The Frenchman John Calvin (1509-1564) was undoubtedly the greatest expositor and commentator on the Scriptures that the Reformation period produced. In fact, his brilliant set of commentaries on most books of the Bible still sells well even today.
Although a multitude of reasons (both good and bad) have been suggested to explain his continued influence on Christian leaders, his skill in explaining the meaning of the Scriptures is his primary legacy.
In fact, those who have benefited from his writing will argue that it is not John Calvin, or ‘Calvinism’ in that sense, but the truth of Scripture that has had such lasting impact on the lives of Christians, missionaries and leaders.
Many preachers will have experienced the challenge of not finding help from modern commentators, only to discover that Calvin has both understood and explained the verses of Scripture they were studying.
His ability to explain difficulties, remove obstacles and apply the meaning of the text is precise, appropriate and full of spiritual life. In my opinion, every preacher, Teacher or Evangelist, should purchase a copy of his commentaries.
He describes his conversion as ‘sudden and unexpected’ and his immense intellectual powers were redirected from the study of law to the Bible. When he was only 26 he published what has become one of Christianity’s greatest classics ‘The Institutes of the Christian Religion’.
The Institutes, written and later enlarged while Calvin was in Switzerland in exile from France. It was dedicated to the King of France, and was written to prove that the teachings of the Reformers and their followers was not a new departure but the orthodox, apostolic Christian Faith.
Calvin’s hope was that the King of France would read it, be convinced by it, and call an end to the terrible persecutions that were taking place.
No! That didn’t happen. Rather, Calvin himself was once again declared to be a heretic.
More next time…
© 2009 Lex Loizides