Category Archives: John Calvin

2 JULY 365 Days with Calvin

Persevering in Doing Good

And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. Matthew 24:12

suggested further reading: 2 Timothy 3

Every person ought to know how far and wide evil extends, but very few observe it. For as a consequence of the superior clearness with which the light of the gospel discovers the malice of men, even good and properly regulated minds grow cool and almost lose the desire to exercise benevolence. All reason with themselves that the duties they perform to one person or to another are thrown away, since experience and daily practice show that almost all are ungrateful, treacherous, or wicked. This is unquestionably a weighty and dangerous temptation, for what could be more unreasonable than to approve of a doctrine by which the desire of doing good and the demands of charity appear to be diminished?

When the gospel makes its appearance, charity, which ought to kindle the hearts of all men with its warmth, rather grows cool. But we must observe the source of this evil, which Christ points out, namely, that many lose courage because through their weakness they are unable to stem the flood of iniquity which flows on every hand. On the other hand, Christ requires courage from his followers to persist in striving against iniquity. Paul also enjoins us not to be weary of performing deeds of kindness and beneficence (2 Thes. 3:13).

Although the charity of many, when overwhelmed by the mass of iniquities, should give way, Christ warns believers that they must surmount this obstacle lest, overcome by bad examples, they apostatize. Therefore he repeats the statement in Matthew 24:13 that no man can be saved unless “he strive lawfully” (2 Tim. 2:5) so as to persevere to the end.

for meditation: How often do we rationalize our way out of duties? Having observed its apparent futility, we abandon what God has commanded us to perform, as if we were excused from these duties. But this is foolish disobedience; we can neither see the ultimate end of things, nor are we called to judge which commands of God seem most useful and profitable to obey. Is there a Christian duty you have been shirking?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 202). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

1 JULY 365 Days with Calvin

Finding Refuge under his Wings

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Matthew 23:37

suggested further reading: Romans 3:10–18

We now perceive the reason why Christ, speaking in the person of God, compares himself to “a hen.” It is to inflict deeper disgrace on the wicked nation that had treated with disdain his gentle invitation. This invitation proceeds from more than maternal kindness. It is an amazing and unparalleled example of love that God does not disdain to stoop to those persuasions by which he might tame rebels into subjection.

Prophets were sent to “gather together” wandering and dispersed people into the bosom of God. By this he means that whenever the Word of God is exhibited to us, God opens his bosom to us with maternal kindness. Not satisfied with this, he condescends to the humble affection of a hen watching over her chickens. When he compares himself to a mother, he descends very far below his glory; how much more, then, when he takes the form of a hen and deigns to treat us as his chickens?

Besides, if this charge was justly brought against the ancient people who lived under the law, it is far more applicable to us. For though the complaints that we find in Isaiah are just in saying that in vain God spread out his hands every day to embrace a hard-hearted and rebellious people (Isa. 65:2), that though he rose up early (Jer. 7:13), he gained nothing by his incessant care of them; yet now, with far greater familiarity and kindness, he invites us to himself by his Son. Therefore, whenever he exhibits to us the doctrine of the gospel, dreadful vengeance awaits us if we do not quietly hide ourselves under his wings, by which he is ready to receive and shelter us. At the same time, Christ teaches us that all enjoy safety and rest who by the obedience of faith are “gathered together” to God; because under his wings they have an impregnable refuge.

for meditation: If neither God’s awesome majesty and power nor his gracious condescending love can draw us to him, what other proofs do we need that our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked? Go to him with all your heart today, asking for forgiveness and mercy.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 201). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

30 JUNE 365 Days with Calvin

The Enticing Snare of Wealth

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 19:23

suggested further reading: Deuteronomy 8:11–20

Lusting for wealth is such a deadly disease that it may prevent us from going to heaven, Christ tells us here.

In Mark, Christ softens the harshness of this warning by restricting it to those who place “confidence in riches.” But these words are, I think, intended to confirm rather than correct the former statement. It is as if Jesus once more asserts that people ought not to think it strange that entering the kingdom of heaven is difficult for the rich because they tend to trust in their riches. Yet this teaching is highly useful to all: to the rich, that being warned of their danger, they may be on their guard; to the poor, that being satisfied with their lot, they may not so eagerly desire what would bring them more damage than gain.

It is true that riches do not by themselves hinder us from following God. Rather, one result of the depravity of the human mind is that it is scarcely possible for those who have much to avoid being intoxicated by such riches. Those who are excessively rich are held by Satan, bound, as it were, by such chains that they cannot raise their thoughts to heaven. They are so busy and entangled with possessions that they become utter slaves to this world.

The illustration of threading a camel through the eye of a needle, which follows, amplifies the difficulty of rich people entering the kingdom of heaven. It tells us the rich tend to be so swelled with pride and presumption that they cannot tolerate being reduced to the narrow places through which God makes his people pass. I think that the word “camel” here refers to a rope used by sailors rather than to the animal so named.

for meditation: If we are wealthy, let us heed Jesus’ warning here and examine ourselves closely. But let us also remember that it is not necessary to have much in order to become infatuated by wealth. How many of us do not want a bigger house, a newer car, a better rate of interest for our savings, greater advancement at work? The warning comes to all of us, regardless of poverty or riches: beware of becoming so entangled with earthly things that you lose sight of heaven.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 200). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

29 JUNE 365 Days with Calvin

Tasting Heaven and Hell

And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Luke 16:23

suggested further reading: James 2

Christ is telling a story here to describe spiritual matters in terms of people who will pull at our senses. Souls have neither fingers nor eyes and are not liable to thirst, nor do they hold such conversations among themselves as are described here between Abraham and the rich man. But our Lord draws a picture here that represents the life to come in a way that we can relate to it.

The general truth conveyed here is that believing souls that have left their bodies will have a joyful and blessed life beyond this world. The reprobate, by contrast, will endure such dreadful torments that our minds can hardly conceive of those anymore than we can conceive of the boundless glory of heaven. Only in a small measure—enlightened by the Spirit of God—can we taste by hope the glory promised to us, which far exceeds all our senses. Let it be enough to know that the vengeance of God that awaits the ungodly is so inconceivably horrible that Christ describes it in an obscure manner, only so far as is necessary to strike terror in us.

On the subjects of heaven and hell, Christ gives us slender information and in a manner fitting to restrain curiosity. The wicked are described as fearfully tormented by the misery that they feel. They beg for relief but are cut off from hope, thus experiencing double torment.

In this story we hear a conversation between people who ordinarily would have had no communication with each other. When the rich man says, “Father Abraham,” he expresses the additional torment of realizing, too late, that he is cut off from the number of the children of Abraham.

for meditation: In what way can we relate to the extreme suffering of the rich man? To the incomprehensible glory of Lazarus? Jesus offers us enough fodder to make us question how we are living today. Are we kneeling in faith before Christ, who alone can save us? Or are we relying on our conduct or the faith of our fathers to get us into heaven?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 199). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

28 JUNE 365 Days with Calvin

Entertaining to Excess

Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. Luke 10:38

suggested further reading: Ecclesiastes 3:1–8

The hospitality of Martha deserves praise. Jesus does commend it, yet he also points out two faults in it. The first is that Martha is excessive in her hospitality and carries it beyond proper bounds. Christ would prefer to be entertained in a simple manner and at moderate expense rather than to subject this holy woman to such hard work.

The second problem is that, by distracting her attention and undertaking more work than is necessary, Martha deprives herself of the blessing of Christ’s visit. This excess is noted by Luke when he speaks of Martha’s “much serving,” for Christ is satisfied with little. It is like offering a magnificent reception to a prophet while not caring enough to listen to him. It is making such great and unnecessary preparations that all the teaching is buried. The true way of receiving prophets is to accept the advantage that God offers to us through their ministry.

We now see that the kind attention of Martha, though deserving of praise, is not unblemished. Furthermore, Martha is so delighted with her own bustling that she even despises her sister Mary’s pious eagerness to receive instruction from Christ. This account warns us that in doing what is right we must take care not to think more highly of ourselves than of others.

for meditation: Have you ever been so preoccupied with entertaining guests that you had no time to interact with them? Were you so busy in the kitchen that you never sat long enough to listen to what your guests had to say? If so, you may be doing what Martha does—opening her home to Jesus without giving him her heart. We all need to pray for grace to set our priorities rightly and to learn lifelong moderation.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 198). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

27 JUNE 365 Days with Calvin

Commending Fruit-Bearers

But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Matthew 13:23

suggested further reading: Ephesians 1

Those whom Christ refers to as good and fertile soil for the Word of God are people in whom the Word not only deeply and solidly roots itself but who also overcome every obstacle that prevents the Word from bearing fruit.

Is it possible for anyone to be pure and free from thorns? To answer that, we must realize that Christ does not refer here to those who are perfect in faith but only to those in whom the Word of God bears fruit. Though the fruit may not be profuse, yet those who do not fall away from the sincere worship of God are reckoned as good and fertile soil.

No doubt we ought to work hard to pull out thorns of worldliness in our lives, but even our hardest efforts will never succeed in removing all of them. Some thorns will always be left behind. But let us at least try to deaden those thorns so they may not choke off the fruit of the Word. This is confirmed by Christ’s teaching that follows, informing us that everyone does not yield fruit in an equal degree.

The fertility of the soil that has a 30 percent yield is small compared with soil that yields 100 percent, yet our Lord classes together all soil that does not disappoint the work and expectations of the seed-sower. Hence we have no right to despise those who produce a lesser degree of excellence, for the master of the house, who gives preference to one above another because of more abundant produce, yet bestows the general designation of “good” even on inferior soils.

for meditation: Some people seem to be naturally gifted leaders in the church, raise children in the faith with seemingly little effort, and succeed in evangelizing others at every opportunity without any hesitation. They communicate well spiritually, live close to the Lord, and are filled with Christ and genuine joy in believing. These 100 percent yielders intimidate us who struggle at producing even 30 percent. But according to our Lord, all believers are reckoned as “good soil” if the Word of God flourishes in them. Take heart in our Savior’s encouragement to stand firm in the faith, and ask for grace to bear more fruit in days to come, to his praise.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 197). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

26 JUNE 365 Days with Calvin

Uprooting the Thorns

He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. Matthew 13:22

suggested further reading: Matthew 6:19–24

Jesus teaches us here about another kind of believer: those people who seem open to receiving the word of life but eventually permit other things to corrupt it and make it ineffective in their lives.

The thorns that destroy the Word’s effect are the pleasures of this life, wicked desires, covetousness, and other anxieties of the flesh. Matthew mentions only the cares of this life along with covetousness, but the meaning is the same as in Luke, for in that term he includes the allurements of pleasures (which Luke mentions) and every kind of desire. Just as corn, which might be productive, no sooner rises as a stalk than it is choked by thorns and other matters injurious to its growth, so the sinful desires of the flesh prevail over the hearts of men and overcome temporary faith, thus destroying the power of the heavenly doctrine before it reaches maturity.

Though sinful desires exert their power on the hearts of people before the Word of the Lord springs up into blades of corn, initially their influence is not evident. Only when the corn matures and promises fruit do these worldly desires gradually make their appearance.

Each of us, therefore, ought to tear out the thorns in our hearts to prevent the Word of God from being choked in us, for there is no one whose heart is not filled with a vast quantity of, indeed, a thick forest of thorns. What is more, the number of thorns is so prodigious that it ought to shake off our laziness, which is the reason why most people do not trouble themselves about the thorns.

for meditation: Has studying the Word of God become dull and tedious to you? Have you become so busy that reading the Bible has only become perfunctory? Are the sorrows and cares of life intruding on your prayers as so many thorns? If so, beware lest the thorns of life gain such root that they choke off your faith. Take the hardness of your heart to the Lord and ask him to soften it and pour new life into it.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 196). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

25 JUNE 365 Days with Calvin

Experiencing Only Temporary Faith

Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. Matthew 13:21

suggested further reading: 2 Chronicles 25

Christ says people with temporary faith eventually feel uneasy when they begin to experience the offense of the cross. Certainly, as the heat of the sun uncovers the barrenness of the soil, so persecution and the cross lay open the pride of those who are slightly influenced by but are not actually moved by earnest feelings of piety.

According to Matthew and Mark, such people are temporary. They may profess for a time that they are disciples of Christ, but they soon fall away through temptation. So they only imagine that they have true faith. According to Luke, their faith is temporary because the honor that they render to the gospel merely resembles faith.

They are not truly regenerated by the incorruptible seed that never fades, as Peter tells us (1 Peter 1:4). The words of Isaiah, “The word of our God shall stand for ever” (Isa. 40:8; 1 Peter 1:25), are only fulfilled in the hearts of believers in whom the truth of God, once fixed, never passes away but retains its vigor to the end.

Still, people who take delight in the Word of God and cherish some reverence for it do in some manner believe, for they are vastly different from unbelievers who give no credit to God when he speaks or who reject his Word.

But let us be sure from this teaching that no one partakes of true faith except those who are sealed with the Spirit of adoption and who sincerely call on God as their Father. Because that Spirit is never extinguished, it is impossible that the true faith that the Spirit engraves on the hearts of the godly will ever pass away or be destroyed.

for meditation: We may repent of our sins outwardly and even respect God’s Word, absorbing its teaching week after week at church and in Bible study, and getting a certain amount of joy from it. But if we repeatedly succumb to temptation without heart-sorrow and fail to change our ways, even when we are reprimanded by other godly people, we should beware lest our faith be only temporary.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 195). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

24 JUNE 365 Days with Calvin

Praising Christ Inadequately

And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. Luke 11:27

suggested further reading: Luke 18:18–34

Christ corrects what the woman says here. He does this because people are inclined to neglect even those gifts of God that they regard with astonishment and on which they bestow the highest praise.

In applauding Christ, the woman fails to mention what is most important: that in Christ salvation is exhibited to all. Her words are a feeble tribute because they fail to mention his grace and power that are extended to all. Christ justly claims for himself another kind of praise, not that his mother alone is blessed for bearing him, but that he brings to us perfect and eternal happiness.

We fail to do justice to the excellence of Christ until we consider the reason why the Father gave Christ to us. We must perceive the benefits that he brings to us so that we who are wretched in ourselves may become happy in him.

Why does Christ say nothing about himself and mention only the Word of God? He does this to open up all his treasures to us, for without the Word of God Jesus would have no conversation with us, or we with him. In communicating himself to us by the Word, he rightly and properly calls us to hear and keep that Word, so that by faith he may become ours.

We now see the difference between Christ’s reply and the woman’s commendation, for the blessedness that she limits to his mother is a favor that he offers freely to all. He shows us that we ought to have no ordinary esteem for him because all the treasures of life, blessedness, and glory are hidden in him (Col. 2:3). He dispenses those to us by the Word so they may be communicated to those who embrace the Word by faith; for God’s free adoption of us, which we obtain by faith, is the key to the kingdom of heaven.

for meditation: Many people praise Jesus inadequately. They esteem Jesus as a good teacher, an excellent example, and a good man, but they miss the major point of who he is and of his mission. Have you fallen prey to the temptation to focus on aspects of Jesus’ ministry that are peripheral to the atonement, which was his main purpose?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 194). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

23 JUNE 365 Days with Calvin

Longing for Relief

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

suggested further reading: Psalm 62

Christ now kindly invites those whom he sees are fit to become his disciples. Though he is ready to reveal the Father to all people, yet most are careless about coming to him because they are not convinced of their need to do so.

Hypocrites are not concerned about following Christ because they are too intoxicated with their own righteousness. They neither “hunger nor thirst” (Matt. 5:6) for his grace. In addition, those who are devoted to the world set no value on heavenly life. It would be useless, therefore, for Christ to invite these kinds of people to come to him. So he turns to the wretched and afflicted who labor or groan under a burden. That does not generally refer to those who are oppressed with grief and trials but specifically to those who are overwhelmed by their sins, are filled with alarm at the wrath of God, and are ready to sink under that weighty burden.

God uses various methods to humble his elect, but since most people who are loaded with afflictions still remain obstinate and rebellious, Christ specifically calls those whose consciences are distressed by the fear of eternal death. They are so inwardly pressed down by their miseries that they faint, and this very fainting prepares them for receiving God’s grace. Jesus tells us that most people despise his grace because they are not sensible of their poverty, but their pride or folly is no reason to keep back those afflicted souls that long for relief.

for meditation: Are you pressed out of measure because of the weight of your sin? Are you burdened by the thought of appearing before your eternal Maker and Judge? Do you long for relief from his impending wrath? If so, Christ kindly and gently invites you to come to him. He will give you rest.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 193). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

22 JUNE 365 Days with Calvin

Revealing Truth to Babes

At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Matthew 11:25

suggested further reading: 1 Corinthians 2

It is no small matter that Christ here addresses the Father as Lord of heaven and earth, for in this manner he declares that God’s will is that the wise remain blind while the ignorant and unlearned people receive the mysteries of the gospel. There are many other passages that similarly point out to us that those who arrive at salvation are freely chosen by God because he is the Creator and Governor of the world, and all nations are his.

This teaching implies two things. First, those who do not obey the gospel do so not because they lack the power of God, who could easily bring all creatures into subjection to his government. Second, some arrive at faith while others remain hardened and obstinate to it because of God’s free election. For in drawing some and passing by others, God alone makes a distinction among men whose condition is by nature alike.

In choosing to reveal things to little children rather than the wise, God regards his own glory rather than the flesh, which is too apt to rise. If able and learned men lead the way, the general conviction of people would be to find faith by their own skill or work or learning. In no other way can the mercy of God be so fully known than by making a choice that clearly shows that whatever people offer in themselves is nothing.

Therefore human wisdom is justly thrown down so it may not obscure the praise of divine grace.

for meditation: Our eyes are blind by nature, and we are unwilling and unable to open them. We do not want to see the truth. If our eyes have been opened, that should humble us; it is not on account of our wisdom or prudence but only because of God’s grace. He brings us to himself when we are nothing so that we might know that he is the author and finisher of our faith.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 192). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

21 JUNE 365 Days with Calvin

Praying for Pardon in Disease

And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. Matthew 9:2

suggested further reading: Isaiah 2:1–5

Christ seems to offer the paralytic something different from what the sick man has requested. Since Christ intends to bestow health of body, he begins by removing the man’s sin, the cause of the disease, reminding the paralytic of the origin of his disease and of the way in which he ought to pray.

People usually do not consider that the afflictions they endure are God’s chastisements. They want relief from disease in the flesh, but at the same time they feel no concern about their sins. It is like a sick man who ignores his disease and only seeks relief from the present pain it causes.

The only way to obtain deliverance from all evils is to have God reconciled to us. It does sometimes happen that wicked men are freed from their distresses even when God is still their enemy. But if they think they have completely escaped punishment, the same evils may immediately return or more numerous and heavy calamities will overwhelm them. That will make it clear that their sorrows cannot be eased or ended until the wrath of God is appeased, as God declares through the prophet Amos: “As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him” (Amos 5:19).

Scripture frequently speaks about the promise of pardoning sin when people seek relief from punishment. So when afflictions remind us of our sins, let us first be careful to pray for pardon, so that when God is reconciled to us, he may withdraw his hand from punishing us.

for meditation: The world abounds today with geo-political, medical, and natural crises that are crying out for justice and healing. All are merely symptomatic of the deeper problem of unforgiven sin. As we reach out to the suffering who are caught in one crisis or another, we must never make the forgiveness of sins secondary; real justice and real healing are inseparable from forgiveness. But what about you? When you suffer from cancer or heart disease or Type 1 diabetes, do you ask the Lord for forgiveness of sin? If you are not reconciled to God through Christ, forgiveness is precisely what you need. Without forgiveness of sin, healing of the body is meaningless.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 191). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

20 JUNE 365 Days with Calvin

Finding Fault

Judge not, that ye be not judged. Matthew 7:1

suggested further reading: James 4:1–12

“Judge not” is not an absolute prohibition against criticism. Rather, Jesus’ words here are intended to cure a disease that is natural to us all.

We all have the tendency to flatter ourselves while passing severe censure on others. This vice provides us with a kind of strange enjoyment, for hardly anyone exists who is not tickled with the desire of asking about other people’s faults. Yet we also acknowledge that it is an intolerable evil to overlook one’s own vices while being critical of others.

The heathen in ancient times cited proverbs to condemn such inconsistencies, for the tendency to excuse ourselves while faulting others has existed in all ages as well as today. What is more, judging often includes another, worse sin, for most people who condemn others then think they have more freedom themselves to sin.

Jesus warns against the depraved eagerness for backbiting, censuring, and slandering others when he says, Judge not. He is not saying that believers should be blind to the faults of others, perceiving nothing, but only that they should refrain from the undue eagerness to judge. If they indulge themselves, everyone who wants to pass sentence on others will exceed the boundaries set by Christ.

Judging may also be influenced by wrongful curiosity about the actions of others. This disease includes the injustice of magnifying any trivial fault of others, as if it were a very heinous crime. In addition, it includes the insolent presumption of looking disdainfully at every action of others, passing unfavorable judgment on it even when it might be viewed in a good light.

for meditation: This frequently quoted verse is often cited to excuse sin, contrary to Christ’s original intent. Those of us who are fond of quoting it forget that we, too, will be judged by Christ himself. Does the coming Judgment Day ever humble you and rein in your quickness to judge others? The next time you are about to criticize someone, stop yourself and ask whether you could and should express that disapproval in a loving manner directly to that person (see Matt. 18:15–17).

How is Jesus’ admonition not to judge a cure for the common kind of fault-finding that alienates people from others? What steps can you take to eradicate criticizing others from your thoughts and speech?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 190). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

19 JUNE 365 Days with Calvin

Guarding against Worry

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Matthew 6:25

suggested further reading: Philippians 4:6–20

Christ reproves the excessive anxiety that people have about having enough food and clothing, but he also offers a remedy for curing this disease. When he forbids people to be anxious, he does not intend that they give up all concerns, for we know that people by nature have such concerns.

But excessive care is condemned for two reasons: either because people can annoy and vex themselves to no good purpose by being more anxious than is proper or their calling demands, or because they take more burdens on themselves than they have a right to do. They rely so heavily on their own efforts that they fail to call upon God to provide.

To guard against such excessive care, we should remember the promise that while unbelievers “rise up early, and sit up late, and eat the bread of sorrows,” believers will obtain rest and sleep through the kindness of God (Ps. 127:2). Though the children of God are not free from work and anxiety, yet we can properly say they do not have to be anxious about life. They may enjoy calm repose because of their reliance on the providence of God.

It is thus clear how far we should go in caring about food. Each of us ought to work as far as his calling requires and the Lord commands; and each of us ought to be led by our own wants to call upon God. We must find the intermediate place between indolent carelessness and unnecessary torments by which unbelievers kill themselves. If we give proper attention to the words of Christ, we will find that he does not forbid every kind of care but only that which arises from distrust. Take no thought for what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink, he says. Distrust belongs to those who tremble for fear of poverty or hunger as if they may be short of provisions at any moment.

for meditation: What if I lose my job, if my house payment rises beyond my ability to pay, if I have a heart attack, if I can’t afford to send my children to college—do such “what ifs” keep you awake at night, fretting about life’s possibilities? How can you find rest in Jesus’ assurance that God will provide for you, no matter what?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 189). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

18 JUNE 365 Days with Calvin

Forgiven to Forgive

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Matthew 6:12

suggested further reading: Matthew 18:21–35

The forgiveness from debts that we ask for in prayer is inconsistent with the way unbelievers try to purchase freedom from what they owe to others. For the creditor who receives payment for what is owed to him does not truly forgive those debts. Rather, a person forgives when he willingly and generously departs from his just claim and frees the debtor of all obligations.

If debts are freely forgiven us, all compensations disappear. There is no other meaning possible in this verse, for God grants the pardon of those who owe him debts by removing the condemnation that they deserve.

Christ adds the condition as we forgive our debtors so that we may not presume to approach God for forgiveness unless we are pure and free from all resentment against others. Yet the forgiveness that we ask of God does not depend on the forgiveness that we grant to others. Rather, the purpose of Christ here is to teach us how to forgive the offenses that have been committed against us. When we forgive, we give evidence of the impression of God’s seal on us and ratify confidence in our own forgiveness.

Christ’s intent is not to point out the reason for our forgiveness but to remind us of how we should cherish others when we want to be reconciled to God. Certainly, if the Spirit of God reigns in our hearts, every kind of ill will and revenge ought to be banished in us. The Spirit is the witness of our adoption (Rom. 8:16), so forgiving others is a mark of grace that distinguishes us as children of God rather than strangers. The name debtors is given, not to those who owe us money or any other service, but to those who are in debt to us because of offenses that they have committed against us.

for meditation: When people wrong us, how easy—even satisfying—it is to hold the offense against them. Our anger rises if they do not come to us, begging for forgiveness. But if we hold on to that debt, how can we ask God to forgive the offenses we continually commit against him? When we consider the amazing, forgiving grace we find in God through his Son’s satisfaction for our innumerable sins, how can we not readily and cheerfully forgive others when their offenses amount to the smallest fraction of our offenses toward God?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 188). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

17 JUNE 365 Days with Calvin

The Right Way to Pray

After this manner therefore pray ye. Matthew 6:9

suggested further reading: 1 Samuel 2:1–11

Jesus tells us we are free to offer six petitions to God. Nothing is more advantageous to us than such instruction. Though prayer is the most important exercise of piety, yet in forming our prayers and regulating our wishes, all our senses too often fail us. No person will pray aright unless his lips and heart are directed by the heavenly Master.

For this reason Christ tells us how to form our prayers so that they can be accounted lawful and approved by God. It is not the intent of the Son of God to prescribe the exact words we must use to limit our freedom from departing from the words he has dictated. Rather, his intent is to guide and restrain our wishes that they might not go beyond certain limits. Hence we infer that the guide for prayer that he gives us relates not to the words themselves but to the petitions they represent.

The first three petitions refer to the glory of God, without any regard to ourselves. The remaining petitions refer to those things that are necessary for our salvation. Likewise, the law of God is divided into tables, of which the former contains the duties of piety and the latter the duties of charity. So in prayer, Christ invites us to consider and seek the glory of God first and then to ask him to consider our own interests.

We know that we have the right approach to prayer if we give first place to the honor and glory of God, then earnestly give expression to ourselves and our own concerns. It would be altogether preposterous to mind only what belongs to ourselves while disregarding the kingdom of God, which is of far greater importance.

for meditation: If our prayers seem to stumble, perhaps we are failing to honor what Christ himself taught us about formulating our prayers. Consider framing your prayers according to the guidelines offered here and in the Lord’s Prayer. This may be a challenge for us, since we are not prone to be as earnest about God’s kingdom and glory as we are about our own daily needs. But the Holy Spirit can help us not to rush through the God-centered part of prayer and immediately move on to the things we want. What grace we need to truly pray![1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 187). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

16 JUNE 365 Days with Calvin

Praying in Secret

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. Matthew 6:6

suggested further reading: Luke 18:1–14

We are commanded in many passages to pray to God or to praise him in the public assembly, amid a crowd and before all the people. We are to do that not only to testify of our faith or gratitude before others, but also to excite them by our example to do likewise. Christ does not discourage us from such an exercise, but he does warn us to always have God before our eyes when we engage in prayer.

We must not literally interpret the words enter into thy closet, as if Christ asks us to avoid the presence of other people, or declares that we do not pray rightly unless there are no witnesses. He speaks in a comparative sense, saying that we should seek privacy in praying rather than before a crowd of witnesses.

It is advantageous, indeed, to believers and contributes to their pouring out prayers and groans with greater freedom before God for them to withdraw from the gaze of others. Retiring from the public is also useful for another reason: that our minds may be more free and disengaged from all distracting thoughts. Accordingly, Christ frequently chooses to hide himself from others by going to an isolated spot to pray.

But the main purpose of this verse is to correct the desire of self-glorification. Whether a person prays alone or in the presence of others, he ought to have the same feelings as if he were shut up in his closet and had no other witness but God. Furthermore, when Christ says, thy Father shall reward thee, he plainly declares that the reward that is promised to us in any part of Scripture is not paid as a debt, but is a free gift.

for meditation: To spend adequate time in private prayer with God is not easy. In a world driven by productivity and bound by the clock, it can even seem like an unproductive use of time. Nothing is further from the truth, however. Then, too, praying before others can earn us praise and puff us up. That distracts us from the true aim of prayer, which is to focus on God. In light of our many failures in prayer, the reward Jesus speaks of is paid not as a debt, but as a free gift. Let us emulate our Savior in how he prayed, whether before others or in private; in both, he sought only the will and honor of his Father in heaven.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 186). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

15 JUNE 365 Days with Calvin

Loving our Neighbor

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. Matthew 5:43

suggested further reading: Leviticus 19:9–18

It is astonishing that the scribes in Jesus’ day came to such a point of absurdity that they limited the meaning of the word neighbour to benevolent persons. Nothing is more obvious or certain than that God, in speaking of loving our neighbor, is referring to the entire human race.

Every man by nature is devoted to himself. When we interrupt personal convenience to show acts of kindness, we depart from the kind of action that nature itself dictates. So, to encourage the exercise of loving others, God assures us that all people are our neighbors because they are related to us by nature. Whenever I see another person, I must of necessity behold myself as in a mirror, for that person is “my bone and my flesh” (Gen. 29:14). Though most people tend to break away from this kind of unity, their depravity does not violate the order of nature, for God is the author of brotherly love.

Hence we conclude that the precept of the law, by which we are commanded to love our neighbor, refers to all people. The love that God requires in his law does not look at what a man deserves but extends to the unworthy, the wicked, and the ungrateful. Now we see the true intent of this verse: to show that Christ restores and vindicates us from malicious falsehoods concerning God’s law. He does not introduce a new law but corrects the wicked excesses of the scribes, by which the purity of the divine law had been corrupted.

for meditation: When have you resisted helping people in trouble, saying they brought it on themselves? Have you shunned those who are ungodly or cut off those who are ungrateful? Rather than limiting the law, as the scribes did, let us be challenged by Christ’s teaching to extend love to anyone in need.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 185). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

14 JUNE 365 Days with Calvin

Finding Grace to Obey

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. Matthew 5:17

suggested further reading: Galatians 3:19–29

God promised a new covenant when Christ came to earth. At the same time, he said the new covenant would not be different from the old. Rather, its purpose would be to give perpetual sanction to the covenant that he had made with his own people from the beginning. God says, “I will write my law … in their hearts, and I will remember their iniquities no more” (Jer. 31:33–34). By these words, the Lord is far from departing from the former covenant. On the contrary, he declares that the old covenant will be confirmed and ratified when it is succeeded by the new.

With respect to this teaching, we must not imagine that the coming of Christ frees us from the authority of the law, for the law is the eternal rule of a devout and holy life. It must, therefore, be as unchangeable as the justice of God, which it embraces as constant and uniform. There is some appearance of change in some ceremonies related to the law. But it is only the use of these rituals that is abolished, not their meaning, for that meaning is more fully confirmed in the new covenant. The coming of Christ takes nothing away even from ceremonies; rather, it confirms them as shadows of the truth. When we see their full effect, we acknowledge that they are not vain or useless.

Let us therefore learn to maintain as unbreakable the sacred tie between the law and gospel, which many improperly attempt to break. It is easier to confirm the authority of the gospel when we learn that it is nothing less than a fulfillment of the law. Both unite in declaring God as their author.

for meditation: There is no disharmony between the law and the gospel: both aim for the glory of God in saving sinners. This implies many things about how we understand the Christian life. For example, how does grace free us to obey God and walk more willingly in his ways? Do you regard obedience to God’s law as a tedious trial?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 184). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

13 JUNE 365 Days with Calvin

Rejoicing in Persecution

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:10

suggested further reading: Matthew 10:15–26

True disciples of Christ greatly need this instruction of Matthew, for the harder and more disagreeable it is for us to admit it, the more earnestly we ought to make being persecuted for righteousness’ sake the subject of our meditation.

We cannot be Christ’s soldiers under any other condition, for the greater part of the world will rise in hostility against us and pursue us even to death. The state of the matter is this: Satan, the prince of the world, will never cease to fill his followers with rage to carry on hostilities against believers in Christ. It is, no doubt, monstrous and unnatural that men who try to live a righteous life should be attacked and tormented in a way that they do not deserve. As Peter says, “Who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?” (1 Peter 3:13).

Yet, as a consequence of the unbridled wickedness of the world, too frequently good men in their righteous zeal arouse the resentments of the ungodly against them. Above all, it is normal for Christians to be hated by the majority of men, for the flesh cannot endure the doctrine of the gospel and have its vices reproved.

It is typical for the godly to inflame the hatred and provoke the rage of wicked men against them, because in their earnest desire to do what is good and right, they oppose bad causes and defend good ones as much as lies in their power. In this respect, the truth of God justly holds first rank. By the mark of persecution, Christ distinguishes his own martyrs from criminals and evildoers.

for meditation: When have we come to the Lord objecting to the evil that others do against us for righteousness’ sake? If we are never persecuted, we must ask ourselves whether or not we even stand for righteousness. How do Christ’s words here transform the painful experience of persecution into blessing and reward? Consider that the next time you suffer on account of your stand for Christ and his righteousness.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 183). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.