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.