The Secret of John Calvin’s Greatness
John Calvin was a churchman for all ages. He was a reformer par excellence. He was a godly pastor who equipped his people for ministry. He was a humble revolutionary. He was a loyal husband, father, and friend. But above all Calvin was a man whose mind was humbled and whose heart was mastered by the Lord God Almighty. His life’s prayer—”I offer my heart to you, O Lord, promptly and sincerely”—was an unwavering declaration of surrender to the Lord, whom he sought to love with all of his heart, soul, mind, and strength.
While many Christians throughout the world may be familiar with some of Calvin’s doctrines, most are unfamiliar with the man who was so devoted to prayer and the ministry of God’s Word (Acts 6:4). Given all that the Lord accomplished in him and through him, his legacy to us is one of biblical, doctrinal, and ecclesiastical integrity. As such, we would do well to heed the words of Calvin’s friend Theodore Beza, who wrote, “Since it has pleased God that Calvin should continue to speak to us through his writings, which are so scholarly and full of godliness, it is up to future generations to go on listening to him until the end of the world, so that they might see our God as he truly is and live and reign with him for all eternity.”
Calvin’s greatness was not in his service to himself but in his surrender to God, as B. B. Warfield recognized: “Here we have the secret of Calvin’s greatness and the source of his strength unveiled to us. No man ever had a profounder sense of God than he; no man ever more unreservedly surrendered himself to the Divine direction.” This is Calvin’s greatness—his constant surrender to God.
For those of us who desire not simply to wear the five-pointed badge of Calvinism, but who desire to clothe ourselves with the fullness of the old Calvinism, let us follow Calvin’s example as we fall to our knees in constant surrender to God, living each day before the face of God, enjoying and glorifying God forever. This was Calvin’s chief desire for himself, for his congregation, and for us. In his Institutes of the Christian Religion he wrote, “As the surest source of destruction to men is to obey themselves, so the only haven of safety is to have no other will, no other wisdom, than to follow the Lord wherever he leads.”
This post was originally published in Tabletalk magazine.