Thursday Book Review – The Institutes of the Christian Religion Book Three

Beloved, I am finally able to review the third book of John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. If you missed the other two reviews you can find them here, and here. This was a much greater undertaking than I expected. The truths found in The Institutes are not needlessly difficult to grasp, Calvin did an excellent job making this understandable for common folks like myself. That being said, however, it is the type of book with which you want to enjoy, take time to consider, take notes, make references, not one to skim through quickly. Very meaty. John Calvin, as many of you know, was a French pastor and theologian during the Reformation. He wrote the Institutes in 1536 using Gods Word and church fathers to clarify Biblical principles and refute the heresies of his day, most of which are still alive and well.

In this book Calvin addresses a wide range of issues central to justification by faith alone. He continued throughout this book to strongly emphasize the Holy Spirits role in salvation, as well as show Scripturally why works do not merit favor. In particular Calvin dealt with the false doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, although he does address other heretical persons. Specifically, in regards to the Roman Catholic Church, he takes on the unbiblical nature of confessions, purgatory, indulgences, and merit. Here he even slips in some fascinating historical changed within the Roman Catholic doctrines, which is helpful for anyone lost in works righteousness that believe the church or the pope are somehow infallible. I imagine it didn’t make him very popular at the time, when most of the church was being taught they could pay to get their loved ones out of purgatory.

He goes on to further explain the effects of Gods grace on believers, and how to live the Christian life. He deals with self denial, and the way we ought to view worldly riches. He goes deep into justification, Christian liberty, prayer, and resurrection. In this book Calvin also defends the doctrine of election and predestination, which means I finally found the controversial stuff in the books! He does a wonderful job explaining this through expounding upon the Word of God. This is found in chapters 21 through 24 if anyone should be curious about just that topic alone.

I simply can not overemphasize how helpful The Institutes have been thus far. Wherever you find yourself on the five points, or the doctrines of grace, these books are still going to bless you. I read a fascinating comment under the Ben Shapiro and John MacArthur Sunday Special which you can see here. If you’ll allow me to get a little off subject I promise to bring it back around. The comment was from someone who might have been a continuist based on their reference to miracles. This person humbly confessed that due to their bias they had refused to listen to MacArthur and felt they were wrong in doing so. After seeing how lovingly he presented the Gospel, the person had changed their mind about the great preacher. What does that have to do with The Institutes? Glad you asked, dear ones!

Often times when we find ourselves at odds with one another in an area of doctrine we write one another off. I think if I had known about these books back in 2015, when I was first saved by Gods grace, I never would have read them. I’m thankful that God first used many reformed theologians to teach and edify me before I heard of these books. They have been tremendous blessings, filled with biblical rebukes of falsehoods still held today, overflowing with a love for brethren, a desire to see the lost saved, and doctrine explained in a way which someone like me can actually comprehend. All of that to say, I do hope, beloved, that we can set aside any disagreements to be richly fed by brothers and sisters that went before us. We will, none of us, ever agree fully on all things, but that certainly doesn’t mean we don’t allow iron to sharpen iron.

I recommend this book to any believer, or none believer, teens and up. Believers will be blessed by the attention to detail, the comprehensive structure of each chapter, and the care and love that went into writing this. None believers will hear the Law and the Gospel, while having misconceptions refuted, and questions answered. One more book left in the Institutes, I’m so excited to get to reading! If you’d like to read these books they are in the public domain. That means, of course, that you can find them in PDF here, audiobook here, kindle version here, or the good old fashioned paperback here. This will make its way into my library in paperback form as soon as we stop traveling. It’s the type of book that is important enough to warrant a purchase. I hope these reviews have blessed you, dear ones, and as always be good Berean’s and study to show yourselves approved.

Thursday Book Review: The Institutes of the Christian Religion Book 2

I’m so excited, dear ones, to finally be writing this book review. If you missed my review of Book 1 you can find it here. The four books of the Institutes of the Christian Religion were written by the French Reformer John Calvin, who was a theologian and a pastor in Geneva. This work was originally published in 1536, although he updated it, and translated it, in the years following. The second book, while still addressing the papacy and other heretics of his time, focusing mostly on the will of man, and the similarities and differences between the New and Old Testaments. Amazingly, at the time, this was considered introductory reading on the Protestant Faith. That I could agree with in the first book, which was not just easy to read and understand, but a complete joy to do so. This book, on the other hand, is deep and rich, and precise. While still joyful, it required much more time and study.

Why? Well for starters, as a toddler in the faith, much of what he wrote about I hadn’t considered deeply enough to comprehend the conclusions. So, during the reading of his second book I did a great deal more study and prayer than was needed in the first. I would say that this was a great joy! Anything that pushes us to pray, and study, is needed. Again, I failed to see any hot button issues in this book, nor did I read even a hint of the accusations lobbied against Calvin today. On the contrary, it seemed as if, perhaps, those who judge so harshly haven’t read the Institutes. I genuinely hope that’s not the case, as believers we need to be very careful before we accuse our brethren of anything as weighty as the accusations I’ve seen lightly banded around the internet.

The two main issues I had expected to see in these books were the often repeated accusations that Calvin taught not to evangelize, and that Calvin taught man has no will therefor blaming God for mans mistakes. The exact opposite can be found in these first two books, both of which preached the Law and the Gospel more than once, and both place the blame of sin squarely on mankind’s fallen nature. Perhaps there is confusion in regards to the difference in word usage from then to now? Or perhaps there are some claiming to be Calvinists who have also not read and understood the Institutes, which teach incorrectly? I’m not sure yet, perhaps I will understand better the more I read and study.

I do recommend this book for all theologically inclined believers, or anyone who is confused by the divide between the Calvinists and Arminians. So far, the only difference I can see is whether or not man plays any roll in salvation. There are so many who fall on a range of explanations in that area, although all born again believers will give God the glory for His grace in sending His Son to save us. I certainly do not mean to make light of such a serious issue, but am inclined to suspect the other allegations against the Institutes are either misunderstandings, or incorrect arguments being repeated. Only time will tell, beloved brethren, as I eagerly delve into the third book!

I can tell you, friends, that the differences in opinions should not stop you from reading these masterpieces of Christian theology. Calvin outlines every chapter precisely, so notes are easier, and explanations are clearer. He makes his points using Scripture, church fathers, and brethren from the past, though mostly leaning on Scripture. It’s not the type of book I would recommend for a quick read, or for those who barely have time to read the Bible. Gods Word is of upmost importance, though this book is a great accompaniment with Bible study as it digs into verses with careful exegesis. The second book, like the first one, is in the public domain. Yay, free! You can read the PDF here, the audio here, the Kindle here, or a hard copy (which I recommend for a book this deep in theology) here. As always, beloved brethren, be good Berean’s and study to show yourselves approved.

Thursday Book Review – Institutes of the Christian Religion Book 1

Good afternoon, dear ones, I hope this post has found you all well! I’m so excited about reviewing this book today, and I can’t wait to finish the rest of the books in the Institutes. I was actually really nervous when I began reading this book, assuming from the start that there must be some sort of scandalous teaching within. I suppose to the man-centered prosperity peddling churches I spent so much time in before being born again, it would have been terribly scandalous. This is probably why I put off reading it for so long, I don’t like contention. However, recently I saw someone on social media assert that Calvinists, also known as Reformed, follow a false god. That was awfully grievous to see, I have many friends who are Calvinists, some of you are probably reading this right now. Besides that, I’ve researched Calvin’s life and read some of his other writings and held a great deal of respect for him. Did this book change my mind, or in the least explain why anyone would consider it idolatry?

The answer, simply, is no. I didn’t read anything in this book that I haven’t read in Owens, Edwards, or Spurgeons work. Throughout each chapter I found nothing scandalous whatsoever, though he rightly hits the Roman Catholic Church hard for their falsehoods. He also deals with many others who had strayed from the Bible, and refutes them with the full counsel of Gods Word. I saw no Scripture taken out of context, or a point made without Biblical backup. In short, I can see no evidence for the assertion made on social media. Also, I must say, this book is an absolute delight!

The Institute was first published by John Calvin in 1536, though he continued updating it until 1560, when it’s final edition was published. There are four books, each tackling different major theological issues, patterned after the Apostles Creed. It helped me to think more deeply about God, and His sovereign will. Calvin’s love for God, Gods Word, and Gods people are clear in his writing, and were a genuine encouragement to me. His explanations were thorough, yet easy to understand, even for someone like me! I hope that more people will read his writings before accusing him of being a false brother, and before accusing those who admire him of following a false god. I, personally, can not wait to read the other books and review them for you all.

Beloved, we should never glorify any one man, all glory goes to God, as Calvin himself would have wanted. I can’t imagine he would take to kindly to having a group named after him. In fact, woven between Scripture, he speaks of Church fathers, and believers who had come and gone long before his time. It is a blessing that we’re able to read his, and so many others writings today with a click of a button. It seems a shame not to take advantage of that wonderful opportunity. You can find all four books of the Institutes of the Christian Religion in audio, pdf download, and online here. The kindle version is only a dollar here, and a relatively cheap paperback can be purchased here. I hope this review was helpful, my friends, as always be good Berean’s and study to show yourselves approved.

Hymns of the Past – I Greet Thee, Who my Sure Redeemer Art

I greet thee, who my sure Redeemer art,

my only trust and Savior of my heart,

who pain didst undergo for my poor sake;

I pray thee from our hearts all cares to take.

Thou art the King of mercy and of grace,

reigning omnipotent in every place:

so come, O King, and our whole being sway;

shine on us with the light of thy pure day.

Thou art the life, by which alone we live,

and all our substance and our strength receive;

sustain us by thy faith and by thy power,

and give us strength in every trying hour.

Thou hast the true and perfect gentleness,

no harshness hast thou and no bitterness:

O grant to us the grace we find in thee,

that we may dwell in perfect unity.

Our hope is in no other save in thee;

our faith is built upon thy promise free;

Lord, give us peace, and make us calm and sure, that in thy strength we evermore endure.

John Calvin

Wednesday Testimony – Dying Well

There are many ways we can give a testimony, from the beginning of salvation to the beginning of eternity with Christ, we tell the world of Gods glory. If you have any experience with Foxes Book of Martyres then you know the power a testimony can have of a believer who dies well.

Philippians-1:20

John Calvin has became a controversial figure in church history, as you know I like to avoid controversial issues. Ok, jokes aside, if you want soft serve Christian posts you’ve probably landed on the wrong side of the blogosphere. Calvin’s life might have been controversial, but his death is extremely telling.

He wrote in his last will and testament that he did not want a marked grave. His family and friends were shocked when they found out, and still to this day no one knows where Calvin was buried. It’s interesting to note that John Calvin sought fame before becoming saved, he wanted to be well known. Once saved he wanted only to make known the Savior. In his death he made one final effort to point his followers to Christ, and away from his name. 

John-Calvin

We tend to look back at these impressively bearded men of church history in awe and wonder. Calvin’s death should serve as a reminder, as a testimony to where our awe and wonder should be placed. The vessel God uses is not to be the point of our worship, God Himself is worthy of all honor, praise, and glory. He took the heart of stone out of a man and replaced it with a heart of flesh. He used that man to change church history, then He brought that man home to eternal peace in His glorious presence. 

It’s not by Calvin’s might that he died well, but by the grace of God. Wednesday Testimony’s are not to deify man, but to glorify the one who saves man. If we put our faith in man we will consistently be disappointed.

Philippians-1:21-24

Place you faith in the God that saves, flee from the wrath to come! If you are unsure of your salvation, if you’ve never worked through it with fear and trembling, I encourage you to do so now. Cry out to God! If you have any questions feel free to ask, or find an elder or pastor in your church to talk to about this. 

As always, my beloved brethren, be good Berean’s and study to show yourselves approved.