The problem young reformers seem to have is in regards to the fruit of that “Great Exchange” – the fruit of our lives, the good works we are to do, the life of holiness. It’s clear throughout God’s word that we are to love our neighbor, serve the poor, give generously, cloth the naked, etc. We aren’t doing these things to obtain Jesus, but because Jesus has obtained us we do these things. In other words, we are to do these things FROM our position in Christ, not FOR our position in Christ.
I would be considered to be apart of this “New Calvinism”(The Gospel Coalition, Desiring God, etc.). I wasn’t raised in a Reformed church, in fact the church is probably the furthest (well not quite) away from the Reformers. The Reformers put to death the type of people (Anabaptists) that formed the kind of church that I attended. Anyways, I first came in contact with the theological framework called Calvinism from a YouTube video that I watched over 3 years ago. I’m clearly not a veteran in the Reformed movement, but I have been around long enough to know when there is a problem, and we have a problem.
John Calvin reflecting on Ephesians 1:4 writes:
God’s eternal election (Eph. 1:4) is the basis both of our calling and of all the benefits that we receive from him… The timing of our election shows that it had to be free and could not have depended on any works of ours…
Holiness and blamelessness are the fruits of election…. Those who are not elect retain their natural disposition, which cannot change except by divine intervention…. This verse is also a reminder that there is no room of licentiousness among the elect, because holiness of life is tied to the grace of election… Nor does this mean that we attain perfection in this life. We have the goal set before us, but we do not reach it until our race is done. Why do some people think of predestination as a useless and even poisonous doctrine? No doctrine is more useful, as long as it is handled properly, as Paul does here. It reveals the infinite goodness of God and gives us our knowledge of his mercy…. Election is the ultimate proof that we cannot claim any righteousness for ourselves.
In those few paragraphs, John Calvin succinctly sums up election and holiness for the Christian. While there are several themes that come out of this quote and this passage, the one theme that I think springs from this text is holiness. Holiness is the consequence and evidence of our election. We are not holy to be accepted by God, but because Jesus is holy we are holy. God says, “you shall be holy, for I am holy”.
The idea of holiness is almost a peculiar doctrine for the new Reformed movement. I know many young and old in this tradition who feel no obligation to actively and passionately with their entire being, to pursue a life of holiness. They wouldn’t explicitly say this, but their lives wouldn’t reflect otherwise.