Category Archives: John Calvin

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.

26 AUGUST 365 Days with Calvin

Forming Christ in You

My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you. Galatians 4:19

suggested further reading: 1 John 2:12–29

In this text Paul soothes the anger of the Galatians. He does not set aside as useless their former birth but says that they must be nourished again in the womb, for they have not yet been fully formed.

Christ being formed in us is the same thing as our being formed in Christ, for we are born to become new creatures in him. He, on the other hand, is born in us so that we may live in him. Since the true image of Christ was defaced by the superstitions introduced by the false apostles, Paul labors to restore that image in all its perfection and brightness. This is done by the ministers of the gospel when they give milk to babes and strong meat to those who are of full age (Heb. 5:13, 14). In short, this is to be their goal in all of their preaching.

Paul here compares himself to a woman in labor, because the Galatians have not yet been completely born. This is a remarkable passage for illustrating the efficacy of the Christian ministry. True, we are “born of God” (1 John 3:9), but God uses a minister and preaching as his instruments for that purpose. So he is pleased to ascribe to them that work which he himself performs through the power of his Spirit in co-operation with the labors of man.

Let us always pay attention to the distinction that, when a minister is contrasted with God, he is nothing and can do nothing and is utterly useless. But because the Holy Spirit works efficaciously by means of the minister, the minister comes to be regarded and praised as an agent. Still, it is not what he can do in himself or apart from God but what God does by him that is here described. If ministers wish to do anything, let them labor to form Christ, not to form themselves, in their listeners.

for meditation: How often don’t we try to form ourselves, rather than Christ, in others? If someone should become like us and hold the same opinions as us, we would be quite satisfied with ourselves. But we should be laboring to form Christ in others so they might quickly surpass us in godliness and spur us on to have Christ formed in us more and more.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 257). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

25 AUGUST 365 Days with Calvin

Putting on Christ

For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Galatians 3:27

suggested further reading: Romans 6:1–14

Paul explains in a few words what it means to be united or made one with the Son of God. He uses the metaphor of putting on a garment in saying that the Galatians have put on Christ; meaning that these believers are so closely united with Christ that in the presence of God they so bear the name and character of Christ that they are viewed in him rather than in themselves. This metaphor of taking on garments occurs frequently in Scripture.

The argument that, because they have been baptized, they have put on Christ, appears weak, however; for how far is baptism from being efficacious in all people? Is it reasonable that the grace of the Holy Spirit should be so closely linked to an external symbol? Does not the uniform doctrine of Scripture as well as experience appear to confute this statement?

I answer this objection by saying it is customary for Paul to treat the sacraments from two points of view. When he is dealing with hypocrites, in whom a mere symbol awakens pride, he loudly proclaims the emptiness and worthlessness of the outward symbol. He also denounces, in strong terms, their foolish confidence in this symbol. In such cases he contemplates not the ordinance of God but the corruption of wicked men.

On the other hand, he addresses believers who make proper use of the symbols by viewing them in connection with the truth that they represent. In this case, Paul makes no boast of any false splendor that comes from the sacraments but calls our attention to the actual fact represented by the outward ceremony. Thus, in agreement with the divine appointment, the truth comes to be associated with the symbols.

for meditation: Living as one who has put on Christ by faith is one of the Christian’s greatest privileges. By the Spirit’s grace, how can you put into practice today that you have put on Christ? How can the sacraments assist you in this task?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 256). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

24 AUGUST 365 Days with Calvin

Asking without Receiving

For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 2 Corinthians 12:8

suggested further reading: Mark 14:32–42

It may seem from this text that Paul has not prayed in faith, for we read everywhere in Scripture that we shall obtain whatever we ask in faith. Paul prays, and does not obtain what he asks for.

I address this problem by saying that as there are different ways of asking, so there are different ways of obtaining. We ask in simple terms for those things for which we have an express promise. For example, we ask for the perfecting of God’s kingdom, the hallowing of his name (Matt. 6:9), the remission of our sins, and everything that is advantageous to us. But when we think that the kingdom of God can, indeed, must be advanced in this particular manner or in that, and what is necessary for the hallowing of his name, we are often mistaken in our opinion.

In like manner, we often commit a serious mistake about asking for what tends to promote our own welfare. We ask for things confidently and without reservation, while we do not have the right to prescribe the means for receiving them. If, however, we specify the means, we always have an implied condition, even though we don’t express it.

Paul was not ignorant about this. Hence, as to the object of his prayer, there can be no doubt that he was heard, though he met with a refusal as to the express form of that answer. By this we are admonished not to give way to despondency in thinking our prayers are lost labor when God does not gratify or comply with our wishes. Rather, we must be satisfied with his grace in not forsaking us. For the reason why God sometimes mercifully refuses to give his own people what in his wrath he grants to the wicked is that he better foresees what is expedient for us than our understanding is able to apprehend.

for meditation: Even with the knowledge that God knows best, it is difficult to submit to his will when our prayers seem to go unanswered. We must pray for the grace to will what God wills and to leave it to his wisdom how he brings his will about. Are you trusting him with all your current concerns?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 255). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

23 august (1857) 365 Days with Spurgeon

Five fears

“Yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him.” Ecclesiastes 8:12

suggested further reading: Luke 12:4–12

Fear may be yoked into the service of God. True fear, not fearing, but believing, saves the soul; not doubt, but confidence, is the strength and the deliverance of the Christian. Still, fear, as being one of those powers which God has given us, is not in itself sinful. Fear may be used for the most sinful purposes; at the same time it may be so ennobled by grace, and so used for the service of God, that it may become the very grandest part of man. In fact, Scripture has honoured fear, for the whole of piety is comprehended in these words, “Fear God”; “the fear of the Lord”; “them that fear him.” These phrases are employed to express true piety, and the men who possess it. Fear, I have said, may ruin the soul. Alas! It has ruined multitudes. O Fear, you are the rock upon which many a ship has been wrecked. Many a soul has suffered spiritual destruction through you, but then it has been not the fear of God, but the fear of man. Many have rushed against the thick bosses of the Almighty’s shield, and defied God, in order to escape the wrath of feeble man. Many through fear of worldly loss have brought great guilt into their consciences; some through fear of ridicule and laughter have not had the boldness to follow the right, and so have gone astray and been ruined. Yea, and where fear does not work utter destruction it is capable of doing much damage to the spirit. Fear has paralysed the arm of the most gigantic Christian, stopped him in his race, and impeded him in his labours. Faith can do anything, but fear, sinful fear, can do just nothing at all, except prevent faith from performing its labours.

for meditation: The one you seek to please is the one you fear (Galatians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:4).

sermon no. 148[1]

[1] Spurgeon, C. H., & Crosby, T. P. (1998). 365 Days with Spurgeon (Volume 1) (p. 242). Leominster, UK: Day One Publications.

22 AUGUST 365 Days with Calvin

Knowing Godly Sorrow

For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. 2 Corinthians 7:10

suggested further reading: Psalm 51

To understand what is meant by godly sorrow, we must observe that godly sorrow is contrasted here with sorrow of the world. There is also a contrast between two kinds of joy. The joy of the world is when men foolishly and without the fear of the Lord exult in vanity, that is, with the world. Intoxicated with a transient happiness, they look no higher than the earth. True joy is when men place all their happiness in God and take satisfaction in his grace. They show this joy in contempt of the world, regarding earthly prosperity as if it is of no use to them and being joyful in the midst of adversity.

So, the sorrow of the world is when men despair as a consequence of earthly afflictions and are overwhelmed with grief. Godly sorrow has an eye to God; those who have it reckon it misery to have lost the favor of God. Impressed with the fear of God’s judgment, they mourn over their sins.

Paul says godly sorrow is the cause and origin of repentance. It is to be carefully observed, for unless the sinner is dissatisfied with himself, detests his manner of life, and is thoroughly grieved by an apprehension of sin, he will never betake himself to the Lord. On the other hand, it is impossible for a person to experience sorrow of this kind without giving birth to a new heart.

Hence repentance arises in grief, for the reason that I have mentioned. No one can return to the right way unless he hates sin. Where there is hatred of sin, there is grief and dissatisfaction with self.

for meditation: There are many sorrows in this world, and none of them are pleasant. Godly sorrow is not pleasant, either, and thus it is avoided by most. But it is a sorrow that leads to the great joy of salvation. It is not to be regretted, for it leads to repentance and life. Have you experienced godly sorrow? Think of the joy that it has brought about.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 253). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

21 AUGUST 365 Days with Calvin

Finding Blessing in Death

We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:8

suggested further reading: Revelation 21:1–9

Paul here repeats what he has said respecting the confidence of the pious; they are far from breaking down under the severity of the cross and from being disheartened by afflictions. Rather, in those they are made more courageous. For the worst of evils is death, yet believers long to attain death as the commencement of perfect blessedness.

The word and in this verse may be regarded as equivalent to because, thus reading, “Nothing can befall us that can shake our confidence and courage, since death (which others so much dread) is to us great gain (Phil. 1:21). For nothing is better than leaving the body, for in it we may attain close fellowship with God and may truly and openly enjoy his presence. In the decay of the body, we lose nothing that belongs to us.”

Observe here that true faith begets not merely contempt of death but even desire for it. On the other hand, a token of unbelief is when the dread of death predominates in us above the joy and consolation of hope. True believers desire death, not as if they would by an importunate desire anticipate their Lord’s day, for they willingly retain footing in their earthly station so long as their Lord may see it good for them. They would rather live to the glory of Christ and “die to themselves” (Rom. 14:7) than live for their own advantage. The desire for death, of which Paul speaks, springs forth from faith. It is not at all in variance with the will of God.

We may also gather from these words of Paul that souls, when released from the body, live in the presence of God. For if by being absent from the body they have God present with them, they surely live with him.

for meditation: The Bible does not speak much about the intermediate state of man—that is, our state between death and when Christ resurrects our bodies at his Second Coming. But Paul confirms for us that our souls shall indeed be present with the Lord. That means more to believers than anything else. To be with the Lord, without the conflict of sin, ought to be our crowning desire. It ought to make us welcome death. Today, meditate on what this entails, and thank God for the intermediate state even as we long for the day when our entire man—soul and body—shall serve the Lord in perfection forever.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 252). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

20 AUGUST 365 Days with Calvin

Bearing the Marks of Christ

Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. 2 Corinthians 4:10

suggested further reading: Romans 8:28–39

The word mortification translated as dying, means something different here than it does in many passages of Scripture. Often mortification means self-denial, or renouncing the lusts of the flesh and being renewed unto obedience to God. In this verse, however, it means the afflictions by which we are stirred up to meditate on the termination of the present life.

To make it more plain, let us call the former usage “inward mortification” and the latter one “outward mortification.” Both kinds of mortification conform us to Christ; one directly, and the other indirectly, so to speak. Paul speaks of inward mortification in Colossians 3:5 and in Romans 6:6, where he teaches that our old man is crucified so that we may walk in newness of life. He speaks of outward mortification in Romans 8:29, where he teaches that we were predestinated by God so that we might be conformed to the image of his Son.

However, this mortification of Christ is only so for believers, because the wicked, in enduring the afflictions of this present life, share those with Adam, but the elect participate in sufferings with the Son of God, so that all those miseries that by nature are accursed are helpful to their salvation. It is true that all the sons of God have in common bearing about the mortification of Christ. But as one is distinguished from another by a larger measure of gifts, he in that proportion comes closer to conforming with Christ in this respect.

Paul adds, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. Here is the best antidote to adversity; as Christ’s death is the gate of life, so we know that a blessed resurrection will terminate all our miseries. Christ has associated us with himself so that if we submit to die with him, we shall also be partakers of life with him.

for meditation: Afflictions can be a great blessing for us. John Bunyan said that believers “are like bells; the harder they are hit, the better they sound.” This “better sound” derives from being and sounding more like Christ. How have your afflictions brought you closer to Christ and made you more like him? What can we do to further this process of sanctification amid our afflictions?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 251). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

19 AUGUST 365 Days with Calvin

Seeking Selfless Love

… doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil. 1 Corinthians 13:5

suggested further reading: 1 Corinthians 12:12–31

Love does not exult in foolish showiness, nor does it bluster, but it observes moderation and propriety in all things. Paul thus indirectly reproves the Corinthians for shamefully putting aside all propriety by unseemly haughtiness.

The apostle says true love seeketh not her own. From this we infer how very far we are from having love implanted in us by nature, for we are naturally prone to love and care for ourselves and aim at our own advantage. To speak more correctly, we rush headlong into activity that promotes self. The remedy for so perverse an inclination is love, which helps us to stop caring only for ourselves and to be concerned for our neighbors by loving them and being concerned for their welfare.

What is more, to seek one’s own things is to be devoted to self and to be wholly taken up with concern for one’s own advantage. This definition of love solves the question about whether it is lawful for a Christian to be concerned for his own advantage. Paul does not here reprove every kind of care or concern for self, but the excess of it, which proceeds from an immoderate and blind attachment to self.

Excess self-concern is thinking of ourselves to the neglect of others, or so desiring our personal advantage that we let go of the concern that God commands us to have for our neighbors. Paul says love is also a bridle to repress quarrels. This follows the first two statements; for where there is gentleness and forbearance, people do not suddenly become angry and are not easily stirred up to disputes and contests.

for meditation: The kind of love that Paul speaks about here is unconditional and sacrificial. Such love does not seek to serve itself; it seeks the good of others and the honor of God. If such love brings rewards, these are to be rejoiced in, but they are never to be the goal. How much of our love seeks its own? How can we love more unconditionally today?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 250). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

18 AUGUST 365 Days with Calvin

Being One in Christ

Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. 1 Corinthians 12:27

suggested further reading: Philippians 2

What has been said about the nature and condition of the human body must be applied to us; for we are not merely a civil society, but, having been engrafted into Christ’s body, are truly members of one another.

Therefore, we should know that whatever any one of us has, it has been given to us for the edification of our fellow believers. Accordingly, let us bring forward what we have and not keep it back, buried, as it were, within self, or only for our own use. Let not the person who is endowed with superior gifts be puffed up with pride and despise others; rather, let him consider nothing is so diminutive as to be of no use. For in truth, even the least among the pious brings forth fruit according to his slender capacity, so there is no useless member in the church.

Those who are not endowed with much honor should not envy those above them or refuse to do their duty to them, but they should maintain the station in which they have been placed. Let there be mutual affection, mutual fellow feeling, mutual concern. Let us have regard for the advantage of all, so that we may not destroy the church by maligning, or envy, or pride, or any disagreement. On the contrary, let every one of us strive to preserve the church to the utmost of our power.

This is a large and magnificent subject, but I content myself with having pointed out one way in which the above text must be applied to the church.

for meditation: The church being one in Jesus Christ implies that each member of the church has particular tasks to do, just as families share tasks in their home. Some of these tasks are prominent; others, more mundane. Paul is directing every member of the church to use his or her gifts for the health and well-being of the church and their fellow members. If you are a believer, what gifts has the Spirit given you to use for the upbuilding of the church? Are you using those gifts now? How could you use them more effectively?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 249). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

17 AUGUST 365 Days with Calvin

Examining Ourselves for the Supper

But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 1 Corinthians 11:28

suggested further reading: 1 Peter 1:3–11

This teaching is drawn from the foregoing warning: “If those that eat unworthily are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, then let no man approach who is not properly and duly prepared. Let every one, therefore, take heed that he may not fall into this sacrilege through idleness or carelessness.” Now Paul exhorts us to an examination of another sort that may accord with the legitimate use of the sacred Supper.

You see here a method that is most easily understood. If you wish to rightly use the benefit afforded by Christ, bring to it faith and repentance. Trial must be made of these two things if you would come duly prepared. Under repentance I include love, for the person who has learned to so renounce himself that he gives himself wholly to Christ and his service will also, without doubt, carefully maintain that unity which Christ has directed.

At the same time, the faith or repentance that is required is not perfect, for some, by urging beyond due bounds a perfection that can nowhere be found, would forever shut out every individual from the Supper. If, however, you seek after the righteousness of God with the earnest desire of your mind, and, humbled by a view of your misery, do wholly lean upon Christ’s grace, you may rest upon it, knowing that through him you are a worthy guest to approach the Table. You are worthy in this respect, that the Lord does not exclude you, even though from another point of view something in you is not what it ought to be. For faith, even when it is just begun, makes worthy those who were unworthy.

for meditation: The Lord’s Supper is not for those who are perfect. It is for those who are sinners but who have repented of their sin and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for salvation. Thus, examination for Communion is not a search for perfection but a search for a living relationship with Christ; only through his merits may we attend his Supper. Do you practice such examination before Communion?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 248). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

16 AUGUST 365 Days with Calvin

Guilty of the Body and Blood

Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 11:27

suggested further reading: 2 Corinthians 13

If the Lord requires our gratitude in receiving this sacrament, and he would have us acknowledge his grace with the heart and publish it with the mouth, that person will not go unpunished who has put insult upon Christ rather than honor, for the Lord will not allow his commandment to be despised.

Now, if we would catch the meaning of this declaration, we must know what it is to eat unworthily. Some restrict that to the Corinthians and the abuse of the Lord’s Supper that has crept in among them, but I believe that Paul, according to his usual manner, passes here from a particular case to a general statement, or from one instance to an entire class. One fault prevails among the Corinthians. Paul uses this to speak of every kind of faulty administration or reception of the Lord’s Supper. “God will not allow this sacrament to be profaned without punishing it severely,” he writes.

To eat unworthily, then, is to pervert the pure and right use of the Lord’s Supper by our abuse of it. There are various degrees of this unworthiness, and some offend more grievously, while others less so. Some fornicator, perhaps, or perjurer, or drunkard, or cheat (1 Cor. 5:11) intrudes on the Supper without repentance. As such downright contempt is a token of wanton insult against Christ, there can be no doubt that such a person receives the Supper to his own destruction. Another, perhaps, who is not addicted to any open or flagrant vice, comes forward to the Supper. But he is not prepared in heart to receive Communion. Since this carelessness or negligence is a sign of irreverence, it also deserves punishment from God. As there are various degrees of unworthy participation, the Lord punishes some slightly, while on others he inflicts more severe punishment.

for meditation: It is a terrifying prospect to be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. Let Paul’s warning drive you to make sure that you never attend the Table unworthily. You will always attend as a sinner, but come as a sinner saved by grace and be prepared in your heart to remember him.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 247). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

15 AUGUST 365 Days with Calvin

Drawn to Evil

For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. 1 Corinthians 11:19

suggested further reading: Titus 3:9–15

Observe what Paul says here: there must be heresies. By this he teaches that heresies do not happen by chance but by the sure providence of God. That is because God has it in view to try his people as gold in the furnace. If using heresy for that is agreeable to the mind of God, it is consequently expedient.

At the same time, we must not enter into thorny disputes or into labyrinths of despair as if heresy were our fate. We know there never will be a time when reprobates do not exist. We know that reprobates are governed by the spirit of Satan and are effectually drawn to what is evil. We also know that Satan actively leaves no stone unturned in trying to break up the unity of the church. From this—not from fate—comes the necessity for heresy that Paul mentions.

We also know that the Lord, by his admirable wisdom, turns Satan’s deadly machinations to promote the salvation of believers. Hence comes the purpose of which Paul speaks, that God allows heresies so that the good may shine forth more conspicuously. For we should not ascribe the advantage to heresies, which, being evil, can produce nothing but what is evil. Rather, the advantage belongs to God, who, by his infinite goodness, changes the nature of things so that even those things which have been contrived for the ruin of the elect become salutary to them.

In the end, the wicked are impelled by Satan in such a manner that they both act and are acted upon with the consent of their wills. Hence they are without excuse for their wickedness.

for meditation: Given human depravity, we ought not be surprised that heresies surface in the world and even in our own families and churches. As we lovingly yet firmly confront those who depart from Scripture, let us be encouraged that God will bring good out of evil and reward us for our faithfulness in dealing with this unpleasant and sinful reality. Do you walk with integrity before heretics, striving to correct them and lovingly show them their error?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 246). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

14 AUGUST 365 Days with Calvin

Blessing from Heresy

For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. 1 Corinthians 11:19

suggested further reading: 1 Timothy 4

It is true that the church can be torn asunder by false doctrine and that heresy is the root and origin of schism. It is also true that envy or pride is the mother of almost all heresies. At the same time, it is helpful to distinguish between heresies and schisms.

Schisms are secret grudges that are at work in breaking down the agreement that ought to subsist among the pious because inclinations are at variance with each other. Or they are disagreements that arise when everyone is mightily pleased with his own way and finds fault with everything done by others. Heresies occur in the church when evil proceeds to such a pitch that it breaks into open hostility, and people deliberately divide themselves into opposite parties.

So that believers might not feel discouraged on seeing the Corinthians torn by divisions, the apostle turns this occasion of offense in an opposite direction, saying that the Lord uses such trials to prove his people’s constancy. What a lovely consolation! He seems to say, “We should be far from being troubled or cast down when we do not see complete unity in the church. On the contrary, we ought to remain firm and constant under threats of separation due to the lack of proper agreement, even if sects should arise. For in this way hypocrites are detected, and the sincerity of believers is tried. As disagreements give occasion for discovering the fickleness of those who are not rooted in the Lord’s Word and for seeing the wickedness of those who have assumed the appearance of good men, so the good of believers affords a more single manifestation of their constancy and sincerity.”

for meditation: This is certainly a fresh perspective on church division. Though strife itself does not bring glory to God, it does serve to sift the church and expose those who are not rooted in the Lord. If we find ourselves in the middle of such strife, we should examine ourselves and our motivations. Having done that, we should pray that God would purify his church through this difficult time.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 245). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

13 AUGUST 365 Days with Calvin

Dealing with Needless Contention

But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God. 1 Corinthians 11:16

suggested further reading: 1 Timothy 6:1–12

A contentious person is inclined to stir up disputes and does not care what becomes of the truth. This description is of all who, without any need, abolish good and useful customs, raise disputes respecting matters that are not doubtful, do not yield to reason, and cannot endure anyone being above them.

This description also includes people who, from foolish affectation, aim at acting in some new and unusual way. Paul does not reckon such people worthy of response, because contention is a pernicious thing and ought to be banished from churches.

He teaches us that those who are obstinate and fond of quarreling should be restrained by authority rather than debated in lengthy disputations. For you will never end contention if you are disposed to contend with a combative person until you have defeated him. And if he were defeated a hundred times, he would still argue.

Let us therefore carefully note this passage so we do not allow ourselves to be carried away with needless disputations. At the same time, we should understand how to distinguish contentious persons. For we must not always reckon as contentious the man who does not acquiesce in our decisions or who ventures to contradict us, but when temper and obstinacy show themselves, let us then say with Paul that those contentions are at variance with the custom of the church.

for meditation: Contending for the truth against error is the noble duty of the church, but some people contend for their own opinions on obscure subjects simply because they love contention, not because they love truth. This behavior is not acceptable in the church and is entirely against the Spirit of Christ. Many of us have pet peeves. Are we creating needless contention by repeatedly raising non-essential issues?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 244). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

12 AUGUST 365 Days with Calvin

Providing a Way of Escape

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

suggested further reading: James 1:12–18

As Paul taught believers to be of good courage in the past so that he might stir them to repentance, so he also comforts them for the future with the sure hope that God will not suffer them to be tempted beyond their strength. However, he adds the warning to look to the Lord, because a temptation, however slight, may quickly overcome us, and we will certainly fall if we rely upon our own strength.

Paul speaks of the Lord as faithful, not merely because God is true to his promises, but also, as he appears to say, “The Lord is the sure guardian of his people, under whose protection you are safe, for he never leaves his people destitute. Accordingly, when he has received you under his protection, you will have no cause to fear, provided you depend entirely upon him. For certainly this would be a kind of deception if he were to withdraw his aid in the time of need, or if upon seeing us weak and ready to sink under the load, he were to lengthen our trials.”

The term temptation here denotes, in a general way, everything that lures us. So that we may not be overcome by temptation, God helps us in two ways: he supplies us with strength, and he sets limits to temptation. The apostle chiefly speaks of this second help here. At the same time, he does not exclude the promise that God alleviates temptations so they do not overpower us by their weight. For he knows the measure of our power, which he himself has conferred, and regulates our temptations accordingly.

for meditation: This text offers great encouragement for weary saints. We need not constantly lose the battle against temptation, for God promises deliverance. Victory is possible, in the faithful strength and wisdom of God, no matter how long we have known defeat. If he provides the way of escape, why should we not take heart? Ask him for grace that his provision may be stronger than your corruption.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 243). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

11 AUGUST 365 Days with Calvin

Mourning One Person’s Sin

And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. 1 Corinthians 5:2

suggested further reading: Matthew 18:15–20

Why should the Corinthians mourn over one man’s sin? For two reasons: first, as a consequence of the communion that exists among the members of the church, it is becoming that all should feel hurt at so deadly a fall of one of their number. Second, when such an enormous sin is perpetrated in a particular church, the perpetrator is an offender in such a manner that he pollutes the whole society.

For as God humbles the father of a family in the disgrace of his wife or of his children, and a whole kindred in the disgrace of one of their number, so every church ought to consider itself stained with disgrace when any base crime is perpetrated in it. Furthermore, we have seen how the anger of God was kindled against the entire nation of Israel because of the sacrilege of one individual, Achan (Josh. 7:1).

God was not cruel in taking vengeance on the innocent for one man’s crime. Rather, since there is already some token of God’s anger when anything of this nature has occurred among a people, so by correcting a community for the fault of one individual, God distinctly teaches that the whole body is infected and polluted with the contagion of the offense.

Hence we readily infer that the duty of every church is to mourn over the faults of individual members because domestic calamities belong to the entire body. Assuredly a pious and dutiful correction arises when we are inflamed with holy zeal through displeasure at the offense, for otherwise the severity of the correction will be bitter.

for meditation: Corruption in one place will affect the entire body. The church is a body also; thus, the effect of one person’s sin will be felt by all. Corruption must be cured as fast as possible before it spreads and worse damage is done. If the corruption cannot be cured, it must be excised. Though that process it painful and difficult, it must be done if the rest of the body is to be saved. Is there any form of corruption that you are contributing to the body? Is there any elsewhere that you should pray for and humbly confront?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 242). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

10 AUGUST 365 Days with Calvin

Offering Godly Correction

I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. 1 Corinthians 4:14

suggested further reading: Colossians 3:12–17

A man with a malevolent disposition may inflict disgrace upon someone, reproving him and his faults in such a manner that the sinner is held up to the reproach of all. Though accused, Paul does not do that. He simply affirms that what he has said was done without malice, not to upbraid or to hurt the reputation of Corinthian believers, but with a paternal affection he admonished them about what he saw as defective in them.

What was the purpose of this admonition? It was that the Corinthians, who were puffed up with mere empty notions, might learn to glory in the abasement of the cross, as Paul did, and might no longer despise Paul for those grounds on which he was deservedly honorable in the sight of God and angels. In effect, they should lay aside their accustomed haughtiness so they might set a higher value on those marks of Christ (Gal. 6:17) that were upon Paul rather than on the empty and counterfeit show of false apostles.

Let teachers learn from this that, in reproving others, they must always use such moderation as not to wound men’s minds with excessive severity. In agreement with the well-known proverb, they must mix honey or oil with vinegar so that they might above all things take care not to appear to triumph over those whom they reprove or take delight in their disgrace. Indeed, they must endeavor to make clear that they seek nothing but to promote the welfare of others. For what good will the teacher do with a reprimand if he does not season his reproof with that moderation of which I have spoken?

Hence if we desire to do any good by correcting men’s faults, we must distinctly let them know that our reproofs proceed from a friendly disposition.

for meditation: Aware that he would be nothing without the grace of God toward him, the Christian is to reprove with great humility and love. Sadly, many of us forget our debt to God and proudly reprimand others so we appear far better. This is foolish, damaging to their souls, and usually breeds resentment rather than repentance.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 241). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

9 AUGUST 365 Days with Calvin

Serving as Asked

For who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? 1 Corinthians 4:7

suggested further reading: Lamentations 3:22–33

The meaning of this verse may be stated: “Let that man come forward, whosoever he be, that is desirous of distinction, and troubles the church by his ambition. I will demand of him, who makes him superior to others? Who has conferred upon him the privilege of being taken out of the rank of the others and made superior to others?”

The reasoning in this is dependent on the order that the Lord has appointed in his church so that the members of Christ’s body may be united together, and everyone may rest satisfied with his own place, his own rank, his own office, and his own honor. If one member desires to leave his place so he may leap into the place of another and invade his office, what will become of the entire body?

Let us know that the Lord has placed each of us in the church and assigned to each one his own station, so that, being under one head, we may be mutually helpful to each other. Let us also know that we have been endowed with a diversity of gifts so that we may serve the Lord with modesty and humility, and so we may endeavor to promote the glory of him who has conferred upon us everything that we have.

The best remedy for correcting the ambition of those who desire distinction is to call them back to God so they might acknowledge that they were not placed in a high or low station according to anyone’s pleasure. Rather, this decision belongs to God alone. God does not confer gifts upon anyone to elevate him to the place of the head but distributes his gifts so that God alone is glorified in all things.

for meditation: Some parts of the body of Christ are more noticeable and more appreciated than others. But Paul points out that prominent members of the church are nothing more than what God has made. They have no reason to boast. In the same way, less prominent members are nothing less than what God has made, so they have no reason to complain or be discontent. Are you filled with pride because of your position? Or do you covet another person’s position? Both sins must be humbly repented of.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 240). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.