God Frees His Children from Bondage

This discussion finds a prominent place in Calvin’s treatment of adoption and the law in his Commentary on Galatians. The fact that Christ was subjected to the law was for the benefit of his children. He did so freely, choosing

“to become liable to keep the law, that exemption from it might be obtained for us.”

Calvin clearly cautions however, that freedom from the law in Christ does not necessitate abrogation of the law as a rule for the life of the believer, an issue which will be discussed under the duties of adoption. Under the Old Covenant, the believers did not yet enjoy the fruit of adoption – freedom from the bondage of the law through its ceremonies and appendages. The New Testament believer under the covenant of grace now enjoys the privilege of freedom from the law in that Christ is now his righteousness. Calvin argues within a covenantal framework that

“the fathers, under the Old Testament, were certain of their adoption, but did not so fully as yet enjoy their privilege.”

The freedom from the law that the believer now enjoys through adoption is different because this fruit of adoption is fully realized in Christ. Calvin is careful not to disown Old Testament believers as children of God, for he says,

“The ancients were also sons of God, and heirs through Christ, but we hold the same character in a different manner; for we have Christ present with us, and in that manner enjoy his blessings.”

The character of this freedom from the law is clearly seen in his Institutes where he speaks of Christ being made a curse for us quoting Galatians 3:13 and Deuteronomy 27:26.34 He goes on to directly connect the adoption of sons and the freedom from the law so that

“we should not be borne down by an unending bondage, which would agonize our consciences with the fear of death.”

The freedom that the believer enjoys is freedom from conscience, because Christ has been made a curse on his behalf. Furthermore, this freedom is realized in the fact that all the ceremonial laws have been abolished in Christ.

***Quotes taken from John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries on 1 John, Vol. 22. 204-5; Calvin’s Commentaries on Romans, Vol. 19. 301; John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries on Galatians, Vol. 21. 119.

 

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