Posted by: Billy Marsh | March 15, 2010

Calvin’s “Wonderful Exchange”

This is a classic passage from John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. I read it earlier this year but haven’t gotten around to posting til now. Selections like this one are what separates theological works of pre-modern writers from many of today’s theologians in my opinion. In a work as sophisticated and technical as the Institutes, Calvin still does not separate the task of the intellect from that of the heart. Although the Institutes are without a doubt scholarly, they are just as much devotional, where over and over again Calvin shows himself to be enthralled by the majesty of God, and communicates clearly that his work is for the glory of God and the purity of his Bride, the Church. Here you see what it looks like for biblical-theological scholarship to be for the Church.

The following passage speaks of the “Wonderful Exchange” of the gospel. It is poetic and beautiful to read. Let us slip off into praise and wonder, just as it seems that Calvin does, as he leads us to meditate upon this particular nature of the good news of the work of Jesus Christ:

. . . [W]e cannot be condemned for our sins, from whose guilt he has absolved us, since he willed to take them upon himself as if they were his own. This is the wonderful exchange which, becoming Son of man with us, he has made us sons of God with him; that, by his descent to earth, he has prepared an ascent to heaven for us; that, by taking on our mortality, he has conferred his immortality upon us; that, accepting our weakness, he has strengthened us by his power; that, receiving our poverty unto himself, he has transferred his wealth to us; that, taking the weight of our iniquity upon himself (which oppressed us), he has clothed us with his righteousness (Book IV: Chp. 26: paragraph #2).

  • See also one of my older posts on Martin Luther which discusses nearly the same idea based upon his marriage motif concerning union with Christ in his treatise On Christian Liberty.
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