Updated: Feb 19
Satan endeavours, by whatever means he can, to pervert the grace of God in the elect; and since he cannot effect that, he either covers it with infamy, or at least obscures it. Hence it happens that disgraceful examples often steal into the Church. And the Lord, in this manner, suffers his own people to be humbled, that they may be more attentively careful of themselves, that they may more earnestly watch unto prayer, and may learn entirely to depend on his mercy….But here the gratuitous election of God has appeared the more illustrious, because it was not on account of their worthiness that he preferred the sons of Jacob to all the world; and also because, when they had fallen so basely, this election nevertheless remained firm and efficacious. Warned by such examples, let us learn to fortify ourselves against those dreadful scandals by which Satan strives to disturb us. Let every one also privately apply this to the strengthening of his own faith. For sometimes even good men slide, as if they had fallen from grace. Desperation would necessarily be the consequence of such ruin, unless the Lord, on the other hand, held out the hope of pardon.”
These comments are helpful for a few common dilemmas in the Christian life. First, it’s amazingly easy to become callous to warfare that is the Christian life. Calvin reminds us to that we ought to take note of examples like Reuben, and seize the opportunity to strengthen our own faith. Next, how do you respond when a respected Christian leader falls in some significant way, perhaps even to the point of turning his back on the faith he once professed? Calvin notes that such a situation is all too common in the church. His insights are extremely valuable in helping someone who may be discouraged by such a fall. But, finally, Calvin’s comments hold out considerable hope for the person who has fallen, namely the hope of pardon from the God of all grace. There’s something very hopeful in knowing that the Lord of Creation delights in causing His grace to triumph, even over all of Satan’s attempts to obscure it and cover it with infamy.