Archive Authors E.J. Hutchinson Nota Bene Reformed Irenicism Sacred Doctrine

All of Life Redeemed?

John Calvin, commenting on 1 Cor. 10:31 (“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”), remarks that we should always be conscious of the end, or goal, of life, which is the glory of God. It may seem counterintuitive that such an end should affect even the smallest things, like eating and drinking, but that is what Paul says, and so Calvin presumes that there is a way in which it can be advanced even in the midst of such activities. Collective non-Christian wisdom supports his point, he thinks: for confirmation, he draws on Greco-Roman proverbial wisdom and cites a maxim from the Rhetorica ad Herrenium 4.28.39 that likewise urges a proper understanding of the ordering of ends and means.1 Life is not a means for the end of food, but, rather, food is a means to the end of life, which for Calvin means life in Christ: true life, abundant life, eternal life, the life of the blessed (John 10:10). This end, he comments in the final sentence, sanctifies even the most mundane things, making them “in a manner sacred to God.”

Whether, therefore, ye eat, or drink Lest they should think, that in so small a matter they should not be so careful to avoid blame, he teaches that there is no part of our life, and no action so minute, 605 that it ought not to be directed to the glory of God, and that we must take care that, even in eating and drinking, we may aim at the advancement of it. This statement is connected with what goes before; for if we are eagerly desirous of the glory of God, as it becomes us to be, we will never allow, so far as we can prevent it, his benefits to lie under reproach. It was well expressed anciently in a common proverb, that we must not live to eat; but eat to live 606 Provided the end of living be at the same time kept in view, the consequence will thus be, that our food will be in a manner sacred to God, inasmuch as it will be set apart for his service.

Calvin makes a similar point when discussing Colossians 3:17 (“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him”). Every endeavor should be undertaken under the authority of Christ, with thanksgiving–and this thanksgiving can only be through Christ, for there is no other way of approaching God and we receive nothing good apart from him. It follows, then, that redemption is a prerequisite for even attempting to observe the apostolic teaching.

And whatsoever ye do. We have already explained these things, and what goes before, in the Epistle to the Ephesians, where the same things are said almost word for word. As he had already begun to discourse in reference to different parts of the Christian life, and had simply touched upon a few precepts, it would have been too tedious a thing to follow out the rest one by one, he therefore concludes in a summary way, that life must be regulated in such a manner, that whatever we say or do may be wholly governed by the authority of Christ, and may have an eye to his glory as the mark. 454 For we shall fitly comprehend under this term the two following things — that all our aims 455 may set out with invocation of Christ, and may be subservient to his glory. From invocation follows the act of blessing God, which supplies us with matter of thanksgiving. It is also to be observed, that he teaches that we must give thanks to the Father through Christ, as we obtain through him every good thing that God confers upon us.

  1. An English translation can be found here.

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.