John Calvin was a prominent French theologian whom God raised to lead the Reformation in French-speaking Switzerland. This valiant reformer was used of the Lord to establish the Reformed faith on a firm foundation, not only in Switzerland but also in Western Europe.
Many theologians are of the view that, apart from the German reformer, Martin Luther, no man has had a greater influence on Protestant theology than John Calvin. C H Spurgeon paid him the following tribute: “Among all those who have been born of women, there has not risen a greater than John Calvin. No age before him ever produced his equal, and no age afterwards has seen his rival. In theology, he stands alone, shining like a bright fixed star, while other leaders and teachers can only circle round him, at a great distance with nothing like his glory or his permanence.”
Speaking of his doctrines, Spurgeon commented: “I love to proclaim those strong old doctrines that are nicknamed Calvinism, but which are surely and verily the revealed truth of God as it is in Christ Jesus.”
A prolific writer gifted with a brilliant mind, Calvin’s chief contribution to the 16th Century Reformation was his theological treatise entitled The Institutes of the Christian Religion – a summary of biblical theology that became the authoritative statement of the Reformed faith.
Calvin’s Institutes stands as one of the greatest literary works of the Reformation Movement. Regarded by many as a theological classic, it has been revised many times and translated into various languages. It is a useful reference book for understanding the key teachings of Holy Scriptures and the fundamentals of the Christian faith.
Though Calvin was the author of many Bible commentaries and theological books, his most well-known teachings, as set forth in his Institutes were the Five Points of Calvinism. Using the acronym, “T-U-L-I-P”, the foundational doctrines of the Reformed Faith are:
Man is totally depraved and cannot help nor save himself: “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one” (Rom 3: 10 cf v 23).
Because man cannot save himself, his salvation is the work and gift of God: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph 2: 8-9).
The power of Christ’s atoning work at Calvary is all sufficient, even to save the whole wide world. However, it is wrought effectively only upon the elect: “And he (Christ) is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (I Jn 2: 2). Augustine rightly commented: “Sufficient for all, efficient for the elect.”
None can resist the drawing power of divine grace: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out … 44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day” (Jn 6: 37, 44).
Perseverance or Preservation of the saints
God’s elect will never lose their salvation because of His preserving grace: “My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (Jn 10: 29).
The Five Points of Calvinism focus “on God’s sovereignty, stating that God is able and willing by virtue of his omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence, to do whatever He desires with His creation. It also maintains that within the Bible are the following teachings: That God, by His sovereign grace predestines people into salvation; that Jesus died only for those predestined; that God regenerates the individual where he is then able and wants to choose God; and that it is impossible for those who are redeemed to lose their salvation” (https://www.calvinistcorner.com/tulip.htm).
These doctrines of God’s sovereign grace have brought much comfort to God’s people in their struggles to live for the Lord in this dark and sinful world.
Though John Calvin was among the most reticent of the reformers, he was mightily used of God in Geneva, Switzerland and parts of Western Europe in the Protestant Reformation. The Lord had specially prepared and equipped His chosen servant to propel and promote the cause of the Reformation mainly through his ecclesiastical reforms and theological works.
Rightly described as “the theologian of the Reformation”, Calvin left behind a legacy in the system of Reformed theology known as “Calvinism” which is with us even today. May we emulate the excellent example of this great man of God who gave his all to serve his Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.