My Tribute to John Calvin on His 500th Birthday

My Tribute to John Calvin on His 500th Birthday


I am sure that John Calvin would be embarrassed by all the attention he is getting on the 500th anniversary of his birth.  He was a modest and humble man.  But there is no getting around the fact that Calvin left a legacy that deserves to be remembered.  I would like to share his imprint on my life.


In 1987 I was poking around Ariel’s grandparents’ garage and found many boxes filled with books.  There, among the treasures, was Calvin’s Institutes (Ford Lewis Battles edition) and Calvin’s NT Commentaries (hardback Parker edition).  Over the years I dabbled in the Institutes, but regularly consulted the commentaries.  In seminary, when God opened my eyes to His beauty, reflected in the Reformed faith, I read more about Calvin and I read more Calvin. 


The Institutes have always struck me by their warmth and vigor.  The Institutes are miles away from the rigidly structured scholastic theologians of the 17th century.  They are powerful, discursive and engaging.  But quite honestly, it has not been the Institutes that I’ve been most grateful for, rather it has been Calvin’s commentaries.  I have frequently found Calvin, as an expositor, ahead of his time in insight and method.  He was concise and exegetical.  He was pastoral and applicatory.  I could learn a lesson from Calvin when it comes to being briefer and more concise!


However, what has impacted me most about Calvin has been his own life.  Calvin was far from perfect, but he was totally sold out to the Word of God and the glory of God.  He lived to preach and teach.  It can truly be said that he worked himself to death.  His labors for the reformation of the Church through the proclamation of the Word are remarkable by anyone’s standards.  His own personal piety is gripping.  He was a man of incredible meekness.  He was also formidable in his defense of the truth of the Gospel.  He believed in the power of the Word.  He believed that preaching the Word could transform the church and society, and it did, all throughout Europe, England and ScotlandGeneva was a refuge for the persecuted, and Calvin maximized the opportunity by training pastors and missionaries, yes missionaries, to take the Word back to their homelands.  His dedication to the church was unwavering.  His commitment to truth was courageous.  When opposed he was undaunted.  If it meant losing his life, he was willing.  Calvin’s coat-of-arms has him holding a burning heart, with the words, “My heart for thy cause, I offer Thee Lord, promptly and sincerely.”


On Calvin’s 500th birthday, we should give thanks to the Head of the Church for giving such a gift as John Calvin.