While reading some of John Calvin’s works this past weekend, I came across something in particular that stood out to me from all the rest. Not only does the Christian live their earthly lives in the common kingdom of this world, but is adopted into the Redemptive Kingdom of God’s promises to Abraham. Philippians 2:14-16 reads,
Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of oa crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine pas lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ sI may be proud that tI did not run in vain or labor in vain.
It was Calvin’s comments on verse 15 that brought to me the idea of seeing God’s adoption of His children through the lens of Two-Kingdoms.
The sons of God, unreprovable. It ought to be rendered—unreprovable, because ye are the sons of God. For God’s adoption of us ought to be a motive to a blameless life, that we may in some degree resemble our Father. Now, although there never has been such perfection in the world as to have nothing worthy of reproof, those are, nevertheless, said to be unreprovable who aim at this with the whole bent of their mind, as has been observed elsewhere.4
In the midst of a wicked generation. Believers, it is true, live on earth, intermingled with the wicked;5 they breathe the same air, they enjoy the same soil, and at that time1 they were even more intermingled, inasmuch as there could scarcely be found a single pious family that was not surrounded on all sides by unbelievers. So much the more does Paul stir up the Philippians to guard carefully against all corruptions. The meaning therefore is this: “You are, it is true, inclosed in the midst of the wicked; but, in the mean time, bear in mind that you are, by God’s adoption, separated from them: let there be, therefore, in your manner of life, conspicuous marks by which you may be distinguished. Nay more, this consideration ought to stir you up the more to aim at a pious and holy life, that we may not also be a part of the crooked generation,2 entangled by their vices and contagion.”
As to his calling them a wicked and crooked generation, this corresponds with the connection of the passage. For he teaches us that we must so much the more carefully take heed on this account—that many occasions of offence are stirred up by unbelievers, which disturb their right course; and the whole life of unbelievers is, as it were, a labyrinth of various windings, that draw us off from the right way. They are, however, notwithstanding, epithets of perpetual application, that are descriptive of unbelievers of all nations and in all ages. For if the heart of man is wicked and unsearchable, (Jer. 17:9,) what will be the fruits springing from such a root? Hence we are taught in these words, that in the life of man there is nothing pure, nothing right, until he has been renewed by the Spirit of God.
Among whom shine ye. The termination of the Greek word is doubtful, for it might be taken as the indicative—ye shine; but the imperative suits better with the exhortation. He would have unbelievers be as lamps, which shine amidst the darkness of the world, as though he had said, “Believers, it is true, are children of the night, and there is in the world nothing but darkness; but God has enlightened you for this end, that the purity of your life may shine forth amidst that darkness, that his grace may appear the more illustrious.” Thus, also, it is said by the Prophet, “The Lord will arise upon thee, and his glory will be seen upon thee.” (Isaiah 60:2.) He adds immediately afterwards, “The Gentiles shall walk in thy light, and kings in the brightness of thy countenance.” Though Isaiah speaks there rather of doctrine, while Paul speaks here of an exemplary life, yet, even in relation to doctrine, Christ in another passage specially designates the Apostles the light of the world. (Matt 5:14.)