Calvin’s Institutes – 2.7.17 – For the rites of ablution and sacrifice, by which the Jews were consecrated to the Lord, separated them from the Gentiles

Calvin rarely says things which reflect New Perspective teaching. This is one instance. Commenting on Colossians and Ephesians he shows the ceremonies of the law separated the Jews from the Gentiles.

This is part of my series on Calvin’s Institutes.


17. There is a little more difficulty in the following passage of Paul:

“You, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, has he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross,” (Col. 2:13, 14).

He seems to extend the abolition of the Law considerably farther, as if we had nothing to do with its injunctions. Some err in interpreting this simply of the Moral Law, as implying the abolition not of its injunctions, but of its inexorable rigour.

Others examining Paul’s words more carefully, see that they properly apply to the Ceremonial Law, and show that Paul repeatedly uses the term ordinance in this sense. He thus writes to the Ephesians:

“He is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man,” (Eph. 2:14).

There can be no doubt that he is there treating of ceremonies, as he speaks of “the middle wall of partition” which separated Jews and Gentiles.

I therefore hold that the former view is erroneous; but, at the same time, it does not appear to me that the latter comes fully up to the Apostle’s meaning. For I cannot admit that the two passages are perfectly parallel. As his object was to assure the Ephesians that they were admitted to fellowship with the Jews, he tells them that the obstacle which formerly stood in the way was removed. This obstacle was in the ceremonies. For the rites of ablution and sacrifice, by which the Jews were consecrated to the Lord, separated them from the Gentiles. (Calvin, Instit. 2.7.17)


Note the distinctions Calvin makes within the Law. The moral law and the ceremonies.

The breaking down of the ceremonies brought the Jews and Gentiles together in fellowship.

Now all Calvin has to realise is that the ‘works’ Paul was referring to in Eph 2.8-9 are the very same ‘ordinances’ he is speaking of here and he would be following myself and NT Wright.

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