Yes I know…the word ‘legend’ is over-used. Nevertheless, some people are legendary, notorious (in the best sense), outstanding, memorable. So I will use the word legend to describe this friend, mentor and Pastor, Don Smith.
Don was not only a highly determined, servant-hearted leader, but he was also a God-sent irritant to holiness in the life of the churches he led. He didn’t just want numbers, he wanted to see Christ-centred lives. And he is still soldiering on – in so-called retirement! He is passionate, sold-out for God, refreshingly working class, blunt, often challenging, always on the ball, seeking God’s glory and the good of the church. He was a skilled shepherd and was loved by those he served both in Hastings and Eastbourne in the UK.
Don was born in the London borough of Lewisham in 1940 (on the Downham council estate). He worked in a mental institution for several years until in the mid-1970s he and his wife Stephanie started a church group in a basement flat in Hastings, East Sussex. After three years the church were able to support him full-time and Kings Church Hastings grew to be one of the largest in the town. In 1989 he and a very small team launched Kings Church in Eastbourne a few miles away. Both those churches are affiliated to the Newfrontiers family of churches led by Terry Virgo and both grew to over 500 in a relatively short space of time. Though he has now technically retired from local church leadership, Don is still preaching and serving churches in the UK and Canada.
Don’s one-liners have also become legendary, with a facebook page devoted to them, and recently a friend compiled a highly edifying 7 and a half minutes of glorious Bible-saturated exhortation. This is classic Don Smith.
Helping those who’ve trusted Christ to implement change in their lives
A downloadable, easy to understand, follow-up study for anyone who’s just become a Christian!
‘A brilliant resource for new believers.’ Bryan Mowrey, Pastor, Jubilee Church, St. Louis, MO
Every new believer in Jesus Christ has questions and needs guidance
– What are my responsibilities as a follower of Jesus?
– How does this affect my relationships at work and at home?
– Do I join a local church?
– What aspects of my behaviour should change?
– What kind of purpose do I have in life?
In this much-needed and helpful study, the practical ‘first steps’ of the Christian Life are covered. Each chapter includes discussion questions and suggestions for further reading.
You no longer have to wait until you can get to a Christian bookstore to find follow-up material for someone who just gave their lives to Christ. You can download this affordable book onto both your devices and get going straight away – one on one!
What Pastors are saying about ‘Beginnings’
‘If “basics” refers to the mind-blowing, essential, central truths about Christianity, then this book is about the basics. Easy-to-read. Engaging. Clear. Fun. Inspirational. The concept of ‘read and discuss’ with a mentor is powerful.’ PJ Smyth, Pastor, Godfirst Church, Johannesburg, South Africa
‘Lex Loizides is a master communicator with a passion for bringing people into solid enjoyment of God’s good news. In ‘Beginnings’ he has provided an excellent tool kit for doing just that.’ Joel Virgo, Pastor, Church of Christ the King, Brighton, England
‘Lex has provided an easy accessible, biblical and practical book which will help many new Christians take important first steps as they move forward in their new life as a Christian.’ Steve Tibbert, Pastor, Kings Church, London
‘This book makes the perfect gift for anyone who just became a Christian.’ Adrian Warnock, Blogger and author of Raised with Christ
Topics include: The importance of the Bible, the central role of the local church, prayer and the Holy Spirit, baptism in water and breaking bread, life and pressure in the workplace and home, living life with a new mission.
Lex Loizides is a Pastor based at Jubilee Community Church, Cape Town and has nearly 30 years of ministerial experience. He has worked closely with local churches in many countries, helping them become more effective in evangelism. He is the author of several published hymns and is the author of the evangelistic study, ‘Take a Closer Look at the Claims of Christ’.
Gathering Information on the health of the new believers
In John Wesley’s Journal entry for December 5th 1738 he writes,
‘About this time, being desirous to know how the work of God went on among our brethren in London, I wrote to many of them concerning the state of their souls.’ He then quotes from some of the replies he received.
The experiences described, and which he includes in his journal may well have been the perfect preparation for him to be positive about the outpouring of the Spirit that took place on January 1st 1739. This outpouring, during an all night prayer meeting, has arguably been portrayed as the beginning, the spark, of the Great Awakening in the British Isles.
[N.B. In sharing these quotes I am encouraging us to learn about the processes of church history. I am noting openness to the Holy Spirit exhibited by the early Methodist leadership – just on the eve of a mighty breakthrough that radically affected their generation. I am not endorsing Wesley’s later teaching on sinless perfection.]
Sealed with the Spirit
One of the letters Wesley quotes from includes the following remarkable statements:
‘Now St. Paul says, ‘After ye believed, ye were sealed with the Spirit of promise.’ So it was with me.
After I had believed on Him that ‘justifieth the ungodly,’ I received that seal of the Spirit, which is the ‘earnest of our inheritance.’…
‘then I began to feel the ‘Spirit of God bearing witness with my spirit, that I was born of God.’
‘Because I was a child of God, He ‘sent forth the Spirit of his Son into me, crying, Abba, Father.’ For that is the cry of every new born soul.
The love of God undeniably experienced
‘O mighty, powerful, happy change!…
‘The love of God was shed abroad in my heart, and a flame kindled there, so that my body was almost torn asunder.
‘I loved. The Spirit cried strong in my heart.
‘I trembled: I sung: I joined my voice with those ‘that excel in strength’
Hungering after God!
‘My soul was got up into the holy mount. I had no thoughts of coming down again into the body. I who not long before had called to ‘the rocks to fall on me, and the mountains to cover me,’ could now call for nothing else but, ‘Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.’
‘Then I could cry out with great boldness, There, O God, is my Surety! There, O death, is thy plague! There, O grave, is thy destruction! There, O serpent, is the Seed that shall for ever bruise thy head!
The Lover and the Beloved
‘O, I thought my head was a fountain of water. I was dissolved in love. ‘My Beloved is mine, and I am his.’ He has all charms.
‘He has ravished my heart. He is my comforter, my friend, my all. He is now in his garden, feeding among the lilies.
‘O, ‘I am sick of love.’ He is altogether lovely, ‘the chiefest among ten thousand.’”
(From John Wesley Journals Vol 1, p.168-169, Baker edition)
Wesley makes no comment on the letters he quotes but leaves judgement to the reader.
Next time we’ll look at the historic gathering on January 1st 1739…
We’ve been enjoying Sarah Edwards’ articulate descriptions of being filled with Holy Spirit during the 1741-1742 revival in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Here, she concludes her experience…
Monday morning at the Edwards’ house…
‘So strong were my feelings, I could not refrain from conversing with those around me, in a very earnest manner, for about a quarter of an hour, on the infinite riches of divine love in the work of salvation.’
Carried to the fireside entirely without strength
‘[Then], my strength entirely failing, my flesh grew very cold, and they carried me and set me by the fire.
As I sat there, I had a most affecting sense of the mighty power of Christ, which had been exerted in what he had done for my soul…and of the glorious and wonderful grace of God in causing the ark to return to Northampton.’
Mrs. Edwards leaps for joy!
‘So intense were my feelings, when speaking of these things, that I could not forbear rising up and leaping with joy and exultation.’
The Following Sunday at church…a foretaste of heavenly glory!
‘When I heard him [the preacher, William Williams] say, that those, who have assurance, have a foretaste of heavenly glory, I knew the truth of it from what I then felt: I knew that I then tasted the clusters of the heavenly Canaan: My soul was filled and overwhelmed with light, and love, and joy in the Holy Ghost, and seemed just ready to go away from the body. I could scarcely refrain from expressing my joy aloud, in the midst of the service.’
This was not ‘mere excitement’
Over-emotional? Iain Murray, himself wary of mere emotionalism, writes, ‘her joy, it should be noted, was far from the exuberance of mere excitement.’ (Iain Murray, Jonathan Edwards, Banner of Truth, p.196)
And her loving husband Jonathan writes of his wife’s ‘season in the Spirit’, ‘It was the greatest, fullest, longest continued and most constant assurance of the favour of God and of a title to future glory that I ever saw…in any person.’ (Quoted by Murray, p.195-6)
May God the Father bless you with similar assurances of His love for you in Christ, by the influence and power of the Holy Spirit.
Was Sarah Edwards an over-emotional person? Was she a kind of ‘balance’ for her supposedly unemotional, strict husband Jonathan Edwards?
Or was she an intelligent and articulate woman, highly respected in the community, who had the privilege of personal encounters with God?
Jonathan encouraged her to record her various experiences (covering two and a half weeks in 1742) for the edification of others.
Iain Murray calls her words ‘an amazing testimony to how much of heaven can be enjoyed upon earth.’ (Murray, Jonathan Edwards, Banner of Truth, p.193)
So without more ado, these are a few excerpts of her story…
The Presence of God
‘Under a delightful sense of the immediate presence and love of God, these words seemed to come over and over in my mind, ‘My God, my all;
my God, my all.’
The presence of God was so near, and so real, that I seemed scarcely conscious of any things else. God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, seemed as distinct persons, both manifesting their inconceivable loveliness, and mildness, and gentleness, and their great and immutable love to me.
I seemed to be taken under the care and charge of my God and Saviour, in an inexpressibly endearing manner; and Christ appeared to me as a mighty Saviour.’
The Dignity of a Royal Priesthood
‘The next day, which was the Sabbath, I enjoyed a sweet, and lively and assured sense of God’s infinite grace, and favour and love to me, in taking me out of the depths of hell, and exalting me to the heavenly glory, and the dignity of a royal priesthood.’
Intense admiration of God’s Grace
‘To my mind there was the clearest evidence, that God was present in the congregation, on the work of redeeming love; and in the clear view of this, I was all at once filled with such intense admiration of the wonderful condescension and grace of God, in returning again to Northampton, as overwhelmed my soul, and immediately took away my bodily strength.’
Back at the house…trying not to leap for joy
‘While I was uttering the words [of one of Isaac Watts’ hymns], my mind was so deeply impressed with the love of Christ, and a sense of his immediate presence, that I could with difficulty refrain from rising from my seat, and leaping for joy.’
In 1735 there was a sudden outpouring of grace on the town of Northampton. Many came to Christ under great conviction of sin and revelation of the sovereignty and justice of God.
Having described some of the struggles that some converts went through in terms of a realisation of their sin and guilt before God, Edwards describes the longed-for breakthrough of personal salvation.
‘Conversion is a great and glorious work of God’s power, at once changing the heart, and infusing life into the dead soul; though the grace then implanted more gradually displays itself in some than in others.’
In some, converting light is like a glorious brightness suddenly shining upon a person, and all around him: they are in a remarkable manner brought out of darkness into marvellous light.
In many others it has been like the dawning of the day, when at first but a little light appears…and gradually increases.’ (Jonathan Edwards, A Narrative of Surprising Conversions, from Jonathan Edwards On Revival, Banner of Truth, p.40, 41)
The Newness of things
‘Persons after their conversion often speak of religious things as seeming new to them; that preaching is a new thing; that it seems to them they never heard preaching before; that the Bible is a new book: they find there new chapters, new psalms, new histories, because they see them in a new light.’ (ibid p.44)
‘While God was so remarkably present amongst us by His Spirit, there was no book so delightful as the Bible.’ (ibid p.47)
A love for God
‘Many have spoken much of their hearts being drawn out in love to God and Christ; and of their minds being wrapt up in delightful contemplation of the glory and wonderful grace of God, the excellency and dying love of Jesus Christ; and of their souls going forth in longing desires after God and Christ.’ (ibid p.44-45)
The Bible encourages us not to worry. It’s a bit different from ‘Don’t worry – be happy’ because the source of our contentment is in the character and sovereignty of God. But still, we need to know the calming voice of God.
Philippians 4:6 says
‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.’ (NIV)
Proverbs 12:25 says
‘Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down,
but a good word makes him glad.’ (ESV)
As we finish our brief look into Jeremiah Burroughs excellent work, ‘The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment’ I hope you will find ‘a good word’ which will lift you out of worry and into worship.
So let’s travel back three and a half centuries and see what the prevailing Christian counsel was for troubled souls then…
On Anxiety, or ‘Fretting’
‘When you are in a ship at sea which has all its sails spread with a full gale of wind, and is swiftly sailing, can you make it stand still by running up and down in the ship?
No more can you make the providence of God alter and change its course with your vexing and fretting; it will go on with power, do what you can.
Do but understand the power and efficacy of Providence [the planned and protective care of God] and it will be a mighty means helping you to learn this lesson of contentment.’ (p.112-113)
On Learning from Life’s Tough Experiences
‘I make no question but you find it so, that your worst voyages have proved your best.’ (p.214)
How a fretting disposition can lead us into further problems
‘Contentment delivers us from an abundance of temptations. Oh, the temptations that men of discontented spirits are subject to! The Devil loves to fish in troubled waters.’ (p.126)
On the Unreasonable Nature of Discontent
‘Has God converted you, and drawn you to his Son to cast your soul upon him for all your good, and yet you are discontented for the want of some little matter in a creature comfort?’ (p.142)
On not becoming Bitter with God when things don’t go well
‘Oh, my brethren…retain good thoughts of God, take heed of judging God to be a hard master, make good interpretations of his ways, and that is a special means to help you to contentment in all one’s course.’ (p.225)
On the Goodness of God in all of Life
‘A believer…is set apart to the end that God might manifest to all eternity what his infinite power is able to do to make a creature happy.’ (p.147)
God will look to you, and see you blessed if you are in the work God calls you to. (p.217)
On not becoming Materialistic
‘Be not inordinately taken up with the comforts of this world when you have them.’ (p.226)
Should the Believer be an Overcomer or a Worrier?
‘The spirit of a Christian should be a lion-like spirit; as Jesus Christ is the Lion of the tribe of Judah (so he is called) so we should manifest something of the lion-like spirit of Jesus Christ.’ (p.148)
The English Puritans have a reputation. Within our popular culture, it’s not a good one!
These ‘Old Calvinists’ didn’t really hold back, and when they felt the souls of men and women were in danger. They cried, and called, and declared and wept – to try and turn people from sin to Christ.
Here is Ralph Venning again, urging his readers to change their beliefs and lifestyle. This is as ‘pure puritan’ as it gets, and while some of the statements are strong, they represent the passion of the Puritan preachers of the 17th century accurately.
On the Weakness of Punishment over the Power of Sin
‘Even the flood, which washed away so many sinners, could not wash away sin; the same heart remains after the flood as before.’ (p.46)
On the Deceitfulness of Sin
‘[Sin] It is like the pleasure of the man who receives much money, but it is all counterfeit.’ (p.210)
On the Eternal Consequences of sin
‘Sin costs dear, but profits nothing. They make a bad purchase who buy their own damnation.’ (p.201)
‘The torments themselves will be universal. It will not be merely one or two torments but all torments united. Hell is the place of torment itself (Luke 16.28). It is the centre of all punishments, sorrow and pain, wrath and vengeance, fire and darkness’ (p.84)
The Deceitfulness of Sin
‘Sin disappoints men; they have false joys but true miseries.’ (p.131)
On the Need to put our Trust in Jesus Christ
‘No matter how much you have, and how much you use it, [sin] will never satisfy, and therefore must vex you. No satisfaction, no profit! A man’s aim is satisfaction (Luke 12.19), but the eye is not satisfied with seeing nor the ear with hearing (Ecclesiastes 1.8). Now if these things cannot satisfy the senses (Ecclesiastes 6.7), much less can they satisfy the souls of men.’ (p.203)
‘Sin cannot fill up the boundless and infinite desire which is in the heart of man, but disappoints it.’ (p.207)
On the Goodness of God in the Gospel
‘The goodness of God leads you to repentance; he might have driven you into it by terrors, but he gently leads you…God waits to be gracious, and is patient…
He might have called and knocked at your door once and then no more, but he has stood and knocked and begged, and [has] given you space and means (Revelation 2.21; Luke 16.31)…If, then, you do not repent, it is a greater affront to God than was your former sin.
On Finding Salvation at last!
‘Repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out’ (Acts 3.19); they shall be as if they had not been…God looks upon men, and…if anyone repents, he will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light (Job 33.27,28).
Indeed, God is not only merciful, but if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1.9). How this obliges us to repent!’ (p.218-219)
All quotes are taken from ‘The Plague of Plagues’ Banner of Truth edition, now published as ‘The Sinfulness of Sin’.
The Main Problem of the Human Condition
Generally speaking, the puritans have been collectively dismissed as harsh and even obsessive in their views on personal morality! The very word ‘puritanical’ gives you the idea! But let’s not be too quick to write these guys off.
The puritans had a passion for the Bible, a passion for the Church and a passion for seeing the gospel impact every area of life.
They also had a frank view of the primary problem confronting mankind which they unashamedly declared to be sin. To a puritan who was committed to Biblical thinking this was a clear as day.
Mankind’s primary internal problem was sin, their primary enemy was sin, and their most significant hindrance in his relationship to God was sin.
The solution to this problem was not to be found in a strict morality but in the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross. He died for sin, taking the weight of the just penalty of sin upon Himself, for our benefit. He did this so that, by repentance and faith, we might be forgiven and reconciled to God.
The hostility between God and Man would end, and sin could be defeated at last. And because He overcame both sin and death, we too might live a life pleasing to God.
The Plague of Plagues
It’s not altogether surprising then, to find amongst a bookshelf of puritan writings a volume entitled ‘The Plague of Plagues’ (1669), a startling assault against sin and its damaging effects on mankind.
Indeed, Ralph Venning, its author states that he was writing against sin because sin ‘is against man’s good and happiness.’
Venning, like Brooks, was educated at Cambridge University and pastored in London. He, like Brooks and others, was fired from his position in the Church of England, and became a minister of an Independent Church in London.
Here are some edifying examples of Venning’s clarity on the subtle dangers of sin. In urging his hearers to decide for Christ and holiness, he also restores clarity to the essential nature of mankind’s struggle against God’s goodness.
‘It cannot but be extremely useful to let men see what sin is: how prodigiously vile, how deadly mischievous and therefore how monstrously ugly and odious a thing sin is.’ (p.18)
‘It [sin] gives out false reports of God and goodness.’ (p.35)
‘Shall I not plead for God and your soul, and entreat you to be on God’s side, and to depart from the tents of wickedness? Poor soul! Can you find it in your heart to hug and embrace such a monster as this? Will you love that which hates God, and which God hates? God forbid!’ (p.36)
‘Oh, look to yourself, for sin, notwithstanding all its flattering pretences, is against you, and seeks nothing less than your ruin and damnation.’ (p.37)
‘Sin in the Christian is ‘a self civil war.’ (p.43)
‘Sin is the burden of every good man’s soul.’ (p.126)
All quotes are taken from Ralph Venning, The Plague of Plagues, now published as ‘The Sinfulness of Sin’ (Banner of Truth).
Perhaps we have become accustomed to rough preaching. Perhaps we don’t listen as carefully unless we are shocked by an abrasive style. Perhaps our senses are dull through the constant overload of information.
I invite you to come and bask in the warmth of the pastoral care of the much-loved Puritan Thomas Brooks. Let this first passage from his outstanding book, ‘Heaven on Earth’ enliven you to the treasures of puritan literature.
And if you are a leader in the church, perhaps these words will refresh you once again, in your high calling, and in God’s own love for His Bride.
Brooks’ opinion of Christian Believers
‘Beloved in our dearest Lord: You are those worthies of whom this world is not worthy. You are the princes that prevail with God. You are those excellent ones in whom is all Christ’s delight. You are His glory. You are His picked, culled, prime instruments which He will make use of to carry on His best and greatest work against His worst and greatest enemies in these later days. You are a seal upon Christ’s heart…You are the anointed of Christ…You have the greatest advantages and the choicest privileges to enable you to try truth, to taste truth, to apply truth, to defend truth…You have the next place to Christ in my heart…’ (from his introduction to ‘Heaven on Earth’)
On non-believers needing to be convinced of sin
‘Men must first see their sins, they must be sensible of their sins, before they can repent of their sins…Till he sees he is out of the way, he walks still on.’ (p.221)
‘The sweetest joys are from the sourest tears; penitent tears are the breeders of spiritual joy.’ (p.222)
On why the Christian loves Jesus
‘The true bred Christian loves Christ for Christ; he loves Christ for that internal and eternal worth that is in Him.’ (p.239)
‘As a painted fire is no fire, a dead man no man, so a cold prayer is no prayer…Cold prayers are as arrows without heads, as swords without edges, as birds without wings: they peirce not, they cut not, they fly not up to heaven. Cold prayers do always freeze before they reach to heaven.’ (p.261)
‘Christ hath a a full purse, a noble heart, and a liberal hand.’ (p.264)
‘The tears of the saints have such a kind of omnipotency in them, that God Himself cannot withstand them.’ (p.316)
On Final Perseverance
‘That ship will never be split upon the rocks, whose anchor is in Heaven.’ (p.282)
The supremacy of the Spirit in growth of the believer
‘Nothing makes the heart delight more in the love, study, practice, and growth of holiness, that in the glorious testimony of the Holy Spirit.’ (p.303)
All quotations and page references are taken from Heaven on Earth, Banner of Truth.
The breakout of passionate evangelistic preaching in the 1620’s in Ireland was accompanied by the power of the Spirit.
The ‘least gifted’ minister sparks a revival!
The eccentric puritan James Glendinning began preaching in Ulster and God seemed to touch the peoples’ hearts. The people began to respond despite Glendinning’s rough style (his sermons, we’re told, tended to focus primarily on the judgement and wrath of God).
One rather uncharitable author writes,
‘God often works by weak instruments, that the glory may be all His own. Of the ministers who had settled in Ulster, James Glendinning was the least gifted, yet God made use of him to begin the revival.’ (Matthew Kere, The Ulster Revival of the Seventeenth Century, 1859)
Glendinning was encouraged to relocate to a more remote place, and went to Oldstone near Antrim.
Andrew Stewart, an eye-witness of the awakening, described the preacher and the work in this way:
‘He was a man who would never have been chosen by a wise assembly of ministers, nor sent to begin a reformation in this land, yet this was the Lord’s choice to begin with him the admirable work of God, which I mention on purpose that all men may see how the glory is only the Lord’s, in making a holy nation in this profane land, and that it was not by might, nor by power, nor by man’s wisdom, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.’ (quoted by Kere)
‘Behold the success!’
Iain Murray also quotes the eye-witness Andrew Stewart’s report:
‘Behold the success! For the hearers finding themselves condemned by the mouth of God speaking in His word, fell into such anxiety and terror of conscience that they looked on themselves as altogether lost and damned;
and this work appeared not in one single person or two, but multitudes were brought to understand their way, and to cry out, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do to be saved?’
I have seen them myself stricken into a swoon with the Word; yea, a dozen in one day carried out of doors as dead, so marvelous was the power of God smiting their hearts for sin…
And of these were…some of the boldest spirits, who formerly feared not with their swords to put a whole market town in a fray; yet in defence of their stubbornness cared not to lie in prison and in the stocks.’ (Iain Murray, The Puritan Hope, Banner of Truth, p.30)
‘The people had a vehement appetite for the Word…no day was long enough, no room large enough!’
Robert Blair, another contemporary witness wrote,
‘So mightily grew the Word of God, and His gracious work of conversion was now spread beyond the bounds of Down and Antrim, to the skirts of neighbouring counties, whence many came to the monthly meetings…
The Lord was pleased to bless His Word, the people had a vehement appetite for it that could not be satisfied: they hung upon the ministers, still desirous to have more; no day was long enough, no room large enough.’ (ibid. p.31)
These eye-witness testimonies show us that although the puritan movement was concerned with personal holiness, it was intentionally evangelistic. It was a ‘revival’ movement. In fact it was the fruit of Holy Spirit empowered evangelism that created sanctified lives.
The Christian preaching that laid such significant cultural foundations in Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the 17th Century was preaching accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Their goal was not only the individual sanctification of those already converted, but the transformation of the nation through gospel preaching, ie, through actually communicating convincingly with the non-believer.
Any impulse that over-focusses on sanctification to the detriment of actual evangelism is already adrift of the missional impulse of both Reformers and Puritans.
And the gracious Head of the Church, while changing us by grace, is still recruiting us into His mission to ‘seek and to save that which is lost.’ (Luke 19:10)
John Calvin – a Second Generation Reformer!
Calvin was 26 years younger than Luther and so represented the next generation of Reformers. Luther was German and Calvin was French and their combined influence on Europe was colossal. While being hugely influenced by Luther, and certainly building on his insights, Calvin didn’t agree with everything the older reformer had written.
Luther had rediscovered Justification by faith in Christ alone as the key to salvation. He had hammered that point home – and needed to! Calvin, in addition to a clear commitment to Justification by faith, also emphasised sanctification (obedience to God and holiness) in the life of the new believer. It was not enough to throw off the shackles of dead religion and come to Christ in a moment of decision – the new converts’ life should now be lived in a God-honouring way, according to the teaching of Scripture. It’s not that Luther rejected this, but merely that Calvin emphasised the importance of a comprehensive holiness in life.
The Local Church
Because of this commitment to sanctification, Calvin also emphasised the role of the local church in regulating and training believers to live godly lives. This immediately raised issues of discipline within the context of the church, and also the extent and nature of the authority of local church leadership. Calvinists have never really managed to break free from the perception that they are ‘disciplinarians’.
Unity of the Bible
Calvin was careful not to set the New Testament against the Old and stressed the continuity of the revelation of God throughout the Bible as a whole. His teaching style was far more progressive than Luther’s who still indulged in fanciful allegory. While Luther brought the Bible out of the darkness, Calvin laid the foundations and set the standard for Biblical study and exposition. Geneva became a respected centre of Biblical exposition.
The Lord’s Supper
Calvin also disagreed with Luther about the nature of the Lord’s Supper. He didn’t believe that Christ was literally in the bread (Christ was, after all, literally, physically at the right hand of the Father). He also disagreed with some of Luther’s opponents, that the bread and wine were purely symbolic and nothing more.
Calvin argued that, in the taking of the bread and wine, Christ’s presence comes to us. Jesus visits us as we partake of it. Calvin used the analogy of the Spirit coming in the form of a dove at Jesus’ baptism.
He wrote, ‘Our Lord, wishing to give a visible appearance to his Spirit at the baptism of Christ, presented him under the form of a dove. St. John the Baptist, narrating the fact, says, that he saw the Spirit of God descending. If we look more closely, we shall find that he saw nothing but the dove, in respect that the Holy Spirit is in his essence invisible.’ (John Calvin, Short treatise on the Lord’s Supper – 1540)
In the same way, while the bread and wine are symbols, nevertheless, Christ really does come to us, and is in truly present, by faith.
The Doctrine of Election
Also, while Luther and other reformers were very clear about the sovereignty of God, and the doctrine of election, and on the nature of the freedom/bondage of the will, it was Calvin who was drawn into a defence of those doctrines of grace, more so than others.
Because the focus of debate on issues of God’s sovereignty in salvation was on John Calvin, his defense on those particular points have come to be popularly known as ‘Calvinism’.
Source: Andrew Johnston, The Protestant Reformation in Europe (Harlow: Longman 1991).