“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” - 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Institutes: Book 3 Chapter 7 Section 1, Part b
“We are not our own… Conversely, we are God’s: let us therefore live for him and die for him. We are God’s: let his wisdom and will therefore rule our actions. We are God’s: let all the parts of our life accordingly strive toward him as our only lawful goal [Rom 14:8, 1 Cor 6:19]. O, how much has that man profited who, having been taught that he is not his own, has taken away dominion and rule from his own reason that he may yield it to God! For, as consulting our self-interest is the pestilence that most effectively leads to our destruction, so the sole haven of salvation is to be wise in nothing and to will nothing through ourselves but to follow the leading of the Lord alone.
“Let this therefore be the first step - that man depart from himself in order that he may apply the whole force of his ability in the service of the Lord. … For [the philosophers] set up reason alone as the ruling principle in man, and think that it alone should be listened to; to it alone, in short they entrust the conduct of life. But [Christianity] bids reason give way to, submit and subject itself to, the Holy Spirit so that the man himself may no longer live but hear Christ living and reigning within him [Gal 2:20].”
Having stated that “we are not our own”, Calvin turns to affirm that we belong to God. Consequently, we should allow God to rule over us. His wisdom should guide our actions and his glory should be our goal. Calvin sees being under God’s rule as a great “profit” when compared to the “pestilence” of guiding our lives according to our own self-interest. This contrasts to the enlightenment “philosophers” who believed that human reason alone can be our guide. Calvin rejects the notion that human reason can be a sufficient guide. Instead, we need to submit to the Bible and be subject to the Holy Spirit. It may surprise readers not familiar with John Calvin to see the emphasis that he places on the Holy Spirit. It is through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that Christ is said to live in us (Gal 2:20). Calvin places so much emphasis on this in his theology that he was known in ages past as the “theologian of the Holy Spirit.”
Historically, Christians have focused on lent as a time in which we seek to practice self-denial as we anticipate the celebration of Easter. As we read through this section of the Institutes we are reflecting on the role of self-denial in the Christian life. It Is, no doubt, an important New Testament theme. Calvin sees it as a pretty big deal, as he entitled this section “The sum of the Christian life: the denial of ourselves”. But it is easy to forget that self-denial is only half of the equation. Self-denial on its own can even be a harmful “half theology.” The denial of self is meant to coincide with the embrace of God. The emptying of self is meant to coincide with the filling of the Holy Spirit. The death of self-interest needs to be accompanied by the life of Christ flourishing in us. Self-denial is not the end goal, but a step towards Christ acceptance. Calvin has no interest in spiritual practices which emphasize self-denial for its own sake... or emphasize self-denial apart from Christ. It is always a step towards drawing closer to Jesus. Calvin urges us: “Let us live for him!”
We deny ourselves so that we may LIVE for him. (Matt)