A friend of mine told me last night that he had added a link to my blog from his. I was gratified, but it made me think I ought to write something once in a while to justify the link.
Is it possible for me to know that God loves me? Calvin wrote this in the Institutes:
It were presumptuous in us to hold that God is propitious to us, had we not his own testimony, and did he not prevent us by his invitation, which leaves no doubt or uncertainty as to his will. It has already been seen that Christ is the only pledge of love, for without him all things, both above and below speak of hatred and wrath.
Institutes 3.2.7. This section of the Institutes speaks of a definition of faith. And for Calvin, faith must be founded on the testimony and invitation of God, as we see in the quote above. But notice what that testimony and invitation consists of: "Christ is the only pledge of love," according to Calvin. Thus Christ crucified is the testimony and invitation of God to every sinner.
Another friend of mine (who, I fear, will never link to this blog) asked me whether the gospel must contain the words, "God loves you and Christ died for you." I answered yes, primarily on the strength of this idea I learned from Calvin. We are to proclaim the gospel to all men (Acts 17:30, Romans 9:3, 10:1). The gospel is an invitation of reconciliation from God to man (2 Corinthians 5:19, 20). And the sacrifice of Christ is the testimony of God's love for us. Thus the sacrifice of Christ must be preached to all as a testimony of God's love and mercy and of his readiness to pardon. In that sense (as well as others), Christ's work is for all.
Calvin's commentary on John 3:16 is very much in this vein:
For God so loved the world. Christ opens up the first cause, and, as it were, the source of our salvation, and he does so, that no doubt may remain; for our minds cannot find calm repose, until we arrive at the unmerited love of God. As the whole matter of our salvation must not be sought any where else than in Christ, so we must see whence Christ came to us, and why he was offered to be our Savior. Both points are distinctly stated to us: namely, that faith in Christ brings life to all, and that Christ brought life, because the Heavenly Father loves the human race, and wishes that they should not perish.