Archive Authors E.J. Hutchinson Nota Bene Reformed Irenicism

Nothing Common (Again)

I’ve written before about the sense in which there is now no area of life that is “common” because Christ has made all clean: there is no “common” realm in that sense.

The last time we looked at this, it was via the Apostle Paul’s comments on Romans 14. Calvin says the same in commenting on Acts 10.15 (“And the voice came to [Peter] again a second time, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common'”). He writes:

15. God hath made clean. He speaketh of meats; but this sentence must be extended unto all parts of the life. It is word for word, That which God hath made clean, do not thou make profane; but the sense is, It is not for us to allow or condemn any thing; but as we stand and fall by the judgment of God alone, so is he judge of all things, (Romans 14:4.) As touching meats, after the abrogating of the law, God pronounceth that they are all pure and clean. If, on the other side, there start up a mortal man, making a new difference, forbidding certain, he taketh unto himself the authority and power of God by sacrilegious boldness.

God determines what is lawful; and God has declared that the old distinction between clean and unclean, sacred and profane, is precisely that: old, and undone in Christ.

We must always ask the mouth of the Lord, that we may thereby be assured what we may lawfully do; forasmuch as it was not lawful even for Peter to make that profane which was lawful by the Word of God. Furthermore, this is a place of great importance to beat down the frowardness of men, which they use too much in perverse judgments. There is no man almost which doth not grant liberty to himself to judge of other men’s doings. Now, as we are churlish and malicious, we lean more toward the worse part, so that we take from God that which is his. This voice alone ought to suffice to correct such boldness, That it is not lawful for us to make this or that unclean, but that this power belongeth to God alone. And also in these words is given us to understand, that the Jews were not therefore the holy people of the Lord, because they excelled through their own worthiness, but only by reason of God’s adoption. Now, after that God had received the Gentiles into the society of the covenant, they have all equal right.

Thus we can ask with Calvin: “Why do they abstain from eating bacon, as from some great offense?” Give thanks to God, and enjoy that bacon.

By E.J. Hutchinson

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

One reply on “Nothing Common (Again)”

I appreciate as thoughtful and timely piece. I get your reasoning and intent. And, the loveliness of freedom in Christ is very compellin(as is the smell of bacon). But, I will try to refrain for sound health reasons. 🙂

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