The Spirit of the Lord, §4.3: Yes and No
Third, while Jesus Christ frees us from sin, guilt, and death, liberation is always a dialectical event. Freedom is always freedom-from and freedom-for: from the No and for the Yes, from the old and for the new, from the past and for the future, from sin and for righteousness, from death and for life. Freedom from our bondage to sin results in freedom for our bondage to righteousness. Freedom from sin results in freedom for obedience. Now that we are new creatures, God calls us to live new lives. Now that “there is a new creation” and “everything has become new” through the reconciling work of Christ, God implores us: “Be reconciled to God!” (2 Cor. 5:17, 20). The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus thus has important and necessary ramifications for the shape of our life here and now on earth. We are called to be “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people” (1 Pet. 2:9). We are commanded to present our bodies to God as “a living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1). We are no longer slaves to sin, but instead we are now “slaves of righteousness” (Rom. 6:18). We no longer belong to ourselves but to God alone.
We are not our own: let not our reason nor our will, therefore, sway our plans and deeds. We are not our own: let us therefore not set it as our goal to seek what is expedient for us according to the flesh. We are not our own: in so far as we can, let us therefore forget ourselves and all that is ours. 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 all our actions. We are God’s: let all the parts of our life accordingly strive toward him as our only lawful goal. (John Calvin, Institutes 3.7.1)Any attempt to sever freedom-from and freedom-for, or emphasize one to the exclusion of the other, imposes a dualism where a dialectical tension ought to exist. The No and the Yes necessarily belong together; a negation demands a corresponding affirmation. And in the word of the cross, we find that God’s No and God’s Yes are the same divine event of love in Jesus Christ. The No of judgment is circumscribed by the Yes of grace; the negation of sin is enveloped within the affirmation of new life. God was in Christ for the purpose of bringing about a positive act of new creation while negating the forces of sin and evil. To put it another way, in the cross of Christ, God negated the negation of sin, thereby accomplishing the positive reality of reconciliation. Consequently, the communion of saints (communio sanctorum) lives as a community shaped by this positive new actuality. The church is the community of those liberated from sin and death for a new existence defined by righteousness and life.