a time, God had to instruct them as if they were little children, which is why he introduces this image of a schoolmaster. The third image he uses is that of a guardian or trustee, but since we will deal with this later, let us for the moment comment on Paul comparing the law to bondage. Surely this implies that God has granted us richer grace and has shown us greater kindness than was shown to those who died before the appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ? As for the second image, this indicates most clearly that the Jews were being compared to children; for this word schoolmaster means ‘a teacher of children’. Today, we have reached manhood, as it were, Paul tells us that the function of the law was like that of a schoolteacher, suited to the ‘childhood’ of his former people. We can see from this that those believers who trusted in Jesus Christ before he had been manifested to the world were children of God in a very real sense! And if they were children, then they were heirs also. We are not to think of them as being like brute beasts, as some foolish people have judged. Some have thought that they were content just to have the fat of the land that had been promised them, and to indulge in gluttony and drunkenness. Such blasphemy is atrocious! Jesus Christ did not come that we might fill our bellies and satisfy our thirst — he came to give us eternal life! No, it is written that Abraham saw his day (John 8:56), and this is the means by which he enjoyed peace of conscience. We know also that David always looked beyond this world; and when Jacob was dying he proclaimed that he was waiting for God’s salvation (Gen. 49:18), though he was drawing his last breath and could hope for nothing else in this life. Thus, our forefathers were not little children in the sense that they were not blessed by the Holy Spirit, and called by him to inherit immortality. The difference, therefore, consists only in the measure of faith. How is this? Well, the law they had was full of types and shadows, but now Jesus Christ has clearly revealed the way to heaven.

When I say that our forefathers were inferior with regard to the measure of faith, I do not mean that Abraham, David or any such saint had weaker faith than ours. Indeed, if we were to search throughout the world, we could not presume to find one person alive today who has a hundredth part of the faith of Abraham or of David! This highlights how excellent their faith was, for they overcame all the temptations which overtake us hundreds of thousands of times. What I mean is that the promises were obscured somewhat more than they are today. If one of us had to undergo the battles that Abraham and David faced, what would become of us? For Abraham was led during his lifetime through a foreign land, a land where he was refused water to drink, even though he himself had dug the wells (Gen. 21:25)! He was exposed to countless dangers. After God had exercised his faith through many trials (so many, in fact, that it seemed that God was leading him to the deepest pit of hell), his faith emerged victorious. As for David, for a long time he was a fugitive, being forced to flee and yet having nowhere to lodge, except amongst unbelievers and enemies of God, or amidst wild beasts in caves! He was so downtrodden that everyone cursed him as if he were the most wicked and detestable man in the world. Nevertheless, he persevered and continued to call upon God. He was never enticed to murmur or blaspheme against God, but rather glorified him, even in situations of extreme anguish. Their faith ought to make us feel ashamed of ourselves! If each of us were seriously to examine our consciences, we would find but a little portion of the faith such men had. But the greatness of their faith must not be judged by how faithful they were in trusting God.

What am I saying, then? I am assessing the degree of their faith in relation to the revelation available to them. For example, although Isaiah was outstanding and although we would have great difficulty finding such a good teacher in our world today, nevertheless, the least person who preaches the gospel faithfully will be preferred before Isaiah, as the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ declared (Matt. 11:11). How is this possible? Isaiah was like an angel, speaking with authority and majesty, so much so that he stirred the hearts of those who were asleep. It was as though God himself had opened his sacred mouth to speak, and not as the voice of a mortal man. Yet he only taught the people that which was appropriate to their age. In other words, he taught the people that the land of Canaan was a token of God’s love, that they must keep the sacrifices, ceremonial washings and the like, and indeed all the types and shadows, demonstrating to the people how blessed they were to be the children of God. He compared the church to a palace built of gold, silver and precious stones (Isa. 54:11; 60:17). These things were in accordance with the shadowy nature of the law. Now we have the Lord Jesus Christ. Today, were even a simple-minded man to preach the gospel, though he may not be eloquent or dignified, he will be pointing to Jesus Christ. He will show that we are living in the fulness of time, and that our sins are forgiven because of the sufferings and death of the Lord Jesus Christ. The wrath of God against us has been appeased and victory is ours because of his death.

Thus, the difference really lies in the revelation and not in the amount of faith in the heart. Abraham may have had admirable faith, the like of which we will not find in this world today; but he was still kept in bondage to the ceremonies and other shadows. David was like an angel, and like a mirror image of all that is perfect, yet he had to submit to the common practices of the people. He had all the ceremonies which were then in use, and he only saw Jesus Christ from afar, for, as yet, there was that veil which prevented him from beholding the glory of the gospel which we have today. Yet it seems that we do not know a hundredth part of what was revealed to David and to Abraham, rendering them invincible against all sorts of temptations. They were enabled to fight powerfully in order that God might be glorified in them, and they were also strengthened to bear all the attacks to which they were subjected. However, at the same time, they still did not possess what we have today; that is, the Lord Jesus Christ as our surety, that we might call God our Father, being members of his body. He is our Head, and if we are united to him so that all his blessings are communicated to us, then we can experience fulness of joy today. This is how our faith is greater than that of Abraham: not in respect of our persons, nor with regard to the faithfulness we exhibit, but in relation to the revelation which we have received concerning the object of our faith. Hence, Paul says that our forefathers were kept under the law before the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, as under a schoolmaster.

For our part, we ought to magnify the grace of God, as indeed our Lord Jesus Christ exhorts us to do: ‘Blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you that many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them’ (Matt. 13:16-17). Abraham is called the friend of God (Jas. 2:23). David was known to be a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), yet he could only see the promises fulfilled from a distance. Today, these same promises have been cast into our laps, as it were; our appetites have been satiated. Our forefathers sought Jesus Christ, who was at that time absent and hidden from sight. Now, however, our Lord Jesus Christ has descended to this world and has dwelt among us, leaving us in no doubt that all has been accomplished, as he said when he was dying (John 19:30). What a dreadful situation it would be, therefore, if we were not even more inspired than they to follow the gospel, now that God has come to us in such an intimate way! Since God has conferred such great privileges upon us, miserable creatures as we are — more than he granted all the holy kings and patriarchs under the law — we have greater cause to praise God in the way that he deserves. However, we must be careful not to allow such great gifts and privileges to be turned to our greater condemnation through our lack of gratitude and failure to appreciate our blessings. For, although Abraham was like a little child (as I have explained), he was nevertheless prepared to leave the land of his birth and enter a foreign land, living like a poor vagabond. Once there, he faced troubles on every side, though he was in a state of weakness. If he had repented of his decision, could he not then have returned to his homeland? Yes, but the apostle shows us, in the eleventh chapter to the Hebrews, that Abraham persevered to the end because of his strong faith and hope. By this he demonstrated that his heart was firmly set on the kingdom of heaven, and had not become ensnared by the things of this world. Abraham, and indeed, all our holy forebears, walked in such a way that they set us a shining example, despite the fact that they had not even witnessed the fulfilment of the promises which have now been set forth in the gospel. During their lifetimes, they only experienced a small taste of what has been so plainly revealed to us today. Woe to us, therefore, if this does not urge and inspire us to embrace all that God offers.

Does he not display the infinite riches of his grace in order to win us to himself and cause us to separate ourselves from the world? He desires us to devote ourselves freely to him. We have now reached manhood, as it were, and ought to be moved and motivated by such a display of grace. Although we are weak and depraved we ought to come to God and take upon ourselves his yoke, submitting ourselves in willing obedience to him. We should take the bit in our mouths, as it were, and defy Satan and all his wiles, and everyone else, too, for that matter! If, however, we fail to overcome all these obstacles, the neglect of the grace of the gospel will cost us dear. Now is the day of salvation and the acceptable time: let us seize the opportunity and hasten to embrace it! Knowing that we are held back by such terrible weakness, we need to beg God to strengthen us to overcome our cowardice and coldness. This will cause us a great struggle within ourselves, yet in view of the fact that we are surrounded by Satan’s fiery darts, such violent efforts are vital! If we walk in the fear of God, we will be enabled to combat all the schemes that Satan devises to hinder us, and to follow God’s way instead. We will also be given strength to walk in the footsteps of our forefathers, who have gone before us and who await us. Then we will all be welcomed into our eternal home in heaven, at the most blessed return of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Now let us fall before the majesty of our great God, acknowledging our sins and praying that he would enable us to hate them. Then, may we not only tremble before him but also seek his pardon, being renewed in his sight through true repentance. May we grow increasingly stronger in the faith until we reach the point where we are rid of all iniquity and so perfectly conformed to his image that his glory shines through us. Then, we may enter the full possession of the promised inheritance. May he not only grant this grace to us, but to all peoples, etc.


Calvin's forty-three sermons on Galatians, preached in French between 14 November 1557 and 8 May 1558, were taken down in shorthand by Denis Raguentier, the professional scribe hired for this purpose by the French emigrants in Geneva. They were later published and sold, but – in a decision which typified the remarkable practical Christianity which Genevan believers had learned from Calvin's preaching – the proceeds were used to provide relief for poor French-speaking refugees.

All forty-three of Calvin's sermons on Galatians have been republished with a fresh translation from the original French by the Banner of Truth Trust

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