Category Archives: John Calvin

31 DECEMBER 365 Days with Calvin

Living the Word

Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand. Galatians 6:11

suggested further reading: 1 Peter 1:13–25

When our Lord Jesus Christ was sent to the world in the fullness of time, he declared everything that was needful for our salvation. Even today, he still raises up people as instruments of his Spirit to proclaim his will, to bring others the message of salvation, and to bear witness to that which otherwise would be hidden from us.

In light of these things, may we all be of one mind, and, whether we read in private or are taught in public, let us become stronger in the Word that God has been pleased to communicate to us. We need to remember that so we might have much greater love for his holy Word and give ourselves wholly to it. May we receive Scripture with more reverence, as, indeed, it is most worthy to be received.

Now let us fall before the majesty of our great God and Father, acknowledging him as our judge, who buries our sins in his infinite mercy. Let us pray that it might please him to accept us in mercy in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

May he also give us grace to walk in such a fashion that we truly confirm that we are his children and that he has not called us in vain. May this grace so benefit our hearts that we grow in it and become increasingly enabled to serve and adore him throughout our lives in true obedience to his holy Word. May he show this grace, not only to us, but also to all people and nations on earth.

for meditation: Too often we do not realize the specialness of the Word of God. I recently read a study of boat owners in Florida and in Michigan. The former could use their boats twelve months a year; the latter, about four months. The study concluded, rather surprisingly, that Michigan boat owners used their boats more than their peers in Florida. Michigan boat owners take advantage of nearly every nice summer day, while Floridians postpone, thinking there is always another day to sail.

Don’t treat the Word of God this way. Ask for grace to live more fully out of God’s Word next year. Search the Scriptures, know the Scriptures, love the Scriptures, and live the Scriptures. You will never be sorry.[1]

 

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 384). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

30 DECEMBER 365 Days with Calvin

Doing Good in the Household of Faith

As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:10

suggested further reading: Luke 10:25–42

Paul tells us that believers and those who profess to follow the same gospel form a household; in other words, they are of the same house. Indeed, the church is called the house of God, and he dwells among us (1 Tim. 3:15).

When Scripture speak thus, it does not mean that we need to be in a material building to be joined together; for even when we are in our own homes, we are still members of the same household. We are in that household because God has truly gathered us to himself. Thus, when Scripture says that the children of God are of the same household, it is to show that we have fellowship with each other.

Although earthly brothers and sisters separate and go different ways, we always remain in this union established by God among us. When we hear these things, are we not worse than stupid if we are not moved to use what God has given us to help our neighbors as well as fellow believers?

We now see Paul’s intention here; since God has given us the responsibility of doing good to all people because they are made of the same flesh, let us not be hindered by malice of any kind from striving to carry out our general duty toward those whom God sets before us to test our humanity. But since he has gathered believers into his flock and united us in his name, and since we call upon him with one voice as our Father, we must show love to one another in the family.

If we want God to acknowledge us as his children, we must value the adoption by which he has chosen us. To do this, let us sincerely declare by our lives that we long to demonstrate that we regard those whom God has called into his household and church as our brothers and sisters.

for meditation: Are you taking every opportunity to reach out to your neighbors—especially your believing neighbors—with kind words, loving actions, and all kinds of good? Can your neighbors see and feel that you are a giving Christian?[1]

 

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 383). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

29 DECEMBER 365 Days with Calvin

Rightly Motivated to Serve Others

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:9–10

suggested further reading: Matthew 22:33–40

Paul says we must seek to do good to all, even to those who are not worthy and are even our mortal enemies!

It is true that this is hard work and contrary to our natural instincts, but it is how God proves and tries us. For if we were to do good only to those who deserved it or to those who could repay us, we would not be showing that we are motivated to serve God at all, for it is possible that we would have an eye only toward our own profit. As our Lord Jesus says, the pagans do as much, and so do the worse people in the world (Matt. 5:46).

Why? They reason, “I need to be looked after; therefore, I must acquire some friends.”

If, therefore, we seek to distinguish those who are worthy of our good deeds and have the means to return our favors, this is not proper proof or a sure test of our desire to do what has been commanded by God. But if we close our eyes to people’s ingratitude and feel led to pity people solely because of their poverty and misery, then we serve God.

If we operate like this, it is certain that we will seek to do good to all, for we cannot destroy the unbreakable bond by which God has joined and united us to others. Even the most distant strangers in the world are our neighbors, though they are neither our relatives, cousins, nor members of our household. We are all of one flesh, and we bear a mark that ought to induce us to do all that we possibly can for one another.

for meditation: How easy is it to press on when our efforts to show kindness are met with nothing but ingratitude? If gratitude and reward are our motivations for doing good, we will do good to very few people. If, however, our motivations are based on unconditional love for humanity, we will press on, no matter what the response, displaying the love of Christ as we go.[1]

 

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 382). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

28 DECEMBER 365 Days with Calvin

Sowing Seeds in Well-Doing

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:9–10

suggested further reading: James 1:26–2:13

Here we learn we must use all that God has bestowed to serve him and his own, even all people in general. As God distributes different abilities and gifts to each of us, we are obliged to use them for those who need us and whom we can help. We must, therefore, make up our minds not to be idle or fruitless and consider the means that God has given us so that each one of us can use those gifts as an offering to him.

To further encourage us, Paul tells us that by doing this we are sowing seeds. God will not allow us to be disappointed when we have sought to do what he has commanded. It may seem to us that we waste our efforts when we do not seek our own profit and give ourselves over to self-advantage, yet the opposite is true. For even though a person who helps his neighbor loses whatever he has given, he is laying up treasure like the one who sows seed upon the soil to reap a crop in due season.

On the other hand, all is lost when we are too anxious to become wealthy in this life and only care about our own advancement, for in that we will reap corruption. Indeed, this entire world is passing away and its shadow is fading, yet this is the only treasure that those who study to enrich themselves in this world can possess. Just as our lives are transitory and fleeting, so are the goods we have collected, for everything will rot away to nothing.

But if we rid ourselves of earthly cares and consider God’s kingdom, even though it seems that in well-doing we are becoming impoverished and depleted, nevertheless, this treasure will never perish. It will be well guarded by the hand of God until the last day.

for meditation: Doing good to others may not be the best way to gain earthly goods, but it does provide a harvest of its own. It can often be wearying and draining, but the harvest will come. Let us take this as an encouragement, then, to not give up on treating others well when the rewards seem few.[1]

 

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 381). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

27 DECEMBER 365 Days with Calvin

Reproving without Harshness

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: Proverbs 4

The opposite sin in rebuking one who has fallen is excessive harshness.

Hypocrites often use this kind of rebuke, for when they see a speck in their neighbor’s eye, they cry out in alarm, yet they have a large beam in their own eye that they do nothing about, as our Lord Jesus says (Matt. 7:4). Since many people enlarge their consciences to swallow an entire camel yet strain at a gnat when it comes to the faults of others, we must guard against being too harsh or too severe when we reprove others. It seems to some that they are only correctly doing their duty if they loudly sound the trumpet when another person falls.

How many cautionary words today spring from righteous concern? If a person sees his neighbor doing evil, he should, if he has an opening and an opportunity, show him his fault, yet we see nothing of this! For if each one spies on his friends and listens as he keeps watch to see if he can find anything to reprove, then he will be severe in the extreme.

However, those who are severely dealt with in this way certainly cannot complain. After all, why else has evil become so prevalent in today’s society? Indeed, few people are admonished in private anymore to bring them back to God; rather, the sins that were hidden are slanderously published abroad.

Why? We cannot bear to hear the truth about ourselves. We want to cleave to our sins, as if no one has any authority or jurisdiction over us. True community cannot exist among us without such mutual correction, in which we all willingly submit to one another.

for meditation: Paul’s advice explained here by Calvin is sorely needed in our families, churches, and work environments today. Loving correction of an offending brother that follows Matthew 18:15–17 is seldom followed today. Most people operate in one of two extremes: either they think that this is the work of a minister or a church and they neglect their own responsibility as a member of Christ’s corporate family, or they overreact in harshness and neglect to approach their bother in love and humility. Are you lovingly and tenderly correcting your brothers and sisters in the faith when they fall into some sin?[1]

 

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 380). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

26 DECEMBER 365 Days with Calvin

Rebuking with Gentleness

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: Colossians 3:1–17

We must aim to bring back to the right path those who have turned away from it. If we have no kindness or humanity within us, we may plunge someone deep into despair the minute we see him committing a sin. This is why Paul says the children of God must show kindness and gentleness so those who have fallen through weakness can be helped up, knowing that we seek their salvation.

There are two extremes here. The first is that we often close our eyes if one of our friends offends God and creates a scandal; we let it slip by because we do not want to stir up ill will by reproaching them. This is how friendships work today; each person permits all kinds of evil.

No one wants to have their sore skin scratched; therefore, people will not listen to warning unless God first touches them and gives them an obedient spirit that makes them teachable. Such people would say with David that they would prefer to be scolded harshly, indeed, even with austerity, rather than to be surrounded by a crowd of flatterers who would lull them to sleep in their sins (Ps. 141:5).

However, generally speaking, people want to be spared this shame. They prefer that we not utter a word against them, let alone assail their ears with a list of their vices and transgressions. People are happy with this silence, yet in it God is forgotten. As the prophet Isaiah says, no man was found in any of the streets who upheld the truth (Isa. 59:14–16). There is confusion and worse injustice than ever before, yet we let it continue unchecked.

for meditation: Our best friends are those who tell us the most truth about ourselves in a loving and caring way. Are we serving our friends in this manner as well?

If we do not remember from where we have come and the grace God has shown to us, we will rebuke our brothers and sisters in a harsh and unloving manner. But if we remember God’s grace, we will restore those who have fallen in meekness, knowing that only God’s grace keeps us from the same fault.[1]

 

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 379). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

25 DECEMBER 365 Days with Calvin

Led by the Spirit

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. Galatians 5:22–23

suggested further reading: 1 Corinthians 2:10–16

Paul now adds gentleness and goodness to the fruits of the Spirit. Without these fruits, it is impossible for us to unite together; there would be no harmony among us whatever. For if each of us was determined to be horrible and unkind to one another, we would do better as wild beasts. We must show that we want to communicate with those whom God has placed around us. In short, we must maintain love by the gentleness, goodness, and meekness that Paul refers to here.

He also mentions temperance, which means that we must abstain from plundering one another’s goods and that we must live sober lives and keep ourselves from intemperance and excess.

To summarize, the virtues that Paul mentions here are for Christians. It is as if he were saying, “If we are led by the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ, it will be evident and visible in our lives. We will be kept from wandering like those who lead dissolute lives; we will be loving and kind to everyone and will not harbor iniquity, deception, or extortion within us. We will be content with what we have and will seek only to serve one another.”

We have seen, therefore, that all good proceeds from the Spirit of God.

But we also see here that our Lord Jesus is the fountain from which we must draw water; if we are in him and belong to him as members of his body, he will demonstrate in our lives that it was not in vain for him to have received and acknowledged us as his own.

for meditation: How dependent we are on the Holy Spirit to work real and abiding virtues and graces in us! Ask God for more of the leading of his Spirit. Find honest friends who will alert you to any word or action you indulge in that runs counter to the fruit of the Spirit.[1]

 

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 378). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

24 DECEMBER 365 Days with Calvin

Being Faithful to One Another

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith. Galatians 5:22

suggested further reading: 1 Peter 2:11–25

The word faith here means faithfulness and integrity. The faith that relates to God is the certainty that we will see the fulfillment of his promises. Scripture says we are justified by faith (Rom. 5:1), meaning that God begins the process of mortifying everything in us that pertains to our sinful nature. We need to be grounded upon the mercy of God alone, as revealed to us in the Lord Jesus Christ.

How do we possess this gift of faith? By believing the promises of God and accepting them in obedience; also by entirely leaning upon God once we have confessed that we are lost and condemned. Thus, the faith that relates to God is the assurance of his goodness and love, making it possible for us to approach him with confidence because we know that he will hear us.

Paul says those who have such faith steadfastly trust in God and therefore possess the liberty and boldness to come to him in repentance.

But in this passage, Paul speaks of another kind of faith. It is the faithfulness we show to one another when we walk in integrity. With this kind of faith, we do not attempt to cheat anyone out of malice or craft. We are not two-faced. There should be no deception in us whereby we seek to influence the simple-minded, but we should treat others as we ourselves would like to be treated. That is the faith that Paul refers to here as a fruit of the Spirit.

for meditation: When Christians maintain integrity in the face of criticism and persecution, the world sits up and pays attention. The integrity of a clear conscience is priceless. Rendering good for evil is always far better than rendering evil for evil. Ask for grace to maintain integrity by refusing to descend to the level of your persecutors. Pray for strength to fight God’s battles, not your own, and you will discover that he will fight yours.[1]

 

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 377). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

23 DECEMBER 365 Days with Calvin

Living in True Joy

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith. Galatians 5:22

suggested further reading: Nehemiah 8:9–18

Paul here adds joy to love in naming the fruits of the Spirit. He not only means that we will be at peace with God and have cheerful hearts because God has mercifully received us and declared his kindness to us. He also implies another kind of joy here, which is that we ought not to grieve or upset one another or to alienate ourselves from our neighbors by disdaining them.

We are to be easy-going and friendly, even finding pleasure in being able to help and assist those who require our aid. In Romans 14:17, Paul says the kingdom of God is joy in the Holy Ghost. However, here he uses this word in a different sense. He says we can rejoice in God when we testify that we have found acceptance in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Without this, we would be transfixed and numbed with fear. For this reason, we would always be troubled in spirit.

Those who have contempt for God may seem happy enough in their pride, but they do not have true peace or joy. Inwardly, they are burning, for God pricks their consciences with remorse so they are always sorrowful and agitated. Even when they want to rejoice, their minds become increasingly darkened. They have no more feeling because their ability to discern between good and evil is dead.

When people stray from God in this way, their joy is cursed, and they forget who they are. But, as I have already said, Paul speaks here of the joy we have when we rightly relate to our neighbors in love.

for meditation: True joy is in short supply these days. When Christians let their true joy shine—not shallow silliness, but deep happiness—people around them notice. A Christian without joy is a contradiction in terms. Do not be afraid to let your Christian joy shine in this dark world.[1]

 

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 376). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

22 DECEMBER 365 Days with Calvin

Producing Fruits of the Spirit

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith. Galatians 5:22

suggested further reading: Matthew 13:1–9, 18–23

Love is the summary of the law; thus, Paul places it first in listing the fruits of the Spirit. However, he does not wish us to neglect calling upon God, to abandon the trust that we ought to have in his promises, or to forget any service that is described in the first table of the law.

Paul despises none of that and therefore does not wish us to reject it, but he is concerned that we testify before men whether or not we truly desire to obey God. We have already said that such testimony is clearly seen if we love our neighbors and are not devoted to self-advantage. Collectively, we should be trying to foster a healthy and peaceful unity, using the faculties and the means that God has given us to serve those to whom his Word declares that we have a responsibility. That is why Paul puts the word love first. He does not mean that we should love our neighbors so much that we leave God out of the picture, but rather that we declare our true dedication and devotion to God by the friendship that we have with one another.

Of course, this cannot happen unless we have placed all our trust in God and taken refuge in prayers and petitions. Indeed, since that is known as virtue in the fruits of the Spirit, we will not be equipped to approach God by faith nor will we have the will to pray to be armed against all temptations unless the Holy Spirit is at work within us.

By nature, we have no ability to understand the gospel, nor are we agile enough to rise up to God and personally communicate with him in prayers and supplications. We need the Holy Spirit to enable us by enlightening us by his grace and encouraging our hearts to call upon God. That is what we need to remember.

for meditation: If we have the Holy Spirit within us, we will be so united with Christ and in love with God that we will yearn to do nothing but manifest the fruits of the Spirit. Those fruits will flow out of our relationship with the triune God. We cannot expect to find any of those fruits in our lives if we are not in this living relationship. By the Spirit’s grace, are you manifesting these fruits?[1]

 

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 375). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.