God is Enough for the Church

22 Dec

“The power of God alone is sufficient to preserve the Church, and there is no need of other helps. For he (in Zechariah 4) sets the Spirit of God in opposition to all earthly aids; and thus he proves that God borrows no help for the preservation of his Church, because he abounds in all blessings to enrich it. Farther, by the word spirit we know is meant his power, as though he had said, “God designs to ascribe to himself alone the safety of his Church; and though the Church may need many things, there is no reason why it should turn its eyes here and there, or seek this or that help from men; for all abundance of blessings may be supplied by God alone.” And host and might, being a part for the whole, are to be taken for all helps which are exclusive of God’s grace. It is indeed certain that God acts not always immediately or by himself, for he employs various means, and makes use in his service of the ministrations of men; but his design is only to teach us that we are very foolish, when we look around us here and there, or vacillate, or when, in a word, various hopes, and various fears, and various anxieties affect us; for we ought to be so dependent on God alone, as to be fully persuaded that his grace is sufficient for us, though it may not appear; nay, we ought fully to confide in God alone, though poverty and want may surround us on every side. This is the purport of the whole.

But God intended also to show that his Church is built up and preserved, not by human and common means, but by means extraordinary and beyond all our hopes and all our thoughts. It is indeed true, as I have just said, that God does not reject the labors of men in building up and in defending his Church; but yet he seems as though he were not in earnest when he acts by men; for by his own wonderful power he surpasses what can be conceived by human thought. To be reminded of this was then exceedingly necessary, when the Church of God was despised, and when the unbelieving haughtily ridiculed the miserable Jews, whom they saw to be few in number and destitute of all earthly aids. As then there was nothing splendid or worthy of admiration among the Jews, it was needful that what we find here should have been declared to them — even that his own power was enough for God, when no aid came from any other quarter. The same also was the design of what we have noticed respecting the seven pourers and the olive-trees; for if God had need of earthly helps, servants must have been at hand to pour forth the oil; but there were seven pourers to supply the oil continually. Wherefrom? even from the olive-trees. As then the trees were fruitful, and God drew from them the oil by his hidden power, that the lamps might never be dry, we hence clearly learn, that what was exhibited is that which the angel now declares, namely, that the Church was, without a host and without might, furnished with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and that in these there was a sufficient defense for its preservation, in order that it might retain its perfect state and continue in vigor and safety.

When therefore we now see things in a despairing condition, let this vision come to our minds — that God is sufficiently able by his own power to help us, when there is no aid from any other; for his Spirit will be to us for lamps, for pourers, and for olive-trees, so that experience will at length show that we have been preserved in a wonderful manner by his hand alone.”

John Calvin

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