Category Archives: John Calvin

16 SEPTEMBER 365 Days with Calvin

Trusting that Jesus Will Return

When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thessalonians 1:7–8

suggested further reading: Matthew 25:1–13

One of the articles of our faith is that Christ will come again to earth from heaven. He will not come in vain, so in faith we ought to seek the purpose of his coming, which is to come as Redeemer to his own people and to judge the whole world.

The description in our text is given so the pious may understand that God is much more concerned about their afflictions than he is about the dreadfulness of the judgment that awaits his enemies.

One chief occasion of our grief and distress is that we think God is only lightly affected with our calamities. We see how David breaks forth in complaints from time to time when he is consumed by the pride and insolence of his enemies. Hence the apostle brings forward this description of heaven for the consolation of believers. He represents the tribunal of Christ as full of horror so believers may not be disheartened by their present condition of oppression, in which they are proudly and disdainfully trampled upon by the wicked.

What is to be the nature of that flaming fire, and of what materials, I leave to the disputations of people with foolish curiosity. I am content with affirming what Paul had in view to teach: that Christ will be a most strict avenger of the injuries that the wicked inflict upon us. The metaphor of flame and fire (verse 8), however, is abundantly common in Scripture in describing the anger of God.

By mighty angels, Paul means those in whom Christ will exercise his power, for he will bring angels with him to display the glory of his kingdom. Hence, they are elsewhere called the angels of his majesty.

for meditation: Though some believers are overly fascinated with the details of the Lord’s Second Coming, many pay little attention to it and live as if it will not happen. Many people already in New Testament times voiced doubts. Why hadn’t Jesus returned as he said he would? they asked. Yet the Second Coming is one of the articles of our faith and we must wait for it, patiently praying that he will come quickly.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 278). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

15 SEPTEMBER 365 Days with Calvin

Perishing under Man-Made Law

Touch not; taste not; handle not; which all are to perish with the using; after the commandments and doctrines of men. Colossians 2:21–22

suggested further reading: Matthew 15:1–20

Paul points out to what length the waywardness of those who bind consciences by their laws is likely to go. From the very beginning they are unduly severe; hence Paul begins with their prohibitions not simply against eating but even against slightly partaking.

After they have obtained what they wish, they go even further than the command, declaring it unlawful even to taste what they do not wish should be eaten. At length they make it criminal even to touch such food. In short, once leaders have taken upon themselves the right to tyrannize people’s souls, there is no end of daily adding new laws to old ones and starting up new enactments from time to time. Hence Paul admirably admonishes us that human traditions are a labyrinth in which consciences are more and more entangled; nay, more, they are snares, which from the beginning bind people in such a way that in time they are strangled.

In sum, the worship of God, true piety, and the holiness of Christians do not consist of what they drink and eat and wear, for those things are transient, liable to corruption, and perish by abuse.

Second, Paul adds that such observances originate with men and not with God, who, by his thunderbolt prostrates and swallows up all traditions of men. Paul says God does this because “Those who bring consciences into bondage do injury to Christ, and make void his death. For whatever is of human invention does not bind conscience.”

for meditation: In the church today, we create many laws and think that obeying them recommends us to God. We even bind them upon the consciences of others. But some of those laws are simply the creations of men and cannot gain us favor in God’s sight. Such favor can only come through the Son, Jesus Christ. Man-made laws often hinder people in pursuing salvation.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 277). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

14 SEPTEMBER 365 Days with Calvin

The Grace to Rejoice

Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Philippians 4:4

suggested further reading: Acts 16:16–25

Paul’s exhortation to rejoice is well suited to the times. The condition of believers was exceedingly difficult, and dangers threatened them on every side, so it was possible that they might be overcome by grief or impatience. Hence the apostle tells them that, even in the midst of hostility and disturbance, they should rejoice in the Lord. For assuredly those spiritual consolations that the Lord uses to refresh and gladden us ought to show their efficacy most of all when the whole world tempts us to despair.

Considering the circumstances of the time, let us examine what might have been the effect of the command to rejoice, uttered by the mouth of Paul, who himself had special occasion to sorrow. For believers who are appalled by persecutions, or imprisonments, or exile, or death, here is the apostle, who, amid imprisonments, in the very heat of persecution, and amid apprehensions of death, is not merely joyful but even stirs up others to joy. In sum, no matter what comes our way, those who have the Lord on their side have ample and sufficient grounds for joy.

The repetition of the exhortation gives it greater force. Paul says, let your strength and stability be to rejoice in the Lord, not for a mere moment, but so that your joy in him may be perpetuated. For, unquestionably, being joyful in the Lord differs from the joy of the world. We know from experience that the joy of the world is deceptive, frail, and fading. Christ even pronounces it accursed (Luke 6:25). But the joy we have in God is settled and is never taken away from us.

for meditation: These words of Paul, written from a Roman dungeon, should be an impetus to rejoice and a rebuke against our failure to rejoice. If Paul knew the grace that caused him to rejoice in such a dire situation, why are we so quick to stop rejoicing during trials? Do we not know the same grace?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 276). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

13 SEPTEMBER 365 Days with Calvin

Running to the Goal

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before. Philippians 3:13

suggested further reading: Hebrews 11:32–12:2

Paul does not question the certainty of his salvation here, as though that were still in suspense. He merely repeats what he has said before—that he aims to make further progress because he has not yet attained the goal of his calling. He asserts this immediately afterward by saying that he is intent on this one thing and leaves off everything else.

For now, he compares our life to a racecourse on which God has marked the limits for us to run. It would profit the runner nothing to leave the starting point unless he went forward to reach the goal. Likewise, we must pursue the course of our calling until death and must not cease to run until we have obtained what we seek.

Furthermore, the way is marked for the runner so he may not purposely tire himself by wandering off in this direction or that. A goal is set before us, towards which we ought to undeviatingly direct our course, and God does not permit us to wander about heedlessly.

Third, as the runner must be free from entanglement and not stop running because of any impediment, continuing his course and surmounting every obstacle, so we must take heed that we do not apply our mind or heart to anything that may divert our attention. On the contrary, we must endeavor to be free of every distraction so we may exclusively apply the whole bent of our mind to God’s calling.

These things Paul comprehends in one statement. When he says he does this one thing and forgets all those things which are behind, he refers to his diligence and excludes everything that is a distraction.

for meditation: Regeneration and justification are only the beginning of the Christian life. The believer’s legal status before God will never change from that point on, but there is still much running to be done. Sanctification must flow out of justification. Paul knows that he must strive to progress. We too must not be content to stop and relax where we are; we must press on toward the goal of complete salvation in Jesus. Take encouragement from Calvin’s words that “God does not permit us to wander about heedlessly,” and press on.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 275). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

12 SEPTEMBER 365 Days with Calvin

The Fellowship of Suffering

That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made comformable unto his death. Philippians 3:10

suggested further reading: Galatians 2:11–21

Having spoken of the freely conferred righteousness procured for us through the resurrection of Christ and obtained by us through faith, Paul proceeds to discuss the fellowship of his sufferings, or the exercises of the pious, so that it might not seem as though he introduces an inactive faith that produces no effects in this life.

Indirectly, he also implies that these are the exercises that the Lord would have his people use rather than the useless elements of ceremonies that the false apostles press upon believers. So, let every one who has by faith become a partaker of all Christ’s benefits acknowledge that the condition of these benefits is that his whole life be conformed to Christ’s death.

There is both participation and fellowship in the death of Christ. One exercise is inward; it is what the Scripture tends to call the mortification of the flesh or the crucifixion of the old man. It is what Paul describes in Romans 6. The other is outward; Scripture terms this the mortification of the outward man. This endurance of the cross is what Paul describes in Romans 8 and also in Philippians 3:10, if I am not mistaken. For after introducing the power of his resurrection, Christ crucified is set before us, that we may follow him through tribulations and distresses. The resurrection of the dead is expressly mentioned so we know that we must die before we live. Believers must make this a continued subject of meditation as long as they sojourn in this world.

This is a choice consolation: if we are his members, we are partakers of Christ’s cross, and that, through afflictions, the way to everlasting blessedness is open to us.

for meditation: Believers in principle are sanctified and delivered from the bondage of sin. But as long as they remain in this life, they must continue to struggle with remaining sin and the old inclinations that governed them before they knew grace. Thus this prayer of Paul’s is very appropriate for every believer: that they might know the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings in conforming to his death.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 274). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

11 SEPTEMBER 365 Days with Calvin

Sorrowing unto Death

For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. Philippians 2:27

suggested further reading: 2 Kings 4:8–37

Observe two things here: first, the dispositions of grief that God originally implanted in our nature are not evil in themselves. They are not the fault of corrupt nature but come forth from God as their author. This kind of grief is felt on the occasion of the death of friends. Second, notice that Paul had many other reasons for regret in connection with the death of Epaphroditus. These regrets were not merely excusable; they were altogether necessary.

Grief is inevitable in the case of all believers, for on the occasion of the death of anyone, we are reminded of the anger of God against sin. But Paul in his grief was more affected with the loss sustained by the church, which he saw would be deprived of a singularly good pastor at a time when good leaders were so few in number.

However, because of the depravity of our nature, everything in us is so perverted that no matter in what direction our minds are bent, our feelings always tend to go beyond bounds. Hence nothing is so pure or right in itself as not to bring with it some contagion. Indeed, Paul, being a man, would no doubt have experienced something of human error in his grief, for he was subject to infirmity. He needed to be tried with temptations so he might have the opportunity of victory by striving and resisting.

for meditation: The loss of a loved one hurts deeply. We need to mourn when we suffer loss; that is how God has constituted us. Yet, if our loved ones have gone to be with the Lord, we need not sorrow as those without hope. Nor should we wish them back, for their sake. How can meditating on their eternal abode remove a great part of our sorrow?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 273). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

10 SEPTEMBER 365 Days with Calvin

Bound to Serve

For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s. Philippians 2:21

suggested further reading: Matthew 16:21–28

How great a hindrance it is for Christ’s ministers to seek their own interests. Nor is there any merit in these excuses: “I do harm to no one,” “I must also have regard for my own advantage,” or “I am not so devoid of feeling as not to be prompted by a regard for my own advantage.” For you must give up your rights if you would discharge your duty; a regard to your own interests must not be preferred to Christ’s glory or even placed on a level with it.

Wherever Christ calls you, you must promptly go, leaving all else. You ought to regard your calling in such a way that you turn away your powers of perception from everything that would impede you. You might have the power to live elsewhere in greater opulence, but God has bound you to the church, which affords you a very moderate sustenance. You might gain more honor elsewhere, but God has assigned you a situation in which you must live in a humble style. You might have a more favorable climate elsewhere or a more delightful region, but it is here that you are asked to be.

You might wish to deal with more humane people, feeling offended by people now who show ingratitude or incivility or pride. In short, you have no sympathy with the disposition or the manners of the nation in which you are asked to serve. But you must struggle with yourself and suppress the opposing inclinations that you keep of the profession to which you are called, for you are not free or at your own disposal. In conclusion, forget yourself if you would serve God.

for meditation: It is easy to develop romantic notions about what it means to follow God. But when we realize the crosses we must bear, our hearts may rebel against God’s plan for us. We must not seek our own things, however, but the things of Christ, no matter what situations he places us in. We live not for ourselves, but for him.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 272). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

9 SEPTEMBER 365 Days with Calvin

Esteeming Others before Self

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Philippians 2:3

suggested further reading: Matthew 7:1–5

Paul here defines true humility, which is to esteem others more than self. Now, if anything in life is difficult, it is humility. Hence it is not surprising that humility is a rare virtue.

It is said, “Everyone has the mind of a king by claiming everything for himself.” This is pride. From such foolish admiration of ourselves rises contempt of others. We are far from what Paul teaches here, for we can hardly endure others to be on a level with ourselves, much less allow them to have superiority.

But how is it possible that one who truly is distinguished above others can reckon those to be superior to him whom he knows are greatly beneath him? I answer that this altogether depends on a right estimate of God’s gifts and our own infirmities. For however anyone is distinguished by illustrious gifts, he ought to consider that they have not been conferred upon him that he might be self-complacent, that he might exalt himself, or even that he might hold himself in esteem. Instead, let him be active in correcting and detecting his faults, and he will have abundant occasion for humility.

On the other hand, he will regard with honor those in whom there is excellence and will in love bury their faults. The man who observes this rule will not find it difficult to prefer others before self. This, too, Paul meant when he added that they ought not to have everyone a regard to themselves but to their neighbors, or that they ought not to be devoted to themselves. Hence it is quite possible that a pious man, even though aware that he is superior, may nevertheless hold others in greater esteem.

for meditation: Considering others before self is so contrary to our nature that only the grace of God can bring it about. Yet what glorious release from pride and selfishness it offers! To focus on the good in others and keep ourselves from glossing over our own faults is necessary if we are to remain humble.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 271). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

8 SEPTEMBER 365 Days with Calvin

The Promise of Honoring Parents

Honour thy father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise; that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. Ephesians 6:2–3

suggested further reading: Deuteronomy 5:1–21

The promises annexed to the commandments are intended to excite our hopes and to impart a greater cheerfulness to our obedience. Therefore Paul includes promise as a kind of seasoning to render more pleasant and agreeable the submission that he requires of children.

He does not merely say that God offers a reward to one who obeys his father and mother, but also that such a reward is peculiar to this commandment. If each of the commandments had its own promise, there would be no ground for the commendation bestowed with this commandment. But this is the first commandment, Paul tells us, that God has been pleased, as it were, to seal with a remarkable promise.

There is some difficulty here, for the second commandment likewise contains a promise: “I am the Lord thy God, … showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments” (Exod. 20:5–6). But this promise is applied indiscriminately to the whole law and cannot be said to be annexed to a particular commandment. Paul’s assertion still holds true, that no other commandment but the one requiring the obedience of children to their parents is distinguished by a promise.

That it may be well with thee is promised; so is a long life. From this we understand that the present life is not to be overlooked among the gifts of God. The reward promised to obedient children is highly appropriate. Those who show kindness to their parents, from whom they derived life, are assured by God that life will go well for them while on this earth.

for meditation: Obedience to God’s commandments can only result in blessing because they are given for our own good. In addition to the good that results from simple obedience to God’s commands, God provides promises of good will and blessing. His intent in giving laws is not to hold us in bondage but to save us from evil and bless us. Give him praise today for this love.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 270). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

7 SEPTEMBER 365 Days with Calvin

Obeying Parents in the Lord

Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Ephesians 6:1

suggested further reading: Colossians 3:18–25

Why does the apostle use the word obey instead of honor, which has a greater scope of meaning? It is because obedience is evidence of the honor which children owe to their parents and is therefore more earnestly enforced.

Obedience is also more difficult, for the human mind recoils from the idea of subjection and with difficulty allows itself to be placed under the control of another. Experience shows how rare this virtue is, for do we find even one among a thousand who is obedient to his parents? By a figure of speech, a part is here put for the whole, but it is the most important part and is necessarily accompanied by all the others.

Children are to obey their parents in the Lord. Besides the law of nature, which is acknowledged by all nations, the authority of God enforces the obedience of children. Hence it follows that parents are to be obeyed so far as is consistent with piety to God, which comes first. If the command of God is the rule by which the submission of children is to be regulated, it would be foolish to suppose that the performance of this duty could lead away from obeying God himself.

For this is right is added to restrain the fierceness which, as we have already said, appears to be natural to almost all people. It is right, because God has commanded it. We are not at liberty to dispute or call in question the appointment of him whose will is the unerring rule of goodness and righteousness. That this honor should be represented as including obedience is not surprising, for mere ceremony is of no value in the sight of God. The precept honor thy father and mother includes all the duties by which children can express sincere affection and respect to their parents.

for meditation: Are you showing due respect to your parents, even as an adult? How do the principles Calvin has outlined here apply to us in other areas of life in which we are subject to divinely appointed authority?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 269). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

5 SEPTEMBER 365 Days with Calvin

Following Christ as Children

Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor. Ephesians 5:1–2

suggested further reading: Romans 8:12–17

Children ought to be like their father. The same principle is followed out and enforced by the consideration that we are children of God, Paul says. So, as much as possible, we ought to resemble God in acts of kindness.

It is impossible not to see that the division of chapters here is particularly unwise, since it separates parts of a subject which are very closely related. But let us go on. Paul is saying that, if we are the children of God, we ought to be followers of God. Christ declares that, unless we show kindness to the unworthy, we cannot be the children of our heavenly Father: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:44–45).

Paul further admonishes us to walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us. Having called us to imitate God, he now calls us to imitate Christ, who is our true model. We should embrace each other with the love with which Christ has embraced us, for what we perceive in Christ is our true guide.

What is more, he gave himself for us. This is remarkable proof of the highest love. Seemingly forgetful of himself, Christ did not spare his own life so that he might redeem us from death. If we want to be partakers of this benefit, we must cultivate similar love toward our neighbor. None of us has reached such high perfection, but all must aim and strive according to the measure of their ability.

for meditation: With so awesome a heavenly Father, shouldn’t we be dear children to him, following him in everything and seeking to be a delight to him rather than a grief? We should look to our older brother, Christ, for the grace and strength to follow his example in being a faithful child of the Father.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 267). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

4 SEPTEMBER 365 Days with Calvin

Grieving the Holy Spirit

And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30

suggested further reading: 1 Corinthians 3:13–23

Because the Holy Spirit dwells in us, every part of our soul and our body ought to be devoted to him. If we give ourselves up to anything that is impure, we may rightly be said to be driving him away from making his abode with us. To express this in more familiar terms, human affections such as joy and grief are ascribed to the Holy Spirit. So we are to endeavor that the Holy Spirit may dwell cheerfully with us, as in a pleasant and joyful dwelling, and give him no occasion for grief.

We are sealed by the Spirit, Paul says. Because God has sealed us by his Spirit, we grieve him when we do not follow his guidance and pollute ourselves by wicked passions. No language can adequately express this solemn truth that the Holy Spirit rejoices and is glad on our account when we are obedient to him in all things and do not think nor speak anything but what is pure and holy. On the other hand, he is grieved when we admit anything into our minds that is unworthy of our calling.

Now, let us reflect what shocking wickedness there must be in grieving the Holy Spirit to such a degree that it compels him to withdraw from us. The same truth is expressed by the prophet Isaiah, but in a different sense, for he says people “vexed his Holy Spirit” (Isa. 63:10) in the same sense in which we are accustomed to speak of vexing the mind of a man.

The Spirit of God is the seal by which we are distinguished from the wicked. It is impressed on our hearts as a sure evidence of adoption.

for meditation: Several minutes of quiet reflection on the dreadfulness of grieving God Almighty should be a great impetus to new obedience. In what ways could you be grieving the Holy Spirit at the present time? What should you do about this?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 266). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

3 SEPTEMBER 365 Days with Calvin

Controlling Anger

Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath. Ephesians 4:26

suggested further reading: Psalm 37:1–11

We offend God in three ways when we are angry. The first is allowing our anger to arise from slight causes, often from no cause whatever, or at least from private injuries or offenses. The second is carrying anger beyond proper bounds and rushing into intemperate excesses. The third is directing anger, which should have been directed against ourselves or against our sins, against others.

Paul, in wishing to describe the proper limitation of anger, most appropriately uses the well-known text, Be ye angry, and sin not. We comply with this injunction if our anger is not directed at others but at ourselves, and if we pour out indignation against our own faults. With respect to others, we ought to be angry, not at their persons, but at their faults. Nor should we be moved to anger by offenses against ourselves, but out of zeal for the glory of the Lord. Lastly, our anger ought to subside after a reasonable time without mixing itself with the violence of carnal passions.

Next Paul says, let not the sun go down upon your wrath. So strong is the tendency of the human mind to do what is evil that we sometimes give way to improper and sinful passion. Paul therefore suggests that we should quickly suppress our anger and not allow it to gather strength by continuing it. The first remedy for anger is be ye angry, and sin not, but since the great weakness of human nature renders this exceedingly difficult, the next step is to not cherish wrath too long in our minds or allow it sufficient time to become strong. Paul thus says, let not the sun go down upon your wrath. If at any time we are angry, let us endeavor to be appeased before the sun has set.

for meditation: If we examine our anger and its causes, we usually find no justification for it. Even worse, we often let this anger fester and ruin many other parts of our lives. Who has not let anger about some trivial thing ruin the entire day, a day full of blessings from God? We must repent of this and seek to follow Paul’s instruction.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 265). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

2 SEPTEMBER 365 Days with Calvin

Walking Worthy in Humility

I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love. Ephesians 4:1–2

suggested further reading: Luke 14:7–11

That ye walk worthy is a general sentiment, or preface, on which the following statements are founded. Paul formerly had described the vocation to which the Ephesians were called. He now reminds them that they must live in obedience to God so that they may not be unworthy of such distinguished grace.

He says they are to do this with all lowliness. He then proceeds to particulars, beginning with humility. The reason why he begins with humility is that it is the first step to unity, which he is about to discuss. Humility produces meekness, which disposes us to bear with our brethren and thus to preserve that unity which otherwise would be broken a hundred times a day.

Let us remember, therefore, that in cultivating kindness toward others, we must begin with humility. Where do rudeness, pride, and disdainful language toward others arise? Where do quarrels, insults, and reproaches originate? Are they not what results when people carry love of self and their own interests to excess?

By laying aside haughtiness and the desire of pleasing ourselves, we shall become meek and gentle and acquire that moderation of temper that will overlook and forgive many things in the conduct of others. Let us carefully observe the order and arrangement of this teaching. It is of no use to inculcate forbearance until our natural fierceness has been subdued and we have acquired mildness. Likewise, it will be equally useless to seek meekness unless we begin with humility.

for meditation: Church unity begins with humility. As long as we are haughty and proud, we will make no progress, no matter how many ecumenical conferences are held. For the church to be humble, each of its members must be humble. Out of that humility will flow the meekness, long-suffering, and forbearance needed to achieve unity. Examine yourself for this type of humility.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 264). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

1 SEPTEMBER 365 Days with Calvin

Finding True Peace and Access

And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Ephesians 2:17–18

suggested further reading: John 14

Observe here that the gospel is the message of peace by which God declares himself reconciled to us and makes known his paternal love. Take away the gospel, and war and enmity continue to exist between God and men. On the other hand, the native tendency of the gospel is to give peace and calmness to the conscience, which otherwise would be tormented by distressing alarm.

For through him we both have access. This is an argument based on the fact that we are permitted to draw near to God. But it may also be viewed as an announcement of peace; for wicked men, lulled into a profound sleep, sometimes deceive themselves with false notions of peace. They think they are at rest when they have learned to forget divine judgment and to keep themselves at the greatest possible distance from God.

It is necessary to explain the nature of true peace, for it is widely different from a stupefied conscience, from false confidence, from proud boasting, and from ignorance of our own wretchedness. It is a settled composure which leads us not to dread but to desire and seek the feet of God. Now, Christ opens the door to us, yes, he is himself the door (John 10:9). As this is a double door thrown open to admit both Jews and Gentiles, we are led to view God exhibiting his fatherly kindness to both.

Paul adds that we have access to God by one Spirit, who leads and guides us to Christ and “by whom we cry, Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15). From this arises our boldness of approach. Jews had various means of drawing near to God, but now Jews and Gentiles have but one way: to be led by the Spirit of God.

for meditation: Peace and access summarize the gospel of Jesus Christ. Peace may only be gained by access to God; apart from Christ, access to God brings anything but peace. Let us praise him, then, for granting us these two great blessings, which together comprise the greatest blessing of all.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 263). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

31 AUGUST 365 Days with Calvin

Satan’s Limited Power

Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. Ephesians 2:2

suggested further reading: 2 Timothy 2:20–26

In accordance with the practice of the inspired writers, the devil is mentioned as a singular being. As the children of God have one head, so have the wicked; for each of these groups forms a distinct body.

By assigning to Satan dominion over all wicked beings, ungodliness is represented as an unbroken mass. As to Paul’s attributing to the devil power over the air, that will be covered when we discuss the sixth chapter. At present, we shall merely refer to the strange absurdity of the Manicheans in trying to prove from this passage the existence of two principles, as if Satan could do anything without divine permission.

Paul does not allow Satan the highest authority, for that is the will of God alone, but he does say the devil has a tyranny that God permits him to exercise. What is Satan but God’s executioner to punish man’s ingratitude? This is implied in Paul’s language when he represents the success of Satan as confined to unbelievers, for the children of God are exempt from his power. If this is true, it follows that Satan does nothing but what is under the control of a superior, and is not an unlimited monarch.

We may now draw from it the truth that ungodly men have no excuse in being driven by Satan to commit all sorts of crimes. How can they be subject to the devil’s tyranny unless they are rebels against God? If none are the slaves of Satan but those who have renounced the service and authority of God, let them blame themselves for having so cruel a master.

for meditation: Christ brings release to captives, so there is no reason to remain in Satan’s service. If you call out to God, there is nothing Satan can do to prevent your leaving his clutches and entering the kingdom of light. Are you in bondage to Satan? You need not remain in such a state. Call out to God![1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 262). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

30 AUGUST 365 Days with Calvin

Sealed with the Holy Spirit

In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise. Ephesians 1:13

suggested further reading: Galatians 4:1–7

Satan attempts nothing more earnestly than leading us to doubt or despise the gospel. Paul therefore furnishes us with two shields to repel both temptations. In opposition to every doubt, let us bring forward the testimony that the gospel is certain truth, which cannot deceive, and is also the word of truth, as if there were no truth but itself.

Happy are those who have embraced the gospel and whose attachment to it is steadfast, for beyond all doubt, this is truth and life.

Having maintained that the gospel is certain, Paul now comes to the proof: in whom also after that ye believed. What higher surety can be found than the Holy Spirit? “For you have the testimony of the Spirit of God himself, who seals the truth of it in your hearts,” Paul says.

Seals give validity to charters and to testaments. In ancient times, seals were the principal means by which the writer of a letter could be known. In short, a seal distinguishes what is true and certain from what is false and spurious. This is the office the apostle ascribes to the Holy Spirit.

Our minds cannot become so firmly established in the truth of God that they resist the temptations of Satan until we have been confirmed in it by the Holy Spirit. The conviction of truth that believers have of the Word of God, their own salvation, and religion in general does not spring from the judgment of the flesh or from human and philosophical arguments but from the seal of the Spirit, who imparts to consciences such certainty as to remove all doubt.

The foundation of faith would be frail and unsteady if it rested on human wisdom. Therefore, as preaching is the instrument of faith, so the Holy Spirit makes preaching efficacious.

for meditation: We live in a world that constantly attacks the truth of the Bible. In these conditions, it is easy for doubts to creep into our minds. Is the Bible really true? Paul was convinced it was the word of truth. Though rational arguments can never lay every doubt finally to rest, the supernatural witness of the Holy Spirit can. Believers know, in the face of all opposition, that the Word is true and that they are building on the rock.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 261). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

29 AUGUST 365 Days with Calvin

Bearing Others’ Burdens

Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

suggested further reading: 1 Corinthians 13

The weaknesses or sins under which we groan are called burdens. “Bearing another’s burdens” is singularly appropriate in a teaching recommending kind behavior, for nature tells us that those who bend under a burden ought to be relieved.

Paul orders us to bear the burdens of others. We must not indulge or overlook the sins by which our brethren are pressed down, but relieve them, and that can only be done by mild and friendly correction. Many adulterers, thieves, wicked, and abandoned characters of every description would willingly make Christ an accomplice in their crimes. All would choose to lay upon believers the task of bearing their burdens. But as the apostle has just exhorted us to restore a brother, the manner in which Christians are required to bear one another’s burdens cannot be mistaken.

The word law, when applied here to Christ, serves the place of an argument. There is an implied contrast between the law of Christ and the law of Moses. It is as if Paul says, “If you are very desirous to keep a law, Christ enjoins on you a law which you are bound to prefer to all others, which is to cherish kindness toward each other.” He who has no kindness has nothing.

On the other hand, the apostle tells us that, whenever someone compassionately assists his neighbor, the law of Christ is fulfilled. He thereby intimates that everything that does not proceed from love is superfluous, for the Greek word he uses here conveys the idea of what is absolutely perfect. But since no one performs in every respect what Paul requires, we are still at a distance from perfection. He who comes closest to it in regarding others is yet far distant with respect to God.

for meditation: Sadly, we grow accustomed to living with selfish hearts in a selfish society, seldom realizing that true joy flows from a life of service in which we bear the burdens of others. Yet God is patient with us, continually putting the needy on our life’s path. What needy people has Providence placed on your path at the present time? Are you bearing their burdens in love by praying for them, sympathizing with them, and acting for them? What concrete actions could you take this week to help bear someone else’s burdens?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 260). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

28 AUGUST 365 Days with Calvin

Considering our Weakness

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Galatians 6:1

suggested further reading: 1 Peter 4:7–19

Not without reason, Paul passes from the plural to the singular number in this verse in saying, Considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. He gives weight to his admonition when he addresses each person individually and bids him to look carefully at himself. “Whoever thou art that takest upon thee the office of reproving others, look to thyself,” he seems to say.

Nothing is more difficult for us than to acknowledge or examine our own weaknesses. However acute we are in detecting the faults of others, it is more difficult, as the saying goes, to see “the deformity that hangs behind our own back.” Therefore, to rouse us to greater activity, Paul uses the singular number.

His words have two implications. As we acknowledge that we are liable to sin, we will more willingly grant forgiveness to others, which, in turn, we can expect will be extended to us. Some restate the meaning of these words as: “Thou who art a sinner, and needest the compassion of thy brethren, oughtest not to show thyself fierce and implacable to others.” I would rather choose to say these words are offered as a warning that, in correcting others, we should not ourselves commit sin.

There is a danger here that deserves our most careful attention and against which it is difficult to guard, for nothing is easier than to exceed proper limits. The word tempt, however, may very properly be taken in this passage as extending to the whole life. Whenever we have occasion to pronounce censure on another, let us begin by examining ourselves. Then, remembering our own weakness, let us be indulgent to others.

for meditation: We should be careful not to compound the sinful nature of a situation by adding sin to sin. If we are rebuking sin, we should make sure that our rebukes are as free from sin as possible. We must restore others with a spirit of meekness, not haughtiness.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 259). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

27 AUGUST 365 Days with Calvin

Being Gentle in Correction

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Galatians 6:1

suggested further reading: Jeremiah 30:1–17

We are taught here to correct the faults of others in a mild manner, considering no rebuke to have a religious and Christian character that does not breathe the spirit of meekness. To this end, Paul explains the goal of pious reproof, which is to restore a person who has fallen and to place him back in his former condition. That goal will never be accomplished by violence, by a disposition to accuse, or by fierceness of manner or language. Consequently, we must display a gentle and meek spirit if we are to heal a fellow believer. Lest any one should satisfy himself by simply assuming the outward form of meekness, the apostle demands the spirit of meekness, for no person is prepared to chastise a brother till he has succeeded in acquiring a gentle spirit.

Another argument for gentleness in correcting others is the expression if a man be overtaken in a fault. If a person has been carried away through want of consideration or through the cunning art of a deceiver, it would be cruel to treat such a person with harshness. We know that the devil is always lying in wait and has a thousand ways of leading us astray. When we perceive that a believer has transgressed, let us consider that he has fallen into the snares of Satan. Let us then be moved with compassion and prepare our minds to exercise forgiveness.

Offenses and falls of this description must undoubtedly be distinguished from deep-seated crimes that are accompanied by deliberate and obstinate disregard of the authority of God. Such displays of wicked and perverse disobedience to God must be treated with greater severity, for what advantage would be gained by gentle treatment? The word also implies that not only the weak who have been tempted but also those who have yielded to temptation shall be treated with forbearance.

for meditation: It can be difficult to react with gentleness and meekness to the faults we find in others. If we ourselves do not particularly struggle with the same sin, how easily we condemn their behavior and deeply wound them in the process. We should keep in mind that only God’s grace keeps us from easily falling into the same temptation.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 258). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.