Category Archives: John Calvin

23 JULY 365 Days with Calvin

Declaring what is Clean

And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. Acts 10:15

suggested further reading: Romans 14

The voice that speaks to Peter mentions clean and unclean meats, but this sentence must be extended to all parts of the life. It says, word for word, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common, but its meaning is that we are not to allow or condemn anything because we stand and fall by the judgment of God alone, so is he judge of all things (Rom. 14:4).

In regard to clean or unclean meats, after the abrogating of the law, God pronounced that all meat was pure and clean. If, on the other hand, mortal man makes his own judgment, forbidding certain foods and allowing others, he takes unto himself the authority and power of God by sacrilegious boldness.

We must always ask for the mouth of the Lord, that we may thereby be assured of what we may lawfully do, for it was not lawful even for Peter to make something profane that was declared lawful by the Word of God.

Furthermore, it is of great importance here to destroy the obstinacy of people, which they too often use in perverse judgments. There is almost no one who does not grant liberty to himself to judge another person’s doings. Now, since we are churlish and malicious, we lean more toward the worse part. In so doing, we take from God what is his. The voice that came to Peter ought to suffice in correcting such boldness, for it is not lawful for us to make this or that unclean. That power belongs to God alone.

These words are also given to us to understand that the Jews were not the holy people of the Lord because they excelled through their own worthiness, but only by reason of God’s adoption. After God received the Gentiles into the society of the covenant, all people—Jew and Gentile alike—possess equal gospel rights.

for meditation: Creating new laws and binding them upon others may be quick, clean, and easy, but it is not our place. Rather, we are to labor to understand God’s will as it is revealed to us in his Word, and we are to equip ourselves and our brothers and sisters to apply that Word to our lives. If God has called something clean, it is sinful for us to call it unclean, no matter how upright our motives.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 223). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

22 JULY 365 Days with Calvin

Persevering after Persecution

Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life. Acts 5:20

suggested further reading: John 16

The apostles are delivered so they might employ themselves in bravely preaching the gospel and courageously provoking their enemies until they valiantly die. The apostles are eventually put to death when the hand of God ceases and they have finished their course. But for now the Lord opens the prison for them so they may be at liberty to fulfill their function.

This is worth noting because we see many people who, having escaped out of persecution, afterward keep silence, as if they have done their duty toward God and are no more to be troubled. Others escape further duty by denying Christ. The Lord does deliver his children to the end, not that they may cease from the course that they have begun, but rather that they might afterward be more zealous.

The apostles might have objected, saying it was better to keep silence for a time, because they could not speak one word without danger. If we are now apprehended for only one sermon, they might ask, how much more shall the fury of our enemies be inflamed if they see us make no end of speaking?

But because they knew that they were to live and to die to the Lord, the apostles did not refuse to do what the Lord commands. So we must always mark what function the Lord prescribes to us. We may be asked to do many things that may discourage us, unless we are content with the commandment of God alone and do our duty, committing the success to him.

for meditation: We are quick to think that our hardships merit a time of peace and ease. But we can see from the apostles’ example that this is not the case at all. Submitting to hardships is so often difficult; let us pray for God’s grace so that we might be spurred on to new and radical obedience by the trials we face.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 222). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

21 JULY 365 Days with Calvin

Provoking Judgment

And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. Acts 5:8

suggested further reading: Luke 13:1–9

We see that God does not immediately punish Sapphira. He first thoroughly tries the matter of her deception, lest he should send vengeance upon anyone except the obstinate and those who will not be pardoned. For though Sapphira knew that she was withholding the truth, she ought to have been as stricken with this question of Peter as if she had been cited to appear before the judgment seat of God.

She is granted time to repent; indeed, given a pleasant invitation to repent. But in holding on so carelessly to her lie, Sapphira declares that she is incurable because she is untouched by fearing God.

Here we are taught to diligently labor to bring sinners to the way of truth. For the Spirit of God patiently works with sinners, but when stubbornness and the stubborn contempt of God are added to the offense, it is high time for punishment. People are too arrogant when they are displeased with the severity of God. It is rather our duty to consider how we shall in time come to stand before the judgment seat of God. We will despise his holy power and majesty too much if we freely mock him without any punishment.

Moreover, many circumstances sufficiently prove that Ananias and Sapphira were not worthy of only one death. For, first, hypocrisy is of itself very abominable to God. Second, this couple was determined to lie to God, and this arose from great contempt, for they did not reverence and fear Christ, who was the chief governor of the people before whom Ananias and Sapphira came.

The greatness of the spiritual judgment on this couple (which is as yet hid) is set before us in the bodily punishment of two, as in a mirror. For if we consider what it means to be cast into eternal fire, we shall not judge that falling down dead before others is the greatest evil and punishment of all.

for meditation: The Lord’s striking punishment on Ananias and Sapphira should be very sobering—so many of us are guilty of the same sin. In God’s mercy, we have not been struck dead for failing to tell the truth. How can this story serve to remind us of the greater punishment to come?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 221). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

20 JULY 365 Days with Calvin

Expecting Hardship

Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. John 21:18

suggested further reading: Matthew 13:1–23

Peter offers us a striking mirror of our ordinary condition. Many people have an easy and agreeable life before Christ calls them, but as soon as they have made profession of his name and have been received as his disciples, or, at least, some time afterward, they are led into distressing struggles, a troublesome life, great dangers, and sometimes death itself. These troubles, though hard, must be patiently endured.

The Lord moderates the cross by which he tries his servants, however. He spares them a little time until their strength has come to maturity, for he well knows their weakness and does not press them beyond the measure of it. Christ thus puts up with Peter, so long as he sees this apostle to be tender and weak. Let us therefore learn to devote ourselves to Christ to the last breath, knowing that he will supply us with strength.

In this respect, we behold base ingratitude in many people, for the more gently the Lord deals with them, the more thoroughly do they habituate themselves to softness and slothfulness. Thus we scarcely find one person in a hundred who does not murmur if, after having experienced long forbearance, he is then treated with some measure of severity. Rather, we ought to consider the goodness of God in sparing us for a time and to focus on Christ, who said that so long as he dwelt on earth he conversed cheerfully with his disciples, as if he had been present at a marriage, but that fasting and tears afterward awaited them (Matt. 9:15).

for meditation: Some of us have undergone severe trials, but many of us have been largely spared. Isn’t it true that we often thank God for his goodness but murmur when periods of peace and joy are interrupted by a trial? When trouble next looms on your horizon, praise God for his goodness and resolve to devote yourself to him, no matter what you may encounter.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 220). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

19 JULY 365 Days with Calvin

Needing Forgiveness

Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. John 20:23

suggested further reading: Matthew 9:1–8

The principal design of preaching the gospel is that men may be reconciled to God. That is accomplished by the unconditional pardon of sins. It is what Paul informs us when he calls the gospel “the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18).

Many other things undoubtedly are contained in the gospel, but the principal object that God intends to accomplish is to receive men into favor by not imputing their sins to them. If, therefore, we wish to show that we are faithful ministers of the gospel, we must give most earnest attention to this subject, for the chief difference between the gospel and heathen philosophy is that the gospel says the salvation of people consists of the forgiveness of sins through free grace.

This forgiveness is the source of the other blessings that God bestows, such as enlightening and regenerating us by his Spirit, forming us anew to his image, and arming us with unshaken firmness against the world and Satan. Thus the whole doctrine of godliness and the spiritual building of the church rest on the foundation that God, having acquitted us from all sins, adopts us as his children by free grace.

While Christ directs the apostles to forgive sins, he does not convey to them what is peculiar to himself in forgiving sins. He does not surrender this honor, which belongs peculiarly to himself, to the apostles, but directs them in his name to proclaim the forgiveness of sins so that through their agency he may reconcile men to God. In short, it is Christ alone who forgives sins through his apostles and ministers.

for meditation: Real life begins with the forgiveness of sins. If sin still corrupts our relationship with God, no other spiritual blessings can follow. The gospel contains many blessings in so many areas of life, but all of those come back to this fundamental point: the forgiveness of sins. Are your sins forgiven? If so, is this the basis for all your joy in life?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 219). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

18 JULY 365 Days with Calvin

Seeking the Resurrected Savior

He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. Matthew 28:6

suggested further reading: 1 Corinthians 15:1–20

We now come to the closing scene of our redemption. For the lively assurance of our reconciliation with God arises from Christ, having come from hell as the conqueror of death, to show that he has the power of a new life at his disposal.

Paul justly says there will be no gospel and the hope of salvation will be vain and fruitless unless we believe that Christ is risen from the dead (1 Cor. 15:14). For in this Christ obtained righteousness for us and opened our entrance into heaven. In short, our adoption was ratified when Christ rose from the dead, exerting the power of his Spirit and proving himself to be the Son of God.

Though Christ manifested his resurrection in a different manner from what our fleshly sense would have desired, still we ought to regard the method which he approved as also the best. First, he went out of the grave without a witness so that the emptiness of the place might be the earliest indication of his resurrection. Second, Christ chose to have the message that he was alive announced to the women by the angels. Third, he appeared to the women, and then to the apostles on various occasions.

It is an astonishing display of the goodness of Christ that he kindly and generously presented himself alive to the women who did him wrong in seeking him among the dead. If he had not permitted them to come in vain to his grave, we might conclude with certainty that those who now aspire to him by faith will not be disappointed, for the distance of places does not prevent believers from enjoying him who fills heaven and earth by the power of his Spirit.

for meditation: What great grace that Jesus reveals himself to those who do not have everything figured out before they come to him! Even if we seek him in wrong ways or in the wrong places, yet he comes to us in mercy without holding those sins against us. We can attribute our finding Christ to nothing but his grace.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 218). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

17 JULY 365 Days with Calvin

Waiting for the Kingdom

Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. Mark 15:43

suggested further reading: 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18

Let us observe that, while salvation through Christ was promised indiscriminately to all the Jews and the promise of it was common to them all, the Holy Spirit testifies of only a very few what is said here of Joseph: which also waited for the kingdom of God.

Hence it is evident that nearly all of the people had buried in base forgetfulness the inestimable grace of God. All of them had on their lips the language of boasting in referring to the coming of Christ, which was approaching. But few had the covenant of God so fixed in their minds that they would rise by faith to spiritual renovation. That was indeed an awful insensibility. So we need not wonder if pure religion fell into decay when the faith of salvation was extinguished.

Would to God that a similar corruption does not prevail today, in this unhappy age. Christ once appeared as a Redeemer to the Jews and to the whole world, as was declared in the predictions of the prophets. He set up the kingdom of God by restoring affairs from confusion and disorder to a regular and proper condition. He has assigned to us a period of warfare to exercise our patience till he comes again from heaven to complete his reign which he has begun.

How many aspire to this hope, even in a moderate degree? Do not almost all cleave to the earth, as if there were no promise of a resurrection? But while the greater part of people are forgetful of their end and fall away on all sides, let us remember that it is a virtue peculiar to believers to seek the things which are above, especially since the grace of God has shone upon us through the gospel.

for meditation: To be characterized as one who waits for the kingdom of God would be a great honor. We all wait and hope for various things. Is the kingdom of God one of them? Is there anything preventing you from having this as your greatest hope and expectation?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 217). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

16 JULY 365 Days with Calvin

Believing at the Last Hour

But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? Luke 23:40

suggested further reading: Ephesians 2:1–10

In the thief on the cross, a most wicked man, a striking mirror of the unexpected and incredible grace of God is held out to us. The mirror shows how this man who is near death is suddenly changed into a new man and drawn from hell itself to heaven. It also shows how, having obtained in a moment the forgiveness of all the sins in which he has been plunged through his whole life, this man is admitted to heaven before the apostles and first-fruits of the new church.

This is a remarkable example of how the grace of God shines in the conversion of a man. For it is not by the natural movement of the flesh that this man lays aside his fierce cruelty and proud contempt of God and immediately repents. Rather, he is subdued by the hand of God, for all of Scripture shows that repentance is God’s work.

This grace is much more excellent and goes far beyond the expectation of all. For who would ever have thought that this robber in the very throes of death would become not only a devout worshiper of God but also a distinguished teacher of faith and piety to the whole world, so that we, too, might receive from his mouth the rule of a true and proper confession?

The first proof the thief gives of his repentance is that he severely reproves and restrains the wicked forwardness of his companion, the other thief on the cross. He then adds a second proof by humbling himself in openly acknowledging his crimes and ascribing to Christ the praise due to his righteousness. Third, he displays astonishing faith by committing himself and his salvation to the protection of Christ, whom he sees hanging on the cross and near death.

for meditation: This thief’s acquaintances would never have believed he would become such a gospel preacher. But think how much gospel truth has been impressed upon hearts by this man’s testimony preserved in Scripture. When the grace of God grips us, there is no telling what unexpected and miraculous things the Lord will do through us. Pray that you will be kept in the grip of that grace today, being used by God for those whose paths you providentially cross.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 216). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

15 JULY 365 Days with Calvin

Trusting in God’s Timing

He trusted in God, let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God. Matthew 27:43

suggested further reading: 2 Peter 3

Satan holds in his hand a very sharp arrow of temptation when he pretends that God has forgotten us because God does not relieve us speedily and at that very moment. For since God watches over the safety of his people and not only grants them seasonable aid but even anticipates their necessities (as Scripture everywhere teaches), he may appear not to love those whom he does not assist.

Satan attempts to drive us to despair by the logic that it is in vain for us to feel assured of the love of God when we do not clearly perceive his aid. As he suggests to our minds this kind of imposition, so he employs his agents, who contend that God has sold and abandoned our salvation because he delays in giving us his assistance.

We ought to reject as false the argument that God does not love those whom he appears to forsake for a time. Indeed, nothing is more unreasonable than to limit God’s love to any point of time. God has, indeed, promised that he will be our deliverer, but if he sometimes appears to wink at our calamities, we ought to patiently endure the delay.

It is contrary to the nature of faith that the word now should be insisted on by those whom God is training by the cross and by adversity to obedience, and whom he entreats to pray and to call on his name, for these are rather the testimonies of his fatherly love, as the apostle tells us (Heb. 12:6). But consider this peculiarity, that though Christ was the “well-beloved Son” (Matt. 3:17; 17:5), yet he was not delivered from death until he had endured the punishment which we deserved, for that was the price by which our salvation was purchased.

for meditation: Most of us live in a high-speed culture. Employers demand instant results, computer users demand instant response, and all of us demand instant gratification. Too often we demand instant responses from God as well, and we are filled with doubt and unbelief when he does not respond on our desired clock. How can we learn to submit to his plan and his schedule, trusting that he knows far better than we when to act?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 215). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

14 July 365 Days with Calvin

Repenting Too Late

Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders. Matthew 27:3

suggested further reading: Hebrews 12:14–29

True repentance is displeasure at sin, which, along with love and desire for righteousness, arises out of fear and reverence for God.

Wicked people are far from such feeling, for they desire to sin without intermission, and even, as far as lies in their power, endeavor to deceive both God and their own conscience. Notwithstanding their reluctance and opposition, they are tormented with blind horror by their conscience. So though they do not hate their sin, they still feel such sorrow and distress that it presses heavily and painfully upon them. Their grief is useless, though, for they do not cheerfully turn to God or even aim at doing better, but, being attached to their wicked desires, they pine away in the torment that they cannot escape.

In this way God punishes their obstinacy, for though his elect are drawn to him by severe chastisements, and, as it were, contrary to their will, yet in due time he heals the wounds that he has inflicted so that they come cheerfully to him, by whose hand they acknowledge that they are struck and by whose wrath they are alarmed. The wicked, who have no hatred of sin, not only dread but fly from the judgment of God. Having received an incurable wound, they perish in the midst of their sorrows.

If Judas had listened to the warning of Christ, there would still have been opportunity for repentance, but since he despised so gracious an offer of salvation, he is given up to the dominion of Satan, who may then throw him into despair.

for meditation: The accounts of the false repentance of Judas, Esau, Ahab, and others in Scripture serve as warning beacons for us. What are the major marks of difference between true and false repentance? Do believers always exercise true repentance? How can we, by the Spirit’s grace, cultivate more genuine repentance before God?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 214). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

13 JULY 365 Days with Calvin

Tears of Repentance

And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly. Matthew 26:75

suggested further reading: Daniel 9

Peter probably left the palace in fear, for he did not venture to weep in the presence of witnesses. In this he gives another proof of his weakness. Hence we infer that he did not deserve pardon by satisfying God but obtained it by the fatherly kindness of God.

Peter’s example teaches us that we ought to entertain confident hope, even though our repentance is weak, for God does not despise weak repentance, provided it is sincere. Peter’s tears, which he sheds in secret, testify before God and the angels that his repentance is true, for, having withdrawn from the eyes of men, he places himself before God and the angels. Therefore his tears flow from the deep feelings of his heart.

This deserves our attention, for we see many who purposely shed tears so long as they are seen by others but who have no sooner gone into private than they have dry eyes. There is no room to doubt that tears that do not flow on account of the judgment of God are often drawn forth by ambition and hypocrisy.

But we may ask, is weeping required in true repentance? I reply, believers often with dry eyes groan before the Lord without hypocrisy and confess their fault to obtain pardon. But those who have committed more aggravated offenses must be in no ordinary degree dull and hardened whose hearts are not pained by grief and sorrow and who do not feel so ashamed that they shed tears. Therefore Scripture, after having convicted men of their crimes, exhorts them to put on “sackcloth and ashes” (Dan. 9:3; Jonah 3:6; Matt. 11:21).

for meditation: As Calvin points out, more important than the presence or absence of physical tears is the presence of a repentant heart. Tears may impress others, but they will not fool God if they are tears of hypocrisy. He looks for a broken and contrite heart. By the Spirit’s grace, let us devote ourselves today to cultivating deeply repentant hearts.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 213). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

12 JULY 365 Days with Calvin

Staying Away from Temptation

Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. Matthew 26:69–70

suggested further reading: Judges 16

Peter’s fall, which is related here, is a bright mirror of our weakness. His repentance is also a striking example of the goodness and mercy of God that is held out to us.

Therefore, this narrative which relates to a single individual contains a doctrine that may be applied to the whole church. Indeed, it is highly useful both to instruct those who cherish anxiety and fear and to comfort those who have fallen, by holding out to them the hope of pardon.

First, observe that Peter acted inconsiderately when he entered the hall of the high priest. It was his duty, no doubt, to follow his Master, but having been warned that he would revolt, he ought rather to have concealed himself in some corner so as not to have exposed himself to an occasion of sinning. Likewise, it frequently happens that believers, under an appearance of virtue, throw themselves within the reach of temptation. It is therefore our duty to pray to the Lord to restrain and keep us by his Spirit, lest, going beyond our measure, we are immediately punished.

We ought also to pray whenever we commence any undertaking that God may not permit us to fail in the midst of our efforts or at the beginning of the work but may supply us with strength till the end. Conviction of our weakness ought not to be a reason for indolence to prevent us from going wherever God calls us. Rather, it ought to restrain our rashness so we may not attempt anything beyond our calling. It also ought to stimulate us to pray that God, who has given us grace to begin well, may continue to give us grace to persevere.

for meditation: What shame it brings to Christ when we proudly march into the jaws of temptation, thinking much of our own strength! We thus draw attention to ourselves and give unbelievers an occasion to mock God when we fail to stand for Christ. We should not willingly enter situations of great temptation, or, if we are forced to do so, we should rely on the grace of God rather than our own strength. Is there a specific area of your life for which this is applicable today?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 212). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

11 JULY 365 Days with Calvin

Restraining Reckless Zeal

Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus. John 18:10

suggested further reading: Luke 9:51–55

If we see nothing faulty in the zeal of Peter, we still ought to be dissatisfied with it on the single ground that Christ declares that he is displeased with it. But we see that it is not because of Peter that Christ does not turn aside from death, and that his name is not exposed to perpetual disgrace.

In offering violence to the captain and the soldiers, Peter acts the part of a ruffian because he resists the power that God has appointed. Christ already is hated by the world more than enough, so this single deed of Peter might give further plausibility to all the accusations that Christ’s enemies falsely bring against him. Besides, it is exceedingly thoughtless of Peter to attempt to prove his faith by the sword, while he cannot do so by his tongue. When called to confess Christ, Peter denies his Master, yet now, without his Master’s authority, Peter raises a tumult with his sword.

Warned by so striking an example, let us learn to keep our zeal within proper bounds. As the wantonness of our flesh is always eager to attempt more than God commands, let us learn that our zeal will fail to succeed whenever we venture to undertake anything contrary to the Word of God. Sometimes the commencement of our venture gives us flattering promises, but we shall at length be punished for our rashness.

Let obedience, therefore, be the foundation of all that we undertake. We are also reminded here that those who have resolved to plead the cause of Christ do not always conduct themselves so skillfully that they do not commit some fault. Therefore, we ought to more earnestly entreat the Lord to guide us in every action by the spirit of prudence.

for meditation: Peter’s folly—first in his overzealous attack on Malchus, then in his cowardly denial of Jesus—is a humbling illustration of our own foolishness. If God does not give us grace, we will all be constantly swinging from one extreme to another, doing irreparable damage to Christ’s kingdom. If God has kept you from such extremes in your public conduct, thank your Father in heaven for his mercy shown to you and pray for daily discipline and restraint.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 211). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

10 JULY 365 Days with Calvin

Finding Hope in Prayer

Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. Matthew 26:41

suggested further reading: Matthew 4:1–11

So that he may not terrify and discourage his disciples, Christ gently reproves their slothfulness, then adds consolation and good grounds for hope.

First, he reminds them that though they earnestly desire to do what is right, they must contend with the weakness of the flesh. Therefore, prayer is always necessary. We see that Christ praises their willingness so their weakness may not throw them into despair. Yet he urges them to pray because they are not sufficiently endued with the power of the Spirit.

This admonition properly relates to believers who, being regenerated by the Spirit of God, desire to do what is right but still labor under the weakness of the flesh. Though the grace of the Spirit is vigorous in them, they are “weak” according to the “flesh.” And though the disciples alone have their weakness pointed out to them, yet what Christ says of them applies equally to all. So we ought to draw from this a general rule that it is our duty to keep diligent watch by praying. We do not yet possess the power of the Spirit in such a measure as not to frequently fall through the weakness of the flesh unless the Lord grants his assistance to raise us up and uphold us.

We have no reason to tremble with excessive anxiety, for an undoubted remedy is held out to us. We neither have far to seek nor seek in vain for this remedy, for Christ promises that all who are earnest in prayer shall perseveringly oppose the slothfulness of the flesh and will be victorious.

for meditation: Watching and praying is always necessary, for we carry with us the remnants of the corruption in which we were born. While we ought to be growing daily in holiness and in the Spirit of God, we can never be confident that we can overcome our old nature on our own. The spirit may be willing, but the flesh is weak; therefore, we must watch and pray.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 210). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

9 JULY 365 Days with Calvin

Asking While Abiding

If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. John 15:7

suggested further reading: James 4

Believers often feel that they are starved and very far from that rich fatness which is necessary for yielding abundant fruit. For this reason, Scripture tells us that, whatever those who are in Christ may need, there is a remedy provided for their poverty as soon as they ask it from God. This is a very useful admonition, for the Lord often suffers us to hunger to train us to be earnest in prayer. But if we fly to him, we shall never lack what we ask for; rather, out of his inexhaustible abundance, he will supply us with everything that we need (1 Cor. 1:5).

In saying “If my words abide in you,” Christ means that we must take root in him by faith; for as soon as we depart from the doctrine of the gospel, we seek Christ separately from himself. When he promises that he will grant whatever we wish, he does not give us permission to form wishes according to our own fancy. God would do what was ill fitted to promote our welfare if he were so indulgent and so ready to yield to us, for we know well that men often indulge in foolish and extravagant desires. But here he limits the wishes of his people to the rule of praying in a right manner, and that rule is subject to the good pleasure of God in all our affections. This is confirmed by the context in which the words stand; for he means that his people will or desire not riches, or honor, or anything of that nature, which the flesh foolishly desires, but the vital sap of the Holy Spirit, which enables them to bear fruit.

for meditation: A Christian’s prayer should ultimately be that God’s will be done. Any petition that deviates from God’s will is not appropriate. But what is God’s will? The answer is found in these words: “if my words abide in you.” With God’s Word as our guide, we may pray in confidence, knowing that “it shall be done unto us.”[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 209). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

8 JULY 365 Days with Calvin

Rooted in the True Vine

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. John 15:1

suggested further reading: Hosea 14

Let us here remember the rule that ought to be observed in all parables, that we should not minutely examine every property of “the vine,” but only take a general view of the object which Christ uses to apply his teaching.

There are three principal parts of this illustration of the vine: first, that we have no power of doing good except that which comes from Christ; second, that we, having been rooted in him, are dressed and pruned by the Father; third, that Christ removes the unfruitful branches in us so they may be thrown into the fire and burned.

Scarcely any are ashamed to acknowledge that every good thing that they possess comes from God, but after making this acknowledgment, they imagine that universal grace has been given to them as if it were implanted in them by nature. But Christ principally dwells on this, that the vital sap—all life and strength—proceeds from him alone. It follows that the nature of man is unfruitful and destitute of everything good; no man has the nature of the true vine till Christ is implanted in him. This is given to the elect alone by special grace.

The Father is the author of all blessings, who plants us with his hand, but the commencement of life is in Christ, in whom we take root. When he calls himself “the true vine,” Christ means he is truly the vine. Therefore men toil to no purpose in seeking strength anywhere else, for useful fruit will proceed from nowhere but “the branches” that are rooted in Christ.

for meditation: If we are branches of the vine, Jesus Christ, and all our life-sap flows from him, why do we so often, so quickly, and so easily turn to other sources for our spiritual strength and energy? How can we cultivate a more intimate relationship with Christ that recognizes our total and radical dependency on him?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 208). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

7 JULY 365 Days with Calvin

Submitting in Obedience

Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. John 12:27

suggested further reading: Matthew 26:36–46

We may think it unbecoming for the Son of God to rashly utter a wish that he then immediately retracts to obey his Father. I readily admit that such is the folly of the cross that it gives offense to proud men. Yet the more the Lord of glory humbles himself, so much more illustrious is the manifestation of his vast love to us.

Besides, we ought to recollect that the human feelings, from which Christ was not exempt, were pure and free from sin in him, yet they were guided and regulated in obedience to God. There was nothing to prevent Christ from having a natural dread of death and yet be desirous of obeying God. This holds true in various respects. Hence he corrects himself by saying, For this cause came I unto this hour.

Christ may lawfully entertain a dread of death, yet, considering why he was sent and what his office as redeemer demands from him, he presents to his Father the dread which arises out of his natural disposition so that it may be subdued, or rather, having subdued it, he freely and willingly prepares to execute the command of God. Now, if the feelings of Christ, which were free from all sin, needed to be restrained in this manner, how earnestly ought we to apply his example to ourselves, since the numerous affections which spring from our flesh are such enemies to God. Let the godly therefore persevere in subduing themselves until they have denied themselves.

for meditation: The unbelief that lives within us and the devious suggestions of the devil often conspire to pit our emotions against obedience to God. With these powerful emotions raging against our wills, obedience can seem utterly impossible. Yet, here we see Christ overcoming emotion and pushing forward toward the cross to purchase redemption for his people. How can we use his righteousness to resist the sway of our own emotions when they would deter us from obedience?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 207). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

6 JULY 365 Days with Calvin

Finding Divine Vindication

When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. Matthew 26:10

suggested further reading: Psalm 43

In his reply Christ does not merely defend the cause of one woman but likewise maintains the holy boasting of all who rest satisfied with having themselves and their works approved by God. It often happens that not only censure, but open condemnation, is pronounced on godly men who are convinced in their own consciences that what they do is agreeable to the command of God. Furthermore, they are accused of pride if they ignore the false judgments of the world and rest satisfied with being approved by God alone. Since this is a difficult temptation and it is scarcely possible not to be shaken by the agreement of many people against us, even when they are wrong, we ought to maintain this truth that none will ever be courageous and steady in acting properly unless they depend solely on the will of God.

Christ settles here the distinction between what is good and evil by his own solitary decision. By affirming what the woman has done as “a good work,” when that action has already been condemned by the disciples, he represses the rashness of men who freely allow themselves to pronounce judgment.

Relying on this testimony, let us learn to set little value on any reports concerning us that are spread abroad in the world, provided we know that what men condemn, God approves. Let us learn to pay no deference to the opinions of men farther than that they may be edified by our example in obedience to God. When the world rises against us with a loud noise, let us satisfy ourselves with the consolation that what is reckoned bad on earth is pronounced good in heaven.

for meditation: It is very often difficult to ignore the approbation or condemnation of men, especially considering the pride that lives in our hearts. Yet, as this passage makes clear, God judges actions by a different standard. We must strive to keep this in mind and to value God’s evaluation to be infinitely more important than that of other men.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 206). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

5 JULY 365 Days with Calvin

Possessed by Possessing

This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. John 12:6

suggested further reading: Ephesians 4:20–32

Judas resorts to a plausible pretext for his wickedness when he mentions the poor, whom he cares nothing about. We are taught by this instance what a frightful beast the desire of possessing is. The loss that Judas thinks that he has sustained by missing an opportunity for stealing excites him to such rage that he does not hesitate to betray Christ. In addition, it is probable that because what he said about the poor was defrauded, Judas not only spoke falsely to others, but likewise flattered himself inwardly, as hypocrites are prone to do. It was as if the act of betraying Christ was a trivial fault by which Judas endeavored to obtain compensation for the loss that he had sustained. He had but one reason for betraying Christ, which was to regain in some way the prey that had been snatched from his hands. For it was the indignation excited in him by the gain which he had lost that drove him to the design of betraying Christ.

It is amazing that Christ should have chosen as steward a person like Judas, whom he knew was a thief. For what other purpose might he have had than to put into this man’s hands a rope for strangling himself? Mortal man can give no other reply than that the judgments of God are a deep gulf.

Yet the action of Christ ought not to be viewed as an ordinary rule that we should commit the care of the poor or anything sacred to a wicked and ungodly man. God has given us a law concerning those who are to be called to the government of the church and to other offices, and we are not at liberty to violate this law. The case was different with Christ, who, being the eternal Wisdom of God, furnished an opportunity for his secret predestination in the person of Judas.

for meditation: How often we are prone to misjudge people—not only in thinking negatively of them when we have no right to do so, but also in thinking positively, when we are blind to their genuine faults. For those in positions of leadership, it can be an encouragement that even Christ had a traitor among his ranks. How can this provide us with emotional support in times when we are grieving that our familiar friend has lifted up his heel against us (Ps. 41:9)?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 205). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

4 JULY 365 Days with Calvin

Advancing toward Death

Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified. Matthew 26:2

suggested further reading: John 10:1–18

Christ now again confirms what he formerly predicted to his disciples, but this latest prediction clearly shows how willingly he offers himself to die. It is necessary that he does so, because God could be appeased only by a sacrifice of obedience. At the same time, Christ says this to prevent the disciples from taking offense, lest they might be altogether discouraged by the thought that he will be dragged to death by necessity.

Two purposes are thus served by this statement: first, it testifies that the Son of God willingly surrenders himself to die to reconcile the world to the Father (for in no other way could the guilt of sins have been expiated or righteousness obtained for us), and, second, he did not die like one oppressed by violence from which he could not escape, but as one who voluntarily offered himself to die. He therefore declares that he comes to Jerusalem with the express intention of suffering death there, for while he was at liberty to withdraw and dwell in a safe retreat until that time came, he knowingly and willfully now comes forward at the exact time.

Though it was of no advantage to the disciples to be informed at that time of the obedience that Christ was rendering to the Father, yet afterward this doctrine contributed in no small degree to the edification of their faith. In like manner, this statement of Christ is especially helpful for us today because we behold, as in a bright mirror, the voluntary sacrifice by which all the transgressions of the world were blotted out. As we contemplate the Son of God advancing with cheerfulness and courage to death, we already behold him victorious over death.

for meditation: The passion and crucifixion of Jesus Christ was not the tragic end of a life well lived. Rather, together with his resurrection, it was the climax of redemptive history. Jesus came to earth to give his life a ransom, and he did precisely that. What impact should the fact that the cross was his victory, not his defeat, have on our daily lives?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 204). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.